So, you can't find any of the new ATI Radeon X1300XT graphics cards on the market or your wallet doesn't looks like its going to have the dollars in it for a new nVidia G80 that's due out just around the corner but you want... no... you need a decent performing mid-range graphics card, that isn't going to force you to eat Two Minute noodles for the next month?
Well, the new ATI Radeon X1650PRO is available - it is priced well and of course performs well. So like our round up of the Radeon X1300XT cards just the other day, we will be doing the same thing with the new X1650PRO from ATI and four of its partners - GeCube, PowerColor, Sapphire and HIS. We will be looking at the cards alone with a pair in Crossfire mode to see what type of performance is on offer from one of ATI's newest GPU's.
Continuing with the same layout we used for the X1300XT round up, we will have a quick look at the cards on offer, quickly run over the test bed, check out the results and wrap it all up trying to find out which ones deserves your hard earned dollars.
Let's get it started!
The Cards - GeCube X1650PRO
Since we again have the same four brands as our previous round up joining us we will continue in the same order. GeCube X1300XT performance was good but nothing outstanding. It was clearly not the fastest out of the pack but nor was it the slowest.
Unlike the X1300XT from GeCube, they have opted for a larger box this time around. Very similar to the other boxes we have seen from them except different information on the front with the card being the X1650PRO. The main thing we can notice is of course the 256MB of DDR-3 memory onboard, other standard features are across the bottom with one of the nicer features being the inclusion of a couple of Dual Link DVI connectors for people who are lucky enough to own two 30" LCD monitors that require the Dual Link connectivity.
The back of the box is of course very standard - we have an extended specifications list on the back, some information in regards to the ATI Catalyst software, awards and also a connectivity chart so you know what all the ports on the back of the card are capable of doing.
While the X1650PRO is more mid-range, they still have quite a small bundle on the inside with only a single DVI to VGA connector, component out cable and a S-Video/RCA cable so you can make use of the TV-Out functionally on offer from the GeCube X1650PRO.
The card itself is quite good looking with quite a high quality heatsink fan combination. What makes it better quality over other coolers is the inclusion of the copper fins, as opposed to standard aluminum. It's the little things that stand out which make one card better than another.
The back of the card doesn't show much but a whole lot of my finger prints over the metal clip that holds the heatsink in place. We have our normal array of stickers and circuitry that is pretty standard across the board.
Finally moving to the I/O side of things we have two Dual Link DVI ports and S-Video connector which makes use of the s-video, RCA and component cable included in the package. We can also see that the GeCube X1650PRO is only a single slot solution.
The GeCube X1650PRO is quite an aggressively clocked graphics card - we see a core clock speed of 650MHz and a memory clock speed of 1500MHz DDR.
The Cards - PowerColor X1650PRO
PowerColor are again using a small box for the X1650PRO which states that the card includes Dual DVI and 256MB of DDR-3 memory. We also see the new Windows Vista Ready logo which is starting to pop up on a number of ATI cards these days. To the left of the box are a few of the key features found on the X1650PRO.
The same problem we saw on the X1300XT is also present on the X1650PRO box with the board features stating only 256MB of DDR-2 memory as opposed to the DDR-3 that we saw on the front of the box.
Opening up the box we have the same package that is found in the X1300XT. Along side the quick installation guide we have an S-Video to RCA connector, DVI to VGA connector and a Cyberlink DVD Solution which comes with a few copies of different Cyberlink software.
We can see the heatsink fan sits directly on top of the core with the fins leading out over the memory. The heatsink design is actually quite good as you can see the fins are able to push the air out all sides of the card, helping keep it as cool as possible.
Turning over the card we can see that the card is stated as a X1650PRO 256MB DDR-3 card. The heatsink is simply held together with the four screws.
Dual DVI is included like the GeCube offering along with our video out port. It's a bit disappointing about the video cables that come with the card as there is simply a converter and to make use of the TV Out you will have to purchase an S-Video or RCA cable separately, while its not expensive it is just frustrating that PowerColor don't choose to include it.
Looking at the clocks we find a core clock speed of 600MHz and a memory clock speed of 1400MHz DDR.
Not the fastest card out of the pack like we found with the X1300XT article but we will see what it is capable of and what kind of performance the lower clocks do to the overall score.
The Cards - Sapphire X1650PRO
Next is Sapphire with their normal square white box. The same gripe can be found with this box as the other one with it simply stating that 256MB of G-DDR memory is included. If someone was to walk into a shop they would see this and look at the offering from PowerColor and GeCube see that it says DDR-3 on the front of the box and instantly assume that the card is probably better. Apart from this gripe we have our normal information along with the Windows Vista Ready logo and a small picture showing that a copy of DaVinci Code game is included.
The back of the box states what is included, product highlights, awards that have been won over the time and the main features again. There is still no mention of the fact that the Sapphire card is making use of DDR-3 memory - hopefully this is something they choose to fix in the near future.
Going inside we have one of the larger packages with the manual, two converters, HDTV component out cable, copy of PowerDVD and the inclusion of DaVinci Code game - Sapphire and HIS are the only companies that choose to include a game. It's just nice to see that Sapphire give us something a little different which we have seen before. They clearly offer one of the best game bundle packages with this seen and the Sapphire Select program we see on a lot of their higher-end cards.
The card itself uses quite a thin cooler with a smaller fan on the left of the card which pushes air across the fins and helps cool the core and the memory. The fan doesn't directly blow onto the core like the PowerColor but works similar to GeCube solution. Also like the GeCube solution, Sapphire opt for the higher quality copper solution to dissipate the heat unlike aluminum which we see in most low to mid range cards.
The back has our screws that hold the large heatsink in place, more importantly we see the first sign of the fact that the card is making use of DDR-3 memory.
Like all the other cards here today, Sapphire are utilizing a couple DVI ports along with the video out port. The X1300XT article saw Sapphire being the only card not to include Dual DVI, so it is good to see on the higher-end X1650PRO that they are making use of it.
Sapphire's card comes in with a little overclock like their X1300XT which was clearly the fastest overall card out of the pack in our previous round up. The core is clocked at 635MHz and the DDR-3 memory comes in at 1440MHz DDR.
So, not as high as what GeCube are offering this time around but ahead of what PowerColor is offering.
The Cards - HIS X1650PRO
We did have a look at the HIS X1650PRO in our Low and Mid Range Crossfire article but we will have a quick look at it again if you didn't venture across to that article. Like usual we have our standard box with the window that is used to show off the extra fancy cooler used. We also have the standard array of stickers to let us know the main features of the card with the inclusion of 256MB of DDR-3 memory. This is also an iTurbo model which of course means it comes with the higher speeds compared to the reference design.
Moving to the back we have our key features of the card along with the key specifications. Across the bottom we see a small amount of the hundreds of awards that HIS have seen over the years. We also see the key features that the cooler offers like less noise, cooler temperatures and the fact that it is also UV reactive for people with UV lights in their cases.
HIS, as always, offer one of the better bundles including two DVI to VGA connectors, S-Video to RCA connector, S-Video cable and HDTV Component out cable. We also have the manual, driver CD and the very expected HIS DVD which includes a few different programs and a full version of Dungeon Siege. We really have our fingers crossed that they are on the last of these DVDs as it really is time to stick a new game inside.
With the massive cooler on the front of the card there isn't much to see aside from the large fan on the right which pushes air directly across all those little parts that get hot and straight out the back of your case. Clearly one of the best coolers here today but does take up two slots.
Turning over there really isn't much to see at all apart from the norm. We can see that the cooler hangs just over the back of the card though.
I/O wise is the same as all the other cards we have here today - two DVI ports are included along with the video connector to make use of the S-Video cable or Component out cable that is included in the package.
Like we mentioned earlier the card is an iTurbo model which of course comes with the higher clocks speeds.
While the speeds are above stock, on paper it is the second slowest card in this roundup with the core coming in at 625MHz and the memory clock speed at 1400MHz DDR.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05
Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3430MHz (381MHz FSB with 4:5 memory)
Motherboard(s): DFI Infinity 975X (Supplied by Bronet)
Memory: 2 X 1GB G.Skill HZ PC8000 @ 476MHz 4-4-4-12 (Supplied by Bronet)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA 2
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.9 and DX9c
Continuing on with our Core 2 Duo test bed we will throw our cards into the system today and see just what they are capable of producing in terms of the benchmark numbers.
Like we mentioned we will be using a pair of HIS X1650PRO cards in Crossfire mode so you can see where they compare against a single card solution. A couple of these cards are going to cost you around $240 USD which is about the same price as a single Radeon X1950PRO graphics card. It will be interesting to see the performance numbers.
We will be using our same array of benchmark as usual which cover all important aspects of gaming - synthetic, real world, HDR, AA and AF, OpenGL and D3D.
Let's check out the performance numbers now.
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/
Buy It Here
3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.
For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.
We can see that the highest clocked card, the GeCube, comes out ahead of the pack with it being roughly 8% faster then the slowest card.
The benefits of Crossfire are clear offering almost a 40% increase in performance over the fastest single card.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 102
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
3DMark06 continues to see the GeCube offering dominate the pack. The Sapphire sits just behind it with the HIS just behind it and the PowerColor trailing at the end of the pack.
Here at the higher resolution and when the graphics system is put under more stress, Crossfire offers over 40% performance improvement.
Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)
Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Time demo (Demo.dem)
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Lost Coast opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.
We benchmark Half Life 2 Lost Coast with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.
While on the graph makes the Sapphire and GeCube look a lot faster when you look at the real FPS performance difference, it isn't huge. It isn't till you move to HDR that you can see the difference impacting performance more. The GeCube is almost able to achieve an average of 60FPS (which we consider the minimum average FPS for a good game play experience) while the slower PowerColor is sitting 5.5FPS slower.
Benchmarks - PREY
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here
PREY is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
Moving to PREY sees that only the GeCube and Sapphire offerings are able to achieve an average of over 50FPS at the lower 1024 x 768 which makes them roughly 10% faster than the PowerColor card.
Here at the higher resolution we see Crossfire offering a performance improvement of about 33%.
Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.vugames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/
Buy It Here
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.
We can see here that there isn't a huge difference with the minimum but when we move to the average we can see the speeds fluctuate more at the lower resolution with both the Sapphire and GeCube breaking the magic 60FPS mark.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AF
Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.
Our first HQ test shows what we have seen all a long with the GeCube coming ahead of the pack but the Sapphire not far behind.
HDR performance see the cards sit closer together but the stand out again is the GeCube offering which is almost able to crack the 40FPS average in Half Life 2 (Lost Coast) with HDR AND AA and AF enabled.
Crossfire again shows its muscles by being able to offer around about a 35% improvement in performance and an enjoyable playable experience in Lost Coast even with the graphics settings turned up quite high.
Finally we leave with PREY which sees the GeCube have quite a large lead over the other cards.
ATI's Radeon X1650PRO graphics card is a good performer and the ability to simply just buy two and throw them into Crossfire without much effort at all is fantastic and the performance gain varies from around 25% to 40% or so. While buying a couple at the same time and placing them straight into Crossfire won't always be an option for all users, with the ability to simply buy one card now and get a second one at a later date does make it more attractive.
GeCube when it came to performance today was the real stand out card, which was to be expected though with the highest core and memory speed on offer. With that said though, it isn't the cheapest cards on the market like we quite often find with the GeCube cards and with one of the lighter packages, it is a little disappointing in that respect.
PowerColor performance was down again like the X1300XT round up. With the lowest core and memory speed out of the bunch and also the cheapest X1650PRO DDR-3 available, we thought at the beginning we would find it at the bottom of the pack. There isn't a huge difference between the slowest and fastest card but there is a difference none the less.
Sapphire again comes with an overclocked card though not quite as aggressive as what the GeCube card offered. Performance was up there with the top card but it consistently trailed just behind due to the slightly lower core and memory speed. While the Sapphire performance is number two, it clearly has one of the best packages out of the box but this does come at a price.
Lastly we have the HIS offering which we looked at in our Crossfire on a budget article. It has one of the best coolers available out of the bunch but one of the lower clock speeds. It would have been nicer if HIS made better use of the cooler by increasing the core and memory speed up and beyond what GeCube offered. HIS bundle as always is quite good as well, though we have no doubt that people are becoming tired of the same DVD bundle and hopefully HIS will step it up a notch with a new game with new cards like the Radeon X1650XT.
All cards have their pros and cons - GeCube offer the best out of the box performance but with no real bundle, PowerColor while being the slowest is also the cheapest so its good for people who want a DDR-3 X1650PRO but aren't all that concerned about not necessarily having the fastest. Sapphire performance is up there as usual and also has a good little bundle, it is the most expensive though out of the four cards, you will have to see if you can justify the game for those extra hard earned dollars. Finally there is the HIS - it is quiet and priced well but the lower clocks force it to sit down the bottom of the pack when compared to some of the other brands.