Powercolor X1650 Pro Review Page: 1
Introduction

ATI have decided that it is time to do a refresh on a couple of their mid-high range GPU's. The X1950 and the X1650 are the result of this refresh. Based on the R530 chip and using an 80nm process, the X1650 runs at a sweet 600MHz core and 1400Mhz, the card has 256mb of GDDR3.

How does this card perform when we run it through our test suite? You'll have to read on to find out...

Packaging

Powercolor are a company known for no-fuss products that have what you need and none of the extra's that a lot of people don't need. The retail packaging on our sample is a pretty cool silver colour with an 'avenging angel' grasping a sword. It's a shame Powercolor didn't stick to showing the card on the box as they have done in the past. This is always good for the buyer, in my opinion.

x1650

The rear of the box has a rather disappointing amount of blurb about ATI's AVIVO features. It would have been nice to see some meaty info on the card, but AVIVO is an attractive feature so I won't blame Powercolor for this.

X1650 pro

Opening up the package we see that Powercolor have got this card wrapped up nicely. I don't think any harm is going to come to the card.

x1650 inside box 1

And as you can see - everything is compartmentalised.

x1650 inside box 2

Now we've seen that the card is nicely packaged, lets take a closer look at the board...



Powercolor X1650 Pro Review Page: 2
A Closer look at the X1650

ATI have not gone all out and given their product line a total revamp. Instead they have done an SKU 'refresh'. This means essentially the same technology, but faster and usually smaller.

The X1650 is on an 80nm wafer and the theory is that it should run cooler than it's predecessor. This can only be a good thing as the X1600 was not a chip that got into the enthusiasts hearts for being easy to cool.

Lets check out the specs for the card:

Technical Specification

Graphics Processor - VPU Specs Connectors

VPU RADEON® X1650
S-Video
VPU-Core-Clock 600MHz
DVI X2
BUS-Type PCI-e x 16
Fabrication Process 80 nm
Pixel Shader Unit 12
Vertex Pipelines 5
Graphics Card Memory Technology

Graphic Memory 256
AVIVOTM Yes
Graphic Memory Speed 1400MHz CrossFireTM Ready Yes
Graphic Memory Type DDR3 HDTV Yes
Graphic Memory-BIT 128 h.264 support Yes
SMARTSHADERTM HD Yes
SMOOTHVISIONTM HD Yes
HYPER ZTM HD Yes
VIDEOSHADERTM HD Yes

RAMDAC 400 MHz DACs
Optimized for DirectX© 9.0c
OpenGL© 2.0
Shader Model 3.0

With 12Pixel Shaders and 5 Vertex pipelines, this card should play pretty well.

Lets take a look:

x1650 top

Powercolor have certainly chosen an interesting cooler for the X1650. With quite a large size fan this should certainly be quieter than the X1600 cooler.

We can also see the ATI Rage Theatre chip on the left of the card. This enables ATI AVIVO technology on the X1650. AVIVO means better image quality and some nifty features such as on-GPU re-encoding. ATI include the AVIVO software free and it works very well on the X1XXX series.

X1650 rear

The rear of the card does not sport any additional memory modules. This is a change from the X1600, which had some of it's memory on the rear. This leads me to believe that this card was designed with 256mb of memory in mind from the start. We can also see the retention screws for the heatsink.

Let's get the clothes off the chip

x1650 naked 1

And for a size comparison:

x1650 size


Notably smaller than the core of the X1950, the X1650 is a compact core but still houses it's 12 and 5 pipelines.

The card has 4 RAM modules mounted around the core. Again on the right you can the the ATI rage theatre chip.

X1650 naked card

One big improvement over the X1600 Pro is the dual DVI output. S-Video is still included on the card as well: but dual DVI will certainly help those with lust for crisp clear monitor space.

dual DVI x1650

Bundle

Software

Driver Catalyst Version 6.8 Software Bundle

Cables, Adapters & Other Accessories Manuals & Documents

HDTV Cable Quick-Installation Guide
DVI to VGA Adapter Yes Documentation in CD
S-Video to AV Adapter Yes Manual
S-Video Cable
Composite Cable
Power Cable


 

x1650 package



I did not get the power adaptor through in my bundle, but this should be in the retail version.


The bundle is pretty decent and all the connecters are there that you would need to fully utilise the features on the card. Perhaps another DVI-VGA cable could have been included, but this defeats the object of the dual DVI in the first place in my opinion.


Powercolor have included CyberQuest software Suit with the card which is a great starter DVD set. Overall the package isn't too bad and as Powercolor usually price their cards very competitively, this makes the bundle look better.

Cooling

The cooling on the X1650 does not look very substantial at all. With a smallish aluminium heatsink and a fairly large fan this solution looks inadequate. Unfortunately the temperature reading on the card in the drivers I have has not been enabled, so I was unable to get the temperatures.

x1650 cooler

The thermal paste used looks to be some kind of silver solution. This is a lot thinner than Arctic silver 5 and is pretty hard to remove from the base. The aluminium base of the cooler is pretty rough and does not look very even at all. I would say that if you're a cold freak but want to keep the original heatsink then you would need to do a fair amount of lapping on it.

x1650 cooler

The cooler seems to do a pretty quiet job of cooling the GPU. during gaming the fan ramps up a little, but it does not do more than make a "whoosh" noise. My system is fairly loud so I had to turn everything else off to hear it. This is in comparison to the X1600 cooler which was loud and whiney.



Powercolor X1650 Pro Review Page: 3
How we tested

With the pure speed of cards out on the market at the moment I tend to focus on gameplay in my reviews. I will play each of the test suite games on as high settings as I could possibly play them at while maintaining a frame rate that is enjoyable to play at. If the quality of the gaming looks the same at different settings then I will choose the setting with the best FPS. This differs from game to game and person to person but I play a lot of games and have played with a lot of graphics cards so I hope that I can impart a decent opinion.

To offset this angle I also run a test suite of 3dMark03, 05 and 06. These will give you some numbers on what the cards perform like at stock speeds, for comparison. I also ran 3dMark06 after overclocking the cards - to see how much of an effect the overclocking will make. Usually when reviewing one of ATI's cards I use the ATI "Overdrive" tool to overclock the card as much as possible. As I had to use beta drivers on this card the overclocking facility did not seem to be present at all. I alsi tried ATI tool and RivaTuner but both of these would not work. I have contacted Powercolor with this problem and hopefully we can get some overclocking results soon.

Hardware:

Intel Core2Duo Conroe E6600 @ 3379Mhz
Asus P5W DH Deluxe
2gb GSkill PC2 6400 (running spd @ 5-6-5-5)
160gb Hitachi deskstar SATA drive
Custom Watercooling in a Custom Lian Li PC71b
Lots of fans

I could not get the X1650 to initialise the driver at all on the latest ATI drivers, so Powercolor sent me some modified drivers to use. Thankfully these worked ok, though without the overclocking facility and without temperature monitoring.

Please take into consideration that this review is compiled with beta drivers (modified CAT 6.8's)

Powercolor X1650 Pro 256mb (GDDR3). Clock speed: 600. Memory Speed: 1400 (700)



Powercolor X1650 Pro Review Page: 4
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 23/08/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Hardware Acquired: Powercolor


Quake 4


Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that has not always ran so well on ATI hardware, being an OpenGL game. I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 and took the average of all my readings from this. I played a fast and furious part of the game that required both internal and external scenes. The same engine used for Quake is being used for several games: Doom 3, Quake 4, Prey and Enemy Territory.

Here are the settings I found to be best for both FPS and quality:

quake 4 x1650

And the FPS results for these settings:

quake 4 fps x1650

Quake ran very smoothly on the X1650. I experimented with going up a resolution and turning off the ATI high quality settings. This produced a slightly less decent picture than at 1024 x 768 with AAA and HQAF, so I played it at this res. ATI seem to be getting hold of the Doom engine now which is great news.

F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a game based on an engine that uses many features of DirectX 9.0c.

It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects, with a slow-motion mode that really taxes today's GPU's. I fully patched version the game with the latest patch. I played three two-minute runs on a taxing part of the game with plenty of action, using slow-motion for the full time whilst firing at enemy soldiers and using grenades that produce a cool "blast" contortion effect when blown up.

What settings did I manage to game at? Let's see...

fear settings x1650

And the FPS at these settings:

FEAR fps x1650 pro

Once again F.E.A.R. was very very smooth at this res. I played it at 1280 x 1024 with just 4 x AA on and the quality was also pretty good. I chose this resolution as in my opinion it looked slightly better. I think gaming on this card at 1280 x 1024 will be a given for most people, but I am a little picky. You can see by the FPS that there was a lot of headroom in F.E.A.R. as it needs a lot less than 37FPS to play smoothly.

Onto some more game tests...



Powercolor X1650 Pro Review Page: 5
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 23/08/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Hardware Acquired: Powercolor


Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This makes the game very taxing. I played a fully patched up version of the game. Once again I played through the game with a two minute gaming session including explosions, smoke and also lots of snow.

cod 2 settings x1650 pro

And the FPS at the above settings...

cod 2 fps x1650 pro

CoD 2 was again very playable at 1024 x 768. I did use the high quality settings on the card and this made the experience much more crisp and detailed. I don't think there was headroom to play at 1280 x 1024 - but with a little overclocking I'm sure it's attainable. Even at this seemingly (to me) low res CoD 2 looks pretty awesome and the card gives very nice detail.

Oblivion

Oblivion is an awesome RPG with a simply huge immersive environment, great graphics and incredibly realistic scenery. This game is currently one of the most testing games that you can buy and it is certainly a test of the X1650. I chose to do a run-through of the Arena part of the game. I spoke to a character, did some magic whilst in a fight and fought in the arena that is pretty huge. Also as well as doing this test I took a wander around to make sure that the benchmark resembled the general gameplay with each card. ATI seem to come out on top in Oblivion so let's see how the card fares cranked up...

Oblivion settings X1650 pro

And the FPS:

Oblivion FPS x1650 pro

Oblivion has a plethora of in-game settings so here are what I chose to be optimal:

oblivion big settings x1650

I did encounter some issues with Oblivion at first. The game started playing in a very "jerky" manor. It was nigh on impossible to play like this. I re-installed the drivers, re-installed Oblivion and found another patch for it too. This all seemed to cure the problem but it was slightly annoying as I have never had a problem like this before with Oblivion.

In the end the game played through very well. I did have a test run with HDR and AA (ATI cards can do this) and this looked pretty good, but on a lower resolution with lower in-game settings. I felt this was too much of a compromise and so I kept the AA off. HDR is essential for the atmosphere in Oblivion and the X1650 Pro did a very good job of rendering the scene. The FPS took a bit of a hit outside, but this is to be expected and was still very playable.



Powercolor X1650 Pro Review Page: 6
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 23/08/2006
Author: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Hardware Acquired: Powercolor


Benchmarking


I used the popular gaming benchmarks made by Futuremark to bench the card. I used 3dMark 03, 05 and 06. All benches were performed at stock speeds for this section. I ran all benchmarks from the stock settings just like the free versions to give you a good comparison of scores. I am grouping all three benchmarks together on one graph as this card is not really a "benchers card", although it still gives us some reasonable results. The individual benchmarks do however have their own use.

* 3DMark03 This is a benchmark that relies heavily on DirectX 8 features. This will give an indication of how the cards will run on games that rely on DX 8.
* 3DMark05 This benchmark requires some more features of DirectX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.
* 3DMark06 3dMark06 is the latest in the benchmarking tests from Futuremark. It has a lot of DirectX 9.0c features such as HDR and use of Shader model 3.0. This benchmark is very taxing for the card and also includes quite a harsh CPU benchmark.

3dmark results - x1650 pro

The card obtained very reasonable results in all three tests. We can take this as a measure of gaming performance in it's own right, but I prefer to say this is an indicator of the results you would obtain from games.

The X1650 impressed me in Benchmarking, certainly holding it's own.

Overclocking

I was unable to overclock the card due to a driver limitation. I tried ATI tools and Rivatuner but neither of these worked.

I have spoken to Powercolor and they have said that the problem with Overdrive should be fixed in the next driver release. ATI Tool is currently being worked on to support the X1650 as well.



Powercolor X1650 Pro Review Page: 7
Conclusion

The X1650 Pro is a great mid-range card. With a pretty decent, nice-looking cooling solution and awesome bang per buck performance, you can't go wrong getting it if you're in the market for a card such as this. ATI have increased performance over the X1600 and managed to make a card that only requires a far quieter cooling solution.

I have asked Powercolor for a price and for some more information on the price and availability. They have said that the card will be generally available and be priced around 66EUR or £78 inv VAT.

The Powercolor gets a Gamers Choice Award and 85%

gamers choice X1650 pro

Pro's

+ Very fast for a mid-range card
+ Good value for money
+ Quiet and pretty cool
+ Decent Looking

Con's

- Current non-availability
- Needs Further driver support which will come in time

Thanks to Powercolor for providing the review sample

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