PowerColor Radeon X1650 PRO video card review
Last week saw the launch (albeit not strictly a 'hard launch') of a handful of new refresh parts in ATI's graphics board line-up, in what should be the last hurrah of DirectX 9 before the era of DirectX 10 capable boards is ushered in alongside the introduction of Windows Vista.
Naturally, the main focus of the day was on their GDDR4 sporting, R580-based high-end refresh part, in the form of the Radeon X1950 XTX and CrossFire Edition - We're all suckers for a super-fast GPU after all. However, in many ways this isn't the most interesting board of the bunch, considering that ATI are also launching new parts aimed at capturing further market share in the mid-range and low-end.
It's that mid-range segment we'll be focusing on today - For some time now NVIDIA have largely ruled the roost in this discipline, courtesy of first their GeForce 6600 parts in the last generation, followed by the GeForce 7600 this time around. Although the Radeon X1800 GTO has succeeded in running the GeForce 7600 GT close (and often beating it out) in the performance stakes, from ATI's point of view this part, based as it is around a cut-down high-end R520 core, isn't really as cost effective as they would like. However much we like to sit and crow about performance as consumers, for the GPU manufacturers and their AIB partners considerations such as manufacturing costs, yields and profit margins are at least as important, if not more so.
Thus, ATI's aim at the low and mid-range with these new parts is to launch SKUs based around two new cores which can take back or hold their respective performance crowns, as well as offering reduced manufacturing costs. Replacing the aforementioned Radeon X1800 GTO we find the Radeon X1650 XT, which is based around the new, 80nm RV560 core, complete with twenty-four pixel shader processors via eight pixel pipelines. In the place of the Radeon X1600 XT comes the Radeon X1650 PRO, which can utilise either the 90nm RV530 core (in other words, simply renaming existing inventory of the current X1600 XT to X1650 PRO) or the new 80nm RV535 core, featuring twelve pixel shader processors and four fragment pipelines. Finally, what was the X1600 PRO becomes the X1300 XT, via either the renaming of existing X1600 PRO inventory or parts based around the same RV535 core as the X1650 PRO, albeit at lower clock speeds.
Our focus today is on the Radeon X1650 PRO, courtesy of PowerColor. We'll be seeing how it manages to fair and what this board has to offer at the low-end of the mid-range, up against its closest competition from the green side of the fence, the GeForce 7600 GS. So, without further ado, on with the review!
Radeon X1650 architecture
Architecturally, the Radeon X1650 is identical to its forebear, the Radeon X1600, which in itself shares many of its design traits with the high-end Radeon X1900 (and X1950) R580-based parts you may already be more familiar with - Indeed, the Radeon X1600 was the precursor in many senses to the later release of the Radeon X1900. You can find our in-depth look at the technology and architecture behind R580 here.
So, this means that our Radeon X1650 board on test today features three shader units per pixel (or fragment) pipeline, of which there are four pipelines on both RV530 and RV535. This gives us a grand total of four fragment pipelines (or one quad of pipelines), four texturing units and twelve pixel shader units, coupled with five vertex shader units and four ROPs.
Besides the process shrink to 80nm with RV535, the only difference between the Radeon X1600 XT and its direct replacement, the X1650 PRO, is a miniscule boost to both the core and memory clock speeds of the board. From the X1600 XTs speeds of 590MHz core and 690MHz memory, the X1650 PRO gains just 10MHz in both disciplines, giving us final clocks of 600MHz core and 700MHz for memory. Not enough to make any real difference to performance, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
You can see the entire feature set of the Radeon X1650 PRO below.
- Ultra Threaded Shader Engine
- Support of DirectX9 Programmable Vertex and Pixel Shaders
- VS3.0 Vertex Shader functionality
- 1024 Instructions (Unlimited with flow control)
- Single Cycle Trigonometric Operations (SIN & COS)
- PS3.0 Pixel Shaders
- Ultra Thread Pixel Shader Engine
- Fast Dynamic Branching
- Single Precision 128-bit Floating Point (FP32) Processing
- 16 textures per rendering pass
- 32 temporary and constant registers per pixel
- Facing register for two-sided lighting
- Multiple render target support
- Shadow volume rendering acceleration
- 128-bit, 64-bit & 32-bit per pixel floating point colour formats
- Advanced Image Quality Features
- HDR Blending on FP16, Int10 and Custom Formats
- All Blending modes work with all Anti-Aliasing Modes
- 3Dc+ Normal Map Compression
- High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression
- Two Channel & Single Channel format support
- 2x/4x/6x Multi-Sampling full scene Anti-Aliasing modes, adaptive algorithm with programmable sample patterns and colour buffer compression
- Adaptive Anti-Aliasing for Transparent Surfaces
- Temporal Anti-Aliasing
- Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
- High Quality, Angle Invariant, Anisotropic Filter Mode
- 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
- 4Kx4X texture Support
- HDR Blending on FP16, Int10 and Custom Formats
- Memory Controller
- Internal Ring Bus Architecture (RV530)
- Programmable Arbitration Logic
- Fully Associative Caches
- 3-level, Floating Point, Hierarchical Z-Buffer with early Z test
- Lossless Z-Buffer compression (up to 48:1)
- Fast Z-Buffer Clear
- Z Cache Optimisations for shadow rendering
- Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
- Dual 10-bit Display Pipelines
- Dual Integrated Dual Link TMDS Transmitters, Dual 400MHz RAMDACS, Xilleon Derived TV Output.
- Hardware Accelerated H.264 Decode