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ASUS EAH3650 TOP

ATI/AMD recently announced the latest additions to its 3000-series of graphics cards, the HD 3450, HD 3470, and, HD 3650. These cards represent the meat and two veg of the company's graphics card sales, providing small to medium boosts in graphical performance over integrated graphics while providing enough features to transform any PC into a fully up to date multimedia machine.

We'll be looking at the HD 3400-series at some point in the future so anyone with a seriously tight budget, an interest in building a Media Center PC, or a desire simply for a very small increase in 3D graphical performance should keep an eye out for that. Today, though we're looking at the faster HD 3650 and more specifically the version brought to us by ASUS, the EAH3650 TOP. Before we look in detail at that card, though, we'll talk a bit about what the HD 3650 brings to the table.

As Hugo reported on the launch day of both cards, the 3650 is a direct replacement for the 2600-series and as such it retains many of the same features. So, you still get 120 stream processors (arranged as 24 five-way superscalar shader units), a 128-bit memory interface, and either 256MB, 512MB, or 1024MB of RAM. You also get all the video processing capabilities of the old card and the ability to strap a couple of these cards together in a CrossFire configuration to increase your gaming performance. However, there is also a number of differences that make the name change more than just a rebranding.

First of all the new card uses AMD's new 55nm manufacturing process, which means more chips can be produced from the same size wafer of silicon and, more importantly for you, the cards should be a little cheaper on the high street (at least relative to when the 2600 first launched). Also, the new process means the chip leaks less energy so power consumption is reduced along with heat output, which means your card runs cooler and results in less of a hit on your electricity bill. Speaking of which, the new PowerPlay power saving features (that dynamically turn off parts of the card that aren't needed) first seen on the HD 3870 have been added to the HD 3650, so it's even more energy efficient.

Other new features include ATI's updated video processor, the Universal Video Decoder or UVD. This builds upon the video capabilities of the old 2600 series adding support for higher resolution 1440p HD video playback and even more capability to offset video decoding. There's also support for DisplayPort, the new display connection that looks set to replace DVI in the not too distant future. It may not be an essential feature yet but for those more forward thinking among us the addition will be a welcome one.

There are a couple of tickbox features that have been added to the 3650 as well. PCI-Express 2.0 and DirectX 10.1 support are both present but considering the former is backwards compatible with old PCI-Express and the latter is highly unlikely ever to be a prerequisite in game development, you can largely ignore these.

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