Summary

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Finally we have the graphics card. Based on the ATI Radeon X1600 core, we already proved here that in games even the XT variant can’t stand up to the might of the similarly priced nVidia GeForce 7600 GS. You can view our gaming results at the end of the review should you be interested (using comparible testing on our FX60 rig), but the main reason for buying this card would be for a system like this, due to its HDMI output – still rarely found on a graphics card. The card is also AVIVO ready for accelerated video playback and superb video quality. The fact you can play games on it is really just a bonus.

Included with the card is an HDMI cable and an HDMI to DVI adapter should you require DVI. It comes with a full-height blanking plate installed, but is small enough to fit in a half-height case. Because of this, Sapphire has supplied two half-height blanking plates should you wish to build a machine in a slim chassis.

HDMI not only carries video data, but also audio in digital form. On the back panel is a coaxial S/PDIF input, for doing a loopback from the sound card output. But also included is a cable for internally routing it. In this case we took the S/PDIF output from the motherboard and sent it directly to the graphics card. It worked a charm.

The cooler was quiet and complemented the Core Duo processor nicely in our quest for silence.

Verdict

As a complete machine, this is wonderful to use and it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the quality of each component chosen. It’s silent and powerful – a deadly combination. If we didn’t need it for testing with, I’d be taking it straight home with me. As proven in my Core 2 Duo review, the older Core Duo processor is still very capable and the added bonus of an upgrade to Core 2 Duo (Merom) is appreciated.

The SilverStone SG-01 is £89.99 from Kustom PCs, which is not an unreasonable price. It’s also available in a rather fetching black too, should silver not fit in with your current arrangements. The Asus N4L-VM DH is available from Dabs for £94.21, once again not an unreasonable price. Finally, the Sapphire X1600 PRO HDMI. There isn’t a lot of competition in this area, so one could suggest it gets recommended for it’s HDMI feature alone, but Sapphire has done an excellent job of making this a great overall package, with everything you’ll need to get a PC connected to an HDTV. I struggled to find this 256MB card on the market, but the 128MB version is available for around the £95 mark, but has a larger cooler. I expect this to be similarly priced and well worth the money.

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