Back in January, we had the chance to look at a cracking mid-range graphics card that was endorsed by no less than Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel and called, appropriately enough, the XFX Fatal1ty 7600 GT. It was based on a heavily over-clocked GeForce 7600 GT and cooled by a completely silent passive heat sink, and it didn’t look half bad as well. However, at the time we didn’t have ATI’s price competitor for the 7600GT, the X1650XT, in our office so we couldn’t directly compare performance. Well, we’ve now got our hands on one and we’ve spent the last few days putting the X1650XT through its paces. So, is the X1650XT worth the wait or will nVidia still reign supreme at this price? Also, perhaps more importantly, will either be worth the upgrade now, given the likely release of DirectX10 compatible mid-range hardware within the next few months?
The particular board we’re looking at is manufactured by Connect3D, a UK based ATI board partner that has traditionally been associated with the budget end of the spectrum. Its boards will tend to be reference design with just a sticker on the HSF to distinguish them from the competition. The bundles are similarly very basic with no games and just the bare minimum of cables and connectors. This business strategy means the cards don’t tend to grab many headlines but they do give a lot of people what they actually want from a hardware manufacturer, namely their choice of graphics card at the cheapest price. We did, however, recently speak to Connect3D and it assured us it would be making more effort to vary its product range, by adding custom coolers and over-clocking cards straight out of the box, so we’ll be sure to get our hands on these products as soon as they become available. This X1650XT, though, is still a card from the old school as it were, with a reference board design and standard ATI Radeon X1650XT cooler.
The board is packaged in a particularly small box and aside from an anti-static bag the card is only protected by a flimsy sheet of foam, so it’s going to struggle to protect your card from any serious falls in transit. One thing that did catch my eye, though, was a diagram on the back of the box that very adequately explains that to use the CrossFire capabilities of the card you will need to purchase an appropriate motherboard and another graphics card. It just struck me as particularly well explained.
The bundle consists of a driver CD, quick installation guide, two DVI-to-VGA adapters, an S-Video to Composite cable, and, a CrossFire link. This lot is everything you need to get going and nothing more, so no surprises here. The X1650XT includes the same internal CrossFire connectors we first saw on the X1950 Pro. They are a great improvement over the previous messy external cable based version so we’re happy to see these retained.
The card itself is quite small and should easily fit in all but low-profile cases. Along the top you can see the new internal CrossFire connector and on the back edge is the connector for the auxiliary six pin power connection. The cooler is a single slot solution that sucks air in from the side of the card and expels it out the back of the card and into the case. Re-circulating air from inside the case isn’t the ideal solution but without a dual slot cooler it’s the only alternative, so you’ll just need to make sure the rest of your case is well ventilated. Belying its looks, the cooler was actually quite quiet and didn’t rise above the general background noise in our office. However, it was noticeably warm during testing and we test on an open test bed, so you really will need to make sure there is a fresh supply of air being supplied to these cards. Either that or opt for a card that uses a dual slot cooler, like the ICEQ Turbo from HIS.