PowerColor X1650 PRO 256MBNov 20th, 2006 | By Archive
PowerColor X1650 PRO 256MB
: 11/20/06 – 01:43:31 AM
: Video Cards
Page 1 : Index
PowerColor Computer Inc.
$109.99USD after MIR (Newegg.com) / $158.99CND (NCIX.com)
Here we go again, the GPU market is as hot as Eva Longoria in a bathtub scene and another video card has managed to fight through the UPS and FedEx guys lined up at my door to make it inside. PowerColor will be the headliner on todays playbill and they are certainly no stranger to gaming enthusiasts or Overclockers Online. As said, PowerColor.com has been a regular stop for gamers since 1999 when shopping for video cards having offered high-quality ATI products since their doors opened at their California offices in April of that year. PowerColor is actually a subsidiary of TUL corporation and was developed to promote the PowerColor branded hardware in the US, Canada, and Latin America.
The recent refresh of the ATI mid-range level of video cards has led to the introduction of the X1650 line that is based on the R530 chip from the kids at ATI. Now many may be fooled thinking this is a new process but in reality, the X1650PRO is really an X1600XT with nothing more than a Halloween mask on its face. I will dig deeper into the roots of the X1650PRO chipset later on.
Being the official card of the World Cyber Games, the PowerColor X1650PRO is a dual-DVI card with 256MB of GDDR3 memory linked through a 128-bit interface. It hosts 12 pixel and 5 vertex shaders running at a very impressive frequency of 600MHz at the core with the memory clipping along at DDR1400. This Windows Vista Ready video card is ready for some action but first, we start with having a look at the always elegant PowerColor package.
Page 2 : Package
One company that always impresses me with their package is PowerColor. Their web site is one of the better designs out there and that style spills onto the packages that their products come in.
The format is the typical PowerColor layout and the inclusion of quite the angel on the front of the packages is sure to get the young males, ages 13-25, attention. I am not sue how many topless angels there are in the world with an armor skirt wielding a sword but if anyone spots one…give this guy a call.
Basics of the chipset features are present on the left side of the package right underneath the ATI X1650PRO logo and appear to be straight from an ATI document.
The right side of the front face contains the particulars of the video card inside which include the dual-DVI indicator and memory specifications. The windows Vista Ready logo is in the prominent position as that will become increasingly important for vide cards in the coming months prior to the Vista launch.
The top and bottom edges of the package don't really serve a purpose but there is some information on the bottom edge.
The side edges, unlike the top and bottom edges, actually provide quite a bit of important info for potential buyers. The most important of the system requirements is that this video card only recommends a 350W power supply. I hope most readers of O2 research before purchasing hardware but should you find yourself at your local computer shop wanting to know some specifications about an item, it is nice that they are available to you on the package like they are here with the PowerColor X1650PRO.
The rear of the package is home to a multi-language section with some of the primary specifications being listed in a range of languages. We also get another look at our front panel angel that I will gladly let guide me to heaven when that time comes. Again, the package of PowerColor video cards are some of the most esthetically pleasing in the business…at least in my eyes they are and the X1650PRO does not stray from that mold.
Page 3 : Specifications & Features
Like I alluded to in the opening, the X1650Pro chipset is simply a line-up refresh with the actual cards ending up very similar to the X1600XT. They are still based on the same 90nm process and included twelve pixel shader processors and five vertex shader processors. The standard clock speeds and memory speeds have been increased slightly from the X1600XT models however. I also mentioned that the memory interface is only 128-bit but the internal memory ring-bus is 256-bit. Here are some specifications about the Ring-Bus from ATI.AMD.com:
- 256-bit internal ring bus for memory reads
- Programmable intelligent arbitration logic
- Fully associative texture, color, and Z/stencil cache designs
- Hierarchical Z-buffer with Early Z test
- Lossless Z Compression (up to 48:1)
- Fast Z-Buffer Clear
- Z/stencil cache optimized for real-time shadow rendering
The PowerColor X1650PRO is not the fastest available X1650PRO card as far as stock frequencies go but it isn't the slowest so it fits somewhere nicely in the middle. Taking into consideration the cooler and relatively small size compared to others, such as the HIS X1650PRO IceQ model, it is not surprising that it stacks up mid-pack. Here is a breakdown of the complete specifications sheet from the PowerColor web site:
The other two main features found with the X1650PRO are the patented ATI Avivo technology as well as being Crossfire Ready for that "over the top" gaming performance.
With ATIs Avivo technology the Radeon® X1600 connects to home entertainment devices and allows you to view your digital media and play games with vibrant colors, sharp images, true-to-life image reproduction, and the smoothest video playback ever offered by ATI.
CrossFire Ready for Extreme, Accelerated Gaming
Get multi-GPU gaming performance that works with all games by adding a Radeon® X1600 Crossfire Edition graphics card for powerful GPU sharing.
Page 4 : Contents
The contents section always starts with opening the interior box that holds all the goodies.
PowerColor always has the neatest and safest interior package of anyone I have seen. Individual compartments keep everything separate and the package is kept so fresh and so clean. The X1650PRO carries on this tradition as seen here. There is a small installation guide and two CDs. One is a standard drivers disk and the other is one that contains a number of CyberLink programs including PowerDVD, PowerDirector, and PowerProducer among others.
I usually appreciate the miniscule package with very little extras and software because it keeps the cost down but I think PowerColor at least needs to add an S-video or composite cable to the bundle. All we receive with the X1650PRO is a single DVI > VGA adapter and an S-video to composite dongle. If you want to hook the X1650PRO to your TV, then you will have to supply the cable and lack of component leads means that the highest quality you will get is S-video.
Tucked away in the last of the compartments is the video card itself. Naturally wrapped in an anti-static bag and protected on all sides. With the package closed up and secure, shaking the box didn't produce any movement other than from the dongle and adapter in the lower compartment which means the card is quite safe inside.
As soon as I pulled the video card from the package I immediately recognized the PCB and heatsink from my review of the PowerColor X1300Pro review I did a while back.
Aside from the slightest of slight differences, these two cards are pretty much identical in appearance and components on the top side. The X1650PRO doesn't even have any additional capacitors or anything.
With the heatsink being the same, I am already quite familiar with the design and think it is a nice and efficient one. The channels allow the fan to disperse the heat generated by the core under load and the noise level of the fan is quite acceptable, even when under load and it spins up to full speed. I will come back to the aluminum heatsink a bit later on when I take it off.
The capacitors used here are a single Sanyo good quality one, and then these two that I could not identify. You can see spots for a few more capacitors which indicates that this same PCB might get used with other models aside from the X1650PRO and X1300PRO.
The other end of the PCB contains another Sanyo capacitor and a couple solid aluminum ones as well. The fan connects its 3-wire power connection here as well.
Now obviously this is not a VIVO edition video card that has the ability to capture incoming video from another source as the processing chip for that is not present on this X1650PRO. There isn't a VIVO version listed on the PowerColor web site at this time either so there may never be one produced by PowerColor.
We saw in the last photo the pair of DVI connections on this card as well as the S-video out connector. With the increase of digital LCD monitors in the market today, it is an obvious progression to provide dual DVI ports on any mid-range and up video card so dual digital displays can be utilized.
As promised, I said I would remove the heatsink to get a look at the clearly marked RV530 core and the memory being used on this card. The memory used is also very familiar because it is almost the same as the memory used on the PC X1300PRO.
: the BC12 memory used here on the X1650PRO is actually lower down on the food chain than the BC20 I found on the X1300PRO. The BC12 is only rated for 500MHz @ 1.8v which is substantially less than the BC20. Obviously the stronger core makes up for the weaker memory performance on this X1650PRO card. Full details and specifications of the memory can be seen here.
I thought it was also worth mentioning that the thermal paste used on the X1650PRO is a very soft silver based paste as opposed to that hard concrete like thermal material many video cards and motherboard chipset heatsinks use. There may have been a little more than necessary on the card form the factory but the quality is pretty decent to maximize heat transfer. I will now put the card back together and move on to the Installation & Overclocking section.
Page 5 : Installation & Overclocking
Since the PowerColor X1650Pro is a single slot card with no large backplate to hold a huge cooler on or anything like that, I don't anticipate any issues what-so-ever with installation.
Installing a video card is a very simple task and within seconds it can be achieved. Clearly the card will fit pretty much any setup that a video card is supposed to fit in. This is very good news for the HTPC owners in the house that would still like a competent video card for some gaming action.
I grabbed my X1300PRO to simulate a dual card setup and again, a single slot cooler allows for easy installation with no worries of running out of room. Even if the CrossFire motherboard you are using doesn't have a gap between the two cards, the coolers on these X1650PROs should easily fit two with room to spare. Also notice that the length of this card is not much at all so m-ATX owners can fear not when installing in a small case.
Here is the system setup, running, and ready to get to work. I will start with finding the maximum overclock of the PowerColor X1650PRO before doing the benchmarks so we can compare the stock numbers to the overclocked ones as well.
Before overclocking though, drivers needed to be installed and I was only able to install the newest of new Catalyst drivers form ATI.com, 6.10. This X1650PRO chipset is quite new and obviously the reason for having to use the fresh 6.10 Catalyst drivers.
My overclocking tool of choice is ATI Tool and it didn't take long to find the maximum Core and Memory frequencies. I simply increased the speeds, one at a time, in 10MHz increments and briefly tested stability with a quick 3DMark05 run. Once I found the maximum speeds of each, I combined the two and ran a full hour of "Scanning for Artifacts" in ATI Tool and then will obviously be running the full suite of benchmarks for testing.
The maximum core speed was around 665MHz but stability wasn't 100% in 3DMark 05 or 03 at much over 655MHz so I settled at a comfortable
. The memory proved to clock slightly better reaching almost DDR800 before programs from the FutureMark suite would become un-stable after a short period of time. I found that
seemed to be 100% bullet proof in any benchmark for any amount of time. So for my stable overclocks I will go with
Core: 650MHz / Memory: DDR783
Page 6 : Test System
You have obviously seen some of the hardware that I will be using for the benchmarks in the installation section but here is the complete list:
CPU: AMD64 X2 4000+ @ 3000MHz (1.50v)
CPU Cooling: Asetek WaterChill
MB: DFI LanParty NF590 SLI-M2R/G
RAM: OCZ DDR2 PC2 7200 Platinum XTC EPP @ DDR1000 4-4-3-5
PSU: OCZ GameXStream 700W
HD: Seagate SATAII 80GB 8MB NCQ
OS: Windows XP SP2 (with all updates)
HIS X800GTO IceQ II Turbo 256MB – Catalyst Control Center 6.2
PowerColor X1300Pro Bravo – Catalyst Control Center 6.2
Albatron 7300GT 256MB DDRII – ForceWare 91.47
Biostar 7300GT 256MB DDRIII – ForceWare 91.47
PowerColor X1650PRO 256MB
– Catalyst Control Center 6.10
Normally I would at this point do some thermal testing at both stock and overclocked speeds but ATI Tool wasn't picking up a temperature reading or even able to control fan speed on the X1650PRO. I then resorted to ATI Tray Tools and it too did not get a temperature reading. This obviously won't allow me to monitor temperatures under load so I guess we will jump straight to the benchmarking.
Page 7 : Synthetic Performance
The synthetic benchmarks are a good overall way of gauging performance between video cards. The 3DMark series from FutureMark has been the standard in which video cards are rated for a number of years now dating back to 3DMark 01. I will be using the entire suite for the video cards that will be compared for the gaming benchmarks. Let's see how they stack up:
For the most part, the X1650PRO scales ahead of the other cards in the review nicely. The only real hiccup is the 3DMark 03 results were the X800GTO and Biostar 7300GT actually out perform the PowerColor X1650PRO. This is a bit of a concern because 3DMark 03 is the best test of actually GPU power. We may see that these two cards are fairly equal to or slightly better than the X1650PRO in the gaming tests based on this result.
The Specview results are like most other times I ran Specview, they jump all over the place. The reason for this is because Specview tests a number of different programs and each program will favor a different video card. For the most part, the programs that utilize ATI cards the best seem to show a slight advantage to the X1650PRO but the X800GTO is very close behind.
The time has come to get to the real benchmarks involving gaming results. I will be using my standard suite of games but will soon be updating that with a couple newer games so watch for new benchmarks of all the cards seen here today in the future. Details levels were set to the maximum allowable in all the games benchmarked below with all features turned on unless otherwise specified. This way, you can see how the cards do in the harshest of settings and the performance of each card can easily be increased with some slight detail tweaking.
Page 8 : Battlefield 2 Benchmarks
I am still using BF2 in my benchmark suite as I haven't found a consistent method to benching BF 2142 just yet. I might as well point it out right now, there are no overclocked results from the X1650PRO in any of the gaming benchmarks. ATI Tool apparently isn't 100% compatible with the new X1650PRO chipset because when entering a game, the clocks reset and actually go down to lower frequencies than stock.
The 3DMark suite of programs worked fine with ATI Tool doing the overclocking but no game I benched would hold the overclocked settings. Because of this we will only be seeing benchmarks at the stock speeds of 600 MHz core / 700 MHz memory.
At the relatively low resolution of 1024×768, the PowerColor X1650PRO stands heads and shoulders above the rest of the group in BF2. Once Anisotropic Filtering (AF) and Anti-Aliasing (AA) are turned on, however, the X800GTO catches up entirely. We also see that the X800GTO really catches up and actually takes a marginal lead with increases in resolution, even without AA and AF. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues throughout the gaming benchmarks. Next up is the NVIDIA favored game, DOOM III.
Page 9 : Doom III Benchmakrs
As I just noted, DOOMIII heavily favors NVIDIA based video cards because of their OpenGL performance and despite recent advances in ATI drivers to increase their ability to run OpenGL based games, the decided advantage still goes to the NVIDIA based cards. What we can look for is how the X800GTO stacks up to the X1650PRO though.
It is sort of a mixed bag of results here. Without AA and AF, the X800GTO tends to handle DOOM III better but with AA and AF, the X1650PRO looks to perform better. Also with AA and AF turned on the performance of the NVIDIA cards falls in-line with the ATI ones as expected. Keep in mind that the X800GTO is using older Catalyst drivers for all benchmarks compared to the X1650PRO so that is why it might be getting slightly better performance.
Page 10 : Far Cry Benchmarks
My favorite game is what we will be looking at now and the time demo I use for benching it is one that I made from the river level. I found this time demo really pushes the cards because of all the scenery and water involved. As with all the gaming benchmarks, detail levels were set to maximum, even the AA and AF results. I am liking my chops for the new Crysis game due out in the new year and will be replacing this game in the benchmarks with that when it is available.
We are basically seeing more of the same in Far Cry. The ATI cards are slightly stronger but with the X800GTO having a noticeable advantage in Far Cry over the X1650PRO. I was a bit surprised when these numbers were coming in but it appears that the newer abilities of the X1650PRO chipset do not give it an advantage over the equally strong, but older, X800GTO. Throughout the Resolution range, with or without AA & AF, the scaling of the performance is about equal amongst all the cards.
Page 11 : Half-Life 2 Benchmarks
HL2 is a STEAM engine game and the least graphically intense of all the game benchmarked here so the results will be quite a bit higher than the rest. That said, it will still be interesting to see how the X1650PRO holds up against the other cards and if the higher resolutions continue to show poor performance on the X1650PRO.
I am not sure if it is the 6.10 drivers for the X1650PRO or something else at play here but the X1650PRO really cannot handle AA & AF turned on. A huge decrease in performance is seen, even at the lower resolution of 1024×768. Without AA & AF turned on, the X1650PRO seems to carry its weight as the resolution scales but still gets beat by the X800GTO. It is starting to look like the X800GTO is about equal if not slightly better than the X1650PRO but without SM3.0 capabilities.
Page 12 : F.E.A.R. Benchmarks
The last of the games we will look at is also the newest of the five games I have benchmarked today, Sierra's F.E.A.R. Known as a video card killer, F.E.A.R. has the ability to bring even the strongest of current single card setups to their knees, perhaps with the exception of the newly released 8800 and X1950 series. For the mid-range of cards that we are looking at today though, F.E.A.R. is definitely the toughest test of the bunch with its complex shadows and heavy shader use. Despite this, I have still left all visual details on the highest level and only turned off Soft Shadows for the benchmarks. More FPS can be had by turning down the details slightly with any of the video cards.
We finally have a 100% outright win for the X1650PRO in all resolutions with or without AA & AF. Yes it is only a marginal victory through the range over the X800GTO and Biostar 7300GT but a win none-the-less. Clearly the only playable resolution for F.E.A.R. is at 1024×768 but with some details turned down, 1280×960 plays better and looks a bit better than the lower resolution with the details cranked up.
Page 13 : Conclusion
I have had my hands on a number of mid-range video cards in the last few months and for the most part they have all performed very well in testing. The PowerColor X1650PRO is another one of those cards that does extremely well at lower resolutions in games but starts to fall off as the resolution increases or eye candy like AA & AF get turned on. This is to be expected with a mid-range card and should not be looked at in a negative way.
The X1650PRO isn't a $200 video card or even a $150 card so it shouldn't be expected to do what the more expensive cards can do. The X1650PRO costs about $130USD and performs remarkably well for that price tag. It is about time that gamers with this type of budget have options for a video card that can play the newest games at resolutions over 800×600 and the X1650PRO can definitely do just that.
Being Cross-Fire capable also gives the ability to scale the performance by purchasing one card now and getting the second later for that extra boost in performance. The low footprint of the PowerColor X1650PRO is also very beneficial for users with HTPC systems that still want to play games and the quiet fan is also very nice for these setups. The X1650PRO chipset offers excellent video quality with ATI's AVIVO software as well, so it is tough not to recommend HTPC users to have a look at the X1650PRO as well as gamers on a budget.
Excellent performance on a tight budget
All the newest features including SM3.0 and AVIVO
Fan noise is minimal and footprint of the card is small
Not quite up to the performance of some other cards in the same price range
I hate to mention package contents for a budget card but lack of an S-VIDEO cable is a downer
Overclockers Online would like to thank PowerColor for the review sample.
Page 14 : Year of the Pig Edition
Year of the Pig Edition Price
: Now available at NewEgg for $114.99
Regular Edition Price
Edition by Simon Lau – April 1st 2007
Like many people around the world, it wasn't too long ago when I celebrated Chinese New Year. This year marked the year of the pig and the celebrations were bigger than ever. Many companies capitalize on these events by either launching new products and PowerColor has done exactly that.
Shortly after the celebrations ended, my good friends at PowerColor asked me to write a small little article on the new
X1650Pro Year of the Pig Edition
You're finding this article on the last page of Jody's original X1650 Pro review because the cards are more or less identical.
Apart from the notes stating that this is the
Year of the Pig
edition, there's aren't many changes to the package. Even the accessories are the same.
What sets this card apart from the original X1650 Pro is the heatsink. Since it's the year of the pig, PowerColor has added a gold pig shaped decal on the top of the heatsink!
All the other sides of the card look the same.
As we strip the heatsink off the card and clean off the thermal paste, we see the X1650 Pro core and a set of memory chips.
So while PowerColor claims the cards are identical, there is a minor change in memory supplier. If you read the Contents page of Jody's review, you see the regular X1650 Pro uses Samsung modules whereas this version has Hynix chips. The Hynix HY54S123235FP is still rated for 700MHz DDR3 so you will not be at any advantage or disadvantage when it comes to performance. A full break down of the specifications can be found on Page 2 of the review.
The decorative heatsink looks nice but will not increase the performance of the video card. I encourage you to read our benchmarking of the X1650 Pro where we compare it to an X800GTO, X1300 Pro, and two 7300GTs.
You'll see that the X1650 Pro is great at the lower resolutions but slowly dips off with the increasing screen size and level of eye candy. That said, Jody wraps up the look of the X1650 Pro in a very fitting way.
Overclockers Online would like to thank Power Color for making this article possible.