Sapphire's always trying to do something new with video cards to make them stand out. It's not unusual to see Sapphire put out cards with different types of coolers. If you want a mid-range card that's completely silent, they have a product for you. The Sappire Radeon X1650 Pro Ultimate gives you a completely silent card that would fit well in an HTPC. This is a card I first saw at CES 2007 and it's here now in the GN labs.
The specifications of the Radeon X1650 Pro Ultimate is the same as a regular X1650 Pro. You get a card that's got the GPU running at 600MHz and the memory running at 1400MHz DDR. There's a total of 256MB of memory on this card. 12 shader units and 4 pixel pipelines outline the rest of the specifications. It's really no different from my earlier review of Sappphire's Radeon X1650 Pro and in that review you saw that this card is really a re-branded X1600 XT with some minor bumps in speed. All told, the performance of this card should be pretty much the same with the two cards. It's not going to be a powerhouse but it'll give you ok performance for current and older games. DirectX9 support is in there so those looking for a DX10 card will have to pass on this one.
AN8 where the slot next to the first What sets this card apart from the rest, of course, is the cooling solution present. From the pictures, you can see it consists of nicely sized heatpipes that carry heat to the back of the card where a large aluminum heatsink sits. The plate on the GPU is pretty small and is outfitted with the Sapphire branding. The heatpipes, 8 mm in diameter to be exact, are larger than many solutions so that it can carry more heat to the heatsink. The heatsink sits on the back of the card and you can see it's very large. With the card running on load, the heatsink heated up well when I touched it. For some motherboards, this will save an expansion slot as it won't impede the space next to it. On the other hand, for a motherboard like the abit AN8 SLI where the space above the PCI-E slot houses the audio riser card, this can be an issue. On a board like the abit NF-M2 nView, the large heatsink can interfere with an over-sized after market CPU cooler. Before you purchase the card, make sure your motherboard's first PCI-E slot is clear on the side.
While it is a thicker card than a normal Radeon X1650 Pro, the length of the card is pretty short. Considering all the high end cards coming out these days, it's nice to see a somewhat normal sized card.
The card's design sets it up perfectly for a HTPC. You definitely want a quiet machine for those types and the Radeon X1650 Pro Ultimate fits the bill. The card supports HDCP so you won't have any problems viewing HD content on HDCP capable monitors. Also included to help with picture quality is AVIVO support. I always liked AVIVO and what it has to offer. There's software available to easily convert media from one format to another ad well so if you want totranscode it for say a portable device, you can easily do it with this card since any card in the 1K line will do that.
On the bracket, there are two Dual-DVI connectors that let you connect up to two monitors. If you want to connect the card to a TV there's a multipurpose connector that can serve as the output for a S-Video, composite, or component connection. It's a pretty standard bracket for most video cards that you see nowadays.
Sapphire bundles this card with Cyberlink PowerDVD 5.0 to let you view DVDs and Just Cause as it's game bundle. Just Cause isn't too shabby of a game and it's nice to see Sapphire changing their bundles around instead of sticking with an older product. You also get twoDVI to VGA converters, a composite cable, an S-Video plug, and a component cable. The bundle isn't spectacular bit it's serviceable for this product.So let's put this card to the test against Sapphire's own X1650 Pro that we reviewed a while back. Our test setup consists of:
- AMD64 X2 3800+
- ECS KA3 MVP Extreme
- 2 GIGs Crucial Ballistix PC2-6400 (2 sticks of 1GB each)
- Seagate 160GIG 7200RPM HDD
- Windows XP w/ Service Pack 2
- Catalyst drivers from the package
is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today. We tested at the standard 1280x1024 resolution.
is Raven Software's true sequel to the id classic. The game uses an improved Doom 3
engine for some great graphics. For the test we ran a demo featuring a few enemies and some squad mates. We set the graphics qualities at maximum and ran it on three different resolutions. A new demo was used over my previous tests that feature a more intensive battle. All of the options were set to maximum for the run.
One of the surprise hits out of Monolith was F.E.A.R.
This supernatural FPS looks incredible and really pushes a video card to its limits. For the benchmark, we ran three resolutions using the in game benchmark with all the settings set at max.
has been in development for many years but the folks at Human Head finally released the game this year. The game utilizes the Doom 3
engine like Quake 4
and features the really cool Portal technology to garner some interesting game play aspects. All settings were set to maximum and three resolutions were chosen for the test.
is Valve's sequel to the mega hit that just keeps on going. The game features incredible physics and highly detailed graphics. A scene near the beach with attacking ant lions was used to test this card along with setting the graphics at maximum.
As you can see the performance is pretty much the same compared to a regular Radeon X1650 Pro. While I didn't enjoy Sapphire's regular offering as much, I do give them credit for trying something different and putting on a passive cooling unit does make this a unique card in its class. What you do get is above average game performance coupled with great multimedia support inAVIVO and a quiet card that will go great in an HTPC. Because of the tight spacing in HTPC boards that are typically mATX, the cooler might get in the way of some after market CPU cooling solutions. Overall, the Sapphire Radeon X1650 Pro Ultimate brings something different to the market in its segment and doesn't follow the reference design that other companies offer. You are paying a little more for having a silent solution but it does bring something different to the table.