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.
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