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Date: December 5, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

If you don’t have $300 to spend on a GPU, then there are a slew of budget cards for you to ponder over. Last week we took a look at an X1650 Pro, and today we are taking a look at a similar model. Is the card worth your $150?


Let’s face it. Not everyone wants, or even needs to pay $300 or more for a graphics card. There are still many today who game on 1024×768, so a larger card is almost like throwing your money away. Last week we took a look at PowerColors X1650 Pro and earlier this year we also took their X1600XT for a spin. Both cards impressed us, but were not amazing. Amazing is not a word you usually throw around with a budget card, though.

Today I am taking a look at ASUS’ recently released EAX1650XT, which includes 256MB of GDDR3. What this card offers is a 574MHz (yes its really 574) core and 1.35GHz memory. We have a 128-Bit memory interface so we already have an idea of what we are dealing with. The card includes 24 Pixel Pipelines and supports up to 2048×1536 resolution.

The NVIDIA equivalent of this card would have to be the 7600GT, which costs a little more but has similar specs. I don’t have a 7600GT on hand though, sadly, in order to compare both cards directly.

Closer Look

Even though this is a budget card, Crossfire capabilities are still there. In the future should you want a boost in performance, you can simply throw another X1650XT in your rig. Before we jump into a physical look at the card, here are a few quick specifications:

The box that the card comes in is far smaller that the majority out there… it’s just large enough for the card and the extras. Compared to the Goliath of the box that came with the previously reviewed 7950GT, this was a breath of fresh air!

The card includes a bundle game, GTI Racing. This game features Volkswagen, and only Volkswagen. Solid title overall and is a nice bonus. The other extra is the leather-like ASUS branded CD holder. Also pictured is the driver CD-Rom, S-Video cable, Molex to PCI-E power converter, DVI to VGA adapter and also the two required bridges needed for Crossfire.

Despite being a budget card, this one looks great. Bright red as is the norm, with a modest cooler. ASUS has been making it a habit to include a brushed aluminum look with all their products lately, and this one did not escape their grasp. Overall a nice looking card.

Dual DVI-I outputs.

The cooler includes a copper heatsink with many fins as you can see. The fan has the job of blowing the hot air in this direction. This is not the best cooling solution out there, as the hot air doesn’t really go anywhere after being pushed away.

There is not much going on in the back of the card. A simple plastic brace and four screws holds the cooler in place.

Enough of the card itself, let’s move onto some benchmarking.

Testing Methology, HL2: Episode 2

Throughout all of our benchmarks regardless of what we are reviewing, testing is done in a clean and stand-alone version of Windows XP Professional with SP2. Prior to testing, these conditions are met:

The testing rig used for today’s benchmarking is as follows:

Seeing as this is a budget graphics card, we will not get into heavy testing but instead picked four of our favorite games to take a spin through. These include Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Call of Duty 2, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and also Need for Speed: Carbon. Included at the end are some 3D Mark results, for those who enjoy them.

Half-Life 2: Episode 1

Half-Life 2 is one of those classic games that just doesn’t get boring. Even after playing the same level over and over, I still haven’t found myself completely “bored” of it in the least. I can’t say that for every game. The level used here is ep1_c17_02a, which starts you off in a dark yellow hallway. You progress through the narrow hallways killing zombies and combine soldiers along the way, all while having an airship outside shooting you through the windows.

1280×1024 and 1650×1080 were the resolutions used here, with all of the graphic options turned up to max, except the AF which was kept at 8x. AA was kept at 4x.

Even with amazing graphics, this is one title that does not require an amazing card in order to enjoy the game to the fullest. Even at 1650×1080, the game averaged out to a very playable 44FPS. Our 7900GT mustered almost twice as many, but the game didn’t feel slow in any way with the X1650XT.

Call of Duty 2, GRAW, NFS: Carbon

When first launched, this game was touted for it’s superb graphics and overall realism. Still today, the game doesn’t cease to impress me. The graphics are as sharp as they come, and even at lower FPS the game tends to run extremely well. The level used here is the second in the game, Demolition. 1280×1024 and 1650×1080 were used again here. Anisotropic filtering was selected with 4x AA. All other options were kept to their max.

Until playing the game on this card, I did not realize how intensive it actually was. While the game ran silky smooth on the 7900GT, the game lagged on the X1650XT even at 1280×1024. The game was certainly playable, but was not as seamless as I would have liked. Turning off the Anti-Aliasing helped, but turning it to 1024×768 would be the ultimate choice with this card. 1650×1080 was still playable, but you would never want to game with that setting for more than a few minutes.

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter

Ghost Recon has always been a stature in the tactical shooter category, and for good reason. Advanced Warfighter takes what people loved, and improves on each and every aspect. Thanks to the incredible graphics and realism, the game is perfectly suited for benchmarking. The level used here was the first in the game. It’s just one of those openings that is breathtaking, and also does a lot to push any graphics power you have.

GRAW detects your GPU upon opening it, and will decide for you what settings you can and can’t use. Thanks to this fact, neither the 7900GT nor X1650XT could select the 1650×1080 resolution. To help beefen up the graph a bit, 7950GT results are also included.

The game ran smooth at 1280×1024, no real complaints at all. There were a few instances where it felt a little slow, however. 1024×768 would be even better, but if you don’t mind a slight lag in turn for some higher-res graphics, 1280 is not completely out of the question.

Need for Speed: Carbon

Need for Speed is a game I get addicted to with each new release. They are always well put together for the mostpart, and fun to play. Sadly, Carbon does not favor widescreen resolutions at all, so testing was completed at 1280*1024. While the monitor supports 1680*1050, it cannot do 1600*1200 which the game does support.

The race used for testing is the very first in the game, where you are basically learning the… uhh basics. Considering the fact that the game doesn’t exactly have mindblowing graphics, you’d imagine that the game would run at ultra-high FPS with a decent card. Not the case, since the game is so fast paced it does a good job of keeping your card in check. Luckily enough, even at 20FPS the game is completely playable with little flickering.

This card ran this game like a dream! As you can tell from the FPS reports, the differences between any cards is not huge, it’s the nature of the game. It kept up past 20FPS though, and so was completely playable. If you run your games at 1600×1200 though, I’m sure you’d start to see some big decreases.

3D Mark, Final Thoughts

Though 3D Mark is pretty useless for gauging a video cards worth, it’s fun to try to break personal records and compare similar cards to one another. Speaking of useless, 3D Mark 01 comes to mind, as it’s now 6 years old. Even though that benchmark is incredibly CPU sensitive, better GPUs also make a difference.

Here is a definite stair-step effect. The 7950GT is marginally better than the 7900GT, and the same goes for the EAX1650XT when compared to the 7900GT. There’s not really much to explain here, except the budget moniker of the X1650XT has been quite evident throughout our results.

Final Thoughts

If you are in the market for a budget ATI card, you cannot really go wrong with the EAX1650XT. The card scaled well with the others in terms of $ per FPS. We compared this card to ASUS’ own 7900GT, which is twice as expensive at around $300. The card is also twice as fast though, so you do certainly “get what you pay for”.

Sadly I did not have a 7600GT to compare to, but essentially this card should prove to be as good, if not better than those. More often than not, ASUS’ own cards retail for an increased price over other brands, but this one falls into a comfortable $150 spot while the 7600GTs are closer to $170. This is a great card for the money, but 7900GT cards begin out at $220 at most popular e-tailers. To me, that’s like 45% more cash for 90% more performance. It’s really up to you to decide how much you are willing to spend, or how much graphic power you really need.

Three things to mention, on the downside. The fan… is loud. Since installing the card into this PC, the computer as a whole was noticeably louder. Prior to installing the card, the computer simply hummed and the sound never actually stood out to me. But with this card, it’s a lot more noticeable. The other thing to mention is the fact that the card can get rather warm at max load. It hit 88°C with an ambient room temp of 80°F. Lastly, the overclocking ability of this card is nil. I officially got the card to 20MHz over stock, which was not worth it to me to re-run all the benchmarks at that setting. So, this is not a card for overclockers and shouldn’t even be thought about once the card is in your hands.

In the end this is a great card for the price point. The inclusion of GTI Racing is a nice bonus, in addition to the snazzy ASUS cd holder. Add to the fact that this card can later be paired with an additional GPU, there is future upgradability in mind if you don’t want to slap over more for a higher-end card at this point in time.

I am awarding the ASUS EAX1650XT a very respectable 8 out of 10.

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