The major excitement in graphics comes from the high end. Who wouldn't long for a GPU like the 8800GTX that trounces all comers? But in reality the majority of people don't have £500 to spend on graphics cards every six months, and the real volume is in the lower end. The price bracket from £100 to £200 is a sweet spot, where a decent level of performance is available but the cards are still affordable.
Towards the bottom of this range comes ATi's Radeon X1650XT, which we've already seen in premium overclocked form courtesy the HIS X1650XT IceQ Turbo Dual DL-DVI 256MB. The X1650XT is hardly a low-end specification, though. With 24 pixel units, 8 vertex units, and a reference 575MHz core, the GPU has serious 3D rendering grunt. In fact, the X1650XT only has 8 less pixel shader units than the Radeon X1950 PRO. But it is also restricted by a 128-bit memory path, so although it is equipped with 1350MHz GDDR3 memory, the X1650XT has significantly less bandwidth than its bigger brother.
Unlike the HIS version we've already seen, however, the Asus EAX1650XT is a reference card, so its specifications are exactly as described above. This is also a CrossFire-capable adapter, using the recently introduced internal system rather than the much-maligned external dongle. There's no need for a special CrossFire Edition of the X1650XT, as the RV560 GPU has a compositing engine built in. So read on to see how the Asus stacks up to the value competition, and whether ganging two of them together gives a worthwhile boost.