It has been a long time since we had a look at some mainstream video cards - not everyone can afford a Radeon X1800XT or GeForce 7800 GTX. Over the last couple of months, both ATI and NVIDIA have launched new products. Namely, Radeon X1300 Pro and GeForce 6600 DDR2.
Today, we are evaluating the performance of two video cards from MSI and XFX based on ATI's Radeon X1300 Pro 256MB and NVIDIA's GeForce 6600 DDR2 256MB chipsets. We are also going to evaluate the performance of GeForce 6600 DDR2 in SLI, as we have not had a look at NVIDIA's mainstream SLI implementation until now. If you've only got £80 available for your upgrade to PCI-Express, we suggest you continue reading.
ATI Radeon X1300 Pro (RV515)
MSI has been an ATI partner for quite some time now, and we've looked at quite a few of their products in the past. We have their Radeon X1300 Pro implementation on the test bench, a card that comes with a price of just over £75 in the UK, or just under $110 in the USA. It comes clocked at 600MHz core and 800MHz memory, with two vertex shaders, four pixel pipelines and a 128-bit memory interface.
The core is manufactured on TSMC's 90 nanometre Low-k engineering process and it has support for technologies like Avivo, CrossFire, Shader Model 3.0, full 32-bit floating point precision, High Dynamic Range lighting and every other feature that we covered when we looked at R520 for the first time
. The only feature that it doesn't have is the ring bus memory controller, that has proven to provide some nice performance enhancements when Anti-Aliasing is enabled.
We have mentioned CrossFire support, but there are no master cards for Radeon X1300 series. Instead, you will be able to pair up any two Radeon X1300 cards in a motherboard supporting ATI's CrossFire Technology in order to run X1300 CrossFire.
The cooler is a single slot radial fan with an aluminium heatsink that is attached to the board with four high tension push pins, meaning that there is minimal movement of the heatsink if it gets knocked accidentally. It runs with relatively little noise, thanks to the minimal heat generated by ATI's RV515 GPU.
There are four Infineon 2.5ns DDR2 memory chips on either side of the card, making a total of 256MB frame buffer. The card has no requirement for additional power, which means that there is no supplementary power connector - all power to the card comes from the PCI-Express slot on the motherboard.
It comes with a DVI, VGA and HDTV-ready TV Out port on the back plate, meaning that there is a wide range of connectivity available to it. However, we're slightly disappointed not to see dual DVI connectors from top to bottom on ATI's Radeon X1000-series. Hopefully we will see a more forward-looking board partner who will implement dual DVI ports on their Radeon X1300 Pro products.
The bundle is reasonable, but nothing to write home about. Having said that, this card isn't a card that would normally be associated with the hardcore gamer come hardware enthusiast. There is an S-Video cable and one DVI-to-VGA connector included, along with a manual, quick install guide and driver CD.