Articles: Graphics

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The announcement of the RV670 GPU didn’t brought ATI, the graphics department of AMD, absolute technical superiority, yet the Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850 proved to be lucky solutions and gained popularity among people who didn’t have much money to spend for a graphics card. The aggressive price policy contributed to that. The ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2, released later on, even brought the company the crown of the developer of fastest graphics cards for a while.

ATI didn’t forget about entry-level products belonging to the price niche of $100 and less. Notwithstanding the pressure from Intel’s integrated solutions, inexpensive discrete graphics cards are still highly popular among system integrators, OEMs and thrifty users who don’t need high gaming performance but plan to use such features as hardware HD video decoding. The ATI Radeon HD 3650 is an example of such a solution. What distinguishes it from the previous generation of entry-level Radeons?

The Radeon HD 2600 series was based on the RV630 core manufactured on 65nm tech process while the ATI Radeon HD 3650 features an improved version of that core, called RV635 and manufactured on 55nm tech process. It is the same tech process as is used to manufacture the RV670. Besides, the RV635 has acquired support for DirectX 10.1 and PCI Express 2.0 and quite rightly belongs to the ATI Radeon HD 3000 series. The name of the Radeon HD 3650 card is not merely a marketing trick as is the case with Nvidia’s GeForce 9800 GTX and 9600 GSO.

On the other hand, the basic specs of the Radeon HD 3650 are the same as those of the Radeon HD 2600. Moreover, the new card is not necessarily going to deliver more performance.

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Easy to see, both series have the same amount of functional subunits. The clock rates are the only significant difference. The Radeon HD 3650 has lower operating frequencies than the Radeon HD 2600 XT GDDR4 but higher than the Radeon HD 2600 Pro. The 128-bit memory bus makes it obvious that the card cannot provide high performance in modern games, but it is hardly the purpose of a solution that comes at a recommended price of only $99 even if it is equipped with fast GDDR3 memory. The junior version of the card is equipped with slow GDDR2 memory which is but rarely installed on graphics cards today, and costs only $79. It is called Radeon HD 3650, too. So, there exist two versions of Radeon HD 3650 with dramatically different performance. It can be quite confusing for the customer especially if the manufacturer doesn’t indicate the memory type on the product box explicitly.

The Radeon HD 3650 cannot be fast in 3D applications but it can appeal to the user with its low price and rich functionality as it incorporates a best-in-industry video-processor and an integrated audio core. Coupled with 55nm tech process, the described product may make a perfect choice for an inexpensive and quiet multimedia system.

The Radeon HD 3650 is represented by MSI’s R3650-T2D512-OC model in this review. It is in the mainstream and performance-mainstream sectors that graphics cards are especially variegated. Let’s see if MSI’s product has any original traits.

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