Mainstream Graphics Cards
- ATI Radeon X1600 XT
- ATI Radeon X1600 Pro
- Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS*
- Nvidia GeForce 6600 GT
The price range of $99-199 has become a very lucrative sector of the market, showing some quick growth in the last years, according to Nvidia’s estimates. Considering that such products are relatively easy to manufacture, there is currently available a great multitude of various models on such graphics processors as Radeon X1600 XT, Radeon X1600 Pro, GeForce 7600 GS and GeForce 6600 GT (for details see our article called Knowing the Depths: NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT Architecture). Each such product may differ from others in its physical characteristics like the sound level of its cooler. You should keep this fact in mind when analyzing the numbers published below which refer only to the GPU developers’ reference designs.
Note also that the GeForce 6600 GT, although on the same level with the other products, does not support dual-link DVI which is necessary for large monitors. So, if you buy a graphics card to work in resolutions of 1920x1200 and higher, you may want to consider GeForce 7 or Radeon X1000 series products.
We had to down-clock a GeForce 7600 GT to emulate the GeForce 7600 GS, so the real GeForce 7600 GS may have slightly lower power consumption than shown.
Manufactured on 110nm tech process, the GeForce 6600 GT consumes 47 watts, which is in fact the power consumption of the Radeon X1800 GTO. Thus, it is the most power-hungry device in the mainstream category. The 90nm GeForce 7600 GS boasts the lowest power draw at 27W. The Radeon X1600 cards need the same amount of power, a little more than their opponent requires. Although the Radeon X1600 Pro has lower frequencies than the Radeon X1600 XT, it uses power-hungry GDDR2 memory and works at the same voltage, so as a result it requires as much power as the senior model in the series.
A vast majority of GeForce 7600 GS cards available on the market are equipped with a passive cooling system, so this card should be considered the quietest among the tested ones. As for the non-qualification Radeon X1600 XT sample from ATI, it is the noisiest graphics card of all in this batch, because its cooling system always works at its maximum speed. As we see by Sapphire Radeon X1600 Pro, the cooling solutions used on graphics cards of the kind are usually quiet: although the mainboards can manage the fan rotation speed in the VGA cooling systems, this feature is never really used. As a result, the solutions of this type can be considered very quiet, especially since most graphics card vendors equip their Radeon 1600 Pro/XT with passive cooling systems.