Noise and 2D Image Quality
Unfortunately, only RADEON X1800 XT and RADEON X1800 XL demonstrated acceptable level of noise. Their cooling fans worked at their maximum speed only during the system boot-up. A few seconds later the cooling fan on the RADEON X1800 XT slowed down a little bit, and in another short while its rotation speed would again drop down to the minimal level. At this point the generated noise was minimal, nearly negligible. During the test session the fan rotation speed on the RADEON X1800 XT did increase a little bit, however, the noise level still remained within a comfortable range, even though all our tests were carried out in an open testbed.
RADEON X1800 XL acted very similarly with that only difference that the rotation speed of its cooler fan didn’t change as smoothly as by RADEON X1800 XT, so that the cooler would either work pretty loudly or pretty quietly: nothing in between. The overall impression was pretty comfortable. Sometimes, it even felt better than in case of the XT model, because the generated noise was free from that typical “plastic” sound of the ATI’s dual-slot cooling solutions. Anyway, RADEON X1800 XT and RADEON X1800XL would sound exactly the same in a closed system case.
RADEON X1600 XT and RADEON X1300 PRO left a completely different impression: their fans have always been working at the highest rotation speed and generated a lot of unbearable noise, which got especially annoying after you have been listening to it for couple of hours. The major noise component was the high-frequency squealing of the fan, so even in a closed system case the overall noise picture would hardly get any different. Luckily, the graphics card makers do not have to stick with the reference design of the cooling system when they develop their products, so I would expect most RADEON X1600 XT and RADEON X1300 PRO based graphics cards to acquire less noisy cooling solutions. I believe that RADEON X1300 PRO will look especially attractive if equipped with a passive fanless cooler based on heatpipes: this card has every chance to become a great multimedia center solution in this case.
All four graphics accelerators produced very good 2D image quality in resolutions up to 1800x1440x75Hz, which is typical of up to 99% of all contemporary graphics cards.