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HIS X1600Pro turns out to be passive aggressive

First INQpressions HIS X1600Pro Silence
Fri Nov 24 2006, 10:01
IT'S NOT OFTEN these days that you see a discrete graphics card without a big fan strapped onto it. The INQ had the opportunity to review the HIS X1600Pro Silence which uses completely passive cooling.

We received the OEM version, in a plain cardboard box containing the card, manual, TV-out cables, DVI dongle and two CDs. One CD contained the card's drivers and the other was a bonus CD containing a full version of Dungeon Siege as well as some demo games and some full and trial CyberLink products. As a picture of a cardboard box is not very enticing I've included a product shot of the retail box.

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As you can see from the picture the unit is dominated by the massive dual slot heatsink that is attached to make up for the lack of active cooling. The big plus here is that it is completely silent, the down side is that you may battle to squeeze it into a small form factor case. The other plus here is that there is no need for any further power connections, all the power it needs can be drawn through the PCIe slot.

The card we received has 512 MB DDR2 memory, and there is also a 256 MB version available. For those to whom it means anything, the core was clocked at 500 MHz and the memory at 400 MHz. It has one DVI port, one VGA port and a TV out socket as well.

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I started by testing this card in my own personal PC, pitting it against my rapidly aging Radeon X850 card. I must admit, even though they are cards in different ranges, I was surprised that my Powercolor X850 card was performing around 150% better than the X1600 Pro Silence. I took the card to the lab and stuck into a high end Core 2 Duo machine with 4 GB of RAM and managed 4717 3DMarks in 3DMark05 at a resolution of 102x768. The results plummet as you start crank up the settings, at a resolution of 1280x1024 the card scores 3776 3DMarks and if you turn on 4x AA and Anisotropic filtering the score drops again to just 2766 3DMarks. Across the board the results were almost identical to a Sapphire X1600Pro with active cooling. The results seen in 3DMark05 also play across to gaming, whereby most of the current games like Half-life 2 run reasonably well on default settings, but become virtually unplayable if you attempt to crank up the quality settings.

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3DMark05 at 1024x768

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3DMark05 at 1280x1024 with 4x AA and Anisotropic Filtering

The HIS X1600Pro Silence supports DirectX 9, HDR and Shader Model 3.0 so you'll be able to play all the latest games, but don't forget that this is a budget card so you won't be able to crank up the settings without the frames dropping through the floor. It also supports Crossfire, so if you already own one and you'd rather not upgrade, you can consider buying a second one to link to it.

With an SRP of £55 this card is very reasonably priced, in fact it's one of the cheapest discrete graphics cards that I could find at the moment, but unless you're on a very tight budget the newer series of cards cost only around £80 - £100 and can perform up to twice as well. Of course these cards use active cooling, which may be something you're trying to avoid if you're considering the Silence card.

It is also worth noting that there are no overclocking options for this card. Given that the heatsink gets pretty warm just under normal operations this makes a lot of sense, but if you're hoping to get some extra bang for your buck by overclocking then you'll need to look elsewhere.

Conclusion
If a noisy PC is your bugbear and you're on a very tight budget then the HIS X1600Pro Silence is definitely worth considering. Similarly, if you aren't going to be doing much gaming, but want a card that will do perform adequately for watching movies and running Vista, then this card should be a potential candidate for you. Although with the release of the X1650 series and Nvidia's 7600 and 7800 range of cards, you can get a big jump in performance for not a lot more money. ?

L'INQ
HIS X1600Pro Silence

 

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