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ATI Radeon HD Refresh: The 3650 and 3450 Arrive
Date: Jan 23, 2008
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Introduction and Related Info

When AMD launched the RV670 GPU at the heart of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 series of products, they received quite a bit of fanfare due to the product's  competitive prices, strong performance, and more manageable power profiles.  One of the main reasons AMD was able to bring the Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 to market with these attributes was because the company had migrated their GPUs to a relatively more advanced 55nm process technology.  Manufacturing the GPUs at 55nm meant they were more economical to produce, required less power than the previous generation, and could run at higher clock speeds.

AMD didn’t stop there, however.  They have since taken the very same design principles that brought forth the RV670 and used them for a couple of new mainstream and entry-level GPUs.  Today AMD is officially unveiling the Radeon HD 3650 and the Radeon HD 3450 / 3470, which are based on the 55nm RV635 and RV620 GPUs, respectively.  Like the RV670 that came before them, the RV635 and RV620 are competitively priced DirectX 10.1 compliant GPUs that offer full UVD support.

We’ve got the top of the line Radeon HD 3650 in house and have put it through the wringer with some of today’s hottest games and video tests.  Read on to see just how AMD’s new sub-$100 mainstream graphics card performed in our battery of tests...

ATI Radeon HD 3650

ATI Radeon HD 3650

Features & Specifications

  • 378 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 128-bit DDR2/GDDR3 memory interface
  • Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support
    • Shader Model 4.1
    • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
    • Indexed cube map arrays
    • Independent blend modes per render target
    • Pixel coverage sample masking
    • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
    • Gather4 texture fetching
  • Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture
    • 120 stream processing units
      • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
      • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shader
      • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
    • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
    • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
    • Shader instruction and constant cache
    • Up to 40 texture fetches per clock cycle
    • Up to 128 textures per pixel
    • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
    • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
    • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
    • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
    • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
    • Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
    • Lossless Z & stencil compression
    • Lossless color compression
    • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
    • Physics processing support
  • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration
    • Programmable tessellation unit
    • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
    • Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance
  • Anti-aliasing features
    • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (2, 4 or 8 samples per pixel)
    • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
    • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
    • Temporal anti-aliasing
    • Gamma correct
    • Super AA (ATI CrossFireX configurations only)
    • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering
  • Texture filtering features
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
    • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
    • Bicubic filtering
    • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
    • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
    • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
    • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support
  • OpenGL 2.0 support

  • ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Platform
  • Dedicated unified video decoder (UVD) for H.264/AVC and VC-1 video formats
  • High definition (HD) playback of both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats
  • Hardware MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and DivX video decode acceleration
    • Motion compensation and IDCT
  • ATI Avivo Video Post Processor
    • Color space conversion
    • Chroma subsampling format conversion
    • Horizontal and vertical scaling
    • Gamma correction
    • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
    • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
    • Detail enhancement
    • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
    • Bad edit correction
  • Two independent display controllers
    • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
    • Full 30-bit display processing
    • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
    • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
    • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
    • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
    • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
    • Hardware cursor
  • Two integrated DVI display outputs
    • Primary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)
    • Secondary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI only)
    • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content
  • Two integrated DisplayPort outputs
  • Supports 24- and 30-bit displays at all resolutions up to 2560x1600
  • 1, 2, or 4 lanes per output, with data rate up to 2.7 Gbps per lane
  • Two integrated 400 MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
  • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x153623
  • HDMI output support
  • Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080
  • Integrated HD audio controller with up to 2 channel 48 kHz stereo or multi-channel (5.1) AC3 enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
  • Integrated AMD Xilleon HDTV encoder
  • Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
  • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
  • Underscan and overscan compensation
  • MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding
  • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
  • VGA mode support on all display outputs
  • ATI PowerPlay
    • Advanced power management technology for optimal performance and power savings
    • Performance-on-Demand
      • Constantly monitors GPU activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
      • Clock and memory speed throttling
      • Voltage switching
      • Dynamic clock gating
    • Central thermal management – on-chip sensor monitors GPU temperature and triggers thermal actions as required
  • ATI CrossFireX Multi-GPU Technology
    • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with two GPUs
    • Integrated compositing engine
    • High performance dual channel bridge interconnect

We have previously posted a wealth of information related to today's launch that we recommend you read to get familiar with AMD's new ATI RV635 and RV620 GPUs, their previous GPU architectures, and their key features. The Radeon HD 3650 and 3450 / 3470 are based on a GPU derived from of the R600, and as such they have a number of key features in common that we've already covered in much greater detail that we will here today. The articles we suggest you peruse include:

If you haven't already done so, we recommend scanning through our 3800 and 2x00 series coverage, our Radeon HD 2900 XT launch article, and the Radeon X1950 Pro with Native CrossFire article. In those four pieces, we cover a large number of the features offered by the new Radeon HD 3600 and 3400 series of cards and explain many of the features of DirectX 10. We recommended reading these articles because there is quite a bit of background information in them that'll make it easier to fully understand what we're going to showcase here today.

The Radeon HD 3650 Up Close

In comparison to many other graphics cards on the market currently, the Radon HD 3650 is quite small.  The PCB itself extends barely .5” from the rear of a PCI Express expansion slot and it is no higher than its retention plate.   It’s clear just by looking at the card, however, that this is an ATI-built graphics card.



The Radeon HD 3650 Exposed

As you can see, the Radeon HD 3650 has a small, single-slot active cooler and Ruby is confident that her antiperspirant is doing its job.  The board features a pair of CrossFire edge connectors along the top edge of its PCB, and dual, dual-link DVI outputs along with a single HDTV / S-Video output.  We should also note that the Radeon 3650 supports audio over HDMI as well using a supplied adapter.

If we pull off the cooler, the diminutive RV635 GPU is visible.  The die is tiny by today’s standards at about 12mm x 11mm, which is a fraction the size of a U.S. dime.  AMD should be able to churn these out by the truckload.

The Radeon HD 3650 features 120 stream processors, 8 texture units, 4 ROPs, and a 128-bit interface to its on-board frame buffer.  If you look at the full list of specifications above, you’ll notice memory clock speed has multiple entries though.  That’s because there is more than one Radeon HD 3650 launching today.  The card we tested, and what you see pictured above, is a 256MB model with 1.6GHz GDDR3 memory and a 725MHz GPU.  DDR2-equipped Radeon HD 3650’s with varying amounts of on-board memory ranging from 256MB to 1GB, however, are also being introduced, with lower memory clock speeds but the same GPU speed.

As we mentioned in our introduction, the Radeon 3400 series of cards is launching today as well.  The Radeon HD 3450 and 3470 feature 40 stream processors, 4 texture units, 4 ROPs, and UVD.  Memory and GPU frequencies and the output port configuration will vary from card to card.

The Radeon HD 3400 Family of Cards

Half and full-height Radeon HD 3400 series cards will be available almost immediately.  A version with a passive cooling solution is also planned.  Finally, we should point out that the Radeon HD 3600 and 3400 series of cards are the first to feature two integrated DisplayPort outputs, although not every board will feature the necessary connector.

Our Test System and 3DMark06

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on either an EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard (NVIDIA GPUs) or an Asus P5E3 Deluxe (ATI GPUs) powered by a Core 2 Extreme QX6850 quad-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test systems was enter their respective BIOSes and set all values to their "optimized" or "performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS, and installed the latest DX10 redist and various hotfixes along with the necessary drivers and applications.

The HotHardware Test System

Core 2 Extreme Powered


Motherboard -

Video Cards -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drive

Hardware Used:
Core 2 Extreme QX6850 (3GHz) 

EVGA nForce 680i SLI
nForce 680i SLI chipset

Asus P5E3 Deluxe
X38 Express 

ATI Radeon HD 3650
GeForce 8600 GTS

Radeon HD 3850
Radeon HD 2600 XT

2048MB Corsair PC2-6400C3
2 X 1GB
2048MB Corsair DDR3-1333 C7
2 X 1GB

Integrated on board

Western Digital "Raptor"

74GB - 10,000RPM - SATA

OS - 

DirectX -

Video Drivers

Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -

Relevant Software:

Windows Vista Ultimate

DirectX 10

NVIDIA Forceware v169.09
ATI Catalyst v8.1

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
Company of Heros - DX10
Crysis - DX10
Half Life 2: Episode 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars*

* - Custom Test
(HH Exclusive demo)

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06

3DMark06 is the most recent addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

According to 3DMark06's default benchmark, the new Radeon HD 3650 finishes just behind the Radeon HD 2600 XT.  The more expensive, and more powerful Radeon HD 3850 doubles the 3650's performance, and the GeForce 8600 GTS outpaces it by about 1800 points.

If we drill down and look at 3DMark06's individual results, we see how the Radeon HD 3650 fared in the shader model 2.0 and shader model 3.0 / HDR tests.  Once again, the new Radeon finishes just behind the 2600 XT regardless of which shader model is used.

Half Life 2: Episode 2


Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Details: www.half-life2.com

Half Life 2:

Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  And thanks to an updated game engine, gorgeous visual, and intelligent weapon and level design, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024, 1,600 x 1,200 and 1,920 x 1,200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo file to benchmark all cards in this test.

Despite what 3DMark06 reported, the new Radeon HD 3650 outpaced the Radeon 2600 XT in our custom Half Life 2: Episode 2 benchmark.  It still wasn't quiet powerful enough to catch the higher powered 3850 or 8800 GTS, but the Radeon HD 3650 is no slouch for a sub-$100 graphics card.

Company of Heroes

Performance Comparisons with Company of Heroes

Details: www.companyofheroesgame.com

Company of Heroes

Relic Entertainment's World War II era real-time strategy game Company of Heroes was originally released as a DirectX 9 title for Windows.  But recent upates to the game have incorporated support for new DirectX 10 features that improve image quality and enhance the game's finer graphical details.  The game features a built-in performance test which which we used to attain the results below. Our Company of Heroes tests were run at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024, 1,600 x 1,200 and 1920 x 1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and all of the game's image-quality related options set to their maximum values.

The results from the built-in Company of Heroes benchmark somewhat mirror those of 3DMark06.  Here, the new Radeon HD 3650 just misses the mark set by the Radeon HD 2600 XT.  At the ultra high-quality graphics settings we used, however, all of the cards tested struggle quite a bit in this benchmark.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Performance Comparisons with ET: Quake Wars

Details: www.enemyterritory.com

Enemy Territory: 
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on id's radically enhanced Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

The pattern continued in our custom Enemy Territory: Quake Wars benchmark.  Once again, the new Radeon HD 3650 finished slightly behind the Radeon HD 2600 XT, and the GeForce 8800 GTS and Radeon HD 3850 were far out in front.

Crysis Performance

Performance Comparisons with Crysis

Details: www.ea.com/crysis


If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player demo of the hot, new, upcoming FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is HOT.  We ran the SP demo with all of the game's visual options set to 'High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.

Crysis pounded all of the cards we tested into oblivion, but the pattern we witnessed with EP2 reemerged.  In the Crysis benchmark, the Radeon HD 3650 was able to sneak passed the Radeon HD 2600 XT and was even managed to beat out the GeForce 8800 GTS at the lowest resolution.

Video Performance: SD and HD

Finally, we set out to stress the new Radeon HD 3650's UVD video processing engine, in terms of both image quality and CPU utilization with our HQV and H.264 playback tests.

HQV - DVD Video Decoding and Playback Quality

Pure Video HD vs. UVD

HQV is comprised of a sampling of SD video clips and test patterns that have been specifically designed to evaluate a variety of interlaced video signal processing tasks, including decoding, de-interlacing, motion correction, noise reduction, film cadence detection, and detail enhancement. As each clip is played, the viewer is required to "score" the image based on a predetermined set of criteria. The numbers listed below are the sum of the scores for each section. We played the HQV DVD using the latest version of Cyberlink's PowerDVD, with hardware acceleration for AMD AVIVO HD and NVIDIA PureVideo HD extensions enabled.



Both ATI's and NVIDIA's current generation GPUs have no trouble with SD video playback.  Both the Radeon HD 3650 and GeForce 8800 GT put up near perfect scores in the HQV test.  In case you're not familiar with HQV, 130 points is the maximum score attainable.  At 128 points, a PC equipped with either of these graphics cards plays back DVD video at quality levels better than the vast majority of set-top DVD players on the market.

H.264 Video Decoding And Playback Performance
Sipping CPU Cycles

Next we conducted a test using an H.264 encoded movie trailer clip for "Beowulf" which is available for download on Apple's QuickTime website.  The CPU utilization data gathered during these tests was taken from Windows Vista's built-in Performance Monitor. The graphs show the CPU utilization for a GeForce 8800 GT and a Radeon HD 3650 using PowerDVD to playback the QuickTime clip.

GeForce 8800 GT

Radeon HD 3650

With a powerful quad-core processor at the heart of our test system and an unencrypted HD video clip being played, both the GeForce 8800 GT and Radeon HD 3650 averaged low, single-digit CPU utilization in this test.  We should note that with hardware acceleration disabled, playing this video clip results in about 12% - 15% CPU utilization, so there is a marked improvement with both PureVideo HD and AVIVO HD.

Power Consumption and Noise

Before we bring this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter and also took some notes regarding its noise output. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used and to explain how loud the configurations were under load. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the video cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption & Acoustics
It's All About the Watts and Decibels

In terms of peak and idle power consumption, the new Radeon HD 3650 is a clear performance-per-watt champion.  Throughout our benchmarks, the Radeon HD 3650 performed about on par with, or slightly better, than the Radeon HD 2600 XT.  Despite offering similar performance, however, the new card consumed 10 fewer watts while running under a full 3D workload.  On top of that, the 3650 doesn't require a supplimental power connector and its PCB is significantly smaller.  We can see why AMD has high hopes for this card.

As for the 3650's acoustic profile, we'd definitly consider it quiet, but not silent.  The cooler's fan emits a somewhat high-pitched whine, albiet at a low volume, during normal use.  We would not consider the card loud by any means, but we could see a discerning HTPC user being distracted by the cooler's report.  In that case, the passive 3450 would obviously be the better choice.

Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Considering its sub-$100 projected price point, the Radeon HD 3650 performed well throughout testing.  The previous generation Radeon HD 2600 XT is available for about $110 to $170 on-line depending on its memory configuration.  Despite having a lower price and consuming less power, the new Radeon HD 3650 was able to outpace the 2600 XT in a couple of benchmarks (HL2: EP2 and Crysis), and where the 2600 XT pulled ahead it wasn’t by a significant margin.  Video playback performance also proved to be a strong point for the Radeon HD 3650.

It’s clear to us that AMD is out to produce a solid line-up of graphics cards at a number of price points, that also happen to be economical to manufacture.  The new Radeon HD 3600 series doesn’t tear through any gaming benchmarks, but it does have a very complete feature set (DirectX 10.1, UVD, DisplayPort, CrossFireX), a low price, and it sips power in comparison to most of the other graphics cards currently on the market.

The bottom line is if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive upgrade from integrated graphics or want an affordable graphics card for casual gaming that excels at video playback quality and CPU offload performance, the Radeon HD 3650 is a fine choice.  And although we didn’t have a chance to test the new 3400 series for this article, we suspect they too will be strong products at their respective price points.

  • Competitive Price
  • DX 10.1 Support
  • Low Power
  • Great Video Performance
  • Availability
  • Relatively Quiet
  • Not as fast as the 2600 XT
  • Multiple Cards with Same Name

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