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Diamond Viper Radeon HD 3650 1GB
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Date: May 05, 2008
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Robert Maloney
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Introduction

While the average PC enthusiast may gawk endlessly over pages of reviews of high-end power-hungry graphics cards, jaw-slackened by the frame rates and 3DMark score that he or she might find there, at the end of the month it is the low to mid-range card that is purchased most often than not.  Price typically comes into consideration, but it's not the only concern.  Availability, compatibility, and other issues factor in to a buyers decision as well.  Sometimes it simply boils down to the fact that the average Joe clearing stages in Peggle or watching the latest videos on YouTube simply doesn't need all of that horsepower.

AMD's Radeon HD 3650 is one of the few cards out there that can satisfy mainstream user needs yet still cost less that a hundred dollars.   Based on the RV635, and off-shoot of the RV670, the HD 3650 is architecturely similar to the more powerful HD 3850 and HD 3870 models, but with a narrower memory interface and far fewer stream processors.  It too is built on a 55nm process, requiring less power than previous AMD/ATI cards and, as a result, radiating less heat. 

With sales predictions for this card being high, and production costs low, it's almost a no-brainer than many of ATI's partners would look into adding an HD 3650 to their line-up.  Diamond Multimedia has, with the release of the Viper Radeon HD 3650 1GB, added not just one but two different variants.  The first stuck with default specifications including clock speed and memory buffer, but at launch we hinted that there would be many models to choose from.  Today we take a look at their second issue, which raises the total amount of memory to 1GB, but in doing so, uses lower cost, slower GDDR2 chips.  In the pages ahead, we'll aim to find out if additional on-board memory really impacts performance more so than a smaller footprint of faster GDDR3 memory.

Diamond Viper Radeon HD 3650 1GB
Specifications and Features

  • 378 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 128-bit DDR2 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

     


  • The Bundle and A Note On Overclocking:

    Sporting an emphasis on keeping costs low, the package contents for Diamond's Viper HD 3650 1GB offers only the card, setup manual and CD, and a single VGA-to-DVI dongle.  Again, the target demographic that Diamond's trying to hit probably doesn't need or want a bunch of extra cables or other doo-dads that aren't going to get used, so why bother including them?  We were, however, hoping to get a little extra out of the card in the way of overclocking, but all efforts were dead-ended.  ATI's Overdrive was functional, but unlocking the utility showed sliders with the lower and upper end both remaining at the default clock of 725MHz for the core, and a paltry 400MHz for the DDR2.  Installing ATI Tray Tool initially seemed to help, as a range of speeds was shown to be available, but moving the slider and applying the changes had no effect.  Thus, we were left testing our entire suite of benchmarks at the Diamond Viper HD 3650 1GB's default settings. 

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    Inspection of the Diamond Viper HD 3650 1GB

    Diamond's Viper HD 3650 1GB is small and compact like most of the other models out there, unburdened by large heatsinks, fans, etc.  With its emphasis on price and low power consumption, the smaller footprint of this card makes it ripe for using in the close quarters of a SFF or other Home Theater oriented PC where high-res gaming is not a primary concern.

      

    The front and back of the card is mostly left open - very little in the way of power regulation or other circuitry is visible.  Ruby appears to be relaxing a bit on the graphic label stickered over the rear-mounted heatsink/fan.  It's almost as if she was taking a breather from the typical strenous output she deals with in the upper end HD38xx models.  Quite noticeable is the lack of both CrossFire and power connectors, as this Radeon HD 3650's CrossFire and power is supplied by the PCI-Express slot.  

         

    The heatsink and fan are quite small, mounted over the RV635 and the four memory chips located on the front.  As the HD 3650 consumes little power compared to some of the more powerful cards, it generates a lot less heat and doesn't need a heavy-duty solution.  Of course, the profile is quite slim and only requires a single slot in your chassis for installation.  Small thermal pads connect the heatsink to the memory ICs below.

         

    The remaining four memory chips reside on the backside of the card, uncooled, surrounding a metal bracket used to hold down the heatsink.  The memory consists of Hynix DDR2, and is rated for 2.5ns operation at CAS settings of 6-6-6.  This is most definitely not the most expensive RAM floating around, and a perfect fit for Diamond when adding an entire gigabyte.  The bracket features three kinds of video connections: VGA, DVI, and HDMI.  These should cover almost all users current needs for connecting their PC to a monitor.

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    Base System and 3DMark06 Results

    HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on an MSI P6N Diamond motherboard powered by a Core 2 Duo E6550 processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring our test system was to enter into the BIOS 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.

    HotHardware's Test System
    Viewing the Ultimate Vista


    Processor -

    Motherboard -




    Video Cards -



    Memory -


    Audio -

    Hard Drive -

    HARDWARE USED:

    Intel Core 2 Duo E6550

    MSI P6N Diamond
    nForce680i SLI Chipset

    Diamond Radeon HD 3650 1GB
    Sapphire Radeon HD 3650 512MB
    Sapphire Radeon HD 3850 512MB
    Gigabyte GeForce 8600 GTS
    NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT

    2GB Corsair Dominator DDR2
    2x1GB, 4-4-4-12 (1T)

    Integrated Creative X-Fi

    Seagate Barracuda 7200.10
    750GB - 7200rpm - SATAII



    OS -

    Direct X -

    Video Drivers -




    Synthetic (DX) -
    DirectX 9 -
    DirectX 10 -
    OpenGL -
    DirectX 10 -
    DirectX 10 -
    DirectX 10 -
     

    RELEVANT SOFTWARE:

    Windows Vista Ultimate

    DirectX 10

    NVIDIA Forceware v169.25
    ATI Catalyst v8.3

    BENCHMARKS USED:

    3DMark06 v1.1.0
    Half-Life 2: Episode 2
    Company of Heroes
    ET: Quake Wars 1.4
    Crysis Single-Player Demo
    Bioshock 1.1
    PT Boats: Knights of the Sea



    Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.1.0
    Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06



    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. 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.





    Diamond's HD 3650 finds itself with the short end of the stick in the 3DMark06 testing with by far the lowest scores of any of the cards used for this review.  The real crux here is that Diamond's version of the card comes with double the memory buffer than Sapphire's model, yet the slower DDR2 memory speeds employed cause it to lose any advantage whatsoever.  Instead, it winds up being nearly 30% slower as shown in the overall results graph.   

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    Half-Life 2: Episode 2



    Half-Life 2: Episode 2
    Details: http://orange.half-life2.com/hl2ep2.html


    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 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 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.

    Thankfully, the Diamond HD 3650 1GB performs a bit better in actual gaming engines than in the synthetic 3DMark06 benchmark.  The frame rates may not be outstanding by any means, but we're still looking at close to 30fps at both resolutions - and that's with four samples of Anti-Aliasing and Anistropic Filtering being applied to the rendering workload.

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    Company of Heroes



    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 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and all of the game's image-quality related options set to their maximum values.

    Company of Heroes' in-game benchmark is much more grueling that the Half-Life 2 demo, as is evident by the low frame rates found during the 8600 GTS and HD 3850 testing.  The 8600 GTS even drops to single digits at 1600x1200.  The two HD 3650s are somewhat evenly matched here with just over a frame per second separating the two at the 1280x1024, and almost identical runs at the higher res.

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    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


    Enemy Territory: 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.  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.

    Whereas the Sapphire HD 3650 and Gigabyte's 8600 GTS are nearly deadlocked for the value-gaming spot in our charts, Diamond's card begins to fall out of the picture starting with the ET: Quake Wars testing.  Its slower clock and memory speeds simply prevent it from dealing with the others head-on, slipping behind in performance to the tune of 25% or more.

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    Crysis Demo



    Crysis Singleplayer Demo
    Details:www.ea.com/crysis/index.jsp


    Crysis
    Singleplayer Demo

    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.

       

    There's no denying that Crysis is one of the most demanding games on current PC hardware, and even our mainstream 8800 GT is barely able to get to the 30 fps mark under these conditions.  The Diamond HD 3650's single-digit frame rates are a far cry from anything even coming close to playable - one would seriously need to cut back on the resolution or quality settings to get even close, but then what would be the point?

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    Bioshock



    Bioshock
    Details: www.2kgames.com/bioshock/


    Bioshock

    BioShock is the "genetically enhanced" first person shooter with RPG elements, that has a feel very reminiscent of System Shock 2 or Deus Ex.  It uses a modified Unreal Engine 3.0 with heavy emphasis on enhanced water effects to the extent that Irrational Games actually hired a water programmer and water artist just for this game.  Part horror flick, part sci-fi novel, BioShock is an experience that one won't soon forget.  We gathered our testing results by measuring frame rates through FRAPS while performing the same set of actions in the opening corridors of Rapture at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with all graphical settings turned to High.

     

    Eerily similar to our ET: Quake Wars results, Bioshock has the 8600 GTS and Sapphire's HD 3650 battling it out for the middle ground.  Each card wins a round here, with a frame separating the two at either resolution.  Unfortunately for Diamond, its card is again dead last.  Behind by 5-6 frames per second at 1280x1024, the gap actually widens at 1600x1200 to 6-7 fps when we would have expected otherwise.  The larger memory buffer should have helped here, but its slower DDR2 memory interface speed hampers any gains it might have had.

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    PT Boats: Knights of the Sea



    PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
    Details: www.pt-boats.net


    PT Boats:
    Knights of the Sea

    PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval war-sim based on a substantially modified version of the Storm engine.  It takes a full grip of all DirectX 10 graphics and film-quality features to create a more realistic gaming experience. These improvements include: advanced ocean rendering, soft particles, reflections, light beams and advanced transparency, and advanced HDR for gunfire and sun reflections.  We used the DX10 Benchmark available from their website using High Quality settings at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 without any Anti-Aliasing applied.

     

    The "Storm" engine is especially brutal on the weaker cards, with the 8600 GTS showing the most anemic results of any in this group.  The Radeon HD 3650s do fare a little better, almost doubling the 8600 GTS' output, but with a large disparity between the two competitors.  The Sapphire HD 3650 is giving us from 33-40% better frame rates than Diamond's sample.

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    Performance Summary and Conclusion

     

    Performance Summary:

    If their gamble was to increase the memory buffer in lieu of any speed tweaks, than we have to say that Diamond lost this bet.  Placing 1GB of 400MHz DDR2 memory on board the HD 3650 1GB model effectively dropped performance well below that of a rival card from Sapphire.  On the bright side, Diamond's card did manage to compete head-to-head with an 8600 GTS from Gigabyte, that sells for a $30 - $40 premium.



    As a general rule, we here at HotHardware are always pleased to see a manufacturer go back to the drawing board and make a card "their own".  Whether that means overclocking speeds, customizing and optimizing the cooling solution, or adding some other additional features; it's all in the best interest of creating a buzz for their product, giving the end consumer something to consider in terms of differentiation their in their product line.

    Diamond's Viper Radeon HD 3650 1GB has, of course, the 1GB memory buffer appended right there in the name of the product.  And, as we have seen, there definitely seems to be a trend with more and more memory placed on board graphics cards to help with caching textures at higher resolutions.  So, we should be pleased with this effort, but overall the performance of this version of Diamonds HD 3650 wound up disappointing us instead.  The addition of the extra 512MB of memory makes this card one of the highest priced cards based on the HD 3650 GPU, currently hovering just north of $100 U.S., yet the frame rates were consistently below a cheaper model from Sapphire - and sometimes by a heady amount.  While we've been usually positive towards Diamond's slate of recent products, we're choosing to steer clear of this one.

    • 1GB memory buffer
    • Low power consumption 
    • Compact card for close quarters
    • Slower DDR2 memory
    • Remained near bottom of our bechmarks
    • Noisy under load



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