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HIS Radeon X1650 XT IceQ Turbo and Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II
Date: Feb 08, 2007
Author: Robert Maloney


About a month ago, we had the privilege of reviewing HIS' Radeon X1950 Pro, a mainstream oriented graphics card that performed well, but we felt ultimately came up short against the similarly priced GeForce 7950 GT.  The model we received was outfitted with an oversized cooler dubbed the IceQ3 Turbo, came overclocked by default, and supported CrossFire natively using internal ribbon cables, much like SLI with NVIDIA's cards. Although we found much to praise regarding the performance of the X1950 Pro, we found that the lack of availability of HIS products in the reseller market, combined with the possibility of DirectX 10 becoming much more important on the horizon, put a small damper on things.  For the time-being however, we're sold on the fact that, in the here and now, the HIS Radeon X1950 Pro is a good investment in a quality product.

In today's review, we take another look at some products from HIS, this time focusing on the lower end of mainstream graphics with the Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II and Radeon X1650 XT IceQ Turbo. Each card comes with its own main selling points.  The iSilence II, as its name suggests, is completely silent and devoid of any moving parts in its integrated cooling solution.  The IceQ Turbo, on the other hand, sheds silence for speed, coming in with higher clock speeds on both GPU and RAM and a hefty HSF cooler to keep temperatures in check.  In essence, we will be pitting these two cards against each other, but we've thrown in some other cards for proper comparisons reference points.




HIS Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II & IceQ Turbo
Features & Specifications
- 80nm fabrication process
- 24 pixel shader processors
- 8 vertex shader processors
- Up to 256-bit 8-channel memory interface
- Native PCI Express x16 bus interface

Ring Bus Memory Controller
- Internal ring bus for memory reads
- Fully associative texture, color, and Z/stencil cache designs
- Hierarchical Z-buffer with Early Z test
- Lossless Z Compression (up to 48:1)
- Fast Z-Buffer Clear
- Optimized for performance at high display resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions

Ultra-Threaded Shader Engine
- Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0 programmable vertex and pixel shaders in hardware
- Full speed 128-bit floating point processing for all shader operations
- Up to 512 simultaneous pixel threads
- Dedicated branch execution units for high performance dynamic branching and flow control
- Dedicated texture address units for improved efficiency
- 3Dc+ texture compression o High quality 4:1 compression for normal maps and two channel data formats
- High quality 2:1 compression for luminance maps and single-channel data formats
- Complete feature set also supported in OpenGL 2.0

Advanced Image Quality Features
- 64-bit floating point HDR rendering supported throughout the pipeline
o Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
- 32-bit integer HDR (10:10:10:2) format supported throughout the pipeline
o Includes support for blending and multi-sample anti-aliasing
- 2x/4x/6x Anti-Aliasing modes
o Multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sparse sample
patterns, and centroid sampling
o New Adaptive Anti-Aliasing feature with Performance and Quality modes
o Temporal Anti-Aliasing mode
o Lossless Color Compression (up to 6:1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
- 2x/4x/8x/16x Anisotropic Filtering modes
o Up to 128-tap texture filtering
o Adaptive algorithm with Performance and Quality options
- High resolution texture support (up to 4k x 4k)
Avivo Video and Display Platform
- High performance programmable video processor
o Accelerated MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264 decoding and
o DXVA support
o De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
o Motion compensation, IDCT, DCT and color space conversion
o Vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
o 3:2 pulldown (frame rate conversion)
- Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
- HDR tone mapping acceleration
o Maps any input format to 10 bit per channel output
- Flexible display support
o Dual integrated dual-link DVI transmitters
o Dual integrated 10 bit per channel 400 MHz DACs
o 16 bit per channel floating point HDR and 10 bit per channel DVI output
o Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space
conversion (10 bits per color)
o Complete, independent color controls and video overlays for each display
o High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all outputs
o Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
o Xilleon TV encoder for high quality analog output
o YPrPb component output for direct drive of HDTV displays
o Spatial/temporal dithering enables 10-bit color quality on 8-bit and 6-bit displays
o Fast, glitch-free mode switching
o VGA mode support on all outputs
o Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions and refresh rates
- Compatible with ATI TV/Video encoder products, including Theater 550

- Multi-GPU Technology
- Four modes of operation:
o Alternate Frame Rendering (maximum performance)
o Supertiling (optimal load-balancing)
o Scissor (compatibility)
o Super AA 8x/10x/12x/14x (maximum image quality)

It's actually quite rare to have two such cards in the labs at the same time from the same company.  These days, cards have much shorter shelf lives, and it's not uncommon to see graphic cards arrive that are little more than the original reference design with the logo of the manufacturer quickly slapped on top of the heatsink (in fact, twice in the past year, said logo was haphazardly placed, allowing us to see the original ATI or NVIDIA graphics beneath it).   HIS deserves a bit of praise here, as they have sought out two differing aspects of the market - those looking for moderate performance but a quiet system, and those simply looking for some good performance without getting two pricey.  Over the past couple of months, we've seen that HIS has been very busy covering all angles, from the lower end X1650 Pro that Jeff looked at back in November, to the powerful X1950 XT Michael covered just a couple of weeks ago. 

HIS Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II


HIS Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II
Silence is Golden


The X1650 XT is obviously a much smaller card lengthwise than the ones we're used to seeing.  Compared side by side, the iSilence II and the IceQ Turbo have very different profiles.  The iSilence II is all about being as silent as you can get, with the box advertising 0db.  To accomplish this feat, HIS needed to remove all active cooling methods.  Instead of the standard fan/channel duo that almost all graphics cards are equipped with, the iSilence II utilizes an open set of aluminum fins that allow the heat to radiate out into the case.  Two copper heatpipes quickly pull the heat away from the core to the furthest ends of the card.  The fins are a bit longer than expected, doubling the width of the card so that it winds up taking two slots.


The cooler eventually covers the entire surface of the front of the card.  The back is left untouched, save for the retention mechanism for the heatsink.  As you can see, it's a straightforward method of keeping the components cooler, but it also relies on some forethought by the user.  The heatpipes running away from the core are cooled by the passage of cooler air over the surrounding fins and it is expected that much heat will escape out the vented exit plate at the end of the card.  To achieve this goal, proper airflow must be maintained within the case itself, otherwise it is conceivable that the air within could allow significant heat build-up. 


The heatpipes jut out alongside the bottom of the card, shouldn't pose an issue other than the fact that they are pinned in closer to the board than we would have liked.  It might have been a better idea to run them along the top where they might have been more accessible to fans and airflow.  The main reason this was not done, however, is that it probably would have interfered with the CrossFire connectors, of which there are two.  ATI's current crop of revisions support CrossFire natively, handling the connection internally in the way NVIDIA's GeForce cards do, as opposed to the ugly external dongles of their predecessors.  Finally, along the top edge, we can see that the RAM is covered by mini heat sinks for an extra cooling touch.



The bundle that came with the iSilence II is labeled as the "Platinum Pack" and we feel it's a bit hard to stand behind that statement.  At most, it's a collection of software and cables that should be considered the basics.  An installation manual with driver CD will get you started, and there is a DVD chock full of game demos and some older software including the original Dungeon Siege, but these are expected. "Platinum" typically brings to mind the best of the best, and we're really not getting anything here that is a surprise or an unexpected add-on to the bundle.  Even the assortment of cables is spartan at best, with an S-Video cable, a component output, DVI-to-VGA converter, and component-to-S-Video connector bringing us up to speed.  The only real notable input was the new CrossFire bridge, which all new cards will ship with. 

HIS Radeon X1650 XT IceQ Turbo


HIS X1650 XT IceQ Turbo
Kickin' it into overdrive


Compared to the iSilence II, the IceQ Turbo steers into a new direction.  HIS' engineers took basically the same basic card as the iSilence II, but then raised the core speed from 575MHz to 630MHz and also boosted the memory from 690MHz to 770MHz.  That's close to a 10% increase on both components.  In order to do so, HIS scrapped the passive heatsink and went with a solution from Arctic Cooling.  This type of cooler uses a fan mounted on the far end of the card to suck in air from the front side of the card and then push that air over the heatsink and fins, exhausting out the other end and out of the chassis.


So, maybe it's not a completely different direction, just a more active one.  The oversized cooler found on the IceQ Turbo will also take up two slots, as the plastic sheath covers some larger sized radiator fins underneath.  Thankfully, this setup does not add as much noise as might be expected.  The box rates the unit as operating at around 20db, and it's a fair guess that they are correct, as we didn't notice any significant noise emanating from the card during our testing.  The only thing that raises a question here is how at 575/690 no active cooling was deemed necessary, yet at 630/770 HIS went with a relatively large cooler.  We might have been just as happy with a single-slot cooler like the one ATI used in our original look at the X1650 XT.


Much of the rest of the design stays the same, even keeping the memory under individual heatsinks.  The cooler, being active, does require power from a small plug to the card itself, but all power is supplied by the PCI-E slot and no other external connections are necessary.  Finally, as with the iSilence II, the IceQ Turbo sports two CrossFire connections along the top.  To recap, currently CrossFire requires that both sets of edge connectors are connected by the bridges that come with each card, unlike the single connection of two GeForce cards in SLI.  It's a thought that somewhere down the road ATI may allow users to daisy-chain more than two cards, but that's only speculation at this point.



There's nothing truly different to be said concerning the bundle  of this card as well, as it mirrors what we saw with the iSilence II with the addition of a bracket to cover the opening of the HSF channel.  The collection of software and other goodies isn't bad; it just doesn't live up to the hype of a "Platinum Pack".  Dungeon Siege is the only full game included, but this title might only be useful  in our opinion, for playing the remake of Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny, found for free on the Lazarus website.

Testing System and 3DMark06


HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested the HIS Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II and X1650 XT IceQ Turbo on the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI - an nForce 4 Intel Edition SLI X16 chipset-based motherboard - powered by an Intel Pentium 4 550 processor and 1GB of Corsair XMS2 DDR2 memory. The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and loaded the "High Performance Defaults."  The hard drive was then formatted and Windows XP Professional with SP2 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the latest nForce 4 chipset drivers, installed all of the other necessary drivers for the rest of our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were then disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 1536 MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows' Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of the benchmarking software, and ran the tests.

The Hot Hardware Test System
The Everyday man's system

Processor -

Motherboard -

Video Cards -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Driv
e -


Hardware Used:
Intel Pentium 4 550 (3.4GHz)

Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal
nForce4 SLI X16 chipset

HIS Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II

HIS Radeon X1650 XT IceQ Turbo
Asus EN7600GT
Asus EAX1600Pro
HIS Radeon X1950 Pro

1GB Corsair XMS2 DDR2


2x Western Digital SE16 (RAID 0)

7,200RPM - SATA II - 250GB

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers

Synthetic (DX) -

DirectX -
DirectX -

DirectX -
DirectX -

OpenGL -
OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
nForce Drivers v6.86
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v93.71

ATI Catalyst 6.12

Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.1.0
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.05
F.E.A.R. v1.0.8
Half Life 2 - Lost Coast
Need for Speed: Carbon
Quake4 v1.2

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

Futuremark recently launched a brand new version of its popular benchmark, 3DMark06. The new version of the benchmark is updated in a number of ways and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests but also 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 the number of instructions 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.


For starters, we want to point out that the Radeon X1950 Pro was included solely for proper placement of the Radeon X1650 XT in the current crop of ATI products.  We don't actually expect the two to perform on comparative levels, and won't nitpick on the X1650 XT as such.  The 7600 GT is what should be considered as the competition and for the better part of all three 3DMark06 scores, the cards from HIS outperform it (albeit not by much).  The largest gap between the two cards occurs during the SM3.0 testing, where the X1650 XT out-paces the 7600 GT by 10% with the default clocked iSilence II and 20% with the Turbo model.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory


Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.05
Details: http://www.splintercell3.com/us/

SC: Chaos Theory
Based on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine, enhanced with a slew of DX9 shaders, lighting and mapping effects, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is gorgeous with its very immersive, albeit dark, environment. The game engine has a shader model 3.0 code path that allows the GeForce 6 & 7 Series of cards, and the new X1000 family of cards, to really shine, and a recent patch has implemented a shader model 2.0 path for ATI's X8x0 generation of graphics hardware. For these tests we enabled the SM 3.0 path on all of the cards we tested. However, High Dynamic Range rendering was disabled so that we could test the game with anti-aliasing enabled (a future patch should enable AA with HDR on the X1K family). We benchmarked the game at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200, both with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.



The X1650 XT iSilence II and the GeForce 7600 GT go head to head in this benchmark, each card nudging out the other at the standard tests, but ending up with an authoritative whopping of the 7600 GT with AA and Aniso enabled.  The X1650 XT is not as affected by these settings which winds up giving it an 18-25% lead over the 7600 GT.  As expected, the IceQ Turbo variant was just faster than the iSilence II, typically gaining from 4-5 frames per second in each of our runs. 



Performance Comparisons with Prey
Details: http://www.prey.com/

After many years of development, Take-Two Interactive recently released the highly anticipated game Prey. Prey is based upon an updated and modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Prey is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a plethora of dynamic lighting and shadows.  But unlike Doom3, Prey features a fare share of outdoor environments as well.  We ran these Prey benchmarks using a custom recorded timedemo with the game set to its "High-Quality" graphics mode, at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 8X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.



The 7600 GT and X1650 XT are once again paired quite closely in this round of testing, and I know we said we wouldn't do it, but it is interesting to note that the X1950 Pro with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled is running much faster than even the overclocked X1650 XT at non-optimized settings.  Prey was much more forgiving when we got to cranking up the settings, as both camps received the same performance hit.  It's a crapshoot deciding which company's card is the best here, but we will take the free overclock on the Turbo model any day of the week.



Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R.
Details: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.0.8, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were completed at supported resolutions of 1280x960 and 1600x1200, with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.



After some mostly close or slightly lower scores for the 7600 GT, there's finally a little something to smile about for prospective GeForce buyers when using F.E.A.R. as the benchmark.  During the standard test runs, the 7600 GT was performing more on overclocked X1650 XT levels rather than the standard clock speed version.  This was short-lived, however, as both X1650 XT cards pulled back ahead of the 7600 GT when applying AA samples.

Half Life 2: Lost Coast


Performance Comparisons with Half Life 2: Lost Coast
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/
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. So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November '04 to get our hands on this classic. A new addition to the HL family, we benchmarked the add-on 'Lost Coast' at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 using the built-in video stress test.



The extra bump of the core and memory speeds on the X1650 XT IceQ Turbo provide little improvement over the standard clock speeds  of the iSilence II in the Half Life 2 benchmarks.  In fact, there's actually little difference between these two cards and the more powerful X1950 Pro at both resolutions, but only without AA and Aniso.  The X1950 Pro gets to flex its muscles there with minimal performance loss, whereas the two X1650 XTs wound up dropping from 25 to 30 frames each but still edging out the GeForce 7600 GT easily.

Quake 4


Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.



With Quake 4, as with Doom 3 before it, we can usually predict that Geforce cards will perform quite well and the 7600 GT didn't let us down here.  It's the first clear-cut victory of sorts for the NVIDIA GPU-based cared when compared to the duo of X1650 XTs from HIS.  The IceQ Turbo does manage to gain back that ground in the 4xAA/8X Aniso tests, however, turning the 10 fps deficit into a slight lead.  The iSilence II also staged a bit of a comeback, but ultimately fell short of the 7600 GT's frame rates.

Need for Speed: Carbon


Performance Comparisons with Need For Speed: Carbon
Details: http://nfs.ea.com/

Need For Speed:
Dating back to the days of floppy disks, EGA, and the Lamborghini Countach, the Need For Speed franchise is undoubtedly one of the most popular in gaming history.  The most recent addition to the franchise is Need For Speed: Carbon, a racing-sim loaded with muscle cars and exotics in addition to a number of lighting and special graphics effects. We ran these NFS: Carbon benchmarks by utilizing FRAPS and tracking framerates on the same track, using the same car with every card. The game was configured with all of its graphics-related options set to their maximum values, with motion blur enabled.  We tested the game at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled simultaneously.



The Need for Speed: Carbon demo put the greatest hurt on our test systems and the results clearly show the frame rates as much lower than what we've become accustomed to seeing.  Even the semi-powerful X1950 Pro struggled to get as high as 35 fps, and that's at our lowest resolution.  From there, it's a direct line down to the two X1650 XTs, first the higher clocked IceQ Turbo and then the iSilence II.  The GeForce 7600 GT and X1600 Pro cards are a distant fourth and fifth place, operating at almost half of the levels of the X1650 XTs.  That said, this game title certainly doesn't require nearly the same frame rate as say Quake 4 does, in order to feel fluid and playable.

Overclocked Results


The default core and memory clock speeds for the Radeon X1650 XT are 575 MHz and 690MHz respectively, and this is what the iSilence II model is set at.  At these speeds, HIS found that they could use a completely passive cooling mechanism.  On their IceQ Turbo, they cranked up the speeds to 630/770 and slapped on a big, honking cooler to get the job done.  That left us with two cards, one standard and the other pre-overclocked.  Using the ATI tray tool we set out to see how far each card could be pushed.  We had the highest hopes with the iSilence II, since we already know that the threshold should be at least what we saw with the IceQ Turbo.  Indeed, the core topped out at a similar speed, 631 MHz, while we were able to continue with the RAM as high as 837MHz.  The IceQ Turbo had less overhead left available, and after some tweaking we settled for a 654 MHz clock on the GPU and 851 MHz on the memory.

Overclocking Results
Time for Some Turbo Charge Action





As can be expected, the overclocked iSilence II results were just a bit better than the stock speeded IceQ Turbo.  While the core clock speed was almost identical, the 837 MHz that we reached with the memory allowed us to gain just over 100 points in 3DMark06, and an extra frame in F.E.A.R.  By the same token, we were able to push up the IceQ Turbo from 630/770 MHz to 654/851 MHz and get even more improved scores.  In neither case we weren't able to really come close to the X1950 Pro, which is a shame since the price point of all three cards will certainly become a factor in our final judgment.

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The two X1650 XTs that we received from HIS performed well against the main competition from NVIDIA, which at this time should be considered the 7600 GT.  In much of our testing, the stock speeds of the iSilence II were more than up to the challenge, beating or matching the 7600 GT in head-to-head comparisons, and performing even better when anti-aliasing techniques were enabled.  Of course, the higher default speeds of the IceQ Turbo model provide a bit of a boost in the benchmarks. 


HIS Radeon X1650 XT iSilence II - We will start with the iSilence II, if only because it comes at the same core and memory speeds that were set by ATI.  Performance, as we spoke about above, is solid for this price range as it was able to handle much of our high-resolution testing with playable frame rates.  The real selling points of this card come down to the purely passive cooling methodology and thus its silent noise output.  True, it will take up two slots to accommodate the cooling apparatus, but many cards nowadays come with this size requirement.   Finding this card might be the real challenge, however, as we weren't able to find many resellers carrying this product currently.  When you can, expect to pay about $150 U.S., which is a good value for this kind of performance.

.  Excellent price/performance ratio
.  Silent operation
.  CrossFire made easy
.  Hard to find out in the "wild"
.  Larger heatsink could cause space issues 
.  Slower than the IceQ Turbo model


HIS Radeon X1650 XT IceQ Turbo - Which brings us to the IceQ Turbo.  Although the same basic structure as the iSilence II, the core and memory speeds have both been tweaked, realizing some extra performance along the way.  To accomplish this feat, HIS has added the oversized Arctic Cooler HSF, but it begs the question - how did we go from passive cooling to this huge setup?  Still, we won't deny that the card runs faster and probably looks cooler while doing it.  Expect to pay an extra 33% or so more for the X1650 XT IceQ Turbo.  It retails for about $190-200. Running two of these cards in CrossFire with the internal connection could be a great path to follow, but the pricing might get you in the end.  The X1950 Pro is already nearly double as fast, and a single card costs as little as $220 on some sites.


.  Comes pre-overclocked
.  Runs and looks great
.  Can also be used in CrossFire
.  Not the quietest cooler around
.  Price nears the more powerful X1950 Pro
.  Won't run DX10 games when Vista arrives

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