And the best buy is...
Just like we found last month in our Radeon X1950 Pro vs. GeForce 7900GS article, ATI got it right, finally. The new Radeon X1650XT is everything the original X1600XT should have been with performance at least on par, and usually greater than the GeForce 7600GT. The newer more demanding games such as F.E.A.R and X3: Reunion were the X1650XT specialties, as the additional pixel pipelines really came into play in these games. Even the games that are typically biased towards Nvidia, such as Quake 4 and Prey, had a hard time shutting down the X1650XT.
Overclocking the Radeon X1650XT is not an easy task as it offers very little in the way of headroom. While we were able to push the GDDR3 memory to 1.5GHz, the core only reached 620MHz. This 45MHz overclock failed to have much of an impact and as a result we did not show the overclocking figures. Thankfully for this new Radeon, the competition overclocks just as poorly, as our 7600GT only accepted a 35MHz core frequency injection.
The availability of the Radeon X1650XT is a worry given that samples were available two months ago when the product was launched, yet retail versions are still very difficult to come by. Furthermore, ATI has slapped a MSRP of $150 on the cards, though it is said that for at least the first few weeks the X1650XT will not meet this price tag. If this is the case then it could certainly be a matter of too little too late from ATI, particularly given the fact that the X1650XT is not DirectX 10 compliant.
Eight months later, my opinion regarding ATIs mid-range products has completely changed, all thanks to the new X1650XT and X1950 Pro graphics cards. However, being this late in the game is certainly not ideal as the X1650XT won't have much time to gain any real momentum in the marketplace. I believe the 7600GT will continue selling well until it is phased out to make way for something even better.