And the best buy is...
When looking at the specifications of each graphics card you soon realize there are a number of significant differences between the GeForce 7600GS and Radeon X1650 Pro, however when put to the test they actually performed really close. There were the odd titles that would give either card a slight performance advantage. Take Quake 4 for example, a game that usually favors the green team, as a result the Nvidia GeForce 7600GS came out on top. Other games like Far Cry deliver more competitive results, though again the GeForce 7600GS was the superior performer.
As I had expected the newer, more visually demanding games such as F.E.A.R and X3: Reunion favored the Radeon X1650 Pro, however I was also hoping it would be able to pull ahead and really dominate here. While the performance gains were measurable, the X1650 Pro hardly put away the 7600GS in these two games.
Overall the GeForce 7600GS fared a little better than the Radeon X1650 Pro, winning three out of the five games tested, and losing in X3: Reunion and F.E.A.R tests by smaller margins than the X1650 Pro did in UT2004 and Quake 4. That said, neither card dominated and the choice between these two will ultimately come down to preference towards a brand, a gaming title, or as we would recommend, the lowest price to be paid.
Over the past few months we have had the chance of testing several GeForce 7600GS graphics cards, the majority of which have featured passive cooling. The ASUS Radeon X1650 Pro used throughout this article was also passively cooled, though I was surprised to see that ASUS used the exact same passive cooler as in older X1600 Pro cards. Don’t get me wrong, the ASUS passive cooler does work quite well but you are required to direct a fair amount of air-flow over the graphics card, questioning just how passive it really is. When under full load the X1650 Pro uses ~160 watts of power, which is almost 40 watts more than the 7600GS.
Although the Radeon X1650 Pro was just recently announced, it seems to be widely available already, like we said earlier though it's a product refresh based on older technology. As you should expect there are also plenty of 7600GS cards floating around the market, which helps us draw our conclusions. At present the 7600GS is slightly cheaper than the average X1650 Pro card saving you between $10-30. Unless you are restricted to a very tight budget that can not go beyond the $100-110 mark however, the wiser decision is to spend a little more money, up to ~$140, and grab one GeForce 7600GT card, which simply put gives you your money's worth for the extra bucks.
If anything else should be added to our conclusion is that we are somewhat disappointed with ATI's launch of the Radeon X1650 Pro. After a long dominance of GeForce 7600s in the mainstream segment, they should have offered either very aggressive pricing, or at least 7600GT-like performance, clearly they failed to impress us in either front.