When Nvidia first released the GeForce 8600 back in April of last year we were upset at how poorly these new mid-range graphics cards performed, particularly given their steep retail pricing (~$200 at the time). ATI's response was no better with the Radeon 2600 series, and ultimately gamers on a budget were forced to wait until the current generation of products to get something really great for their money.
Now, keep in mind that the Radeon HD 3650 is priced at just $75 for the 512MB version, and around $95 for the 1GB version that we reviewed here today. Comparably a much faster Radeon HD 3850 will set you back ~$130, and for some extra $25 you can get a Radeon HD 3870 or a GeForce 9600 GT. This makes the 512MB version of the Radeon HD 3650 roughly half as expensive as these mid-range cards, while the 1GB version is just 30% cheaper.At this point we should state the obvious. There is no reason the 1GB version of the Radeon HD 3650 should live, or at least there's no reason for you to buy it. Instead you should either cut it for the 512mb version or step up to a mid-range card if you want to play games.
But okay, not everyone buys a discrete graphics card to game, or at least this is what I've been told. There are a number of HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer) users that could make good use of the HDMI and Blu-ray playback support. But do they really need to spend $75+ on a graphics card? The significantly cheaper Radeon HD 3450 also offers these features in a smaller, quieter and more power efficient package.
Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that you can get a motherboard supporting the latest Intel Core 2 or AMD Phenom processors for $80, that have HDMI support and all those other essential HTPC features out of the box.
As I see it, you shouldn't spend your money in anything less than a Radeon HD 3850 if you want to game, and those after the additional HTPC features often need not spend more than $40.
There are a few different variations of the Radeon HD 3650 getting around and this Diamond version uses the slower GDDR2 memory. There are GDDR3 versions which operate at significantly higher memory frequencies, providing a greatly improved memory bandwidth. However, the GDDR3 cards are only available with 256MB of memory, which is also not ideal for modern gaming titles. Loading the Diamond Viper Radeon HD 3650 with 1GB of memory was a seriously bad move, as it decreased performance while increasing the cost, and this is the last thing the Radeon HD 3650 needs.
Some other features that we failed to discuss include DirectX 10.1 and CrossFireX. These are rendered irrelevant in the Radeon HD 3650 given the performance/price ratio as we have mentioning all along.
Finally, just this past week AMD announced their GAME! badge program. It is worrying that the Radeon HD 3650 is part of their repertoire for gaming spec'ed PCs. We believe a hurting AMD does not need a marketing flop right now, and they should definitely reconsider and be more serious about their business by this point.