The successful launch of the Radeon X1900 series was a much needed boost in confidence for ATI, especially since surveys have shown that NVIDIA has been making gains in the discrete graphics market in the past year due to ATI's manufacturing delays. However, this is balanced by gains in integrated graphics, due to ATI's Radeon Xpress chipsets appearing in numerous motherboards and also the company's continued strength in mobile graphics. Finally, with both Microsoft and Nintendo featuring ATI graphics in their latest consoles, the outlook overall should be positive for the company.
Yet this does not solve the weakness in ATI's mid-range segment, with its intended Radeon X1600 series falling woefully short here at the moment. Notable at its launch for the forward-looking asymmetrical architecture that heavily favored pixel shader units over texturing units, this design may just be too early for its time. And from the way the market has shaped, it may have missed the boat.
NVIDIA's GeForce 7600 series have made the mid-range its own with its exciting blend of performance and price harking back to its popular GeForce 6600 GT brethren; something that the Radeon X1600 series failed to match. The Radeon X1600 XT, the top card in the series will excel in your newest synthetic benchmarks from Futuremark but with many games yet to implement such effects and its form of render techniques, the relative lack of texture units has become its Achilles' heel. It is not all gloomy however. While it may be handicapped in older games, the Radeon X1600 series does add Shader Model 3.0 and Avivo technology to improve your viewing experience.
With its price performance ratio paling in comparison, the Radeon X1600 XT may be quite a hard sell. However, ASUS aims to garner sales by changing tack and giving you another reason to get these cards. This is done by equipping a Radeon X1600 XT with its latest in silent cooling solutions. Doing so reduces the din of the noisy reference Radeon X1600 XT to nothing. While silent, passive coolers are not new to the scene and ASUS already has a silent version of the Radeon X1300 PRO, so we are interested to see whether ASUS' heat pipe cooler stands up to the challenge of cooling a Radeon X1600 XT. It also puts the Radeon X1600 XT head to head against NVIDIA's GeForce 7600 GS, which also has passive cooling in its reference version. Before we begin, here are its technical specifications: