on May 1, 2008
Sure, there are lots of hardware reviews out there. The usual practice is to have a smart and knowledgeable person review some gadget or device in detail. But I think we need a fresh perspective. We need the perspective of someone who knows nothing about hardware and is confused by new technology. We need in-depth analysis from a guy who knows just enough to not stick his screwdriver (a butterknife, actually) into his power supply and wiggle it around. We need a hardware review from a software engineer.
To that end, I bring you a review of my recently acquired graphics card…
According to the box, the Sapphire X1650 is a graphics card from either “ATI” or “Radeon” or maybe “Malaysia”. I’m upgrading my graphics card from the old NVidia 6200 to the X1650. At first I was worried because 1650 is a lower number than 6200, which would seem to suggest that the 1650 will have weaker megabytes or smaller gigahertz. But the “X” in front of the name is like a multiplier, and it means “more better”.
|This is the box. I don’t know why it has a picture of a dead alien on it.|
The box is more complex than it seems, because inside of the box pictured above was another box. It was brown and had very tricky flaps. The inner box didn’t really open and close so much as unfold. I couldn’t figure out how to fold it back up again so I threw it away.
|This is the X1650. It’s very advanced and red.|
I got the AGP version of the card. AGP stands for “A Good Plug”, because it will plug into my motherboard, unlike the other kinds of graphics cards which don’t. I don’t even know why they make those ones. I like the fan, because it looks like the turbine on a jet, and jets are fast.
Installation was a snap. I just took the cover off the thing and plugged the whatzit into the slotty bit on the motherboard. There were several little wires and nobbly bits in the box along with the graphics card. I didn’t know what to do with them so I put them back in the box and pretended I didn’t have them.
|I don’t know what these are for. The one looks like some of the cables already inside of my computer, except this one doesn’t shock me when I lick the contacts.|
I’m happy to report that the X1650 driver / software installer is following the industry standard guidelines for sucking in every way possible. It began with a needlessly elaborate graphics splash screen that launched a chain of subsequent installers. Each one ran without explaining what it was or why I might want it. I just had to sit there and hit “next” or “finished” every couple of minutes. That is, I was obliged to participate without being offered any information or choices.
I think there were five installers in all. While I got the needed drivers, I also got a bunch of crap I didn’t want. (I can now right-click on the desktop and access all sorts of esoteric performance options. It’s like cluttering up your car steering wheel with buttons to regulate the fuel mixture and air intake. Why are these here where I might accidentally use them?)
It took longer to run the installer than it did to find my plus-ended screwdriver, and that’s like ten minutes.
|A side-by-side comparison of the NVidia 6200 and the ATI X1650.|
As you can hopefully see from the screenshot above, the X1650 is totally better and not a waste of my money. Benchmarking performance in Deus Ex reveals that while the 6200 is “ultra mega fast”, the X1650 is “super extra ultra mega fast”. While in both cases the frame rate was maxed out, it was nice to know that the X1650 was in there, spinning that cool fan it has and being so awesome and red.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.