Asus EAX1600XT SILENT passively-cooled graphics card
Gaming performance without the noise?
The X1600XT is ATI's mid-range product, although it's been pushed down to the bottom end of the mid range by the likes of the X1800 GTO. One of its advantages is its ability to operate in CrossFire mode without the need of a master card.
The drawback of CrossFire at the high end has been the need for a special master card to control the co-operative rendering effort. However, lower cost – and lower bandwidth – cards can operate in CrossFire mode by simply adding a second card and ticking a box in the drivers. It all sounds very easy in theory, but it turned out that things weren’t actually that straightforward in practice. This was partly due to the recently released Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe motherboard the cards where tested and which needed a BIOS update for peer-to-peer CrossFire to work. But ATI's drivers also caused problems, though hopefully they'll be improved in the April update.
Incidentally, the primary card of the two became very hot, even when it wasn’t doing any kind of 3D rendering. Presumably this is because it has to process data from the secondary card as well as its own. If you're after two of these cards for a CrossFire configuration, I’d advise you to invest in some kind of additional cooling, at least for the primary card.
Initial test results where erratic at best, ranging from minus 30fps to 900fps in some tests. The BIOS upgrade solved this problem, though, and it’s unlikely you’d come across this problem with other, more stable motherboards. Once the BIOS was flashed the results where much more in line with what I'd expected, although interestingly enough this is when the second part of the problem showed up. For some reason, it turned out that at lower resolutions CrossFire was significantly slower than a single card in Half-life 2. I’m sure this is down to the drivers as this wasn’t the case in any of the other games, or in 3DMark tests.