PowerColor SCS HD4650: A Fanless Budget Graphics Card

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MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 seconds of room ambiance, followed by 5~10 seconds of the VGA test system without a video card installed, and then the actual product's noise at various levels. As this particular card did not add any noise the test system, we have provided only a recording of the test system with its system fan set to the levels tested. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Gaming: Please check out the gaming-oriented reviews of the HD 4650 at techPowerUp, and HEXUS. The general consensus is that the HD 4650 is somewhat slower than the HD 4670, but significantly faster than nVidia's rival budget part, the GeForce 9500GT. It will deliver decent frame rates on the majority of PC titles if played at 1280x1024 resolution or lower. Please note most HD 4650 reviews on the web are not a completely accurate representation of the PowerColor SCS's performance due to its rather slow stock memory clock speed — 400MHz compared to the 450/500MHz samples that most sites have reviewed. However, this particular card is equipped with 2.0 ns Samsung chips, so they should be able to run at 500MHz without any difficulty if you decide to overclock.

Video Playback: Video playback was very good. The decoding hardware is the same featured on the rest of the ATI 3000/4000 series cards.

Cooling: The stock cooler is not solidly constructed, but it is good enough, adequately cooling the card when our test system's airflow was set to ultra-low levels. Because it is passive, it did not generate any noise, nor did the GPU produce the high-pitched coil whine associated with more performance-oriented cards.

Power Consumption: By our estimates, the HD 4650 requires approximately 15W when idle and up to 28W DC when stressed to the limit. The load figure is an impressive 11W improvement over its predecessor, the HD 3650. The idle figure is too high for our liking — a budget card like this shouldn't idle at more than 10W. Why it uses so much when its big brother, the HD 4670, sips only 3W of juice when idle is a bit of a mystery.

The PowerColor SCS HD4650, like most recent graphics cards, has the hardware necessary to make video playback a breeze. It will not however deliver amazing 3D performance, but it is a decent value considering the price of $70 and its complete and utter lack of noise. The closest card in its price range is the HD 4670; a typical actively-cooled HD 4670 costs about $80. Users looking for better performance and idle power consumption should go with a 4670 (preferably a passive one). For those who crave silence, the few frames per second you will lose by selecting the PowerColor SCS HD4650 won't keep you up at night, and neither will its fanless cooler.

PowerColor SCS3 HD4650

PROS

* Fanless: zero noise!
* Low power consumption on load
* Good HD playback
* Small size

CONS

* Flimsy cooler construction
* Idle power consumption a bit high
* Lacking in 3D performance

Our thanks to PowerColor for the video card sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
Asus EN9800GT Matrix Edition
Filling the Gap: ATI Radeon HD 4830
Redefining Budget Gaming Graphics: ATI's HD 4670
Asus ENGTX260: A Quiet Graphics Card for Gamers?
Diamond Radeon HD4850
Asus EN3650 Silent Graphics Card
Updated VGA Card/Cooler Test Platform

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