Well there we have it: almost the entirety of the R600 product line up that we originally showed you last month in paper form. At the time we were very excited about the 2600/2400 cards because of their extremely low power consumption that was quoted at 45 watts and 25 watts respectively. Now that we have actually played with them, do they live up to our expectations?
The performance of the Radeon HD 2600 XT, 2600 Pro and 2400 XT was more or less a letdown. In AMD documentation they were calling for the direct competition of the 2600 XT to be NVIDIA’s 8600 GT card. Based on the estimated pricing from AMD and the pricing of NVIDIA’s currently on sale cards though, we found that you could get an 8600 GTS for about the same price. When we added in the 8600 GTS, the performance of the 2600 XT looked less than stellar; but in fact in most cases the 8600 GT was able to outperform it anyway.
The Radeon HD 2600 Pro was in the same sticky situation: it was pitted against the NVIDIA 8500 GT in the AMD documentation though we were able to find 8600 GT cards for about $100 putting them in the same price level as the 2600 Pro. The 2600 Pro didn’t really stand a chance against the 8600 GT card either, in much the same way the 2600 XT couldn’t fight the 8600 GTS successfully.
The Radeon HD 2400 XT card was a different story – we didn’t really compare it to anything of the same price because we didn’t have it. At $79 MSRP, the 2400 XT definitely falls into the “budget” category. For most readers here, the gaming performance of an $80 video card isn’t going to impress and we didn’t find anything surprising in the 2400 XT in that regards.
The HD 2600 and HD 2400 series of cards were still able to produce some very playable gaming experiences despite their numerical disadvantages. In most cases, playing on the 2600 XT at 1280×960 with 4xAA and 8xAF was highly enjoyable and in only a couple of cases did I feel like game play was hindered by the frame rates or image quality.
With the R600 architecture, AMD introduced a few new features including custom anti-aliasing filters, tessellation functions, integrated HDMI and audio support as well as the enhanced UVD video processor. While the AA and tessellation functions are likely lost on GPUs with this kind of processing power, the HDMI and UVD functionality is not. In fact, they were built specifically for lower cost cards such as these.
Adding full-featured HDMI output across the entire line will no doubt increase PC user’s HDMI acceptance but also push NVIDIA to do the same. The updated Avivo HD technology puts the HD 2600 XT on the same level or ahead of NVIDIA’s mid-range graphics card in that respect.
To be blunt, I was expecting a lot more in this regard when I originally saw the table on AMD’s slide deck. Maybe I over estimated how much power the 8600 cards used, or maybe I expected the performance to be ahead of NVIDIA 8600 options, but either way, the performance / watt aspect didn’t pan out as I thought it might.
After the disappointing launch of the HD 2900 XT, I was quick to place blame on the 80nm process as the culprit of the problem — maybe AMD couldn’t get clock speeds up high enough on the 80nm 2900 XT to rival performance of the 8800 cards. If that was the case, surely then AMD would have been able to push clocks to levels on the 65nm parts (2600 and 2400 cards) to get past the 8600 cards performance…? Not the case; so either AMD underestimated NVIDIA products (not likely since they are widely available) or the yields on faster chips were poorer and thus making the chips more expensive than AMD wanted to deal with.
Since the HD 2900 XT launch, quite a bit has happened in the world of DX10 gaming – Lost Planet has been released, Company of Heroes released a DX10 patch and benchmarking fiascos have been rampant Rather than get into all of that here, we’ll just say that for now, DX10 is still not a requirement for your graphics card, but you should definitely be thinking about it by the end of this summer.
Pricing and Availability
AMD is telling us that availability of the HD 2600 XT, HD 2600 Pro and HD 2400 XT will begin in early July. Until then, AMD has time to adjust clocks, prices or whatever to make it a better deal for these cards. I’ve already discussed how the pricing of these cards has boxed them in regards to their competing NVIDIA parts, so I’ll leave it at that.
One other interesting note is that with the 2600 XT priced at $149 and the HD 2900 XT at $399, there is a $250 gap where AMD has no graphics card options. It’s like deja vu all over again. And that $250 price point is really where a LOT of graphics cards are sold…maybe someone should tell them?
AMD still has an uphill battle ahead of them after the release of their HD 2600 and HD 2400 series of cards. Competition is stiff from NVIDIA’s 8600 cards in the same price levels and AMD is going to have battle NVIDIA on the GPU front while battling Intel on the CPU front and you’ve got to wonder how low they are willing to go…? There are some strong points to the 2600 XT, 2600 Pro and 2400 XT including the integrated HDMI support, great HD video processing and lower power consumption. That might make them a great choice for an HTPC that might also play some games, but for enthusiast gamers that might also play HD movies, it’s hard to recommend AMD’s options over NVIDIA’s.
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