Review: Keeping up the IceQ Turbo tradition
A few days ago we showed you our preliminary test scores for the HIS HD 2600 XT IceQ Turbo card, here, and today we will conclude the review. For those who missed part one, let's recap part of the specs.
This is one of the fastest HD 2600 XT series cards on the market, and HIS has given it its Turbo brand, reserved for top notch editions. It differs from the reference design, not only thanks to higher GPU/memory clocks, but also the impressive IceQ cooler, which was used on several Radeon X series HIS cards. We already had a chance to see in action on two of their IceQ equipped AGP cards the X1950Pro, here, and X1650XT, here.
As you probably know, HIS uses the Turbo brand for pre-overclocked cards. When shopping for a graphics card it's a good idea to thoroughly check the specs, since you can often get an interesting card with much more potential for just a bit more. HIS is playing this card, and it's trying to market its high end models and overclocked cards to consumers who know what they're doing and are willing to pay a bit more for some extra performance.
By looking at the HIS HD 2600 XT IceQ Turbo specifications we can see that the GPU is clocked at 830MHz, not much more than the reference 800MHz; and frankly, we expected a bit more, since the massive cooler looks like it could handle anything you can throw at it.
HIS HD 2600XT Turbo IceQ with 256MB of GDDR3 memory
Unlike the small core speed boost, the memory is overclocked by 260MHz and runs at 960/1920MHz. That's 37 per cent more than the reference 700/1400MHz GDDR3 speed.
We tested the 256MB version, but a 512MB version is also available, although the memory is clocked slightly lower, at 930/1860MHz. The core clock for the 512MB model is the same as for the 256MB card.
If you're looking for more, you can get an HIS HD 2600 XT with 256MB of GDDR4 memory clocked at 1100/2200MHz. The GDDR4 card runs on reference clocks and doesn't use the IceQ cooler.
No matter which one you go for you'll get a 128 bit memory bus.
In the preview we already mentioned the gold plated DVI connectors, which is just one of the many features HIS used to make this card stand out of the crowd. Gold is an excellent conductor, and it should provide better signal quality and eliminate any distortions. Normal connectors work just fine, but if you're looking for the best, the Hi-Fi Concept (as HIS calls it) is an option.
With the HD 2600 XT series ATI is aiming at a wide audience, including gamers and multimedia enthusiasts. Hardcore gamers will probably go for the Geforce 8600GTS, but HD 2600 XT cards are competing with the Geforce 8600GT and not the GTS. By looking at the broader picture, ATI seems to offer more. An integrated 5.1 audio part, UVD, HDMI, these are the features that Nvidia cards lack. The same features assure full HDTV support for ATI's HD2600/2400 series, but when buying one you should keep in mind that the HDMI adapter doesn't ship with all of them, and our sample package didn't include it.
For testing purposes we used an HDMI dongle, which we got with a Radeon HD 2900 XT card. After installing the drivers the HDMI worked perfectly, picture quality and sound were good, and you'll need just one HDMI to enjoy multimedia content from your PC. Both dual link DVI connectors have HDCP protection.
The IceQ cooler is a great piece of machinery. It was very quiet, even when we overclocked the card and it performed well. The fan scoops up air from inside the case and forces the hot air out through the rear vent. It's UV sensitive, so if you're into case modding this card might be a nice choice. The only drawback is that the IceQ takes up an additional slot on your motherboard.
OCZ FlexXLC PC2 9200 5-5-5-18 (Ustupio OCZ)
na testu CL5-5-5-15-CR2T 1066MHz na 2.2V
HIS HD 2600XT IceQ Turbo GDDR3
Zotac Geforce 8500GT AMP, 8600GT Zone Edition
Freezer 7 Pro (Ustupio Artic Cooling)
Artic Cooling - Artic Fan 12 PWM
After a mediocre score in 3Dmark03, the IceQ Turbo makes a comeback in 3Dmark06. Since the card is overclocked, you can probably expect it will surpass most 8600GT cards in games.
As for overclocking the card, we didn't have any trouble in doing so, in spite of the "out of the box" overclock. After trying out a few combinations we ended up at 938MHz for the core. An impressive overclock, probably thanks to the IceQ cooler. Although the memory chips aren't directly cooled by it, we managed to overclock them to GDDR4 speeds, 1098/2196MHz. We were just a couple of MHz short of the GDDR4 reference clocks, 1100/2200 MHz, but this is an impressive score for GDDR3 chips. Almost 800 MHz above the reference 1400MHz.
As always, we tested all games at maximum detail settings.
With antialiasing ATI looses to the 8600GT.
Company of Heroes
Again, we see a significant performance drop with AA and AF, but this time the IceQ holds its ground much better against the Geforce 8600GT.
The newest game on our test loved the IceQ Turbo card. On 1600x1200 with 4xAA and 16xAF, we got 19 FPS. This won't be enough for gaming, but it still outperforms the Geforce 8600GT by a huge margin.
The IceQ Turbo brand is reserved for the best HIS has to offer. If you're looking for a special ATI graphics card and you want more than the plain reference design, HIS always has something to offer. The overclocked BIOS gives you much more power, out of the box, and the IceQ cooler assures that you will have stable performance even if you choose to overclock it further. In this case excellent cooling performance doesn't come with high pitched noise in the background. The cooler is exceptionally quiet.
This is a dual slot card, so you won't be able to install it on all motherboards, but the quiet and efficiency of the IceQ outweigh the cons, and the cooler gets a thumbs up.
HD 2600XT IceQ Turbo performs well against the Geforce 8600GT, and it also offers a full HDTV experience, thanks to the integrated UVD, VIVO and HDCP. All things considered, we can recommend the HIS HD 2600XT IceQ Turbo if you're looking for something different. It's fast out of the box, the memory is very overclockable and the card is quiet, thanks to the massive cooler.
You can get one for €112, here.