Review: The affordable side of speed
After a rough period, ATI got a lucky break in the low end market so we can finally test more Radeon cards. This time around we're dissecting Jetway's Radeon HD 2600 cards. Jetway is not that well known in many markets, but the low price of these cards, coupled with HD2000 series multimedia capabilities, should easily attract customers. The mid range and low end markets are the ones that provide most of the profit for a company, so this offer from Jetway should be of interest for many users.
This time around we got two ATI HD 2600 cards based on the RV630 GPU for testing. Both of the cards look identical and use the same red PCB, same heatsink, and at first glance it 's impossible to tell which is which. We are talking about HD 2600XT (designated X26XTEN256LI), while the other is named X26PREN256L, or simply HD 2600Pro.
Jetway HD 2600 cards
As you can see from the above picture, it is hard to tell them apart, except for the little model label on top of the card. Jetway even used the same memory modules on both cards. Jetway decided to go with Samsung's GDDR3 memory that works at 700/1400MHz with 128bit memory interface.
Neither one of these cards has a power connector, but both can be used as decent multimedia cards. The UVD is a part of both cards and it will help with encoding and decoding HD video content, thus easing the burden on the CPU.
With its HD series, ATI has targeted a wider population, those users that will appreciate the multimedia capabilities of these cards. Performance is a bit weaker if you compare them to Nvidia based cards, but if you consider the possibility of "full" HDTV option and modest prices we think that ATI is a better choice for "non-gamers" or so called casual gamers.
The HD 5.1 audio controller enables high quality sound, which is transferred to the HDTV output signal. The only thing that ruins the almost perfect solution is the DVI-HDMI dongle which is used to get the audio signal to HD capable screen. But once you hook it up and take a look at an HD movie you will certainly forget all the concerns you had with the dongle.
HDCP is supported, because without it you wouldn't be able to watch HD content from the HD DVD or Blu-Ray media. If you want to watch it on your screen, it also has to be HDCP compliant.
It is important to see if the HDMI adapter is included with the card. Jetway confirmed that you get the HDMI adapter with these cards, but most partners decide not to include it since it helps them save money if they don't include it. Without the adapter you can easily erase the HD part in the card's name.
Jetway HD 2600 Pro 256MB GDDR3 HDTV
The heatsink sports a picture of ATI's beloved star Ruby. Jetway likes it , since it hasn't even changed the ATI logo on the small fan. You are looking at the full ATI card without a single Jetway sign. The heatsink isn't based on the reference design and it's the same on both cards. The fan isn't loud in idle mode but can spin up to high RPM count while under load, but even then the noise stays at acceptable levels. The most important thing is that it does a good job cooling the RV630 GPU and we even got a nice overclocking result.
We already said that the memory clock is identical on both cards and that only difference is the GPU clock. The HD 2600 XT works at reference 800MHz, so nothing new there.
The HD 2600 Pro remains on the reference 600MHz as well, but with some overclocking, it was easy to reach the 800MHz XT clock.
HD 2600 I/O, for HDTV you need the DVI/HDMI adapter
Both of these are Vista ready cards with OpenGL 2.0 and DirectX 10 support. Both also come with a Shader Model 4.0 support. The HD 2600 series has 120 stream processors and 390 million transistors made in 65nm manufacturing process. Both cards are capable of Crossfire.
Cards are packed in simple and small boxes. Boxes are labeled with basic information, PCI-e, DVI-I, HDTV, HDMI, 256MB 128-bit DDR3 and HDCP. Card comes bundled with users manual, drivers CD, DVI, HDMI and S-video dongle.
EVGA 680i SLI (Supplied by EVGA)
Intel Core 2 Duo 6800 Extreme edition (Supplied by Intel)
OCZ FlexXLC PC2 9200 5-5-5-18 (Supplied by OCZ)
na testu CL5-5-5-15-CR2T 1066MHz na 2.2V
Jetway HD 2600 XT, Jetway HD 2600 Pro
HIS HD 2600XT IceQ Turbo
Zotac Geforce 8500GT AMP, 8600GT Zone Edition
OCZ Silencer 750 Quad Black (Supplied by OCZ)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 80GB SATA (Supplied by Seagate)
Freezer 7 Pro (Supplied by Artic Cooling)
Artic Cooling - Artic Fan 12 PWM
ATI Radeon HD 2600XT picks a fight with Nvidia's Geforce 8600GT based card. Both Jetway HD 2600XT and Zotac 8600GT Zone kept the reference clocks so that we can get a realistic result in testing these two cards.
HIS HD 2600 XT IceQ is overclocked, which makes it the winner of 3DMark tests. Radeon HD 2600 Pro is slower than Geforce 8600GT, but much better than Geforce 8500GT.
Overclocking wasn't that hard, at least when you overclock the GPU. We managed to get HD 2600 XT from 800MHz up to 911MHz and HD 2600 Pro went all the way up to 867MHz. When you compare these results with reference clocks, HD 2600 Pro ends up being a better overclocker. We managed to get 44.5 per cent GPU overclock from HD 2600 Pro while HD 2600 XT had a 13.8 per cent boost. Nevertheless, we couldn't reach 911MHz HD 2600 XT clock on HD 2600 Pro card.
We haven't had much luck with the Samsung memory, 860MHz for the Pro and 874MHz for the XT card. We found that Jetway's Web site states that the memory is 1.2ns which means that it should work at 800MHz, but the memory on the cards is 1.1ns which should give the 900Mhz clock; but it was simply unreachable. It is probably limited by the PCB design. As we already said, the GDDR3 memory is clocked at 700/1400 with 128bit memory interface.
The cooler did a good job and the noise stayed at acceptable levels. We measured a maximum temperature of 67 °C for XT and 65 °C for the Pro version. Of course, we are talking about the temperatures of overclocked cards, while the reference clocks gave 57 °C under load and 46 °C in idle mode.
We used the latest official drivers, and decided to use the maximum detail setting for all games, so don't be surprised by the low frame rate. By lowering some details you can get playable FPS in most of the games.
Company of Heroes
While Company of Heroes offered no significant difference between the Jetway's HD 2600XT with reference clocks and factory overclocked HD IceQ Turbo, F.E.A.R. was a different story, since the higher clocks on the HIS card made a noticeable difference.
Geforce 8600GT works better when you enable the Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering, ATI just can't keep up with Nvidia, but without those filters on, ATI gives a better score.
In the meantime we had to return Zotac 8600GT Zone and Zotac 8500GT AMP so we replaced them with the most similar cards that we could find. We chose Gainward's 8600GT, which works at the same clocks like Geforce 8600 GT Zone Edition, and we replaced Zotac 8500GT AMP with 8500GT Zone Edition, which works at reference 450MHz for the core and 400/800MHz for the memory.
ATI handles the new game pretty well. HD 2600 Pro ends up faster than Nvidia, even with the Antialiasing on and at high resolutions; we just couldn't believe these results. Geforce 8600GT just wasn't good in Bioshock, and we won't even mention the Geforce 8500GT. But after we lowered the settings we could get a playable frame rate even for Geforce 8500GT at the 1024x768 resolution.
We have seen two cards that are currently the best selling ATI hardware. Jetway HD 2600 XT is the faster version of the RV630 and works at 800MHz for the GPU and 700/1400MHz for the memory. With the 91 Euro price tag this is one of the least expensive HD 2600 XT cards on the market, but it's not that easy to find. The second card on our test is Jetway HD 2600 Pro, yet again with the RV630 core. This card uses the same PCB and the same heatsink as the mentioned HD 2600 XT. The only difference is the GPU clock, which is 600MHz for this card, 200MHz lower then the XT version. The memory is the same on both cards and works at reference 700/1400MHz.
Because of the 200MHz GPU clock difference, Jetway HD 2600 XT is always better than Jetway HD 2600 Pro card, and it can even put up a good fight with Geforce 8600GT card. You could see the results of the HSI IceQ Turbo, which works at 830MHz for the core and 960/1920Mhz for the memory. For those clocks you have to pay extra, since the cheapest IceQ Turbo was 112 Euros.
Since the difference between HIS and Jetway HD 2600 XT measures in few FPS's, the lower priced Jetway seems like a better choice, since they are both HDTV capable. If you aren't obsessed with the frame rate and games you should consider Jetway HD 2600 Pro card, which just has the lower GPU clock. It is cheaper than the XT card by more than 20 Euros and can easily be overclocked to XT clocks. We can see the Crossfire option with two Radeon HD 2600 Pro cards.
Since both of these cards might be the least expensive Radeon HD 2600 card, we can easily recommend them; but, of course, you must first find them. The availability issue is the biggest flaw of these cards.