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.