Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 1
Introduction

ATI released their HD 2900 XT to an awaiting enthusiast audience who were (it has to be said), a little disappointed. Apart from the price and awesome bundle the card offered little new to the market.

Now the mid-range cards are upon us and once again ATI trail behind nVidia on release schedule. Having said that, Asus have given us a couple of nice looking cards with some 3rd party coolers so it will be interesting to see how these go down.

asus 2600 XT & Pro

R600 becomes R630

In the spirit of making the lower chips have higher numbers than the top end, ATI have named their mid-range R630. With a scaled down version of the R600 architecture and boasting a nice 194 GFLOPS of power, the 2600 series looks pretty sweet on paper.

r600

We went through the architecture changes for R600 in an earlier article, but the R630 chip keeps the ring-bus memory architecture from R600 as well, albeit scaled down to a 128mb interface.

r600 memory architecture

As I said on paper the cards stack up well giving us what should be some nice numbers.

R630 vs G84

Or in laymans terms: nVidia 8600 vs ATI 2600. We'll be pitting two nVidia cards against the 2600 series to see how well they stack up.


  GeForce 8600 GTS
GeForce 8600 GT Radeon 2600 XT Radeon 2600 Pro
Stream Processors 32 32 120120
Core Clock (MHz)
675 540 800600
Shader Clock (MHz)
1450 1180 800600
Memory Clock (MHz) 1000 700700
500
Memory Amount 256 GDDR3
256mb GDDR3
256 GDDR3 256 GDDR2
Memory Interface 128-bit 128-bit128-bit128-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) 32 22.422.412.8
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec) 10.8 8.63.22.4
Please note that the 8600 GTS is included for reference purposes only.

ATI Radeon™ HD 2600 Feature Summary (from AMD's website )

* 390 million transistors on 65nm fabrication process

* 128-bit DDR2/GDDR3/GDDR4 memory interface

* Ring Bus Memory Controller

o Fully distributed design with 256-bit internal ring bus for memory reads and writes

* Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture

o 120 stream processing units
+ Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
+ Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
+ Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
o 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
o Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
o Shader instruction and constant caches
o Up to 40 texture fetches per clock cycle
o Up to 128 textures per pixel
o Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
o DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
o High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
o Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
o Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
o Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
o Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
o Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
o 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
o Physics processing support

* Full support for Microsoft® DirectX® 10.0

o Shader Model 4.0
o Geometry Shaders
o Stream Output
o Integer and Bitwise Operations
o Alpha to Coverage
o Constant Buffers
o State Objects
o Texture Arrays

* Dynamic Geometry Acceleration

o High performance vertex cache
o Programmable tessellation unit
o Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
o Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance

* Anti-aliasing features

o Multi-sample anti-aliasing (up to 8 samples per pixel)
o Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
o Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
o Temporal anti-aliasing
o Gamma correct
o Super AA (CrossFire configurations only)
o All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering

* Texture filtering features

o 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
o 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
o Bicubic filtering
o sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
o Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
o Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
o Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support

* CrossFire™ Multi-GPU Technology

o Scale up rendering performance and image quality with 2 or more GPUs
o Integrated compositing engine
o High performance dual channel interconnect

* ATI Avivo™ HD Video and Display Platform

o Dedicated unified video decoder (UVD) for H.264/AVC and VC-1 video formats
+ High definition (HD) playback of both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats
o Hardware MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4/DivX video decode acceleration
+ Motion compensation and iDCT (inverse discrete cosine transform)
o Avivo Video Post Processor
+ Color space conversion
+ Chroma subsampling format conversion
+ Horizontal and vertical scaling
+ Gamma correction
o High Quality Video Post Processing
+ Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
+ De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
+ Detail enhancement
+ Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
+ Bad edit correction
o Two independent display controllers
+ Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
+ Full 30-bit display processing
+ Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
+ Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
+ High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
+ Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
+ Fast, glitch-free mode switching
+ Hardware cursor
o Two integrated dual-link DVI display outputs
+ Each supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)1
+ Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content2
o Two integrated 400 MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
+ Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x15361
o HDMI output support
+ Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x10801
+ Integrated HD audio controller with multi-channel (5.1) AC3 support, enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
o Integrated AMD Xilleon™ HDTV encoder
+ Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
+ Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
+ Underscan and overscan compensation
o MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding
o Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
o VGA mode support on all display outputs

* PCI Express x16 bus interface

* OpenGL 2.0 support


As I said: some of the bits on paper looks pretty good but if you look a little more closely there are a few areas where the 2600 falls behind a little...

Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 2
The Asus 2600 XT: Packaging, package and the card itself

NOTE: As both Asus cards are very similar I will cut these two pages a little shorter than usual.

Packaging

Asus have done a nice job packaging up their 2600 XT (and indeed 2600 Pro), the box is in the usual subtle Asus style, but with an added CGI rendered young lady. Advertised well is the fact that a non-standard cooler has been used on the card "10°C Cooler" apparently...

asus 2600 xt box front

asus 2600 xt box rear

Ripping open the box, I took a quick look inside.

asus 2600 xt inside

Good work inside though a little room to slide around.

Package

Asus haven't put a whole load in with their 2600 XT as is usual with mid-range cards, certainly nothing on the 2900 XT package.

We have:

* "Speed Setup" manual
* CD-based manual
* Driver CD
* ATI Internal Crossfire dongle
* DVI to VGA connector
* S-Video to component cable

asus 2600 xt bundle

Hardware-wise not a bad lot of kit, but nothing to give you any High Definition viewing like DVD player software, which is a slight shame.

The Card

The card itself is a nice looking bit of kit. Coloured in red, one of my favourite PCB colours, initial impressions are good.

asus 2600 XT card asus 2600 xt

The card is pretty small in height and length but it is the cooler that dominates the picture here. The cooler is a Zalman-esque GPU cooler with a fairly large fan in the middle.

asus 2600 xt cooler side

Side on we can see that a solid base then dissipates the heat with fins fanning out from the base.

asus 2600 xt caps

Caps are a mixed bunch with some solid capacitors and a few high quality normal Japanese caps mixed in. This is Asus saving a little on cost, but the caps are still high quality and shouldn't give you any hassle.

asus 2600 xt cooler screws

Four screws attach the cooler to the PCB, although as you will see below this isn't the only fixing mechanism.

asus 2600 xt dvi

Double Dual-link DVI and a TV-out on the card complete outputs with HDCP-ready...ummm...ness :)

The Cooler

The cooler as I have said above is a pretty nicely done affair and smacks of Zalman to me (although ThermalTake and others have similar models). It's effective in getting rid of the hot stuff: with a pretty hot ambient of 23.4°C it sat at 37°C idle and topped out at 58°C load. None too shabby.

asus 2600 xt cooler

The whole affair is as quiet as I've heard on a GPU active air cooler with barely a whisper escaping at full load. Perfect for media PCs.

Now usually at this point I'd give you some money shots of some "nekkid" R630 chips and show you what kind of thermal paste has been applied. Unfortunately I simply couldn't get the cooler free of the card. The screws were undone easily enough but it wouldn't budge despite some not-so gentle persuasion. Beware of this if you want to change the cooler at some point...it won't come off. I can only assume the paste had dried on or that thermal glue was used.


Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 3
The Asus 2600 Pro: Packaging, package and the card itself

NOTE: As both Asus cards are very similar I will cut these two pages a little shorter than usual.

Packaging

The packaging on the Pro version of the 2600 is the same as on the 2600 XT. Again Asus use their simple style packaging and an added CGI charactor.

asus 2600 pro

asus 2600 pro box rear

Again good information on the back of the box.

Taking a look at the internals of the packaging we see the same thing again here.

asus eah 2600 pro

Again could be a little better but should stave off most unwanted bumps and bruises from careless couriers.

Package

The package is again identical to the EAH 2600 XT.

We have:

* "Speed Setup" manual
* CD-based manual
* Driver CD
* ATI Internal Crossfire dongle
* DVI to VGA connector
* S-Video to component cable

asus eah 2600 pro

And again I say decent hardware bundle, just missing some kind of DVD player software.

The Card

The card is almost identical to the EAH 2600 XT with the nice looking red PCB and the cooler that really looks the biz.

eah 2600 pro card

eah 2600 pro rear card

Less solid caps are used on this card but again all high-quality Japanese capacitors are used and the look of the card itself is decent.

asus 2600 pro

Again double Dual-link DVI abounds on the card with HDCP compatible output for those of you wanting to play HD content on an HDCP TV.

The Cooler

Being a little more brief this time I can say again that the cooler is whisper quiet on the EAH 2600 Pro and looks great. Ambient at 23.5°C we have 34°C idle and 56°C load.

asus eah 2600 pro cooler

And also again I failed to get the cooler off of the card without actually going as far as breaking it.

Now onto my test setup.


Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 4
Test Setup

CPU: Intel Core2Duo E6700 @ 3.33Ghz
Motherboard: XFX 650i Ultra
RAM: 1gb Mushkin XP2-5300 4-4-4-12
Sound: Creative Labs X-Fi fatal1ty FPS
HDD: OS - 160gb Hitachi Deskstar SATA II
HDD: Gaming - 2 x 40gb Hitachi Deskstars in RAID 0
Power: Silverstone Zeus 560w
Case: Silverstone TJ09
Cooling: Scythe Infinity

I am using a manual run-through of the games listed, exactly the same as in previous reviews, but doing it slightly differently to get some consistant numbers. Notice that for all games I ran through at 1280 x 1024, with the same amount of AA and AF on each game. For all of the 3Dmark benchmarks I did two runs. One run was with the stock settings that the free version of the benchmark comes with and one was with 2 x AA @ 1680 x 1050.

For installation I have installed the cards as usual with the normal PCI-E power dongle (or not as required), checked that the card is seated correctly and powered on.

I am using a clean install of Windows XP Professional SP2 with all the latest patches.

nVidia drivers used were 158.22

ATI drivers used were Catalysts 7.7's

Cards

Asus EAH 2600 XT
Core Speed: 800. Memory Speed 1400 (700). Stream processor Clock: 800

Asus EAH 2600 Pro Core Speed: 600. Memory Speed 1000 (500). Stream processor Clock: 600

XFX 8600 GTS "XXX" Edition Core Speed: 730. Memory Speed: 2260 (1130). Stream Processor Clock: 1595MHz.

Foxconn 8600 GTS Core Speed: 675. Memory Speeds: 2000 (1000). Stream Processor Clock: 1450MHz

XFX 8600 GT "XXX" Edition Core Speed: 620. Memory Speeds: 1600 (800). Stream Processor Clock: 1355MHz

Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 5
Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This makes the game very taxing at these high resolutions. I played a fully patched up version of the game. Once again I played through the game with a two minute gaming session including explosions, smoke and also lots of snow.

Note that for this review I played at 1280 x 1024 with 4 x AA, all other settings were on maximum.

Let's see how the cards fared here:

oblivion benchies

Call of Duity sees the 2600 XT do pretty nicely with a small lead in Maximum and Average FPS. Playing Call of Duty 2 was a decent experience with the cards, although at points there was lag not FPS related. After a lot of checking and re-installing it seemed to be a driver related problem.

F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a game based on an engine that uses many features of DirectX 9.0c. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects, with a slow-motion mode that really taxes today's top of the line GPU's. I played a fully updated game with the latest patches installed. I played three two-minute runs on a taxing part of the game with plenty of action, using slow-motion for the full time whilst firing at enemy soldiers and using grenades that produce a cool "blast" contortion effect when blown up.

The cards were played at 1280 x 1024 with 4 x AA, 4 x FSAA and soft shadows disabled. All other settings were on maximum.

FEAR benchies

However upon playing through F.E.A.R. the 2600's both fall well behind. It has to be said that the gaming experience whilst playing F.E.A.R. was pretty poor even at 1280 x 1024, due to inconsistant frame rates.

Oblivion

Oblivion is an awesome RPG with a simply huge immersive environment, great graphics and incredibly realistic scenery. This game is currently one of the most testing games that you can buy and it is certainly a test of the high-end cards here. I chose to do a run-through of the Arena part of the game. I spoke to a character, did some magic whilst in a fight and fought in the arena that is pretty huge. Also as well as doing this test I took a wander around to make sure that the benchmark resembled the general gameplay with each card. In-game settings used:

oblivion settings 1 oblivion settings 2

oblivion settings 3 oblivion settings 4

Oblivion was played at 1280 x 1024 with HDR enabled and no AA.

oblivion fps

Oblivion was at odds with what we've seen in previous reviews - ATI usually stomp over the competition here but not this time. Playing the game felt pretty nice, but not as smooth as the 8600's. This was a bit of a surprise to me and left me feeling a little disappointed.


Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 6
Quake 4

Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. This uses many DX 9.0c features and is a game that nVidia traditionally did well on being an OpenGL game. Once again I did three two minute runs on Quake 4 on each card and took the average of all my readings from these. I played a fast and furious part of the game that required both internal and external scenes.

Quake 4 was played at 1280 x 1024 with 2 x AA (Ultra settings)

quake 4 fps

It was obvious to me that the cards just couldn't cope with Quake 4 on "Ultra" settings. For fairness in the numbers I soldiered on. Lowering to "High" settings resulted in much better gameplay. Gaming was much more playable at "High" settings and if you're thinking of getting either card thats what you'll be playing it on.

Command & Conquer 3

C&C3 is the much awaited RTS from EA. Hugely popular and with some pretty nice visuals almost every modern PC should be able to play it. I tested a skirmish right at the end when I had a screen full of mechs to defeat the enemy.

C&C 3 was played at 1280 x 1024 with all maximum settings apart from the AA which was set to level 2 in-game.

cnc 3 benchies

Command and Conquer 3 was again a disappointing show for the 2600 cards. Slowing down to a quite crawling 9FPS on the Pro card, gameplay was severely affected. The XT played a little better, but still not smoothly as it should have done. This again left me a little cold as the engine is hardly challenging, especially at a low res like 1280 x 1024.


Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 7
Article <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/07
Author: Matt Kemp
Source: Asus


Benchmarking - 3DMark

I used the popular gaming benchmarks made by Futuremark to bench all of the cards. I used 3DMark 03, 05 and 06. All benches were performed at stock speeds for this section. I ran all benchmarks from the stock settings as well as 1680 x 1050 (2 x AA).

3DMark 03

First we start with 3DMark03. This is a benchmark that relies heavily on DirectX 8 features. This will give an indication of how the card will run on games that rely on DX 8.

3dmark03

The 3DMark03 really shows up performance of the cards here both at high and low resolution.

3DMark05

I ran 3DMark05. This benchmark requires some more features of DirectX 9 and gets slightly more taxing on the cards.

3dmark05

Again 3DMark05 shows that the ATI cards are slower than their nVidia counterparts by a margin.

3DMark06

3DMark06 is the latest in the benchmarking tests from Futuremark. It has a lot of DirectX 9.0c features such as HDR and use of Shader model 3.0. This benchmark is very taxing for the cards and also includes quite a harsh CPU benchmark. Seeing as this was run with the exact same CPU this was not an issue.

3dmark06

Again 3DMark06 sees the ATI cards down on their luck scoring consistently lower than the nVidia equivalents.


Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 8
Article <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/07
Author: Matt Kemp
Source: Asus


Overclocking


Overclocking was performed using Rivatuner. At no point was any other tool or mod used other than simply raising the clock speeds in Riva.

I did the best "quick OC" I could, running 3DMark06 as a performance and stability benchmark.

Results

The results were as follows:

overclock %'age

As you can see the overclocks on the ATI cards varied a little, but generally were pretty decent. Here the "Pro" version of the cards did very well.

3DMark06 Overclocked

Let's see the difference a little overclock makes shall we?

3dmark06 overclocked

A nice difference in scores for the two cards there...but I'm not sure the overclocking alone is enough to dig them out of their 3DMark mire.


Asus 2600XT and 2600Pro - ATI mid range performance Page: 9
Article <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 07/08/07
Author: Matt Kemp
Source: Asus


Conclusion

ATI have again failed to deliver a card that outperforms nVidia in the class that it is set for. Producing a top-end card that doesn't quite cut it is one thing, but when your mid-range doesn't stand up to the competition you've done something wrong.

When it all comes down to it mid-range is where the sales are and ATI have hurt themselves with this one. Asus have done some redeeming with the bundle and cooler, but not enough in my opinion to warrant you buying the cards.

With the price of the Pro around £60 @SCAN and a seeming lack of availability on the EAH2600XT (other brands priced at £70), ATI have entered the market at a low price. However, with the 8600GT's dropping close to that price I simply cannot recommend you go out and buy this card.

Reviewed Award

The Goods

+ Nice quiet cooler
+ Cheap
+ Good overclocking

The Mediocre

* Nice looking
* Decent Bundle

The Bad

- Bad gaming performance
- Awful 3DMark performance
- Brought to shame by the competition

Thanks to Asus for providing the review sample

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