Introduction

We've known about the basic architecture of AMD's lower end DX10 hardware ever since mid May, but retail product hasn't made its way out the door until now. Finally launching today, and available within the next two weeks (says AMD), the Radeon HD 2400 XT and Pro and the Radeon HD 2600 XT and Pro will serve to bring competition to the $50 - $150 DX10 graphics card market. These are the cards that most people will actually end up purchasing, so both AMD and NVIDIA would like to come out on top in this market.

But even before we begin, we have to go back to the 8800 GTS 320 and talk about what a terrific value it is for people who want great performance and don't need ultra high resolutions with AA cranked up. If $300 is in the budget for graphics, this is the way to spend it. We would really love to offer more flexibility in our recommendation, but both NVIDIA and AMD have seen fit to leave a huge gap in performance between their lower high end part and upper low end parts. We saw this with the 8600 GTS falling way short of the 8800 series, and we will see it again with the HD 2600 XT not even getting close to the 2900 XT.

AMD's price gap will be even larger than NVIDIA's, leaving a hole between $150 and $400 with nothing to fill it. This seems quite a bit excessive with no other real product lines hinted at until we see a product refresh down the line. When the 8600 series launched, we were quite disappointed with the performance of the part and hoped that AMD would step up to the plate and offer a real challenger that could fill the needs of midrange graphics hardware buyers everywhere. Now we are left with a sense of desolation and a feeling that neither AMD nor NVIDIA know how to properly target the $200 - $300 price range. We would go so far as to say that neither camp offers top-to-bottom DX10, but something more along the lines of top and bottom end solutions.

But regardless of what is lacking in their lineup, the new Radeon HD cards are aimed at filling a specific need. We will talk about what they bring to the table and how they manage to do the job AMD has designed them to perform. First up is a brief look back at what's actually inside these GPUs.

UPDATE: In going back to add power tests, we discovered that the GeForce 8600 GTS we used had a slight overclock over the stock version. We have gone back and rerun our tests with the GeForce 8600 GTS at stock clock speeds and our current graphs reflect the new data. The changes, generally on the order of 5%, did not have a significant impact on the overall outcome of the article. There are a couple cases where the performance gap narrows, but the fact remains that the 8600 GTS is under powered and the 2600 XT is generally more so.

We do apologize for the initial testing error, and we will certainly do everything we can to avoid such problems in the future.


A Closer Look at RV610 and RV630
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  • IKeelU - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Wow, now I feel even better about my 8800GTS 320MB purchase. Reply
  • LionD - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    This article scores Radeon X1950Pro approximately 1.5 times lower than iXBT. Why is it so? Reply
  • OCedHrt - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Are these drivers newer than 7.6? Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    these drivers are beta 7.7 Reply
  • erwos - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    I was really hoping that AMD would pull a rabbit out of the hat and release something competitive (read: faster) with the 8600GTS. Clearly, they didn't.

    Now I've got to decide between an 8600GTS and an 8800GTS for my new build. I like the PureVideo features in the 8600GTS, but I'm not sure I'll really need them if I've got a Q6600. Then again, I'm not sure I'll really need the full gaming performance of the 8800GTS either. Bleh.

    Maybe I'll just stick with an 8600GTS for now, and upgrade to the inevitable 8900GTS.
    Reply
  • autoboy - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Since we all know these cards suck for games, please make the UVD article really complete. I know you are going to be doing CPU tests, and you are going to test them with core2duos, but I beg you to test these systems for what they are made for, allowing crappy systems to play HD video. Try testing these cards with a sempron @ 1.6Ghz. You could also try finding the lowest possible cpu speed while HD video still plays smoothly by adjusting the multiplier. That could be pretty interesting and help people out who don't overbuild their HTPCs.

    Also, please try to run HQV benchmarks for both DVD and HD DVD for all the cards. We all know the 2600XT will get good scores, but the 2400pro will most likely be the best card for HTPC use (because nobody will ever play games with these crappy cards) and reviewers ussually don't review the low end models for HQV scores. Many times they don't score the same as their big brothers. If you can't get a 2400pro, you could underclock a 2400XT.
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    A terrific suggestion. Since it is now very obvious that all of the current sub-$200 DX10 cards from both nVidia and AMD/ATi are really targeted for HTPCs and the "casual" gamer -- the bulk of the PC add-on market. Not all of Anandtech's readers are bleeding-edge gaming "enthusiasts".

    (Derek, I hope you take note of this little thread)
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    I almost agree... just don't listen to that BS about a Sempron CPU! Seriously, are you people running 1.6 GHz Sempron chips with $100 GPUs? I doubt that any single core can handle H.264, even with a good GPU helping out (though it would be somewhat interesting to see if I'm wrong). Considering X2 3600+ chips start at a whopping $63 and the 3800+ is only $5 more, so I think that would be a far better choice. Those are the somewhat lower power 65nm chips as well, and the dual cores means you might actually be able to manage video encoding on your HTPC.

    What, you don't encode video with your HTPC!? I've got an E6600 in mine, because Windows MCE 2005 sucks up about ~3.5GB per hour of high-quality analog video. I can turn those clips into 700MB DivX video with no discernable quality loss, or I can even go to 350MB per hour and still have nearly the same quality. Doing so on a single core Sempron, though? Don't make me laugh! You'd end up spending five hours to encode a thirty minute show. If you record more than two hours of video per day, you could never catch up!
    Reply
  • autoboy - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    I am perfectly happy with my sempron 1.6Ghz. I have no problem with OTA HD mpeg2, and I can play any downloaded file I've found. It just keeps chugging along at 1.1V using less than 20W at full load, allowing me to put my HTPC in a nearly enclosed space, and run the fans at a low 500rpm. I can't upgrade to dual core on a Socket 754 board, and I'm not about to upgrade an entire system when this little gem of a $50 graphics card will allow me to run the one thing my cpu can't handle, HD-DVDs.

    Also, why would I want to re-encode my TV shows when 500Gig harddrives are only $100? For the rare times I do encode, I use my dual core office PC or my gaming rig, or I could just start it at night and come back tomorrow. I've never been in a big hurry to re-encode old episodes of America's Got Talent.

    Also, you are wrong about the sempron handlig h.264. Mine can handle downloaded 720p content already, and a chinese site has already confirmed that the UVD can easily run on a Sempron 1.6 with lots of cpu to spare.
    Reply
  • lumbergeek - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    There you go. Personally, I want to see next week's review of UVD vs. Purevideo. I seriously hope that they include 2400s and 2600s in the review along with 8600s and 8500s. THAT sort of information is what will form the basis for my decision on my next Vid Card. My C2D isn't a gaming machine, but a HTPC. If the 2400 series is as good at video as the 2600, then silent wins - big time. Reply

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