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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  • kilkennycat - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    nVidia is well into development of the 8xxx-family successors. If you don't like any of the current Dx10 offerings, keep your wallets in your pockets till late this year or very early next year. Double-precision floating-point compute paths (think a full-fledged GPGPU, fully capable of mixing and matching GPU-functionality and compute horsepower for particle-physics etc.) with HD-decode hardware-assist integrated in all versions. Likely all on 65nm. And no doubt finally filling in the performance-gap around $200 to quiet the current laments and wailings from all sides.

    Crysis is likely to run just fine in DX9 on your current high-end DX9 cards. Enjoy the game, upgrading your CPU/Motherboard if Crysis and other next-gen games make good use of multiple cores. Defer the expenditure on prettier graphics to a more-opportune, higher-performance (and less expensive) time. Do you really, really want to invest in a first-generation Dx10 card (unless you want the HD-decode for your HTPC)? For high-end graphics cards the 8800-series is getting long-in-the-tooth, and the prices are not likely to fall much further due to the very high manufacturing cost of the giant G80 die, plus the 2900XT is not an adequate answer. All of the major upcoming game titles are fully-compatible with Dx9. Some developers may be bribed(?) by Microsoft to make their games Vista-only to push Vista's lagging sales, but Vista-only or not, no current game is restricted to Dx10-only... that would be true commercial suicide with the current tiny market-penetration of Dx10 hardware.
    Reply
  • Slaimus - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Looks like ATI is giving up the high end again. The 2600XT/Pro is priced against the 8600GT/8500GT with the price drop, and the 2400Pro is well below them.

    It will work with the OEMs, but not with game developers and players.

    I guess we will see a cut-down 2900GT or something like that to fill the $150-$350 bracket where they have no DX10 products.
    Reply
  • Goty - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Why are there no power consumption tests? I thought AT was all over this performance-per-watt nonsense? Reply
  • smitty3268 - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Especially after the article made a point of saying that these cards were built to maximize power efficiency rather than speed. Reply
  • avaughan - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Also missing are noise levels. Reply
  • SandmanWN - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    And overclocking... Reply
  • Regs - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Just when I though things were getting better. This whole 6-12 months just one long disapointment.

    Mid-low range cards that perform sometimes worse than last generation?

    All these guys are selling now is hardware with a different name. I never seen such ridiculous stuff in my life. I hope AMD didn't spend too much money on producing these cards. How much money do you have to spend to make a card perform worse than last generations line up? Complete lack of innovation and a complete lack of any sense. I just can't make any sense at all out of this.

    I think a 7900GS or a X1800 is the way to go for mid range this year. Though to tell you the truth I wouldn't give AMD any money right now and hopefully then will they get rid of their CEO who seems to not be pulling his weight.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    I don't agree with all your reasons, but I agree with Hector Ruiz going. This ass-clown has been plaguing the company for too long, and he has no vision and only a penchant for whining about Intel's anti-competitive practices.

    He really needs to go. Now!
    Reply
  • defter - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    quote:

    How much money do you have to spend to make a card perform worse than last generations line up? Complete lack of innovation and a complete lack of any sense. I just can't make any sense at all out of this.


    They have the same problem that NVidia had with GeForce FX. They spent a lot of money to an exotic new architecture that turned to be very inefficient in terms of performance/transistor count.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Except that this is their second generation of a unified shader architecture. The first incarnation is the XBox360 Xenos. Reply

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