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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  • TA152H - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Because not everyone is going to run Rainbow Six, duh!!!!!!

    For some people these cards would be fine because they aren't running all the titles here, or are willing to run them at lower resolutions so they don't have to hear some damn egg beater in their computer. Resolution isn't important to everyone, not everyone is some jackass kid that thinks blowing up space aliens with the highest degree of resolution is what life is all about and would be willing to sacrifice some of that for something that is quieter and cooler. I would have thought that much was obvious.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    We would have tested the 2400 Pro if we had been able to get a hold of one. AMD was not able to send us a 2400 Pro, so we'll have to wait until we can get one from one of their board partners. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    I'm gonna disagree.

    DX9 is much more important in these tests. How many people used a 9500 or an FX 5600 to play any serious DX9 games (read hl2 or better)? And how long did they have to wait for it when it finally mattered?

    The reason we do real world tests is because we want to evaluate how the card will behave in normal use. To the customer, the hardware is only as good as the software that runs on it. And right now the software that runs on these parts is almost exclusively DX9.

    It'll be at least a year or so before we see any real meaningful DX10 titles. Remember TRAOD, Tron 2.0 and Halo? Not the best DX9 implementations even if they were among the first.

    DX10 tests are certianly interesting, and definitely relevant. But I think DX9 is much more important right now.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Yes, but you miss the point that these cards were made for DX10. There are already some titles out, and they will become more and more popular, although initially, without all the features. It obviously wasn't the focus of the product at all, so why make it yours?

    Let me ask you a simple question. If you were buying a card, even today, would you buy it for the performance of DX9, or DX10? If you had the choice of two cards, one that had obscenely bad DX9 performance, but good DX10, and the other the reverse, which would you choose? I'd choose the one that performs well on DX10, because that's where things are going, and I'd put up with poor DX9 performance while new titles came out. However, these might suck on DX10 too, that's what we need to know.
    Reply
  • swaaye - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    Well, Radeon 9700 didn't have too much trouble rocking DirectX 8 games. Nor did GeForce FX (hell that's all it was really good for). G80 slaughters other cards at DirectX 9 games. I highly, highly doubt that these new cards are optimized for DirectX 10. How can they be? The first cards of each generation are usually disappointments for the new APIs. Reply
  • TA152H - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    You're missing the point, I'm not saying it will, I'm saying let's see.

    But, let's be realistic, at the price of these cards, they aren't going to be extremely powerful, but they have a great feature set for the price. For a lot of people, these are going to be good cards.

    Having said that, I'm inclined to agree they probably will not have great DX10 performance, but they didn't even test it. Strange, to say the least. Some of their decisions are baffling, and you wonder how much thought they actually put into them, if any.

    I also agree the first generation for a feature set isn't great. I'm not expecting much, but I'll withhold criticism until I see the results. Besides, in the case of the 2400, wouldn't you think that with this type of feature set, for $60 or so, it would be a very good product for a lot of people running Vista? It's not going to be for the alien blasters, of course, but don't you think it's got some market ?
    Reply
  • Tamale - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    you make it sound like you'd never even play any of the games tested in this review. wouldn't you be mad your "midrange" card performed this awful on OLDER technology games?

    i don't understand why anyone WOULDN'T care about dx9 performance when there are so many good dx9 games out there...
    Reply
  • swaaye - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    And before you rip me apart for bringing up 9700 and telling me how awesome it was for DX9, remember the mid-range 6600 GT beat it handily. Both are designed for the same API. Reply
  • erple2 - Thursday, June 28, 2007 - link

    You're comparing apples to oranges here. Remember, the 9700 was the FIRST DX9 part available from ATI. The 6600GT was the second gen DX9 part from NVidia. I WILL say that the 9700 was light-years ahead of the nVidia competing DX9 part, the 5800XT.

    Your statement is more or less the same as saying that the 9700 was crap, because the 7600GT handily beat it (ok, I'm slightly exaggerating here...)

    The point is that this is a reversal of the DX9 situation. The 9700 did handily beat the 5800 in DX8 generation games. In this case, the 8800GTX handily beats the 2900XT (the jury's still out on the 8800GTS).

    I view this more like the 2600 appears similar to the horribly performing (in DX9) GeForce 5600.. At least the 5600 did reasonably well in DX8 games...
    Reply
  • swaaye - Friday, June 29, 2007 - link

    No, I agree that the HD2600 and 2400 are reminiscent of the FX 5600 and FX5200. They are pretty awful. And I'm not going to sit here and dreamily imagine 3x the performance when they are running more complex DX10 shader code. I think these cards are flops and that's all they will really ever be. For non-gamers and HD video people, the only people who should buy these, they will of course be fine.

    If you want to play games, don't jump to DX10 dreaming. How many years did it take for DX9 to become the only API in use? Years. DX9 arrived in 2002 and only a couple of years ago at best was it becoming the primary API. UT2004, for example, is basically a DX7 engine. Guild Wars arrived with a DX8 renderer.

    DX9 had multiple OS's backing it. DX10 is Vista only. Its adoption rate is likely to really be slowed down due to this and the fact that the only cards with remotely decent DX10 performance are $300+.

    I brought up 9700 and 6600GT just to say that the first generation of cards for a new API is never very good at that API.
    Reply

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