ATI Hits With Mainstream DX10 - HD 2600 XT - HD 2600 XT - HD Video and Conclusion

Article Index
ATI Hits With Mainstream DX10 - HD 2600 XT
HD 2600 XT - Specs, Overclocking and More
HD 2600 XT - Test System and Benchmarks
HD 2600 XT - DX10 Game Benchmarks
HD 2600 XT - HD Video and Conclusion

HD Video Playback:

As computers have moved out of the office and into many rooms of our homes, the diversity and requirements of a computer have changed dramatically.  Although many people are still happy with an E-Machine, many others use the computer for a complete source of entertainment.  The computer is quickly becoming the center hub for our entertainment and as hardware and software have improved in this aspect, the Home Theater PC (HTPC) is becoming a popular addition to most home entertainment centers.  This is perhaps where the HD 2600 XT has the best fit.  As we've seen in our benchmarks, the performance of this card is lackluster in early DX10 benchmarks.  However, the HTPC arena is completely different.

Some HD 2600 XT cards are rumored to come with a HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) connection, but our pre-release sample did not.  Instead it came with a pair of Dual-Link DVI connections and support for HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) content.  If you have a monitor or a large TV that supports HDCP as well, you can quickly turn you computer into a High Definition Multimedia Powerhouse.  We took this card and a nice shiny new Samsung SyncMaster 305T 30" LCD and had some fun.

We ran some HD Quicktime clips encoded with H.264 as well as some HD WMV video clips and looped them for a while in order to heat up the GPU and see how much processing power is handled by the AVIVO supporting HD 2600 XT Graphics Card.

 H.264 Decode Performance
(Click Image to Enlarge)

 

We grabbed some 2-3 minute Quicktime clips and played with the Quicktime player.  Each clip was looped for at least 15 minutes and CPU load and temperature averages were logged and the results averaged.  As you can see above, CPU load remained quite low, and the GPU heated up a fair bit above the 36C Stock Idle temperature.  At 1280x720, all these clips looked great with no stuttering, dropped frames or issues at all.

 

Next, we fired up some HD WMV clips and executed the same procedure.  Each clip was looped and data was recorded.  We managed to test both 1280x720 clips and 1920x1080 clips to compare the difference in CPU load and GPU temperature.  As you can see below, the 1080p clips caused higher GPU temperatures and took a bit more horsepower from the CPU as well.

 HDWMV Decode Performance
(Click Image to Enlarge)

 

 

Conclusion:

This really shouldn't be that hard to draw a conclusion with this card, but I'm having a hard time giving it a rave review.  This is the first ATi card we've handled in a while, and while it does add DX10 support to it's list of features, the truth is that it's just plain slow in DX10 benchmarks.  While the card has an impressive number of shader units (120), it is crippled by 128-bit memory.  GDDR4 deserves to run free with at least a 256MB interface but it is severely lacking at such a low bitrate.  All that being said, if the price is right, it's still a decent card.

For current generation DirectX 9 games, the HD 2600 XT performs very well, and it does it quietly without complaints or instability issues.  For the casual gamer who wants to check out some DirectX 10 eyecandy, it may be a good buy.  If you are all about Vista, DX10 and games, you will want to look for a different graphics solution for your gaming rig, but you shouldn't count out the HD 2600 XT all together.  ATI's AVIVO and GPU processing power works very well for HD content, and although we weren't able to include HD-DVD content in the review, we did play around with an XBOX 360 HD-DVD drive on our system and it performed virtually identical to other HD content that we've shown above.  The HD 2600 XT is the best HD decoding card we've currently got here at BCCHardware.

Pros:

  • DirectX 10 comes to mainstream ATI fans!
  • Doesn't require an additional power connector.
  • Decent DX9 performance.
  • Excellent HD Video decoding performance.
  • Very quiet single-slot cooler.

Cons:
  • Slow DirectX 10 performance in current games.
  • 128-bit GDDR4 = Fast RAM but nowhere to run.

Because of the highs and lows of this card, it is a little hard to score, but we believe the numbers below are fair.  For only $100 more you can get an nVidia 8800GTS 320MB that should mop the floor in DX10 performance.  We hope to get a 8600GTS in the near future to compare cards in the same price point.  Due to time restrictions, we were unable to provide these numbers in this review.

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
9/10
Performance:
6/10
Software Pack:
n/a
Stability:
10/10
Features:
8/10
Value:
7/10
Total Score 8.0

 

I'd like to thank MemoryExpress and ATI for sending this card our way for a review.  It's too bad that it's gone, as it would make a great card for HD Movies.

If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please head on over and post it in our forum at the "Comments" link below.