The PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT offers playable frame rates at a friendly price.
The brains at ATI were the driving force behind more advanced GDDR4 memory, which explains why so many of its cards have featured this relatively new technology, while nVidia has pretty much stuck to the older stuff. However, the latest fastest memory isn't always a winner and, with its new 2600 XT mainstream DirectX 10 technology, ATI has offered customers a choice of GDDR3 or GDDR4.
Broadly, both versions of the HD 2600 XT (this PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT is a GDDR3 incarnation, the Sapphire came with GDDR4) have very similar specifications. They both have 128bit memory interfaces and 120 stream processors, for instance.
Indeed, they even share the core clock speed – a base figure of 800MHz that puts the GeForce 8600 GT firmly in the shadows. But what GDDR4 allows the manufacturer to do is to ramp up the memory clock. In fact, whilst the Sapphire boasts a 1.1GHz memory clock, the GDDR3 PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT has to make do with just 700MHz. As a result, the Sapphire's memory bandwidth is an impressive 35.2GBps, while the PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT trundles along on 22.4GBps.
However, anyone expecting this to convert into a dazzling realworld lead for the GDDR4 version might be quite surprised by the results. In practice, while the Sapphire achieves, for example, 44.9fps in Company of Heroes at a resolution of 1,280x1,024, the PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT isn't too far behind on 42.3fps. In FEAR, the difference is again just over two frames, with the difference actually getting slightly narrower as we go up in resolution.
Realistically, you aren't going to want to run the PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT at a resolution beyond 1,280x1,024. And anyone expecting it to cruise through tomorrow's DirectX 10 games titles will be sorely disappointed.