Palit HD 2600 PRO and HD 2600 XT Sonic

We try out Palit's pre-overclocked HD 2600 PRO and XT cards to see how they fair in the mid-range sector.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sat, Jul 14 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none

Introduction





As much as we would all like to own the 8800s and HD 2900 XT it's simply out of reach for some people (or complete overkill for others). The latest cards to enter the limited HD series at the moment are the HD 2600 PRO and HD 2600 XT, both of these designed to compete with the mid-range 8 series cards from Nvidia.

What we need to find out though is whether or not these cards are worth looking at. Can the HD 2600 series from AMD battle against the 8500 and 8600 series from Nvidia? While we focus on that we also see what Palit have done with these particular models.

The 8400 GS was quite an impressive low-end card. Let us see what happens when we move up in price without going too high.

The Packages


The Package

Both boxes share exactly the same design with the only difference being the main sticker on the front. Apart from that, the only other difference is the "Xpand Rally" sticker found on the front of the HS 2600 XT box.





The layout is typical of Palit with the model name being easily seen along with the main specifications of the card and some of the key features. What's nice is that Palit also include the core and clock speed on the front of the box for the Sonic series.



The back of the box is exactly the same with just a few more details on the card, though this time in a multitude of languages. We also have the website URL, email address and a few logos.



With the box open it's time to dive inside the package and see what exactly we have included. The two packages are the same bar the inclusion of Xpand Rally with the HS 2600 XT variant. There is a HDTV-Out cable, quick install guide, driver CD, sticker and the "Get all 3" promotion card.

The package on a whole is pretty good and comes with everything you need to get yourself up and running out of the box. The only disappointing thing is the lack of a HDMI cable in the PRO variant.

The Cards




With the package out of the way it's time to move on to the card and see what exactly we have with us here.





The front of the two cards are quite similar, both share the same black heatsink and fan along with a red PCB. The main difference is that the HD 2600 PRO comes in a fair bit shorter. You can see that it finishes at the end of the PCI-Express connector while the XT incarnation continues on.



The HD 2600 XT includes the Crossfire connector on top of the card, though it's a little unfortunate that Palit chose not to include the cable. The lower end HD 2600 PRO also supports Crossfire, but sadly this particular model does not. There are "Crossfire Editions" of the HD 2600 PRO which have the connector on top.



I/O wise is where it gets interesting. The HD 2600 XT is pretty standard with Dual DVI connections (both support Dual-Link connectivity), and of course a TV-Out port.


The HD 2600 PRO on the other hand, while coming with a Dual-Link DVI connector, VGA port and standard TV-Out connector, it also sports a HDMI connector built onto the card. This is always a plus for anyone who is looking for a new budget card to put into their home theatre computer.

Palit has been using the "Sonic" naming scheme to determine when the cards are overclocked (not unlike the way they use "Super" for their 512MB models). The HD 2600 PRO comes in at 600Mhz / 1400MHz DDR on the core / memory which is up from the stock 600MHz / 1000MHz speeds. The HD 2600 XT comes in at 800Mhz / 1600MHz DDR which is up from the stock 800Mhz / 1100MHz speeds.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Motherboard(s): ASUS P5K3 Deluxe (Supplied by ASUS)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair XMS3 DDR-3 1066MHz 7-7-7-21 (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA-II
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: Nvidia ForceWare 158.22 and DX9c

With the cards being in the mid-range sector we thought it best to test at the resolutions these people would be using. Testing at 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024, we have the resolution of choice for most mid-range gamers. Looking at price tags we then have to decide what to compare it against, so we have included the Nvidia 8500 GT to compete against the lower end HD 2600 PRO and the Nvidia 8600 GT for the higher XT variant.

We have also included a new graph that shows us the price difference of the cards in Australian dollars. This just gives everyone a better idea of where exactly the card sits on the market. We will explain this more on the pricing page though.

We had hoped to overclock but firing up ATI Tool resulted in VPU recovery popping up. No doubt when a new version of ATI Tool pops up it will support the new HD range and we will re-visit overclocking these cards.


3DMark05

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/
Buy It Here




3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.
For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.




We can see straight away that the HD 2600 PRO manages to kill the 8500 GT while the 8600 GT and HD 2600 XT battle it out with both cards performing almost identical at 1280 x 1024.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Moving to the more intensive 3DMark06 we can see the HD 2600 PRO has a big jump on the 8500 GT while the HD 2600 XT and 8600 GT perform quite close to each other (with the 8600 GT being slightly quicker at both resolutions).

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast HDR)


Half Life 2 (Lost Coast HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here




By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Lost Coast opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Lost Coast with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.




Moving to the source engine which has always been a big fan for the ATI cards, we find the HD 2600 XT coming out ahead. Even the HD 2600 PRO sits only slightly behind here.

Benchmarks - Prey


Prey

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here




Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.




Prey on the other hand tends to favour the green team thanks to it running OpenGL. What we see though is that the HD 2600 XT performs very close to the 8600 GT at 1024 x 768, and scores almost the same at the higher 1280 x 1024 resolution.

The HD 2600 PRO also manages to score quite high, with it again being well and truly ahead of the 8500 GT.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


F.E.A.R.

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.vugames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/
Buy It Here




F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.






F.E.A.R. is another game which tends to favor Nvidia but we can see that the HD 2600 XT sits only just behind the 8600 GT at both resolutions. You're not going to have any trouble playing F.E.A.R. on either card.

The HD 2600 PRO, while again killing the 8500 GT it only offers a playable setup at 1024 x 768 before you have to venture into the performance options and drop some of the details.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.






The intensive Company of Heroes is leaning well and truly towards the red team. The HD 2600 PRO manages to beat the 8600 GT and the HD 2600 XT is the only card that is able to get close to that glorious 30 FPS minimum.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core, and if the card is dual-slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperature from there, as seen in the picture.




The HD 2600 XT is in fact the hottest card out of the bunch...literally! Though with that said there is only a few degrees between the cards.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).




Since the Palit cards use the same cooling we expected noise levels to be pretty much identical, it's noticeably quieter than the MSI 8600 GT when running under load.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly referred to by our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.




Power draw across the board is very similar for the better performing cards. The 8500 GT is the only card to come in at under 200 Watts, and with the low numbers it's putting out it's not really a surprise.

Pricing - AUD






Using a popular price engine we search for the best pricing on the items we are comparing today just to give you a better insight about the products we're looking at. We don't always use the lowest prices though, we use the lowest price from stores we trust and know actually stock the product (and don't use the old "Bait and Switch" tactic which is so common in this industry).

In the instance one of the products we're looking at isn't listed on the search engine we will look for an equivalent product. This will always be labeled on the graph.




Here you can see why we compared the particular cards we did today against each other. The 8500 GT from MSI and HD 2600 PRO Sonic from Palit come in at almost identical price tags while the XT incarnation sits slightly cheaper than the 8600 GT from MSI. We didn't look at the 8600 GTS due to the big jump in pricing but we intend to see how it fairs against the HD 2600 XT in a future review.

Final Thoughts




HD 2600 PRO in two words? Absolutely Brilliant! This is the reason it's so important to include pricing into the structure. You have a card that is priced at the same level as the 8500 GT and manages not only to beat it but kill it every time.

The HD 2600 XT is also an excellent performing card, but with what the PRO offers as far as bang for buck goes, it's hard to look past. Focusing on the 8600 GT vs HD 2600 XT debate, we would probably recommend you opt for the 8600 GT at the moment. BUT (and this is a big but), with monthly driver updates from AMD it's quite possible that we could see some decent gains on the new mid-range cards, and the 8600 GT isn't exactly killing the HD 2600 XT (unlike what the PRO was doing to the 8500 GT).

It's a tough decision, and for gamers who run 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024 the decision is going to be even harder as both cards perform really well. Throw in the fact that the OpenGL performance continues to get better on the ATI offerings, also taking into account the fact that the XT performed best in COH, it's not too hard to recommend the AMD based card. The choice between the two cards could almost come down to who you're a bigger fanboy of.

The bottom line though is that the dark horse of the group was the HD 2600 PRO which performed well and truly above our expectations. Don't forget that when you throw in the fact that it has a HDMI port built into it, it's really a win win card all round.

We will be doing a bit of "in with the new, out with the old" in our next version of the Catalyst Performance Analysis so we would recommend you keep an eye out for both HD cards as we venture there.

The only thing we need now is the ability to overclock the new mid-range cards and we can see what they are really capable of. As soon as the ability pops up we will be re-looking at the cards in a Performance Analysis.


Palit HD 2600 XT Sonic

- Pros
Pricing
Performance
Full version game
No external power
Single slot design
Pre-Overclocked

- Cons
Not quite as good bang for buck as the HD 2600 PRO
8600 GT is still a very good option


Rating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Value Award!





Palit HD 2600 PRO Sonic

- Pros
Pricing
Performance
Built in HDMI
Short PCB
Pre-Overclocked

- Cons
No HDMI cable
No Game


Rating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Editor's Choice Award!


PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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