Sapphire Radeon HD 2400 XT + HD 2600 XT

Shane fires up a head-to-head with Sapphire's Radeon HD 2400 XT and HD 2600 XT. What's better bang for buck?
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Aug 26 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction






AMD have got their whole mid-range lineup well and truly going now and we had a look at Palit and their HD 2600 cards the other week; now it's time to have a look at the Sapphire HD 2600 XT and HD 2400 XT.

The 8600 series from NVIDIA got off to a bit of a rough start, no thanks to the somewhat hefty price tags attached to them due to cards like the 7900GS still being around. Now that the old supplies have dried up, the 8600 series seems to be the new cool card; though the HD 2600 series impressed us the other week too.

The question is though, is it enough for us to recommend them over the 8600 series? Well at the time of writing about the Palit cards, almost! Since then a new driver set has come out in the form of the Catalyst 7.8 and some serious speed increases were seen for the mid-range cards. This could be enough for them to be the card of choice for users on a budget.

The Packages




Sapphire have opted for a smaller box with the HD 2400 XT which isn't too uncommon considering that this particular model sits at the lower end of the scale when it comes to the new HD 2000 range.



All the information is very standard, the model is clearly displayed across the bottom with mention of PCI Express, Crossfire and support for Windows Vista. We can also see that 256MB of GDDR3 memory is included on the card.



The HD 2600 XT on the other hand uses a larger box with a completely different design. We can see the model across the top along with some of the main features just underneath; 256MB GDDR3, HDMI, HD Audio, DVI-I and a copy of 3DMark06. We can also see that Black Box is included within the package.





The back of the box for both cards is fairly standard, we have product highlights along with what comes included in the box. We also have just a few of the numerous awards that Sapphire has won over the years.






Moving inside the package of the HD 2400 XT we found ourselves with a component-out cable, S-Video to RCA connector, DVI-to-VGA connector and also a DVI-to-HDMI connector. We also have some paperwork, leaflet on the free games on Steam for AMD graphics cards users along with a driver CD.



The HD 2600 XT package is a bit heavier, we have the same component out, S-Video to RCA, DVI-to-VGA and DVI-to-HDMI connector included. We also have a Crossfire bridge included within the package.





Paperwork wise we have a manual, Black Box and another piece on the free games offer on Steam. CD wise is also larger with the standard driver CD included but also a copy of PowerDVD 6 and a full version copy of 3DMark06.

The Cards




With the packages out the way it's time to check out the cards. The HD 2400 XT is a very basic looking card with a passive heatsink that covers the majority of the card. If it wasn't for the little "Fueled by Sapphire" plate up the top left corner we wouldn't know who made the card.





The more powerful HD 2600 XT on the other hand uses an active cooling solution that still manages to take up quite a large area of the card. Apart from that it's all very standard looking.





Moving around the two cards we have our Crossfire connectors across the top of both cards. Unfortunately only the HD 2600 XT came with a bridge connector, so if you want to go down the dual HD 2400 XT route for some unknown reason you will have to buy a connector separately.



Finally moving around to the I/O side of things the HD 2400 XT comes with a single DVI connector which supports up to 2560 x 1600 and a VGA connector that sits alongside our TV-Out port.



The HD 2600 XT carries with it two DVI connectors which are both Dual-Link and we find between the two we have a TV-Out port in our Dual-Link DVI sandwich.

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-2
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 7.8, NVIDIA ForceWare 162.18 and DX9c

That under $200 bracket is beginning to fill up more and more every week, we now have the HD 2600 XT and HD 2400 XT from AMD sitting in it along with the 8500GT and 8600GT from NVIDIA. It was clear what we had to do with the two Sapphire cards here today.

Testing in a number of applications with a medium resolution area of 1024, 1280 and 1600 we can see how these cards handle a number of current games at the respected resolutions.


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.




Thanks to the latest drivers from AMD the HD 2600 XT can really hold its ground now. The HD 2400 XT also managed to put the smack down on the 8500GT.

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.




3DMark06 paints a similar picture with the HD 2400 XT coming ahead of the 8500GT and the HD 2600 XT ahead of the 8600GT in 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 real world gaming we can see that the Sapphire cards here really have a good jump on the NVIDIA offerings.

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.




Moving to OpenGL (which is generally a fan favorite for NVIDIA users) we can see at the lowest resolution the 8600GT is able to sneak ahead of the HD 2600 XT. When we move up though the HD 2600 XT again takes control and manages to have a nice jump on the 8600GT. The HD 2400 XT on the other hand manages to stay ahead of the 8500GT the whole time.

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.






This is the first test where we see the 8600GT beat the HD 2600 XT across the board along with the 8500GT beating the HD 2400 XT. We can see that at 1280 x 960 the HD 2600 XT offers a minimum FPS of 31 which is borderline while the 8600GT offers a clear 40FPS which we know is going to offer a smooth gaming experience.

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.






Moving to Company of Heroes what we can see here is that the only card which can offer a playable setup is the HD 2600 XT at 1024 x 768, thanks to the 33FPS minimum. As we move up in resolutions you will find that you have to start adjusting to lower settings to get a playable frame rate.

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.




Both the passive cooled cards are quite warm while the active cooled ones offer a comfortable temperature.


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).




With the passive cards not emitting out any noise it was time to simply look at the two active cooled cards. We can see that the HD 2600 XT fan from Sapphire offers a little more noise compared to the one on offer from MSI.

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.




While the HD 2600 XT manages to beat the 8600GT in the majority of our tests it still uses less power. The HD 2400 XT on the other hand while having less idle power than the 8500GT, when we move into load it has a good 10% on it.

Final Thoughts




When we last looked at the HD 2600 XT we were impressed but not over the moon about it, though with that said we expected it to get better and today with the newer 7.8 Catalyst drivers it's clear that performance was on the agenda for AMDs new mid-range cards.

When it comes to performance on the two cards you really couldn't say anything wrong about the HD 2600 XT, the HD 2400 XT on the other hand doesn't look as good. We understand that it's a more budget conscious card but it really is only suited for the very light gamer with a small monitor.

General build quality on both of the cards is relatively high, the only problem is that the cheaper HD 2400 XT does offer that cheaper feeling cooler which really brings the card down, the HD 2600 XT on the other hand feels great.

As far as features go both cards offer a similar setup, with the HD 2600 XT offering Dual Dual Link DVI, Crossfire and TV-Out and the HD 2400 XT offering a single Dual Link DVI and VGA port alongside its Crossfire and TV-Out connectors.

The extra few dollars you spend on the HD 2600 XT begins to really show when you start diving into the package, with little things like a copy of 3DMark06, Crossfire Connector and PowerDVD It clearly stands out from the HD 2400 XT offering. What's nice though is the inclusion of the DVI-to-HDMI connector. This is something that AMD is really trying to push with the mid-range HD series so it's good to see that Sapphire are including it in the bundle.

Availability is very good with a number of shops listing the product, if it's not in stock at the store the chances are it's only a day away from the local distributor so you shouldn't have any trouble walking into your favorite computer shop and asking for one of these cards.

With that said though, you really only want to be asking for the HD 2600 XT, the HD 2400 XT is an ok card, the HD 2600 XT doesn't come in that much more expensive and we would really recommend that people wait for their next pay cheque and go for the more expensive XT offering thanks to its ability to really wipe the floor of the competition.


Sapphire HD 2400 XT

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Sapphire HD 2600 XT

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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
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