Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition
Reviewed by: Makaveli
Reviewed on: September 5, 2007
Will that humming noise ever cease?! It's driving me insane! Many of you know just how painfully annoying a loud video card can be. It hums all the time and God forbid you put the graphics card under load and its fan now sounds like a saw mill in your case. The solution to this common problem is silent performance. This means that we're looking for a video card that is completely silent, but still cranks out the numbers. Let's take a look at Sapphire's new HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition video card. I've had only great experiences with Sapphire's Ultimate line of video cards so I hope this HD 2600 XT doesn't disappoint. Will this graphics card be something to be reckoned with and exceed the bland HD 2600 XT? Join us as we examine this card to see if it really gives us the silent performance we're looking for.
Sapphire is one of ATI's leading partners. The company creates some of the most innovative, unique, and honest products for customers all over the world. Sapphire continues to strive to be among the elite of the graphics card industry by delivering the needs of various users in an affordable manner and staying up-to-date with the newest technologies.
I was very surprised at the size of this box because it was almost twice as big as the regular HD 2600 XT. On the front of the box, we still have the attractive woman who is suited up for a futuristic battle in the same nonchalant pose. But she shares the front with multiple technologies and features which are proudly displayed. The back of the box illustrates the product highlights and also informs you of what's included inside the box.
The egg crate foam that the contents of the box are protected by was really good to see because it assured me that the video card wasn't damaged during shipping. The video card itself is protected by a thick anti-static bag. This was when I noticed that this card wasn't nearly as big as the basic HD 2600 XT.
Once you unwrap the Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate graphics card, you'll notice the "Fueled By Sapphire" heatsink and the heat pipes. When you flip the card over, you'll notice how big the heat fins are and also see how the fins do not touch the video card at all.
On the video card you'll notice the dual DVI ports, the S-Video port, and the Crossfire connectors.
There is a plethora of accessories that is included with this card. In the box you'll find the user manual, a copy of The Black Box from Valve, a copy of PowerDVD 7, 3DMark06, a driver CD, DVI to D-Sub converter, DVI to HDMI converter, HDTV breakout cable, TV-Out converter, and a Crossfire connector.
For size comparison, here is a few shots of the Ultimate edition (on the right) compared against the original HD 2600 XT.
Before you install the Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition, you'll need to remove all of your current video card's display drivers. Once that is taken care of, power down your computer, unplug your power supply, and open up your case. You'll need to insert this card into a PCI Express x16 slot and make sure that it is securely inplace. Most people will have to use the DVI to D-Sub converter so that they can plug their monitor into the card. Now that the card is in place and ready to go, close up your case, plug in the power supply, and turn on your machine.
When your operating system is fully loaded, pop in the included driver CD and follow the on-screen instructions to install the display drivers and the Catalyst Control Center (CCC).
Now that the Catalyst Control Center and display drivers are correctly installed, you'll be asked if you want to view the Catalyst Control Center in the "Basic" or "Advanced" format. We'll be examining the "Advanced" format. The first thing you should do is make sure that the correct video card is detected. This Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition didn't say "Ultimate" or anything to separate it from the bland HD 2600 XT.
"Displays Manager" is the place you go to if you want to change the color quality, resolution, and refresh rates as well as other things. If you navigate to "Display Options" you can activate things such as "3D Refresh Rate Override" and display management.
Your monitor properties are easy to change and you'll be able to also configure the performance versus quality settings, AVIVO color options, and your color settings.
"ATI Overdrive" is the place to go if you want to overclock your video card. I'm not going to be overclocking the card just yet, but it's nice to have the option to do so.
You now have a pretty good idea of what's in the Catalyst Control Center, so let's move on and test this card!
|Engine Clock||800 MHz|
|Memory Speed||1400 MHz|
|Memory Configuration||512 / 256 MB GDDR3|
|Display Connectors||DVI-I + DVI-I + VIVO|
|Dual Link DVI||Yes, 2x|
|Interface||PCI Express x16|
|Integrated Audio||Multi-Channel Audio (5.1 Surround) via HDMI Support|
|Software Features||ATI AvivoTM HD|
|Windows Vista||Premium Ready|
- Hardware processed 1080p video playback of Blu-ray™ and HD-DVDs
- Plug-n-Play CrossFire™ upgradeability
- HDMI with 5.1 surround sound audio
- DirectX® 10 support
At OverclockersClub.com we have our very own gauntlet of benchmarks and tests to really stress a video card and gauge its true performance. All of our gaming tests are tested in realistic resolutions that everyday users will be able to achieve. This Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition will be tested against the normal HD 2600 XT and a x1950 PRO that is a part of the Ultimate line from Sapphire. There will also be some mainstream video cards from the nVidia side in these tests. Let's see if this graphics card deserves the title of being the Ultimate Edition for the HD 2600 XT.
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Processor
- Abit IN9 32X-Max Wi-Fi Motherboard
- Crucial Ballistix Tracer (2 x 1GB) DDR2 1066 Memory
- Mushkin XP2-6400 (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800 Memory
- Cooler Master 750watt Power Supply
- Western Digital 250GB IDE Hard Drive
- Western Digital 160GB SATA 3.0GB/s Hard Drive
- Seagate 80GB IDE Hard Drive
- LG DVD-R DL Burner
- Windows XP Professional SP2
- Turtle Beach Montego DDL Sound Card
- Enermax Uber Chakra ATX Full Tower Case
- Sapphire HD 2600 XT (ATi)
- Sapphire X1950 PRO Ultimate Edition (ATi)
- Foxconn 8600 GTS OC (nVidia)
- XFX 8600GTS XXX Edition (nVidia)
- Far Cry: Hardware OC (Ubisoft Volcano)
- F.E.A.R. (Performance Test)
- Call of Duty 2: Stalingrad (FRAPS)
- Quake 4: Hardware OC
- Need For Speed: Most Wanted (FRAPS)
- Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Benchmark: Far Cry
As usual, we'll start with an older first-person shooter called Far Cry.
- Maximum quality option, Direct3D renderer
- Level: Volcano, demo: Volcano.tmd
- Pixel shader: model 2.0b
- Antialising: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 8×
- HDR: disabled
- Geometry Instancing: disabled
- Normal-maps compression: disabled
The Ultimate Edition didn't out perform the regular HD 2600 XT in Far Cry, but it wasn't too far off.
One of today's most popular online first-person shooters is F.E.A.R. We'll be using the in-game benchmark to test this video card.
- FSAA: x4
- Anisotropic: x16
- Effects: Max
- Computer: High
- Soft Shadow: Off
Now the video card is getting closer to the regular HD 2600 XT. It was only one frame off of the HD 2600 XT in the 1600 x 1200 resolution, which is comforting.
Benchmark: Call of Duty 2
In this popular World War II multiplayer first-person shooter, we'll be testing frames per second on the map of Stalingrad, Russia.
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Texture Filter: Trilinear
This card still isn't doing better than the HD 2600 XT, which I expected to happen since it is the "Ultimate" edition. It isn't too far off, so I'm guessing this is the trade off you take for a silent card - slightly less performance for silence.
Benchmark: Quake 4
Next up is a more recent installment of the popular space marine first-person shooter called Quake 4.
- Demo: Hardware OC
- Quality: High
- Aspect Ratio: [4:3]
- Antialiasing: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 4x
- Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) enabled
The Ultimate Edition lags behind in Quake 4, much like the other tests.
Benchmark: Need For Speed Most Wanted
From the popular racing series, we'll be testing this video card on Need For Speed Most Wanted.
- Track: Clubhouse and Hollis
- All basic video settings set to ¾ on scroll bar
- All geometric features: High
- Vsync: Off
I'm thinking that it's pretty clear this video card isn't meant to be better than the normal HD 2600 XT.
Benchmark: Microsoft Flight Simulator X
This next game is probably the most difficult game for a video card because of how graphically demanding it is. Let's see how the card does in Microsoft Flight Simulator X.
- Target Frame rate to unlimited
- Bilinear filtering
- All other settings to medium high
Here is the first time that the Ultimate Edition matches and exceeds the normal HD 2600 XT. I was impressed to see that the only time it took over was in the highest resolution of this graphically challenging game.
Benchmark: 3D Mark 06
This benchmarking program is included with this video card, so let's test it out!
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
This popular benchmark shows us that this card scores roughly 300-500 points less than the regular HD 2600 XT.
Candella Software has produced a new benchmark called "RyderMark". This benchmark revolves around a boat racing game that takes place in Venice, Italy. Come back to OverclockersClub.com for an official review of the benchmark coming soon!
- Default 3.0
- Resolutions 1024x768,1280x1024,1600x1200
- AA 4x
- AF 2x
- 64 Bit Shader
I wasn't surprised to see this Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition video card keep up with the regular HD 2600 XT, but I was amazed to see it score about 150 points more in the highest resolution in RyderMark.
The Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition video card wasn't what I thought it was going to be. My assumption was that this card was going to have the exact same performance as the Sapphire HD 2600 XT, but be completely silent. I was correct about the silence because this video card has no fan on it, which made my case almost dead silent. When you look at the testing results, you'll really see just how close this video card was to matching the regular HD 2600 XT. It was only off by a few frames per second for every game so I can't say this card is terrible. The toll of having a completely silent video card is to lose a few frames per second in games? I'll take that any day of the week. If you're looking for a high-end gaming video card, this isn't your card. This card is ideal for the people who do play games, but lightly and don't need to play everything at maxed out resolutions. Speaking of resolutions, I was impressed to see this video card exceed the Sapphire HD 2600 XT in the 1600 x 1200 results in RyderMark. This makes it clear that this card can handle the high resolutions, and don't forget it's DirectX 10 capable as well. If you're looking for a silent video card that has onboard 5.1 audio, high definition capabilities, and supports DirectX 10, but you're not a hardcore gamer, don't look past this Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition video card. Check back to OverclockersClub.com for our DirectX 10 video card round up coming soon!
- DirectX 10
- High Definition
- Ease of Installation
- Slightly worse performance than an HD 2600 XT