PowerColor HD 2600 Pro 512MB Video Card Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: October 4, 2007
With today's games you need the right power to push those setting to the max. Newer games are becoming more and more realistic, so you need the right mix of components to make the game look and run smoothly. One such card that is tackling the new graphics technology including, DirectX 10, is the ATI based HD2600 Series. PowerColor has taken the basis of the HD2600 design and pumped it into a 512MB version aimed at gamers of the future, looking to stay ahead on the technology path.
PowerColor, established in 1997 but the Tul Corporation, boasts that their graphics cards "deliver every-last-drop of super-charged performance from ATI's most advanced visual processing units (VPU). Running a PowerColor graphics card, today's gamers are able to unleash the 3D graphics performance of their favorite game playing it the way it was meant to be played." They are marketing the HD2600 Pro 512MB version as having "Mesmerizing 3D Graphics for the True Gamer!"
The PowerColor card comes in a well detailed box that tells right off of the bat that it is Vista Certified for those taking the DirectX 10 leap. It also shows you the version is a PRO 512MB 128-bit DDR2 Card. The front has the standard ATI looking motif and the back informs you of the card specifications, the shader architecture, DX10 information, and about the ATI Avivo HD Technology.
The sides just emphasize the model, and that it is PCI-Express.
Now that we have your interest peaked, why don't we open up the box and see what is inside. Opening the box you can see how neatly packed away the items are. This is a plus with video cards, because they are a fragile and important piece of equipment. I think it tells a lot about a manufacturer when they take the extra steps to ensure that our purchases are perfect and protected.
Are you getting intrigued yet? I know I am, so let's get in there are pull this baby out.
Pulling everything out you get to see what is included with the bundle. This is a pretty basic bundle that you see with most mid range graphics cards. Included is the card itself, a component video out adapter, a DVI to VGA adapter, the software CD, quick install guide, and an ad informing of free Steam games for buying and ATI based graphics card.
After removing the card from the protective anti-static bag you can get a feel for the detail of the card. The first thing you might notice is that there is not a PCI-e power connector on this card. That is because of the low power consumption of the HD 2600 cards. All of the needed power comes from the PCI-e slot. The card also has two DVI ports which support dual monitor setups for those of us who need the space.
I know what you are saying. "Wow look how small that heatsink and fan is." I thought the same thing. I was so used to these massive heatsinks from older cards like the X850 series, that I was floored and was thinking, "how can that keep this card cool?" Well it can. Even during testing the card did not go above 49 degrees Celsius.
Now that we have it all unpacked, let's install it and set it up for the tests.
Since a video card is an important part of the computer, people are nervous to mess with it. Despite what some may think, it is actually quite easy. The first thing you want to do is turn off the computer and disconnect all power to it. Once power is removed, take the monitor cable off, remove the screw holding it into the PCI slot, press the release lever for the card, and slide it out. Once the old card is removed, line up the new card to the PCI-e slot, secure the card into the slot, and place the screw into the pci card holder. Re-connect the video cable and the power cables and turn the computer back on. Now your card is installed and ready to be configured.
Once the card is installed and the computer restarted, a box comes up showing the new video card installed and asking for the drivers. Place the CD into the drive to begin the setup. The setup will start automatically and run all the way through prompting you to restart when it is finished.
After restarting you bring up and install the ATI Catalyst. The Catalyst program is what allows you to interact with the card and change graphics settings. The install is quick and easy. Just select the type of install, which is basic for default placement, or advanced to install in a different directory. I also was prompted that the drivers were not signed so I selected to install anyway and it completed the installation.
You have the option to select basic and advanced mode. With basic mode you can change the display size and the 3D performance. This if for people who just want the card to work with minimal interaction and no overclocking. It only gives you one setting that will adjust according to overall performance, not individual like the advanced does.
With the advanced configuration you have more control over the options for graphics settings. The biggest advantage is the ability to overclock the card. This is where the real fun comes in. Overclocking is what computer building is all about. With the Catalyst program you also have the ability to monitor the card in real time, like temps and speeds. Additionally, you can get all of the information on the card that you would need to get support for the card.
|DVI Out||2 Ports|
Dual Link DVI - Supporting digital output up to 2560x1600
|Free Steam games|
|Chipset||ATI 2600 Series|
- 120 stream processing units.
- 65nm fabrication process
- Comprehensive DirectX 10 support
- Up to 24x custom filter anti-aliasing
- Superscalar unified shader architecture
- ATI Avivo HD video and display technology
- Built-in HDMI and 5.1 surrond audio
- Unified video decoder for Blu-ray and HD-DVD
Here at OCC we use many benchmarks to test and stress the components we review. The benchmarks that we are going to use are some time proven tests, as well as some newer ones to keep up with changing technology. All tests are going to be run at stock speeds the standard drivers that are available to all ATI card owners. The setup of cards that are going to be tested are listed below. We are looking at how this card compares against the 2600 XT and the 8600GT series of cards.
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 @ 2.66GHz
- Abit IP35 "Dark Raider"
- 2GB Corsair XMS2 DDR800
- 1x Western Digital 80GB SATA HDD
- Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW Drive
- Windows XP Professional w/SP2
- Comparison Card 3: PowerColor HD2600 Pro
- Comparison Card 3: Gigabyte GeForce 8600GT
- Comparison Card 3: Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate Edition
- Far Cry
- Quake 4
- Need For Speed Most Wanted
- Call of Duty II
For the first test we are going to be using Far Cry. Far Cry is a time tested game that stresses pixel shaders and uses Polybump mapping technology for character details. The benchmark is the Hardware OC Utility version 1.8. All scores are feet per second, and higher is better. The settings we are going to use are:
- Maximum quality option, Direct3D renderer
- Level: Volcano, demo: Volcano.tmd
- Pixel shader: model 2.0b
- Anti-aliasing: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 8×
- HDR: disabled
- Geometry Instancing: disabled
- Normal-maps compression: disabled
Although on par with the 2600 XT, the playable frame rates were not that impressive. I look forward to see how it does with some of the newer games in our tests.
F.E.A.R. is a newer game that has a more improved AI to create that realistic gaming experience. F.E.A.R. has its own benchmarking utility that we will be using for this run.
The settings we will use are:
- FSAA: x4
- Anisotropic: x16
- Effects: Max
- Computer: High
- Soft Shadow: Off
Again, F.E.A.R. did not show the best numbers, but playable on the lowest resolution.
BioShock is one of the newest games to hit the shelves, and made to work with DirectX 10 cards. I am looking forward to these numbers. We were unable to run the test on the 2600XT because of the time the Bioshock game came out, so those scores will be omitted. The settings are:
- All settings to Maximum
Now those were the better numbers we were looking for. Event hough still on the low side, it shows how this card steps up for newer games.
Benchmark: Call of Duty II
Call of Duty II, another older mark that still proves itself in the benchmarking world. These tests are measured in average frames per second.
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Texture Filter: Trilinear
Again, not the most inpressive, but holding it's own with the other 2600 based card.
Benchmark: Quake 4
Quake 4 is another game that uses a Hardware OC Utility Benchmark. This is version 1.5, and needs to be updated to the most current version of the demo to work.
The settings used are:
- IDsoft Demo
- Quality: High
- Aspect Ratio: [4:3]
- Anti-aliasing: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 4x
- Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) enabled
Now those are some impresive scores. It even did better then the 8600GT on higher resolutions.
Benchmark: Need For Speed: Most Wanted
We are going to record the average FPS during a race on each setting.
The settings we will use are listed below.
- All settings at 3/4 of highest performance
- Tests in 3 different resolutions
Again here we see the card pulling out the magic.
3DMark06 is the pinnacle of testing benchmarks. This program pushes hardware to the max with no mercy. If you want to show off what you have, then this will help you.
- 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
RyderMark is one of the newest benchmarking utilities to hit the scene. This benchmark has many options available to the tester. The mark is set in a boat race setting through the waterways of Venice.
The settings we used were:
- Shader model 3.0
- Resolutions 1024x768,1280x1024,1680x1050
- AA 4x Quality 8
- AF 16x
- 64-bit Shader
- Memory set to video card level (512MB or More)
Now, with this benchmark the HD2600 Pro really shined, even beating the 2600 XT in all tests.
While you won't be playing the latest games at the highest resolutions, you will be able to run at fair settings for the casual gamer. I was impressed that the card did so well compared to the other two, since it was the slowest of the three. In the newer benchmarks it even surpassed the comparison cards during some of the settings. I was happy when it did so well in RyderMark. Games that had videos in them, like Need For Speed: Most Wanted, were crisp and clear, with no lagging. This card did exactly as it advertised with flying colors.
I would recommend this card to anyone that is looking for a media-type PC, or for the casual gamer, because of the AVIVO and the built in HDMI sound that is included in this card. I really liked that the card is DirectX 10 compatible with 512MB of video memory, because as the future games come out this card may really blow the current cards away. But for now, those of you that are hardcore graphics junkies, I would stay away, because it doesn't do as well as some other DirectX 9 cards in the same price range. This card is marketed at the mid range person looking for a good, inexpensive card to take care of business for them. If that is what you need, and want to see what the future has in store, you could not go wrong with the PowerColor HD2600 Pro. If not for the 128-Bit memory interface this card would have recieved a gold award.
- DX 10 Compatibility
- HDMI Audio onboard
- AVIVO HD Technology
- 2560x1600 max resolution
- Great for a Media PC
- Stays fairly cool under load
- Not the best card for gaming at high resolutions or detail
- 128-bit memory interface