Review: Affordable DX10 for the working man
Club3D are newcomers to our lab, and they offer quite affordable ATI Radeon HD2400Pro and HD2600Pro cards. The cards have 256MB GDDR2 graphics memory running at 400/600MHz. HD 2400 series has a 64 bit, and HD 2600Pro has 128 bit memory bus.
The HD2600Pro card features ATI RV630Pro chip running at 600MHz, while HD2400Pro features an ATI RV610 chip running at 525MHz. We know that many enthusiasts frown upon the idea of DDR2 memory coupled with a 64 bit bus, but the good side is a very low price for all HD 2400Pro cards.
We've waited a long time on these cards, but those who wanted multimedia will definitely be happy with what they have to offer. With HD2000 cards, ATI improved the old characteristics and added many new features.
The most important detail is the DirectX 10 architecture, thanks to which the limits have been pushed way further. Unified shader architecture comes with all ATI’s newest cards, and it enables for more freedom in programming. Beside the vertex and pixel shaders, there are also geometry shaders, and the whole pipeline is such that you can process the data no matter the type.
ATI keeps improving the features such as antialiasing and texture filtering, and it’s important to know that HD2600 and HD2400 cards feature UVD (Unified Video Decoder) technology. UVD is an integrated chip that will take care of HD video decoding (Blu-Ray or HD DVD) and takes some workload off the main processor (CPU).
These cards offer HDMI 5.1 surround support over Dual Link DVI. Whether it’s H.264 or VC-1 coded content, it’s not going to be a problem for the new ATI cards. When it comes to HD video, it’s important that the card has HDCP (copy protection), and it’s integrated in the chip so you don’t have to worry when buying a card. If you opt for Nvidia cards you should pay attention, because most cheap cards don’t offer HDCP nor integrated audio support. With ATI, any newer card can help you transfer multimedia content, including video and audio, trough a single HDMI cable connected to a HDMI and HDCP compatible TV.
Two actively cooled cards, HD2400Pro and HD2600Pro
The fan on the smaller, HD2400Pro, card is sufficient for the tiny RV610 chip, and thanks to the low-profile dimensions, the card will fit in any case, which is one of the good features. It’s aimed at multimedia and affordability, and it seems as a good choice for home cinema or HTPC. If you want gaming, HD2600Pro will be a way better choice.
A tiny cooler on the HD2400Pro card using Qimonda memory
HD2600Pro uses Hynix memory chips
The HD 2400Pro PCB looks a bit “empty”, although it’s a small low-profile card
ATI Radeon HD2600Pro looks a bit more serious than the low profile card.
Small reference coolers take care of cooling, but although they’re small they do the job well and they’re surprisingly quiet. Cooling is not a problem on 65nm cards in this class. Thanks to the 65 nm process, power consumption is also low, so the cards don’t require additional power.
Standard “outs” in this class of cards. One VGA and one DVI out. For HDMI you need a DVI to HDMI dongle which is not included in the box. Radeon HD2600Pro has two DVI outs, and for those that use VGA monitors, there’s a VGA to DVI dongle included in the box.
In the HD2400Pro box you’ll find spare back-panel plates that will enable you to use the card in small, low-profile, cases. You’ll get the installation DVD, one DVI adapter and one cinch adapter for video.
What you get with the HD2600Pro card.
What you get with the HD2600Pro card.
The boxes are small and elegant, and you've already seen the contents
Club3D HD2400Pro passive card
Up until now we’ve been speaking of HD2400Pro low-profile card, but Club3D offers a bit more expensive passively cooled HD 2400Pro card. Same PCB, but it uses a fan less heatpipe cooler. The memory runs at 400/800MHz, the core at 525MHz.
The cooler is a mixture of copper and aluminum. Heat-pipe routes the heat from the core to the cooler placed on top of the card. It’s small enough not to get in the way when used in smaller cases. If you’re choosing the cheapest and weakest ATI graphics card, you might as well opt for passive card which is noise free.
Motherboard: Foxconn C51XEM2AA soc.AM2
Processor: AMD Athlon DualCore 3800+ X2
CPU cooler: ThermalTake BlueOrb II
Memory: OCZ Platinum 2x 1GB PC6400 800MHz 4-5-4-15
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 250GB SATAII 7200.10
PSU: Fortron BlueStorm 400W
Graphics Card: Club3D ATI Radeon HD2400Pro Low Profile, HD2400Pro Passive i HD2600Pro
We tested the cards in 3DMark and games: F.E.A.R, Company of Heroes, Quake4, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. It’s interesting that the manufacturer wrote “Designed for Multimedia” on the HD2400Pro box, whereas the stronger model is intended for “Gaming and Multimedia”. An example of honest marketing, something that is rarely seen in the industry. However, we still used same tests to test both cards.
3DMark tests show that 2600Pro beats 2400Pro by a great margin, but that didn’t surprise us.
Company of Heroes
Radeon HD2600Pro is a card that won’t fail you while gaming. We see that it reaches playable 30FPS on 1600x1200 resolution. With antialiasing and aniso filters on the situation is different, but you can still play on 1280x1024.
With HD2400Pro you’re doomed to play at 1024x768, which still isn’t that bad for a integrated graphics replacement. Low profile card at 1280x1024 with 4xAA and 16xAF on obviously has certain problems because it scores better than with 2xAA and 8xAF on the same resolution. Both HD2400Pro cards score same results in Company of Heroes.
F.E.A.R. is a bit more demanding and asks for more when it comes to card power. HD2600Pro is the only card that can score a playable number of FPS.
Again a game that will make you feast your eyes on good graphics. With low settings you can try it with HD2400Pro cards, but you won’t get the goods unless you own HD2600Pro. Although higher resolutions are not playable with antialiasing, it’s worth a try at 1024x768. Low profile card has proven to be a bit better that the passively cooled one.
Quake4 was playable with all cards, with HD2600Pro scoring double in tests.
Serious Sam 2
Lower antialiasing and aniso filter settings but with HDR on, will score good results. At 1280x1024 2xAA and 8xAF + HDR scores similar results to those at 4xAA and 16AF. HD2600Pro scores enough for smooth gaming, while HD2400Pro cards are incapable of higher antialiasing levels. However, with filters off, and resolution at 1024x768, they churn out enough FPS for gaming.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is one of the newest games we’re testing the cards with, so maximum detail will only be possible with HD2600Pro cards.
Games show that 2400Pro cards don’t offer acceptable frame rates, except on lower resolutions, and low detail settings. It might be enough for non-demanding users who like to play a game from time to time, or to play older and less FPS-hungry titles.
We have to be honest though, you can’t expect anything more from the cheapest DirectX card on the market.
Although 2600Pro uses the slow DDR2 memory, this card handles higher details and resolutions much better, offering enough FPS for a mid-class card, and it will be enough for most users.
For only €43, the Club3D 2400Pro is one of the cheapest DirectX 10 cards on the market. The passive version is a bit more expensive and it will cost you around €46, and you can also get an AGP version for under €60.
Although the manufacturer makes it clear on the package that the card is designed for multimedia, any user who might want to play will be able to do it, but with some limitations. You can forget about high resolutions and details, but many titles will still be playable, which is more than a good result for this price.
We found out that Club3D plans to release another passively cooled low profile card that might be interesting for those who want such a unit, and HD2400Pro didn’t please them dimension-wise.
HD2600Pro is another story altogether. Even on high resolutions it’s capable of handling newer games, and some will even allow you to use AA and AF. Again, we have to emphasize that it’s not a high-end card, so don’t expect anything spectacular. Still, casual gamers, playing at average resolutions with no detail level exaggeration, this card is not a bad choice, especially when taking the €74 price into account. You can also get a passive HD2600Pro for just under €100.
Supplied by Genelec Tuzla.
Tested by Sanjin Sejdinovic