Review: €111 priced GDDR4 card
In the last couple of months we were busy testing several HD2600XT cards. You can find out more about HD2600XT and HD2000 series in our Jetway, HIS and Sapphire reviews. We got the first Club3D HD2000 series cards a couple of months ago, thanks to the folks from Genelec Tuzla.
Thanks to the same people, we have some Club3D specialties on the menu again, but this time it's HD2600XT with GDDR4 memory. So far, we've mostly been testing HD2600XT cards with slower and somewhat lower priced GDDR3 memory, so we eagerly pounced on the chance to test out today's card. Is GDDR4 actually worth the extra money you'll lay out? Well, we're eager and ready to find that out.
Thanks to a great price/quality ratio, solid performance and impressive multimedia capabilities, HD2600 cards coming in XT and PRO flavors usually prove to be a good choice in this price range. Club3D HD2600XT GDDR4, just like the GDDR3 version, offers HDMI support and an overall nice bundle. You also get a Valve certificate, which allows you to download free games from Steam.
First glance at Club3D HD2600XT GDDR4
ATI Radeon Club3D HD2600XT GDDR4 is quite large. Its PCB is the same size as ATI Radeon X1950Pro Series PCBs. The cooler covers most of the card's surface, including the memory chips. Although quite bulky, the cooler isn't noisy, which definitely scores them additional points. Under the cooler you'll find an RV630 GPU clocked at 800MHz and 256MB of GDDR4 memory running at 2200MHz.
When you turn your computer on you'll hear some buzzing, but don't worry – it'll last for only a couple of seconds, and it means that the fan is starting up. Some people might even like to hear the roar when they start up their rig. However, if the SATA connectors on your motherboard are placed behind the slots, the size of the card might prove to be a problem. The problems we encountered were caused by the chipset cooler placement; namely, the card's rear side was leaning on the cooler and it resulted in some quite unpleasant noise caused by vibration.
Apart from the card, the black box contains a Valve voucher, instruction manual and the installation CD.
You'll also find an HDMI dongle, Crossfire connector, and other things that are missing from many HD2x00 cards.
Graphics Card: Club3D CGAX-XT266 Radeon HD2600XT 256MB GDDR4 (Supplied by Genelec)
Motherboard: Foxconn C51XEM2AA
CPU: AMD Athlon 3800+ X2
CPU Cooler: Arctic Freezer 7 Pro (Supplied by Ingel)
RAM: OCZ XTC Platinum 2x 1GB PC6400 800MHz 4-5-4-15
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 250GB sataII 7200.10
PSU: Fortron Epsilon 700W (Supplied by Ingel)
Case: ThermalTake XaserIII Super Tower
Monitor: FujitsuSiemens CRT 21“
For testing, we used synthetic tests Futuremark and 3DMark at default settings; and for gaming, all the details were set to maximum detail settings.
After testing this card at stock settings, we overclocked it using ATI Overdrive option in the ATI Catalyst center. Our overclock was modest due to limitations imposed by ATI Overdrive. We overclocked the graphics processor from reference 800MHz to 857MHz, and the memory from reference 2200MHz to 2360MHz. Of course, you could probably squeeze out even more MHz using different overclocking tools; we've seen the HD 2600 XT cores easily reaching 900MHz.
We used the latest ATI Catalyst 7.10 drivers for our testing, and you can download them from www.ati.amd.com Website. Bear in mind that Sapphire and Club3D cards used as reference in the following tables, were tested with ATI Catalyst 7.8 drivers.
In 3DMark03, HD2600XT didn't show some significant performance increase compared to reference cards. The difference was 1028 points, which means the actual increase was only 7.5%. That confirms the 7 percent overclock.
In 3DMark05 the increase actually shrunk – it was just 3.6%.
Just like the previous tests have shown - overclocking this card won't make a significant impact on the performance. The overclocked card was faster than the reference one by 5.5%.
Company of Heroes
The card performed well in this game. It's powerful enough to provide you with a playable frame rate even on maximum detail settings.
At a high resolution, with all the details maxed out and with antialiasing and anisotropic filters on, HD2600XT GDDR4 still managed to produce a playable frame rate.
The game did well here until we set the resolution to 1600x1200 with AA and AF on.
At 1600x1200 with 4xFSAA and 16xAF, overclock won't help. With maximum detail setting you simply cannot get a playable frame rate.
At lower resolutions, even with AA and AF on, the card had no trouble. However, at 1600x1200 with AA and AF off, the reference speed card just couldn't churn out a playable number of FPS.
The overclocked Club 3D HD 2600 XT card with AA and AF on didn't do any better, either – the result still wasn't playable.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Demo
At low resolutions and no AA and AF, both the overclocked and the reference card results are satisfactory. However, 1280x960 with 2xAA and 8xAF results in minimum playable frame rate.
At high resolutions, no matter what the speed, AA and AF, this card just won't give you the full gaming experience.
Serious Sam 2
This cute game didn't pose a threat to this card. It ran well on all resolutions with AA and AF on, and it scored playable FPS in every scenario.
In this game, even the card on reference speeds scores more than enough needed for gaming.
On maximum detail settings with AA and AF on, the card scores over 50 FPS.
Unreal Tournament 3 Demo
In UT3, Club3D HD 2600 XT scores playable FPS. However, problems arose when we increased the resolution to 1600x1200 with AA and AF on.
World in Conflict
World in Conflict is a different story altogether; the card simply can't handle it. The only playable FPS setting was 1024x768 with AA and AF turned off.
Higher resolution or turning AA and AF on are just too much for this card, and you won't get a playable frame rate.
Club3D Radeon HD2600XT GDDR4 card follows the reference design with a large, but quiet cooler. The core runs at stock 800MHz, and the same goes for memory, which runs at stock 1100MHz (effective 2200 MHz).
Since the graphics memory clocks were significantly higher than with GDDR3 memory equipped cards, we expected much better performance. Compared to cards with memory at 1400MHz, this card didn't show a significant performance increase. Catalyst limited the overclock to 857 MHz, but with different overclocking tools you could probably do better, as we've seen these cores easily reaching 900 MHz.
Although the card can handle all the games available today, some of them with maximum detail settings, we still can't say it's a significant performance increase compared to our previously tested ATI Radeon HD2600XT with GDDR3 memory.
The cheapest we've found costs €111 + shipping, while the Club3D HD2600XT with DDR3 memory will cost you less than €8 less. The price difference is justified and we can recommend the GDDR4 cards, as the price difference is really negligible.
Since they're in the same price range, Club3D HD2600XT GDDR4 is an interesting alternative to Nvidia's 8600GT series, mostly due to its multimedia capabilities. This is one of the lowest priced mainstream cards of all time and buying one of these will definitely bring some nice gaming capabilities to your PC.
Tested and reviewed by Sanjin Sejdinovic