Gigabyte is infamous for adding a few of its own touches before releasing a product, and the Gigabyte Radeon HD2600 XT is no exception. As with many of Gigabyte's low-mid range cards, a silent, passive cooler has been installed, keeping the system quiet, while still maintaining a good thermal balance for stable operation.
The Radeon HD2600 XT is second only to the Radeon HD2900 XT, at least within ATI's own range, and isn't a high-end gaming card by any means. Certainly it can hold its own, especially in titles released last year and earlier, but don't expect to get playable frame rates in the latest gaming titles with the best quality settings. What the HD2600 XT does offer is a good mid-range experience with benefits for HD video decoding and HD (HDCP) video output via HDMI (an optional adapter is required).
Built onto the board is a dedicated chip called the universal video decoder (UVD), which is designed to handle the decoding of movies, especially high-definition movies such as Blu-ray or HD-DVD, rather than offload that task to the CPU. This is especially handy for low-end computers, which need to reserve the CPU for other tasks.
As is mentioned above, the Gigabyte HD2600 XT is made specifically to output via HDMI. Included in the sales package is a DVI to HDMI adapter. Radeon cards from the HD2000 series also support audio throughput via the DVI/HDMI output, so it's possible to connect your PC or media centre using this card to any standard HDMI capable TV or home theatre and get digital video and audio throughput.
In our benchmarks we saw expectedly average results across the DirectX 10 games and playable, but still not excellent, results from the DirectX 9-based games. In 3DMark 2006 at the default settings it scored 4879, while at 1920x1200 using 8x antialiasing (AA) and 16x anisotropic filtering (AF) it only scored 929. In FEAR it averaged only 18fps (frames per second) using the maximum quality settings at a resolution of 1600x1200 and in Half-Life 2 using the maximum quality settings at 1920x1200 it averaged 70fps.
In the Call of Juarez DirectX 10 demo it averaged just 8.9fps and in Lost Planet: Extreme Condition DirectX 10 version, with all DirectX 10 features turned on at a resolution of 1920x1200 it averaged just 5.7fps.
It's not surprising that the results aren't very high. This card only offers 256MB of GDDR3 memory with a 128-bit memory bus. It has a 120 stream processors as opposed to the 320 on the Radeon HD2900 XT, the core clock runs at 800MHz while its RAM runs at 1400MHz.
During the tests we checked the temperature of the large black heat sink that Gigabyte has placed on the card and it maxed out at around 47 degrees. At no point did the card falter due to heat and it remained blissfully quiet the whole time.