When the Radeon 2600 XT was released, it was met with a lukewarm response from the PC community. Available in the $150 neighborhood when it was new, the 2600 XT GDDR3 was in Radeon X1950 PRO and GeForce 7900 GS territory - both of which are notably more powerful when it comes to gaming. The 2600 XT's gaming performance is comparable to that of the 7600 GT and X1650 XT, both of which could be found for under $125 at the time. And the higher-speed GDDR4 version of the 2600 XT was even more expensive, with little to show for the price increase in the way of extra performance.
On the positive side, the 2600 XT GDDR3 was going head-to-head with the GeForce 8600 GT Compare Prices on GeForce 8600 GT Video Cards. While both cards were priced a bit high considering their gaming performance, they are among the first mainstream video cards with DirectX 10 support and full HD video acceleration. These features appeal to people who are looking forward to HD video and DirectX 10 gaming.
As we approach the end of 2007, we can see the 2600 XT's pricing position has changed dramatically. Models can be found on Newegg for as low as $100 - which is even cheaper than the old-budget trench fighter, the 7600 GT.
But when you look closely at the low-priced 2600 XTs, you'll notice something a tad troubling: the memory speed on these cards is usually 700 MHz GDDR3. This is 100 MHz slower than the reference GDDR3 2600 XTs that were tested at the 2600 XT's launch. It also represents a more than 10% decrease in memory speed.
(To add to the confusion, Nvidia's partners have released DDR2 versions of the GeForce 8600 GT to the market. These cards have a huge 30% memory speed penalty compared to the reference 8600 GT. This has a significant impact on performance. Happily, true 8600 GTs with 800 MHz GDDR3 can still be had for as little as $115.)
So with all of this in mind, how does the new, cheaper and slower Radeon 2600 XT compare to the reference 8600 GT with fast GDDR3 memory? Is the new 2600 XT a great buy at $100, or is it a crippled part that smart buyers should avoid?
Let's have a look at two examples of the 2600 XT, examine their features and assess their gaming performance compared to their arch enemy, the 8600 GT GDDR3.