For testing power consumption we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 5 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running through 3DMark 2006.
If there is one place that the new AMD HD series cards shine it’s in power consumption. Idling in at less than 100w is the HD 2400 XT, which is the lowest power draw we’ve tested on any recent video card! At load the HD 2600 XT has a lower power draw than everything else tested except for the other two HD series cards.
As much as the NVIDIA GeForce 8600 line was a disappointment to gaming enthusiasts on a budget, the AMD HD 2400 and 2600 lines are even more so. Although they offer a great feature set including DirectX 10 capabilities, performance is often times below their last generation of cards on current DX 9 games.
The true value of the HD series is in DirectX 10 gaming and HD AVIVO. While it’s still too early to tell how they will perform in the blockbuster titles due out later this year, the fact that you can’t play those upcoming titles in all their glory on a X1000 series card is enough to warrant a look at the low cost and these low wattage video cards. Also consider the HD series range in price from just $85-$130 and supports hardware acceleration of HD-DVD and Blue-Ray, you realize these cards are a great feature board that can also do a bit of light gaming.
Indeed, if you’re looking for high-end gaming performance on a budget, you’d be best served looking at an 8600 GTS. For those that can afford to spend $250 the 8800 GTS 320MB is our overwhelming recommendation for someone who wants high-end performance at a relatively low cost.
We saw how little power the new HD cards draw in the above charts and that goes hand in hand with low noise heatsink and fan solutions, as well as low heat. Not once were any of these three cards loud enough to be objectionable. These three areas are always very important for those shopping for an updated HTPC card, and AMD delivers.
With the future of gaming still on hold for the most part, pending games like Crysis and Alan Wake that promise to knock your socks off, it’s hard to recommend that anyone buy a DirectX 10 video card solely for that particular functionality at this point. Rumors are swirling about new high-end video cards from NVIDIA later this year, which will undoubtedly drop the prices on the current 8800 series and AMD’s HD 2900 XT so our recommendation is to wait. If on the other hand your PC is used more as a media center and less as an instrument of gaming warfare then the HD 2400 or HD 2600 are right up your alley.
Legit Bottom Line: ATI’s low cost and low power DirectX 10 solutions have arrived. With a great list of features including hardware HD video decoding, they are long on value but come up a little short on gaming performance.