Asus EAH2600 PRO/HTDP/256M review
Top-end graphics can be hard to recommend. Not only because of price, but because high-end cards tend to fair badly in terms of noise and power requirements. Nvidia’s 8800 GTX, for example, needs twin PCI Express power connectors.
So it’s good to know that manufacturers aren’t neglecting the lower end. The Asus 2600 Pro costs just over £50, doesn’t require any external power, and is whisper quiet, thanks to Asus’ custom heatsink and fan. Asus claims the new cooler lowers the temperature on the core GPU by 20 degrees against the reference design. That’s helped by the GPU itself – it’s a 65nm part, and runs at a lowly 600MHz, making it easier to cool. There’s also 256MB of GDDR2 RAM, running at 1GHz.
The 2600 Pro has good media-centre credentials, too. Both of its DVI ports are HDCP-enabled, and the card includes an integrated 5.1 HD audio controller with AC3 support, so you can run audio over an HDMI cable via a DVI-to-HDMI converter. As well as the twin dual-link DVI ports, there’s a 7-pin TV-out port, although the only cable included is component video.
As is only fair to expect of a budget card, our 3D tests were a mixed lot, but suggest that if you can live without the highest resolutions and detail settings, the 2600 Pro will perform well. Call of Duty 2 at its lowest, 1,024 x 768 setting, ran at a respectable average of 35fps. Even Call of Juarez produced an average of 22fps.
But bumping the settings up made the limitations of the 2600 all too apparent. Call of Duty 2 at its medium, 1,280 x 1,024 settings, staggered along at 17fps, before crashing to the ground at 11fps at our toughest, 1,600 x 1,200 test. Likewise, Call of Juarez ran at just 11fps at 1,280 x 1,024, and merely 4fps at 1,600 x 1,200.
If you don’t want to spend more, the 2600 Pro is a decent card, and if you’re looking for something to give a quiet living-room PC a little gaming potential, it’s worth a look. It has its limitations, but when you’re getting DirectX 10 hardware for this price, you should be able to live with them.