Introduction and Retail Packages
A lot of attention is paid to framerates when discussing graphics hardware, and rightfully so. Some argue that they are an outdated method for assessing a video card's performance, but when assessing a potential purchase, buyers need some way to determine why one card is superior to the other. We can talk about how a card "feels" during gameplay, but framerates quantify that performance. While framerates should not be your sole purpose for deciding on whether a particular graphics card is the right fit for your needs, they can be a useful tool for assessing the overall value of a product.
Case in point, back when reviewing an ASUS EN8800GTX in December, the card churned through everything we threw at it and when we teamed it up in an SLI configuration we continued to see great performance with any game we tried. However, once we ran some benchmarks, we found that our CPU was a bottleneck with just one card installed, proving that the second card would have been a waste of money on a computer system of that kind, yielding next to no performance gains. This was a useful demonstration of how a particular component can affect the peformance of a graphics card, and without framerate measurements, this would not have been as evident to the reader. There are a number of arguments that can be levied for or against benchmarking hardware and assessing performance, and it's not our intent to debate the topic in this article. We bring this up as something to keep in mind, as we'll see a good example of how framerates can appear to paint one picture, but when coupled with other factors, they can be an excellent tool for assessing the overall value of a product.
Today, we're going to take a look at three mainstream video cards. The first is the Sapphire HD 2400XT which is an ultra affordable videocard with some solid features. The next two models aim to deliver improved gaming performance while maintaining a respectable pricepoint that can appeal to a broad market, the Sapphire HD 2600Pro OC and the Sapphire HD 2600XT. We'll take a look at each model's feature set and performance to assess how each compares to its competition in the same class. At first the picture may seem conclusive, but as we break everything down at the end, you'll see how framerate came into play to paint a more complete performance picture.
Breaking down the retail packages, we find that all three cards are complemented with a similar collection of extras. For example, each model offers a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a Component Video for HD displays and an S-Video Connector. Both the Sapphire HD 2600XT and 2600Pro OC included installation manuals, drivers CDs and case badges, while the HD 2400XT lacked a drivers CD and case badge but did include a requisite installation guide. Both HD 2600 models also came equipped with CrossFire bridge clips while one is not necessary for the HD 2400XT.
As a whole, we found these mid-range to value-class graphics cards to come with a decent collection of necessary extras, however, those looking for bonus software will be disappointed. Ideally, a current copy of Power DVD or a decent game would be considered a bonus, but that wasn't in the cards with any of the three products.