We've long been fans of passively cooled mid-range graphics cards here at the TrustedReviews offices. As well as being a simple step towards creating a quiet PC for the office/games room, they're the perfect addition to Home Theatre PCs (HTPCs). They not only ensure silent operation while playing a DVD or watching TV, they also provide the horsepower to play games on your HDTV - after all, why play FIFA 07 on your poky little computer screen when you can sit back in your favourite chair and play it on your huge TV?!
It comes as no surprise then that the passively cooled XFX Fatal1ty 8600 GT, that I looked at last week, received a recommended award. Its looks, performance, and of course silence were all suitably impressive and we'd have been happy to have one populating our Media Center any day. However, today I'm looking at what can only be considered a direct rival to the XFX card, the MSI RX2600XT.
Based on ATI's HD 2600 XT graphics chip coupled with 512MB of GDDR3 memory and priced at £95.14 (guideline price), the RX2600XT is around £10 cheaper than the XFX Fatal1ty 8600 GT and carries a very similar feature set. Both cards have similar gaming performance (which we'll look at in detail later), dedicated video decoding engines, two dual-link DVI outputs, and large passive heatsinks. Of course there are some subtle - and some not so subtle - differences but essentially it's a straight out fight between the two.
The MSI RX2600XT comes packaged in a surprisingly large box considering the size of the card. Thankfully it's not just empty space filling the gaps and the card is well supported by a substantial block of foam rubber. The rest of the box's contents are less well catered for and rattle around inside but as the various cables and dongles aren't vulnerable this shouldn't cause too much concern.