Of course, this talk of passive coolers, video decoding, and audio pass throughs is all very well but if the RX2600XT can't pull its weight in games it's all a bit academic. So, without further ado let's look at how it performs.
To put the performance scores in perspective we compared it to five other cards for which we already had comparable results - a Radeon HD 2600 XT, a Radeon HD 2600 Pro, a GeForce 8600 GTS, a GeForce 8600 GT, and of course the XFX Fatal1ty 8600 GT. We tested the 3D performance of each card by running our usual set of benchmarks on our standard test bed, the details of which are in the table below. Bar Company of Heroes, these all run using our in-house pre-recorded timedemos taken in the most intense sections of each game. For Company of Heroes we use the in-game graphics benchmark, which we’ve found gives a good representation of the performance of the game.
As these cards are all less than £150 it is unlikely you will be combining them with a 24inch (or higher), £400+, monitor, so we’ve stuck to resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 which represent more common 17/19/20inch monitors. Each resolution is run with 0x FSAA with trilinear filtering, 2x FSAA with 4x AF and 4x FSAA with 8x AF, while all other in-game and driver options are kept to their maximum. Each setting is then run three times and the average is taken, for reproducible and accurate results.
Call of Duty 2 is traditionally a weak spot for ATI's cards and the RX2600XT hasn't bucked this trend. Having said that, none of the cards really exhibit playable framerates at any of our tested resolutions so you will need to lower in-game settings to play this game satisfactorily.
Counter-Strike:Source is a very fast paced game so we like to see an average of at least 60fps before we'd be happy playing. Unfortunately, the RX2600XT only manages this at 1, 280x 1,024 0xAA. Once again the 8600 GT and 8600 GTS cards come out on top, where it counts, as they can deliver the framerates we require at 1,280 x 1,024 with 2xAA.
In contrast to the other games tested, Company of Heroes really seems to take advantage of the extra stream processors present on ATI's cards as they consistently lead the pack by some margin. And, as Company of Heroes can happily be played at around 30fps, all the settings we tested at will be just about playable on the RX2600 XT.
The MSI RX2600XT ticks all the multimedia boxes you could wish for while maintaining a solid level of gaming performance and it's all wrapped up in a completely silent package. If you're looking for shear gaming performance, the XFX Fatal1ty 8600 GT may be your best bet but for its multimedia capabilities the RX2600XT would get my vote everytime.