The ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT was meant to enter the market in two flavors, with GDDR3 memory and with high-frequency and faster GDDR4. However, even the latter version couldn’t surpass the Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT due to the bottlenecks in the architecture of the new RV630 graphics processor. Being superior to the opposing G84 core in sheer computing power, the RV630 is greatly limited by having only eight texture and four raster processors, which affects its performance at high resolutions and with enabled full-screen antialiasing.
The next model in AMD/ATI’s graphics product line-up is ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, but the technical characteristics of this graphics card are far superior to those of the RV630-based solutions. The gap between the two families has diminished somewhat after the release of the ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro, yet it’s still quite large because the new card is selling at over $200.
This vacuum is to be filled by the dual-chip Radeon HD 2600 X2 but all previous attempts to promote such solutions on the market have been unsuccessful. They were regarded as rare exotics in the best case. Otherwise they would be completely forgotten like the Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2. The reasons are many, particularly the high manufacturing cost due to the use of a complex PCB, two GPUs and a double amount of memory chips. There are compatibility issues, too. While classic single-chip graphics cards guarantee maximum performance in every game, a dual-chip solution depends heavily on the support of multi-GPU technology in the driver and on the specifics of the particular game engine.
So, until the arrival of new GPUs from ATI that would make a good foundation for building classic single-chip solutions capable of competing with the GeForce 8600 GTS and with Nvidia’s upcoming mainstream solutions, AMD/ATI’s partners can do nothing but release overclocked versions of Radeon HD 2600 XT. Considering the support for GDDR4 memory which can be clocked at very high frequencies and the good frequency potential of the RV630 core, this can indeed lead to appealing products. One of them, produced by MicroStar International, is going to be reviewed in this article. Let’s see if it can match the performance of the GeForce 8600 GTS.