The benchmark results posted by the Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate 256MB card ranged from good to very good, depending on the game tested. Usually, this hinged on the game's vintage, and although the Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate certainly didn't embarrass itself even with older benchmarks, it compete more against the top of the entry-level market. The Sapphire card offers more competitive performance scores with newer games like Lost Planet and Crysis, where it moves up a grade to the GeForce 8600 GTS and Radeon X1950 Pro level.
The Sapphire card also performed extremely well in terms of real-world use, and its cooling solution was rock-solid throughout all testing. Ambient heat was also not an issue, and after awhile, we even forgot we were testing a fanless design. The Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB GDDR3 offers a lot of DirectX 10 goodness for its price range, and the fanless Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate maintains that, while dropping the noise.
Sapphire offers a standard Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB card that hovers right around the $100 mark, while the Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate is expected to be anywhere from $10-$20 more expensive. This places it in a very good price-performance location, competing against a range of entry-level and mainstream video cards. Video cards like the GeForce 8500 GT 256MB ($75), GeForce 7600 GS 256MB ($80), Radeon HD 2600 Pro 256MB ($80), GeForce 7600 GT 256MB ($95), GeForce 8600 GT 256MB ($110), and GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB ($150) are its natural enemies. Overall, the Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate stacks up quite well, offering very competitive performance for the price.
* Please note that online prices are taken at the time of review, and are not intended to reflect long-term trends. Retail models are used when possible, and only OEM where noted.
The Sapphire HD 2600 XT Ultimate 256MB is an interesting combination of mainstream performance and low-noise/power-savings, all in a relatively low-cost package. It does exactly what it is supposed to, offer performance equivalent to a standard Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB GDDR3 card, while dropping the cooling fan and its ambient noise. The mainstream range is where the Sapphire Ultimate design works the best, as these graphics processors are most likely to meld easily with a fanless design, especially the 65nm Radeon HD 2600 XT. It makes a great match for small form factor or low-noise desktop systems, and Sapphire has introduced a very competitive video card for the discerning mainstream buyer.