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VisionTek Radeon HD 2400 Pro

Not everyone needs a high performance graphic card. Sometimes a budget graphic card can serve the baic needs and maybe even more provided that you don’t use the card for any gaming purpose. Join us as we take a look at VisionTek’s HD 2400 Pro, the budget card from ATI current line up, and see if this card would be an worthy card to upgrade to from your integrated graphics.

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INTRODUCTION

Despite the fact that we all wish to own the best graphic cards on the market, the reality is that not all of us can afford or need the top of the line 8800 GTX or HD 2900XT.  Many users are looking for a simple graphic card that does not cost a leg or an arm and offers a better performance than the integrated graphic that is included with their system.  Both NVIDIA and ATI have cards that will satisfy the need of the budget buyer.  We have looked at the NVIDIA’s 8500 GT and ATI HD 2600 XT and today we will take a look at the HD 2400 Pro from VisionTek.

 

The HD 2400 Pro is the lowest end of the ATI current graphic cards line up.  Bjorn3D has a comprehensive overview of all of the ATI current line ups at The HD2400 and HD2600  and HD2000 – The First GPU’s Under the AMD Name, so I will not repeat the same information again here.  If you need more information, please check out those two articles.  Let’s take a look at the actual card from VisionTek.

THE COMPANY

VisionTek is a leading supplier of 3D graphics cards and PC enhancement products to retailers and Consumers. Based out of Inverness, IL, VisionTek brings the most innovative and best performing products to the PC enthusiast consumer market. We are further committed to exemplary customer service and support for all of our products. VisionTek is a “Premium Retail Partner” of ATI for North America and our award winning brand of graphics card solutions continue to set the standard for excellence in the US retail market. VisionTek products can be found at Best Buy, Circuit City, COMP USA, Fry’s electronics, Micro Center, Wal-Mart and other leading retail/e-commerce sites in North America.

 

FEATURES AND SPECIFICATION

Gaming with DirectX® 10
The VisionTek HD 2400 Pro delivers a dramatic high-definition gaming experience with Windows Vista™ at up to twice the performance of integrated graphics.  Enhance your game play and experience sharper images, more textures, and the improved lighting effects that create lifelike interactivity and immersive realism enabled by DirectX® 10 support.

ATI Avivo™ HD Video & Media
The VisionTek HD 2400 Pro combines advanced HD video processing with cool, quiet and energy efficient operation that will delight a home theater enthusiast.  ATI Avivo™ HD technology provides hardware based H.264/VC-1 decoding of Blu-ray™ and HD DVD movies.

Ready for Windows Vista
The VisionTek HD 2400 Pro delivers a powerful performance upgrade from integrated graphics to enhance the stunning Windows Aero™ user interface. ATI Catalyst™ graphics management software is ready for Windows Vista™ and is designed for quick and easy setup of graphics, video and multiple displays.

ATI Avivo™ HD
 Introduces a breakthrough for the playback of Blu-ray and HD DVD discs.

ATI Radeon HD 2000 Series GPUs with ATI Avivo HD* technology offer advanced audio, video processing, display and connectivity capabilities for high definition entertainment solutions

ATI Avivo HD technology includes fully integrated high definition audio support enabling playback of multi-channel (5.1) audio streams and when combined with the integrated HDCP copy protection, enables a one cable HDMI connectivity solution to high definition home theaters

SPECIFICATION

  • Dynamic Game Computing Technology
    • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration
    • High-speed HDR (High Dynamic Range) rendering
    • Physics processing support
    • Up to 12X Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing
  • ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Technology
    • Built-in HDMI with Multi-channel 5.1 surround audio
    • Dual dual-link DVI with full resolution HDCP support
    • HD video playback
    • Optimized for Windows Vista with comprehensive DirectX 10 and DirectX 9 support
    • Open GL support
    • 2nd generation unified shader engine
    • Avivo HD display enhancement technology 
  • Detailed Specifications
    • 40 Unified Stream Processors
    • Memory path – 64-bit interface
    • GPU Clock – 520MHz
    • Memory Clock – 800MHz effective
    • Memory Size – 256MB Ultra High Speed DDR2
    • Connectors: HDMI, Dual link DVI-I, VGA
    • HDMI video and 5.1 audio supported 
  • Supported Operating Systems
    • Windows Vista (all versions)
    • Windows XP
    • Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Box Contents
    • VisionTek Radeon HD 2400 Pro graphics card
    • DVI to VGA adapter
    • Installation CD
    • Install Guide
  • System Requirements
    • Intel® Pentium® 4/III, Celeron™, AMD™Duron™/Athlon™/Athlon™ XP, or compatible with x16 PCI Express slot
    • 256MB of system memory (1GB+ recommended for Windows Vista)
    • Installation software requires CD-ROM drive
    • DVD playback requires DVD drive
    • Correct Chipset drivers
    • 270 watt or greater power supply
    • Single x16 PCI Express expansion slot 

CLOSER LOOK

The VisionTek card that we received features the stock speed of 525MHz for the core and 400MHz (800MHz effective) for the memory.  The card is packed with 256 MB of DDR2.  The PCB of the card is red and it is low-profile, but the included bracket and the connectors prevent installing the card to a low profile system.  It is possible to remove the bracket and the VGA connector since it is not soldered onto the PCB but rather connected through a ribbon.  There is a small fan attached to the front covering most of the PCB.

The ATI HD 2400 Pro virtually has all the latest technology like other top of the line ATI cards.  It is build with 65 nm process, supports DirectX 10, features 40 Stream Processing Units, 2 SIMDs, 1 Texture Unit, 1 Render Back-End, and Shared vertex/texture cache.  The VisionTek HD 2400 Pro also supports the latest ATI Avivo HD technology and ATI Unified Video Decoder (UVD), which provide hardware based H.264/VC-1 decoding of Blu-ray™ and HD DVD movies.

As far as connectors goes, VisionTek goes beyond most entry-level graphic card by including a dual-link DVI, a VGA connector, and a HDMI with 5.1 audio support.  I am especially glad to see HDMI connector on the card although somewhat disappointed to see just a single DVI but that’s fairly common in the entry level cards.  Having the HDMI puts the VisionTek HD 2400 Pro a great card for users who wish to use the card for high definition home entertainment PC.

Given to the fact that this is a budget card, it won’t be surprise to find that there’s not much accessories included.  We see that the card comes with a quick installation guide, a driver CD, and a guide to setup the HD audio.  As usual, the driver CD is outdated.  The driver CD comes with catalyst 7.5, which is older than the one on ATI’s website of 7.8.  So, do get the latest version over at www.ati.com.

TEST CONFIGURATION

System Configuration

Processor

Intel E6600 Core 2 Duo

Motherboard

EVGA nForce 680i SLI (BIOS P30)

Memory

Team Group TXDD2048M800HC4DC-D

Hard Drive

Seagate Barracuda Barracuda 7200.10 SATA ST3400620AS (16MB cache) 

 Western Digital WD2500KS-00MJB0 SATA (16MB cache)

Graphics Cards

VisionTek HD 2400 Pro (Catalyst 7.8)

Asus X1650 Pro (Catlyst 7.8)

Sound Card

Creative X-FI

Operating System

Windows XP SP2

Since I do not have any other comparable graphic card at the time of the review, I have decided to use slightly different way to test the HD 2400 Pro.  Rather than comparing the card with the X1650 Pro that I own, I have decided to benchmark the HD 2400 Pro at two of the most common resolutions for users who might be interested in purchasing this card may use, the 1024×768 and the 1280×1024.  These two resolution probably would be the most common resolution for users who might e interested in the card for either their 19” LCD and/or their 720p HD TV.  The benchmark would consists of various setting to see at which setting would the card offers a playable frame rates.

Software
3Dmark06 v1.10
Default setting
Company of Heroes.
SP Demo v1.5

All advanced setting off
Preset Setting, 0xAA
Preset Setting, 2xAA
Preset Setting, 4xAA

FEAR v1.08
Minimum Graphics
Low Graphics
Mid Graphics
High Graphics

Quake 4 v1.2: idnetdemo

 All advanced setting off
All adanced settings on except HD, 0xAA
All adanced settings on except HD, 2xAA
All adanced settings on except HD, 4xAA

RESULTS

3DMARKS06

Let’s start by look at the 3DMarks06.  Nothing really exciting to see here as it is expected to see the X1650 Pro to perform better than the HD 2400 Pro.

QUAKE

Quake4 was released to gaming world in 2005 the year after Doom 3 by Raven Software. It uses the highly touted Doom 3 engine in its operation which means it also functions with the OpenGL API during rendering. Quake 4 and Doom 3 are two highly valued benchmarks that have lost little popularity since their inception.

Setting for Quake with different AA.  All the settings are turned on except the “High quality special effects” and “Vertical Sync”.

With Quake, we can see that at 1024×768, the game is definitely playable if all the advanced settings are all turned off and maybe even with the settings turns on except the AA.  However, once we start cranking up the AA, the game becomes sluggish that the frame rate is simply too slow.  At 1280×1024, the game is only playable with the advance settings all off.

RESULTS, cont

F.E.A.R

F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is a first-person shooter game developed by Monolith Productions and released in October, 2005 for Windows. F.E.A.R. is one of the most resource intensive games in the FPS genre of games ever to be released. The game contains an integrated performance test that can be run to determine your system’s performance based on the graphical options you have chosen. The beauty of the performance test is that it gives maximum, average, and minimum frames per second rates and also the percentage of each of those categorical rates your system performed. F.E.A.R. rocks both as a game and as a benchmark!

Fear is running with the computer set to minimum and teh grahpic cards at different preset setting.

With F.E.A.R set at 1024×768, we can see that the HD 2400 Pro offers good fps when the graphics is set at minimum or low.  However, as soon as we change the graphics to mid level, the fps dropped significantly with average of 28 fps.

With F.E.A.R set at 1280×1024, I am slightly surprised to find that at minimum and low graphics, the game is still playable.  However, just like the 1024×768 resolution, as soon as we change the grphics to mid level, the fps is just unbearable.

COMPANY OF HEROES

Company of Heroes(COH) is a Real Time Strategy(RTS) game for the PC, announced on April, 2005. It is developed by the Canadian based company, Relic Entertainment, and published by THQ. We gladly changed from the first-person shooter based genres of the rest of our gaming benchmarks to this game which is RTS. Why? COH is an excellent game that is incredibly demanding on system resources thus making it an excellent benchmark. Like F.E.A.R. the game contains an integrated performance test that can be run to determine your system’s performance based on the graphical options you have chosen. It uses the same multi-staged performance ratings as does the F.E.A.R. test. We salute you Relic Entertainment!

Same result can be seen with the COH.  At 1024×768 and 1280×1024 resolution, the HD 2400 Pro is playable if the all the advance settings are either turned off or set to low but once we enabled the AA, the game yield low fps.

Summary

From the gaming benchmarks, we can see that the VisionTek HD 2400 Pro is able to offer a decent fps if all the advanced settings are either turned off or set to low at 1024×768 and 1280×1024.  Unfortunately, that’s not really what gamers want.  Gamers need a decent visual as well as good fps; otherwise, the whole gaming experience will not be enjoyable.  Keep in mind that Quake, CoH, and F.E.A.R. are not the most visual demanding games on the market today, thus despite the fact that these games are playable at low setting, the HD 2400 Pro maybe unable to offer a decent performance with the current game titles.  We have not even factoring the hardware demands of Windows Vista.  It is clearly that the HD 2400 Pro would not be the choice for even the casual gamers.

HD PLAYBACK

We can see that the HD 2400 Pro is really not designed for gamers.  Let’s take a look at whether or not the onboard UVD is able to offer at least some performance improvement with high definition contents playback.  Since I do not own a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player, I tested the card’s performance with high definition movie clips.  First I played the Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest encoded with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec at 720p and 1080p.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the PowerDVD to playback the movie clip encoded at 1080p, so I find another movie clip at Apple’s site, the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe encoded with H.264 at 1080p to do the 1080p test.

I am actually slightly surprised to find that with or without the GPU assisting the encoding, the CPU usage is about the same for the 720p.  Since the official H.264 AVC HD resolutions in real-time for the X1600 series is limited to 720p, I was expecting to see at least some assistance coming from the X1600.  The HD 2400 Pro, on the other hand, is able to utilize its dedicated unified video decoder (UVD) to further reduce the CPU usage on the average of 10% or lower.  One thing I did notice is that there are a lot of artifacts when I enabled the hardware encoding with the HD 2400 Pro, I think this is attributed to the immature driver with the HD 2400 Pro and hopefully ATI will fix this in their future driver release.  The X1650 Pro, on the other hand, plays the high definition content without any problem.

As I have mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get the Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest encoded at 1080p to run with the HD 2400 Pro when I enabled the hardware acceleration, so here we see the HD 2400 Pro data is missing.  We see that with the H.264 AVC encoded at 1080p, the X1650 Pro actually uses slightly less CPU power with the hardware encoding.  It is slightly surprising since the official H.264 AVC HD resolutions in real-time for the X1600 series is limited to 720p but I guess the X1650 Pro is still able to offer some help at 1080p.

With The Chronicles of Nardia encoded with H.264 at 1080p, we see that the X1650 Pro is able to assist the encoding and helps to reduce the CPU usage for about 10% lower when the hardware acceleration is enabled just like we have noticed earlier with the Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest .  The HD 2400 Pro, on the other hand, shows a drmatic reduction in the CPU usage.  The Intel E6600 is hovering around 10% with the HD 2400 Pro’s UVD enabled.  The new UVD of the HD 2400 Pro really shines when it comes to reduce CPU demands when playback the high definition contents and the last generation card cannot compete with the new and improved UVD.  This would make the HD 2400 Pro a good choice of card for htpc.

TEMPERATURE AND NOISE

The HD 2400 Pro runs at idle temperature of 52 °C and load temperature of 58 °C.  Despite the fact we see a fan attached to the card, it’s actually runs fairly quiet.  Since the fan on the card is dynamically controlled with the card’s load, it will spin up when the temperature is high.  During the test, I hardly notice any noise coming from the fan at all with my system consists of three 120mm case fans, a CPU fan, a PSU fan, and 680i chipset fan.  Even when I use ATITools to set the fan to 100%, the noise is still not too loud with my system setup, though you definitely do notice the added noise.  It’s nice to see the temperure of the card running under 60 °C with near silent noise; however, given to the fact that this card is not really designed for any hardcore gaming, it actually would even be better if VisionTek can design a fanless card as that would be a much desired product for htpc.

CONCLUSION

The VisionTek 2400 Pro is really not designed for any gamers out there, unless you only play Tetrix or Solitaire on your computer or play games at low resolution.  What it would be good is for viewing the HD contents.  Using the build-in UVD will greatly reduce the CPU usage so it would be a great candidate to put the card with older processor and set it up as a HTPC.  In addition, the included the HDCP supported DVI and the included HDMI connector (which is seldom found at this level of the cards) would definitely make it a great card for the high definition screen or LCD monitors.

The VisonTek HD 2400 Pro usually can be found at your local Circuit City, although we all know that the price tag at retail store is usually much more expensive than various online stores.  Over at Circuit City, the card’s retail price is $129.99 and I found the card is selling at Amazon.com for $84.99.  Both prices are way too expensive for this card as you can get GeForce 8500 GT for about $60 or HD 2600 Pro/GeForce 8600GT for about $100~$120, both offer much better gaming power and have the same or similar video encoding ability.  Given to the fact that it has included the HDMI, I would say if the card is selling at approximately $10~$15 higher than other similar performance cards, then the VisionTek HD 2400 Pro would definitely be a good choice for a HTPC setup.  Bottom line, the VisionTek HD 2400 Pro is a card for uers who are not into gaming but prefer to take the advantage of the HDMI and UVD for the HTPC if you can find it at $50~$60 price tag.

The VisionTek HD 2400 Pro will receive a score of  6.5 (Pretty Good) out of 10.  This card would be a good choice for htpc with the included HDMI and UVD.

 

Pros:

+  HDMI
+  HDCP capable dual-link DVI
+  Great card for HTPC
+  AVIVO, UVD
+  Runs cool and quiet
+  Quiet

Cons:

-  Expensive
-  No accessories or bundles
-  Games only playable under low resolution or poor detail setting

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