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Do you have $xxx to spend on a video card?

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Cerberus2k7

Drifto Mexicano
Joined
Feb 15, 2004
Location
Morris, IL
Have $xxx to spend on a video card?

Video cards can be a love/hate relationship when it comes to the two main companies (ATi and nVidia), and they often switch it up for the #1 spot with each new release. So which cards should you go for? Which cards should you avoid? Should you save up a little bit and get an even better card? What about the new technologies? Hopefully this will give you some clarification. I realize that the prices do change, which is why I gave a broad price range, and I will be updating as much as possible to keep this up to date. If you need specific information on a card, look no further than 9mmCensors Video Card thread Here.

If you decide to overclock and you fry your card, it is YOUR fault. Do not try to RMA a card that you killed by Overclocking, voltmodding, or doing any other external or internal modification that you read about on this site or anywhere else. I as well as Overclockers.com and OCForums.com are not responsible if you kill your card.

The prices are going to go from highest to lowest, and there will be a gamers and designers section. I will include both ATi and nVidia cards, as well as some pros and cons where possible. If you have any of these cards and wish to add your $.02, feel free to post.


Companies: There are many companies that produce video cards, but not all are equal. Some overclock better than others, and some are faster right out of the box, for ATi, companies you can be safe with in terms of overclocking are BBA (Built by ATi), Sapphire Tech, and PowerColor. nVidia users can be safe with Gainward, Leadtek, MSI, BFG, and PNY.

Image Quality: Image Quality, or also referred to as “IQ” is a very touchy subject when it comes to ATi and nVidia. ATi in general will have slightly better IQ when it comes to their newest cards (X800 line) for the most part, and the older 9800 pros pretty much have better IQ than the comparable FX line hands down. Generally it ends up as a flame war, but something you should look into if you are into the overall quality and look of the game.


Gamers Cards


If money is no object…

ATi: The X1800XT line is the current dream card from ATi… For now. ;) Clock speeds are pushing 625/1.5GHz! as opposed to their last model which was running around 540/1180, the X1850XT is the card to have if you want all the girls in the yard!
Pros: Lightning fast, PCI-E flava, 512megs of RAM, HDTV/S-Video/Composite Out capability, good stock cooling for overclocking.
Cons: Expensive! Not as fast as the equal nVidia counterpart in SLI mode.
Overclocking: I’ve checked a few threads but nothing that I can really comment on. Although it seems like people are giving a 60mhz increase on clock speeds.
Core: R520XT

nVidia: For nVidia lovers, the 7800GTX 512mb is the way to go. Pushing clock speeds of around 580/1750, these cards are often found pushing the highest FPS in most games. Also look to put these cards in SLI for the ultimate gaming experience!
Pros: Generally Dual DVI connections for best picture, Pixel Shaders 3.0, UltraShadow II to give a more realistic look to the game.
Cons: As of right now, I haven’t really seen any that cause major concern. Anyone have some input?
Overclocking: nVidia is known for having insane overclocks on their cards, and the 6800 line is no different. You can expect to see overclocks around 8-15% over stock speeds.
Core: NV4x

In the $350-450 range...

ATi:

•AGP:The x850XT/PE is the winner for the AGP category, with clock speeds in the 475/900 range, this is the little brother of the X800XT/PE line.
Pros: Single Slot cooling solution, overclocks to XT speeds, Available with VIVO/HDTV capability.
Cons: 4 crippled pipelines that can be unlocked(see below for more information), a little more money compared to their nVidia counterpart.
Overclocking: This card is a really good overclocker, hitting XT speeds, this card can save you $100+ if you don’t want to shell out for an XT. But a word of caution, this card has 4 crippled pipelines that CAN be unlocked. Sounds good at first, but if you do softmod this card to be an XT and unlock the extra pipes, your card can become unstable and die within the first few months of flashing it.
Core: R480

•PCI-E: The x1800XL can be had in PCI-E flava for this price and is truely a killer deal.
Pros: Well, it's a X1800XL. Which can confuse most and make them think it's the XT so they think you have the most bitchin' card around. ;) Running 500/1000 on average, this card will be able to handle pretty much every game you throw at it.
Cons: Honestly, this card has all the bases covered. If anything, people may be dissapointed with its overclockability.
Overclocking: As I said above, this may be considered a bad thing for some as like the R360 cores, overclocking tend to be hit and miss.
Core: R520

nVidia: Best card would be the 7800GTX 256mb. This is the little brother of the Stock clocks are around 350/1000, and usually end up at or past Ultra speeds(400/1100)
Pros: Overclocks to Ultra speeds in most cases, single slot cooling solution, requires only 1 molex connector, many people are saying it’s simply an underclocked Ultra.
Cons: Crippled VPU can push customers away. More information Here.
Overclocking: It has been mentioned before that this card overclocks like a mad man, and it does. Making this card a great contender for the Ultras and even gives the X800XTs a run for their money.
Core: NV4x

In the $250-350 range…

ATi: This can be a very odd choice for some people, because ATi has both an AGP as well as a PCI-E card that will fit this price range well. So here it goes…

•AGP: Goes to the 9800Pro 256mb 256bit. This card has been around for a while, but still does its job well, overclocking to the 9800XT speeds, and ability to flash to XT BIOS for added performance, it makes this card perfect for anyone looking for a mid/upper level card.
Pros: High chance of getting the r360 cores which are used on the 9800XT line, thus giving the card tighter mem timings and XT speeds. Probably considered the best bang for the buck card along with its 128mb brother.
Cons: There aren’t really any cons for this card, just watch out for the 128bit cards. They will severely limit the performance of the card.
Overclocking: As I said before, this card can overclock to XT speeds almost every time, put this card on water and then see what she can do. OCForums member Rhino56 has a very nice 9800Pro on his hands right now. Currently holding a 3DMark record! Congrats to Rhino56!

•PCI-E: Goes to the X700 line. A new card from ATi that is supporting the PCI-E interface looks very promising for those who still need to upgrade.
Pros: From what I can see, this card is very young and so there is not much information regarding the benefits of this card besides the fact that this card is available with VIVO.
Cons: The 128bit mem bus on this card is very limiting. Although it does have 256megs of RAM, the memory bus seems to really cripple this card from its full potential.
Overclocking: As I said before, this card is very young, so information is scarce. Although I have seen this card with an 8% increase over the stock speeds of 420/860.

nVidia: The 6800NU fits well in this category due to its already near GT speeds, this card is clocked at 325/700, and has great potential for flashing to GT.
Pros: Low price and high performance, single slot cooling, requires one molex connector, 256bit mem bus.
Cons: Aside from power consumption, the main con in the whole 6800 line is a buggy video processor. Which means every AGP and bridged PCI-E 6800 card will have little to no video acceleration. Why is this bad? Because it is NOT fixable with a simple driver update. Interested in HDTV running on this card? This little problem this card has might force you to go up one level or turn to ATi. Interested in learning more about this drawback? There is a nice write up about it Here.
Overclocking: With this cards clock speeds set as it right out of the box, it is not uncommon for people to flash the BIOS on these cards and run them as 6800GTs. Meaning you will have all 16pipes and 6 shaders opened. For more information on flashing the 6800 cards, you can read CandyManCans thread on it Here.

In the $150-250 range…

ATi: The 9800Pro 128mb 256bit is the best card for this range. Giving great IQ, and at 380/680, its not uncommon for this card to be seen reaching XT speeds, this card is often a hands down choice when picking a new video card.
Pros: Handles all of the newest games with decent frame rates, can be flashed to XT speeds and timings, You can also get the r360 cores on this card, single slot cooling solution.
Cons: There is a 128meb 128bit version of this card out, which has caused a lot of confusion. The 128bit version is fairly slower than the 256bit version. Easy way to tell if it’s a 128bit version and you don’t want to read, the heatsink is generally black on the 128bit versions, while the 256bit cards have the brushed aluminum heatsink. But pictures can be wrong, so make sure you do read the specs.
Overclocking: This card, like it’s 256mb big brother can reach XT speeds, and is still very much suffice for all of the latest games.

nVidia: Once again, we have two cards that fit this category! The 6600GT AGP and its twin; the 6600GT PCI-E both fit this price range, giving high frame rates and overclocking goodness, either card is a promising choice for their platforms.

6600GT AGP:
Pros: Single Slot cooling solution, one molex connector required, Pixel Shaders 3.0.
Cons: Also has a 128bit mem bus like its PCI-E twin, lack of SLI due to its AGP interface makes this card ranked just below the PCI-E version.
Overclocking: After a quick review, it is seen that the only real difference between the two cards is the interface. Overclocking will be in the same ballpark as its PCI-E twin which makes these cards a deadly duo.

6600GT PCI-E:
Pros: HDTV options available, good card if you want a cost effective SLI solution, single slot cooling.
Cons: 128bit mem bus, although it can be evened out through SLI.
Overclocking: At stock, this card already has very high clock speeds which are around 500/1000, although the 128bit bus hurts it, the overclocking ability and SLI capability of this card really make up for it.

Now it’s time to get down to the real budget cards…

In the $100-150 price range…

ATi: For this category, the 9800NP best fits due to its low price, yet ability to hit pro and XT speeds.
Pros: Overclocking goodness to hit pro/XT speeds at a fraction of the cost.
Cons: the 128bit mem bus will still make you lag in intensive games for loading textures.
Overclocking: The whole 9800 line is very promising when it comes to overclocking, with the NP/Pros reaching XT speeds and running XT BIOS. For more information, check out DDR-PIIIs thread on flashing the 9800 line Here.

nVidia:For nVidia I would have to go with the FX5700NU 128bit in this area. While this card came out late in the game, it allowed nVidia to fix their DX9 hiccup which is found in most of the older FX cards. They did this while maintaining a solid 425/500 clock speed, this card also handles DX9 well compared to the earlier FX line.
Pros: 128bit mem bus ensures that this card keeps up with its speed, giving great bang for the buck value for those interested in the DX9 eye candy.
Cons: There is also a 64bit brother to this card out on the market so do not get confused, Like the 9800pro confusion, this card can also cause a headache if you don’t read carefully.
Overclocking: This card can really spread its wings. Meeting up with the 5700U line and being able to keep up with the 5700Us in overclocking makes this card a no-brainer when looking for a zippy gaming card.

In the $50-100 price range…

ATi: The 9600Pro is a great card. With DX9 capabilities and an average 400/400 clock speed, this card will be able to carry you through Half Life 2.
Pros: DX9 support, 128bit mem bus, AIW options available.
Cons: There really are no real cons for this card other than it’s not as fast as the top of the line cards, but look at the price. :D
Overclocking: I have seen this card get an extra 100mhz on core and even more just with stock cooling, slap a VGA silencer on this bad boy and you are set for anything Valve throws at you.

nVidia: Both the GeForce4 Ti4200 and the GeForce4 Ti4800 are both great cards to choose from. Somewhat more outdated than the early FX line, but this card still surpasses the FX5200s and then some.
Pros: Both cards will boast above average frame rates, and can still put a smile on your face with the newer games.
Cons: Not DX9. Although you can force the card to run in DX9, you wont get the added features of it.
Overclocking: Both cards are known to be overclocking Gods. With the Ti4200 known to reach Ti4800+ speeds on average, these two cards are a tag team that can push the limits on the 9800s.

If you want to spend less than $50 on a card, I don’t recommend it. I say save up until you can find a cheap Ti4200 or something along the lines. Most OCForum members will agree on this.



Designer Cards



Well, Toto, it looks like were not in Kansas anymore… Out of the playground we start to look into the big boy toys, so get on your drool bibs. These babies will push any OpenGL app out of the way and do it in style. And making your wallet non-existent…So you say to yourself, 3Ds who? Photoshopper? Wah? Where is my CS:S?! :cry: These cards are designed for the folks who do 3D render, AutoCAD, or any other types of graphic design, both on a 2D and 3D scale. And don’t get smart with me saying that this “3D” is really 2D because it is a 3D representation presented on a 2D screen. I will slap you. *Coughs* ANYWYAS…There are also two new contenders to the scene. 3DLabs as well as Matrox, so let the games begin!

If money is no object…

3DLabs: The Wildcat Realizm 800 PCI-E card is as good as it gets. Someone says to you, “I gotz da X800 n it has 256megabitz of memoryz!!1one” you have the bragging rights of slapping them and saying, “Well I have a Wildcat Realizm 800 PCI-E, and it has 640megabites of DDR3 memory.” You heard right folks. This card has 640megs of memory! This card will put your system memory to shame! So why so much memory? Easy. Memory allows us to view more textures without having to page the hard drive, thus keeping game performance running smoothly. But why so much?! Like I said, these are designer cards. And when you are trying to make your way around a 500,000+ polygon scene full of materials and refractions, it will put a serious strain on your normal gaming cards, but this puppy will blow through those viewports with ease.
Pros: 640megs of DDR3 memory, PCI-E, Dual Video Processing Units(VPUs), fully programmable graphic accelerators.
Cons: Noise. This card is very loud due to its dual VPUs, and long also. A blower on this card is designed to keep it cool and exhaust the hot air out of the case ala VGA Silencers. Price. Currently this card is pushing the $2500.00 range so it’s not for the faint of heart. Size, this card is very long, so if you’re someone who is running a workstation in a mid-size tower, do NOT expect this card to fit.
Overclocking: Well, overclocking is NOT recommended for designer cards unless you start to get into the lower budget cards that mainly double as gamer cards, but have great OpenGL capability. So until I hit those spots, I shall leave out the overclocking section.

ATi: The FireGL X3 comes to mind when I think 3D. Most gamer cards are designed for DirectX, but these cards are designed for OpenGL. Hence the “GL” in “FireGL”.
Pros: Much cheaper than the 3DLabs card, pushing the $800-850 range, these cards still pack a punch.
Cons: ATi is known for being weak in the OpenGL area. While the FireGL line is their attempt at making up for it, it still lags behind everyone else in most benchmarks.

Matrox: For these little guys, the Parhelia PH-A8X256 is their best card. Mainly geared towards photoshop and other 2D work, these cards are the best you can get for 2D.
Pros: 256megs of RAM really help this card zip through photoshop, while not the best for games and other 3D work, these cards are the 2D versions of the 3DLabs Realizm 800, the price is also great for these cards, ranging $500-550, these cards are an easy solution for magazine companies, as well as web designers.
Cons: NOT DX9 capable. While this isn’t a huge drawback to the card, it can still be a bad thing for the newer programs that are being designed for DX9.

nVidia: Finally a familiar face again. nVidia is known to be outstanding when it comes to workstation cards and OpenGL, which is why their lower line gamer cards are still used today as workstation cards. But there is also a specialized workstation card by nVidia that goes by the name “Quadro” which is why they own this spot with their Quadro FX3400 PCI-E.
Pros: PCI-E gives you the added bandwidth for textures, DX9, if needed to be, it can double as a gaming card, OpenGL Quad-Buffered Stereo! Ok, this confused many people, so let me try to explain it. Basically Stereoscopy is also known as “3D”, Virtual reality pretty much. Where there are two separate images layered on top of each other at different angles for your left and right eye, which tricks the user into thinking the image has depth, therefore adding the third dimension, or virtual reality. So what does this mean in short? This card has the capability to double as a virtual reality projector, adding that next step of technology to consumers.
Cons: If this card has any cons, it would be the price tag, while the price certainly fits the performance and features, some people still can’t fathom spending around $1200.00 for a workstation card.


This is still a work in progress, and I will finish this up when I gain my insanity back. Or are the pink hippos really there? Wait…what?
 
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Cerberus2k7

Cerberus2k7

Drifto Mexicano
Joined
Feb 15, 2004
Location
Morris, IL
Ahh...I didnt know the X850 was out yet. Thought that wasnt for another 2 weeks or so. I'll add that in a bit. Thanks. :D
 

Avg

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
I think it was released with the other cards, but I'll bet it's going to be a while before we see any of these for sale.
 

Avg

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Spyd3r said:
Hey good write up man. But where's the 6600GT AGP as a good alternative to the 9800Pro?
It's there, the last card on the list.
 

zabomb4163

Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2002
"In the $250-350 range…
ATi: This can be a very odd choice for some people, because ATi has both an AGP as well as a PCI-E card that will fit this price range well. So here it goes…
•AGP: Goes to the 9800Pro 256mb 256bit."

mind linking some benchmarks of your 9800pro for me? I want to compare it to my 6800. I'd just like to see a benchmark the 9800 256 wins. thats all.
 
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Cerberus2k7

Cerberus2k7

Drifto Mexicano
Joined
Feb 15, 2004
Location
Morris, IL
I just gave PCI-E as well as AGP because more and more people are going PCI-E, and I don't want to leave them out :p
 

speed bump

Member
Joined
May 11, 2004
Location
Montana tech Butte mt.
Yeah why is the $250 to $350 range go to the 9800pro 256meg? I am pretty sure that a 6800LE or a 6800nu would be do alot better and you have a chance of unlocking atleast the 6 vertex shaders if not the other 4 pipes to get close to a GT.

By the way several people on the forums have done better than 2k more than any 9800pro has ever done in 3dmark03.
 
OP
Cerberus2k7

Cerberus2k7

Drifto Mexicano
Joined
Feb 15, 2004
Location
Morris, IL
speed bump said:
Yeah why is the $250 to $350 range go to the 9800pro 256meg? I am pretty sure that a 6800LE or a 6800nu would be do alot better and you have a chance of unlocking atleast the 6 vertex shaders if not the other 4 pipes to get close to a GT.

By the way several people on the forums have done better than 2k more than any 9800pro has ever done in 3dmark03.

I'm adding ATi and nVidia options. I want this to be as unbias as possible.
 

CandymanCan

Disabled
Joined
Aug 14, 2003
Location
Woodbridge, Va
Only thing i notice that you can add in the Cons for the 6800's. All of them have a problem where the Video processor doesnt work. The 6600's solve this problem but to me that a big con on the 6800.


Also the 6600GT AGP is better then the 6800LE in terms of perormance in that price range.

In the 250-350$ range where is the 6800NU or the 6800GT 128mb.


I agree the thread should be sticky, i comend you for making a thread like this its just ganna have to be constantly updated, something i hope you are willing to do.
 
OP
Cerberus2k7

Cerberus2k7

Drifto Mexicano
Joined
Feb 15, 2004
Location
Morris, IL
Alright thanks. Starting on the revision and I shall be adding the 6600GT AGP as well as the 6800NU. And oh i'm willing. :D Learning too ^_^
 
OP
Cerberus2k7

Cerberus2k7

Drifto Mexicano
Joined
Feb 15, 2004
Location
Morris, IL
geh...completely left out the nV cards in that $250 section! :bang head oh well, at least I have some of my instanity back so I can keep pushing to get this puppy to the green light :D

NM, I got it all sorted. :D
 
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