The Thousand Dollar Video Card

You can read the details here. Essentially, it’s a high-end video card with water cooling.

Well, I suppose it’s better to relieve with too much money of their burden than cocaine. 🙂

Foreveryone else, seems to be you could get a water-cooling system that would cool the other needy parts of the computer, plus the computer itself, for little more than this card.

When Does It Stop Helping?

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask, “What would this do for me?” For that matter, this is a question that should start to be asked about video cards, period.

As we’ve mentioned a number of times before, video card manufacturers seem hellbent on having a very expensive first-class of video cards, and below a certain price point, they no longer sell older first-class cards, but rather cards designed to be second-class from the getgo.

This puts gamers on a budget in a quandary. They ask themselves, “Do I have to get the latest and greatest just to stay competitive, or can I kill just as well without all the possible eye candy?

It’s clear that for some gaming situations, improvement in hardware will yield improvement in gaming performance. If you have a GF2, and playing a relatively recent game, you’re likely facing some real handicaps.

But what would be good enough to get rid of the handicap? No doubt you’d do better with A Ti4200. But how much higher would your scores be with a Radeon 9700? An FX5900? At what point does spending more money only get you eye candy?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting and paying for eye candy. What isn’t so good is paying a ton expecting to be able to perform better, and getting just eye candy instead.

Fuzzy Logic

This is a pretty hard question to answer.

Obviously, there’s a technical aspect to this. Different games have different requirements, and Game A may well relatively modest hardware requirements while Game B.

Those complexities are minute, though, in comparison to trying to figure out the human factor.

A million people will have a million different skill levels, and they will hardly scale as predictably as a CPU.

You can say somebody who spent $5,000 on a computer system and can’t shoot anybody is a lousy player, but how sure can you be as sure about someone just as lousy with a Celeron 450 and a Ti2 card? It might help a lot, a little, or not at all.

If you don’t look for the enemy, it hardly matters how well or smoothly he’s displayed on the screen. Besides, why are you there in the first place? You’re there to find your enemy and do it to him before he does it to you. You’re not there to admire the scenery or notice how good-looking your enemy is.

Now if you’re in a position to do both, fine. But if you’re not, one takes priority over the other, and this is the kind of choice one ought to be able to make.

It may well be that only the very highly skilled can take advantage of the subtle improvements a very high-end video card may give you. So a very high-end card may be essential in the big-money finals of a professional game tournament, and that’s about it.

There’s a lot of possibilities. Just about the only thing you can say and be sure about is that there will be no simple, clear, precise rules even the most comprehensive and thorough test could reveal, outside of strictly “Duh” stuff.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find out something useful.

So We Ask

This may be one of those inquiries that blows up in our faces and doesn’t yield any useful data, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Question 1:

What games do you most seriously play?

Question 2:

What system upgrades (from what to what) have you made that you feel made you a significantly better player in the game, and what reasons do you have for thinking like that?

Question 3:

What system upgrades (from what to what) have you made that you feel did not make you a significantly better player in the game, and what reasons do you have for thinking like that?

Feel free to add your thoughts and observations, or other sources of info.

Ed

Discussion

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  1. 1. No way. That card costs as much as my system, almost. Well, I might if I won the lottery, or was a rich *******, but otherwise no.
    2. Well, I'd say as long as you upgrade every so often, and make a decent upgrade, your performance will be fine. You might not have the best system, but it will still be pretty good.
    3. I'd say you'll be a little better even getting a 9800 np over a 9700 Pro, or something similar, after that, it's just eye candy. And besides, the 9800 Pro's and FX5900 Ultras are for those that have to have the absolute best graphics. Realistically, it's the same as buying a 200 speaker system for your computer. Your performance isn't going to be better, but your experience sure will be. Me, I'd never pay more than $250 for a graphics card. For $250 now, you can get a 9800 np that will most likely overclock near 9800 Pro stock speeds. Why pay $200 more for minimal improvement. It's all about bang for your buck, and it makes no sense to pay double the cash and get a 5% improvement, unless you're filthy rich.
    4. In some cases, yes. For example, if I buy an ATI card, I want it to be built by ATI or a Sapphire. If I buy an nVidia card, I want it to be built by a company with a good reputation, and one whose cards are good OCers.
    I think one aspect of gaming has been ignored here. Not all gamers are playing multiplayer online games, where frame rate is the most important aspect of video performance, and where there is no time to stop and appreciate the video quality. Some gamers are playing single-player simulators, where visual quality is essential to how immersive the experience is. In that context, frame rate AND quality are both essential to the video performance. In that context, then, the "eye candy" effects are maybe more like "eye vegetables".
    Even some first-person shooters have this aspect. I think part of Half-Life's success was the fact that the player felt well-immersed in a quality environment (for its day), and there was just as much time to admire and explore the scenery as there was to run aroun and shoot things.
    In short, I think there's too much of a tendency here to write off visual quality as mere fluff, when there are indeed situtations (in gaming itself) where its much more of substance. Perhaps this is indeed because some mistakenly equate gaming with multiplayer gaming.
    I do, however, agree wth the overall topic: Is spending a huge amount for a video card worth the while? Is the video card market steering towards a "affordable low end or budget-breaker high end' segmentation, and if so, why, and is it right?
    As for answering the questions, I'd certainly never spend $1,000 on a video card, as I simply cannot justify that kind of expenditure. (Computers are for research, then work, then fun here.) I'd never spend half or quarter that, either. (In inflation-adjusted dollars.) I would, however, wait until the market value of those cards was below those values and buy then. I lived on an GF2 MX-400 for quite some time until I upgraded to a used Ti4200 (128MB) at the end of the product cycle.
    Interesting discussion here, though. I'm glad Ed writes articles like these. -- Paul
    1. No. The included watercooling block would kill the flowrate in my system, and I don't have enough disposable cash anyways.
    2. To some extent, yes. I like eye candy, even in mulitplayer fps games. :)
    3. I could still play all my games on a gf2. I'd just have to turn off the visual extras. I do just fine with my ti4200. I don't think a 9700 would help me game better, it would just make everything look a bit better.
    4. Yes. I like my MSI ti4200. It overclocks quite well. Budget branded cards tend to not OC quite as well.
    1. No.
    2. No. In fact, many shooters are easier with eye candy turned down. You don't get dithering through fog effects, or your view obstructed by grass and other massless garnishes. I don't play SoF2 or Planetside with the details up very high because it's easier to fight without them.
    3. Personal preference. For me, it's what keeps the framerates smooth at the detail level I prefer. An overclocked 9700 Pro is more than enough.
    4. Yeah, it does. Some companies are known for poor QC or substandard components.
    1. No. I don’t think I have ever paid over $200 for a video card. Perhaps I am selecting games that do not strain my gaming all that much. But I think that what Donny said about not having the eye candy is probably a better explanation.
    2. See what I said for 1.
    3. I am gaming on a GF2 Ti right now and I alt least hold my own in any game. Perhaps someone could recommend a game that I simply cannot play well with my current card and we shall see.
    4. It is an Asus card. Every thing else they make is solid. I would probably buy one of their cards again if someone actually convinces me based on my answer to question 3.
    Then of course, I cannot help but notice that they want about $230 extra for the water-cooled version. Granted that is almost certainly for a complete water-cooling system. However, that still seems a little steep form the limited research I have done on water cooling my main rig.
    I just don't see how this would be a justifiable purchase. If you truly care about your performance that much, you should know all about DIY watercooling. I'm sure you can get your own waterblock for any video card that fits your watercooling system better overall (flowrate, tubing diameter, etc.). And if you care this much about performance, you should know what type of performance $1000 will get you in other areas (aka the rest of your system).
    I just built an Intel system for $750 and used my "old" Ti 4200. Even if I had bought every part new I still wouldn't have exceeded $1000...
    Hmm...TNT2 seems fine to me. I do have a 440se 128mb in my briefcase rig, but that was because it was a half high card. I know on the newest games your stuck with the old cliché "need more to get more" but there is a cut of point. On the other hand if someone wants to spend $1000 on a card let them, as long as there is a decent $50 one out there for me.
    thats pricey for sure, but then they are not the only high priced card around. oceanic (?) makes high end graphics cards for architectural/cad/design type applications, and is probably justafiable in price vs performance. Now as for gaming, just how do you justify 1000 dollars for a vid card to play splinter cell or the yet to be released HL2?? Maybe I'll up grade to that when the price comes down alot.Probably in 18 months or so..........

    1) Would you buy this card ?.. and if so for what reason ?

    There are few absolutes in life. but hell will freeze before I spend a grand on a gaming video card.
    2) Do we have to get the latest and greatest just to stay competitive ?, or is it possible to play games just as well without all the possible eye candy?

    You're presuming the primary market for this card are gamers looking for better game performance. I think you're wrong.
    The difference between this card and a reference 5900 Ultra in game performance is something you'll never see on your screen. I think the person most likely to buy this card (or even consider it) is someone who really, really wants to post a top score in 3DMark. If that seems stupid you'll get no arguement from me. But before you dismiss it, look at the guys we have here who move from a Ti4600 to a Radeon 9700 Pro to pick up a couple thousand benchmark points. I guarantee a lot of them want this card. A lot more will want it the first time someone claims 8K in 3DMark03.
    3) In some gaming situations, improvement in hardware will yield improvement in gaming performance. If you have a GF2, and playing a relatively recent game, you're likely facing some real handicaps. But what would be good enough to get rid of the handicap? No doubt you'd do better with A Ti4200. But how much higher would your scores be with a Radeon 9700? An FX5900? At what point does spending more money only get you eye candy?

    That depends on the game, of course, and the rest of the equipment in the system.
    The flight and racing sims I most often play place a much greater emphasis on CPU performance. If you play online FPS' you'll use more video card power. For the sake of conversation let's assume your proc isn't a limiting factor no matter what kind of games you play.
    But what about your monitor? What resolutions can you run? This is the one no one ever talks about. If your system with the GF2 has a fifteen inch monitor and the best you can run is 800x600, anything over a 64MB Ti4200 is going to be a waste. In my experience you don't see the real advantage of a top end card until you get to 16x12.
    Unless you're running a program where resolution doesn't matter. Like 3DMark.
    4) When buying a graphics card, does the producing company matter (Gainward, MSI or other) if so why and what companys products do you purchace

    Used to be a big Hercules guy back in the day. But since everyone (aside from Tyan) is cranking out reference versions with stock drivers, the only reasons to choose one company over another is price and the reputation of their customer service.
    BHD
    I will personally smack anyone who spends a grand on a Video Card.
    1) Would you buy this card ?.. and if so for what reason ?
    Hell no.
    2) Do we have to get the latest and greatest just to stay competitive ?, or is it possible to play games just as well without all the possible eye candy?
    In my opinion most mid range card will play most games fine without compromising any competitiveness. In my opinion a Geforce3/Radeon 8500 or higher solution is good enough to be competitive in any game. If you want AA and Anisotropic filtering, well I just may frag you while you're admiring the pretty graphics :p.
    3) In some gaming situations, improvement in hardware will yield improvement in gaming performance. If you have a GF2, and playing a relatively recent game, you're likely facing some real handicaps. But what would be good enough to get rid of the handicap? No doubt you'd do better with A Ti4200. But how much higher would your scores be with a Radeon 9700? An FX5900? At what point does spending more money only get you eye candy?
    A 9700 would be significantly faster with eye candy turned up, however I don't have 200$ and I dont need the eye candy to game.

    4) When buying a graphics card, does the producing company matter (Gainward, MSI or other) if so why and what companys products do you purchace

    I always try to purchase from reputable companies but most of the time name doesnt matter to me.
    1. Yes, if I had the money and no if I dont have the money. My next video card will likely be a 9800pro/256mb within a month. I planned on this purchase because when I bought my 8500 I was a slight step behind. This time around I want to keep the card for a year and then pass it on.
    2. No, but to be competitive over a year from now you need to purchase a top of the line card now. Buying a 4200 will not keep you competitive at the end of 2004. It does vary on your game tho. I play Starcraft and any video will work.
    3. I had to turn down eyecandy to run UT2003 during LAN games I was not happy.
    4. Yes I have bought ATI so far and in the future if I spend more than $50 for anything I want name brand quality.
    I think if you just wait a while like a month of two after it comes out, Inovatik will have that water cool piece to upgrade on a gainward videocard. So, you would just have to buy a gainward card barebone and buy teh extra piece for like $20-30 and put it on. Now you have a card that's worth $1000, but you get them for $700.
    In a country which some people spend $90k on SUVs, you guys are surprised at $1k video cards?
    Is $1k video card expensive? Yes, for me and the majority of people. This card isn't marketed toward the majority of people. It's for those people that have the money and don't care what it costs.
    Is a $600 computer case with a built in refrigerator compressor a wise expenditure? To me - no. To those that want it - yes.
    If the card had an evaporator head and a prommie on it then I might consider paying $1k but it is now a cheap waterblock on a highend card. I hear maze4's fit GfFX's so thats $50+500=$550 plus 40 or so for some nice ram sinks and you have a better performing card for $400 less. I believe this card is really there for, excuse my rudeness, newbies who's parents buy them everything. I know alot of people who shop by pricetag and say Well thats more expensive it MUST own. Well im sorry to say but i sure as hell dont shop like that, I shop by price/perfomance and sometimes, yes just sometimes :), i splurge on some expensive things that i dont really need, Like a refurbbed Fx5900 or 9800pro both of which i am looking for, just because i want to. Then again I can say, and prove, that i need any computer part because it will allow me to play Bf1942 or any other game at a higher resolution but can i justify that with $1k. NOPE!
    If I hit the lotto, maybe.
    I'd also get state-of-art components for the rest of the rig.
    I'd also be able to use LN2 to cool the whole shebang while I was at it.
    In reality...
    I choked on even the 9700 PRO, never mind the 9800 PRO.
    $150 is my limit for the forseeable future.
    My 3D card budget is about $100-150 More than this and I can almost always do more good by upgrading something else.
    Then again, for Professional 3D artists, $1000 is cheap for a video card.
    I'll buy from any major company (except bargain brands) and try to research specific details before buying. If given two equal choices I'll go with a brand I already have in my computer.