Video Cards

We should see the next generation of video cards about a month from now.

Assuming you’re hurting, what should you do about it?

A Video Card, With A Computer On the Side

The next-generation of video cards ought to be substantially, though not overwhelmingly, faster than today’s speed demons. A ballpark guesstimate is about 20% for those games that can fully use any extra video horsepower.

A rather more solid guesstimate is that these will cost $400 or more. No surprise there.

What may be a surprise to some is the advent of video cards using the new PCIExpress slot rather than the old AGP slot.

Will the PCI-Express version of the card be better than the AGP version? Probably not, but that’s not the only issue facing you.

To run PCI-Express, you’ll need a new mobo, and as we pointed out earlier today, you probably don’t want a new mobo since the new CPUs you’d have to put into them are unworthy.

If you are nonetheless determined to buy one, anyway, and just as determined to buy a top-of-the-line video card to go with that, if you go Intel and socket T all the way, you simply have no choice. If you want an Intel chipset, you must get a PCI Express video card, no choice in the matter. If you want AGP with your socket T, you’ll have to look to SiS or Via for that.

The initial AMD boards with PCI-Ex will give you a choice. Unless the initial PCI-Ex cards are real dogs, though, you’ll probably be better off buying one of them simply because people tend to use video cards for a couple years. There may be an AGP slot in tomorrow’s AMD mobos, but it probably won’t be there in the mobo you buy a year or eighteen months or two years from now.

For Everyone Else

For those of you with no intention of replacing your core platform any time soon, the existence of PCI Express still ought to influence your buying decision.

For most reading this, odds are you will replace your core platform in the next 12-18 months. This means any AGP card you buy today will have an effective life only as long as your current system, which means you ought to think twice about shelling out $450 for a video card.

Over the past couple weeks, the price of Radeon 9800 Pros have dipped down to around the $200 level.

If you feel a little lucky, the bill can be reduced to a bit over $150 if you buy the right kind of Radeon 9800SE (the Powercolor appears to be the “right” kind, the Sapphire and ATI 9800SEs are not), see here (please look at the picture of the cards in the first post to see how you can tell a “good” one from a “bad” one, a “good” one has the memory arranged in an “L” shape as opposed to a “bad” one’s “I” shape), here, and here for more info. Please note that even if you have the “right” card, this doesn’t always work perfectly.

The price may drop some more, but if it doesn’t, it’s unlikely to rise again, so for those who want as much firepower as they can for their buck, it probably would be wise to look at these two options for now, and plan on getting whatever is whiz-bang PCI Express whenever you upgrade your core later.


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