TechSpot

What video card offers the best 'bang' for the buck?

By ArmyofKirb
Oct 21, 2005
  1. In the next couple of months, I am looking at building a new PC. I haven't kept up with dizzying variety of video cards lately, and frankly I need help choosing the right one for me.
    Here's the basic layout of the machine:
    -Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe (or equivalent Crossfire board, suggestions?)
    -RAM: 1GB PC3200 DDR Dual Channel
    -HD: 250GB SATA 150
    -Optical: 16x DVD +/- RW Drive
    -Audio: Integrated
    -Case: Thermaltake VA3000BNA 580W PS

    I enjoy gaming alot, but I don't want to spend $400-500 for the cutting edge cards... Are Crossfire or SLI features worth the added expense of a second card? By buying the capability of using a second card now, will it allow me to get another year or two out of the system? I would anticipate starting with one card and when performance dictates, buying another card.

    Thanks

    Kirb
     
  2. zephead

    zephead TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,483

    you want as good of a card as your budget allows. get an nvidia card, 6600GT or higher. keep in mind that you need two identical (same hardware revision) sli-capable cards running the same vbios versions. also make sure the card you buy is from a well known quality manufacturer (MSI, BFG, ASUS, gigabye, extc...) and is rated for stock speeds that are at or above the nvidia refrerence specs (as per the nvidia website).

    a 6600gt will run you about $200 (USD), so an sli package would be around $400. a 6800 card will run you upwards of $300 apeice.
     
  3. ArmyofKirb

    ArmyofKirb TS Member Topic Starter Posts: 87

    Thanks,

    Any thoughts on Crossfire? I'd rather go ATI if I could, but of course it all depends on $. He was right in assuming that I don't want to spend more than about $250 on a card(s).
     
  4. Merc14

    Merc14 TS Rookie Posts: 464

    Price to performance is all NVIDIA now. You get the best bang for th buck there and can upgrade to SLI in the future thereby getting a 60%-80% boost in video performance. If you can stretch your budget a few bucks you can pick up a 6800GT for $295 or so. http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?ProductCode=321020
    Then get another a few months later. That XFX model overclocks easily to ultra speeds. That may be where you want to spend your money as it is a sweetspot cost/performance-wise.

    Second, get the A8N SLI Premium as it is a better board and actually cheaper than the Deluxe now. Asus ironed out a lot of the Deluxe issues with the premium.
     
  5. ArmyofKirb

    ArmyofKirb TS Member Topic Starter Posts: 87

    Thanks for the info...

    I'm looking for a total investment $1700 or less

    It looks as though I will able to afford a Geforce 7800 GT and still come under budget with the above specs...yea!
     
  6. pkroks

    pkroks TS Rookie Posts: 376

    what processor are you getting?
     
  7. ArmyofKirb

    ArmyofKirb TS Member Topic Starter Posts: 87

    Athlon 64 X2 4200+
     
  8. pkroks

    pkroks TS Rookie Posts: 376

    i would suggest the 4400+, which is what i have. just for the fact that it has more L2 cache and ofcourse it is obviously faster.. if you get it go with the Toledo version...
     
  9. ArmyofKirb

    ArmyofKirb TS Member Topic Starter Posts: 87

    The 4400+ is at least $100 more...How much more L2 cache does it have? The 4200+ has 512k/512k...The 4200+ is closer to the 'sweet' spot. I'll take a look at benchmarks though.
     
  10. zephead

    zephead TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,483

    to get crossfire you need a special mobo with an ati chipset (which are few in number and low on performance) and one x800xt or higher, plus a crossfire x850 card. currently ati has nothing on nvidia, but this industry changes so fast.
     
  11. pkroks

    pkroks TS Rookie Posts: 376

    the 4400+ has got 1Mb L2 Cache..
     
     
  12. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,120

    Nvidia beats ATI? Hardly. ATI's cards top all the charts now, except some specific benchmarks where the 6800 Ultra eeks ahead by less then 1 percent. In 3Dmark 05, the top FOUR ATI cards are above the first Nvidia on the chart, minus SLI setups.

    But then again, I read about this Asian dude, or someone, who overclocked the fastest ATI against the fastest SLI, and BEAT the dual Nvidia SLI with a single OC'd ATI.

    Now Nvidia may have advantages on price, I don't know, and I got nothing against them as they both have sweet cards, but ATI is in NO way getting whooped by Nvidia right now, and for a single card setup, either PCI-E OR AGP, ATI tops all the charts. And this not including OC'd and so forth. And the new 6800 Ultra, which is pretty dang fast too.

    ACK! flame war!
     
  13. Merc14

    Merc14 TS Rookie Posts: 464

    Vigilante-
    With all due respect the 6800Ultra is old news. You're referring to the last generation of video cards and the 6800Ultra vs. the x850xt battles. I'd have to agee that ATI won that round, at least performance-wise.

    We are referring to the R520 GPU's (x1600/1800 etc.) vs. the 7800 series of cards. ATI is months and months behind on introducing a competitor to the 7800 series and just recently got the x1800xl (or some such x) out to compete against the 7800GT. They still haven't gotten the x1800xt out to compete against the 7800GTX and with just about equal peformance on the benches the ATI cards are $70-$150 more than the Nvidia cards.

    ATI is basically in the dumpster right now and needs to really hit the next gen video card battle with a clear winner if they want to save themselves. They are months behind Nvidia and after finally getting to market they offered a card that is about equal performance-wise yet costs a fair amount more. It ain't looking good.
     
  14. AtK SpAdE

    AtK SpAdE TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,851

    How can you recomend the 6600GT anymore? WIth the huge hit in ATIs prices

    how could you compare this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814130214

    to something like
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814127176

    Not only does it have a 256 bit memory interface, it also has 4 more piplines. THe only thing it loses out on is clock speed.

    BUt i will have to admit, in the current high end battle, the X1xxx series is a bit disapointing. but it is a model of effiecny with only 16 piplines.
     
  15. Merc14

    Merc14 TS Rookie Posts: 464

    ATK Spade-
    I didn't recommend the 6600GT. I recommended the 6800GT. I would no longer recommend a card with less than 256MB of GDDR3 RAM onboard as they have a hard time playing the newer games. Plus MS Vista is going to require 256MB GDDR3 RAM (at least according to OEM's like Dell) to run at full graphics level effieciently. I'd recommend he looks at a card with at least 256MB of GDDR3 and a 256MB interface as you said above. This means the 6800 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814130231 at $229 or x850PRO http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814102593 at $239

    These would be the minimums but the 6800GT (my recommendation) is the better buy ,with 16 pipelines and overclockable to ultra speeds.
     
  16. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,120

    Well let's put it this way, then. If you can't spend multiple hundreds of dollars on the super-greatest late model +$400 video card or go dual SLI. For staying "1 click" behind the very latest, or if you need AGP, ATI still has the belt.

    I am curious, though, to see what ATI's new offerings will be. Not their "have to get something out to match Nvidia" models, but their next gen, fully developed cards. I've heard great things.
     
  17. zephead

    zephead TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,483

    i believe you should have read my statement before.
    i simply said the a 6600GT is the LOWEST card he should get if he is unable to afford anything better.

    and last time i checked, the radeon 9600xt was selling for $20 more than most 6600gt cards. the two cards you linked cannot be compared because they are in a different performance and price class, plus the 6600gt models have been around for longer.
     
  18. AtK SpAdE

    AtK SpAdE TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,851


    Maybe you should recheck those prices. THe x800 is actually cheaper then the 6600GT.
     
  19. zephead

    zephead TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,483

    oh, the ati card prices have gone down considerably, but a 6600gt can generally be had for less green than an x800. last time i checked the market they weren't so close, but it seems that the fast-paced graphics industry has managed to get the median proces down, closing the gaps.
     
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