A new battle in budget graphics

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PCI Express has got a bit of a bad rap, at least on the graphics front, because it hasn't yet offered a significant performance boost over AGP 8X. Today's games and applications weren't designed with PCI Express in mind, and they don't really take advantage of its 4GB/sec of bandwidth. However, PCI-E has enabled some interesting new budget graphics cards. Rather than relying solely on on-board memory, these cards also leverage a portion of system memory, which thanks to PCI Express' plentiful bandwidth, can offer pretty decent performance.

With graphics cards free to use system memory with less of a performance penalty, board manufacturers have been able to build competitive cards with only between 16MB and 64MB of memory on-board. Having less on-board memory allows these cards to be sold at extremely low prices, bringing DirectX 9-class PCI express offerings down to around $50.

ATI and NVIDIA's latest budget graphics cards have embraced using system memory over PCI Express, with ATI calling its approach HyperMemory, and NVIDIA branding its TurboCache. Our friends at TechReport explore the intricacies and performance of each company's approach, and crown a new budget PCI Express champion.

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