Which Graphics Card?

By vega · 43 replies
Jan 11, 2003
  1. Some years ago, I decided to jump onto the then new 'accelerator card' bandwagon by buying a voodoo engined card by creative - I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread at the time so a year later when voodoo anounced that a new card based around a new engine - voodoo 2 was to be released offering much higher frame rates and better graphics, I spent over £200 on a 12 meg card and was immediatly p....d off to find that it was virtually identical to its predecessor in everything but price - after that I vowed I would never spend over £100 on any card.
    My current card is a £80 generic 64 meg Geoforce 2 ti card which has served me admirably for two years and with my AMD 1.7XP can run games comfortably at 1600 res.
    However, with 3rd and 4th generation geoforce cards on their way out and games like Doom 3 just around the corner, my card is getting long in the tooth and with so many new cards on the market, think its time to upgrade but the problem is this - my budget must not exceed £150 - can I buy a card that offers significantly faster and better graphics than my current geo 2ti for this amount or do I hang onto my current card for the time being?
  2. hdmk

    hdmk TS Rookie Posts: 104

    Hang onto your current card at least until the GeForce FX has been released long enough to lower prices of other video cards.

    Then either grab yourself a GeForce 4 Ti4200 [which are already £100-£130 ], or get yourself a Radeon 9500, which you should be able to soon turn into a Radeon 9700 [not pro] with a new version of Rivatuner. Or get youself a Radeon 9500 Pro if that sounds like too much work. All are/should be in your price range soon. [The GeForce FX will be launched within weeks]

    I am also about to spend about the same on a video card.....so watch this space...
  3. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    It sounds like you dont upgrade cards all that often so I would suggest a card that has DX9 compliance. Dx9 games wont be out for another year or two probably but buying a DX9 card now means you wont have to upgrade when you do want to play DX9 games when they come out.

    I would go for the Radeon 9500 Pro a powerful card that is DX9 compliant. and HDMK has a point the current Radeon cards should see a drop in price when the FX comes out AND when ATI's new crop of cards come out around april.
  4. vega

    vega TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 147

    I've been using Nvidia graphics cards now for 3 years and to date , have had no cause for complaint - drivers are regularly updated and usually offer improvements over the prior version, performance on my machine is impressive (I regularly play the latest games like MOH, SOF 2 etc at max resolution and at impressive frame rates with my geo 2 ti + amd 1.7) and its extremely tweakable - patience, not being on of my virtues, I'd like to buy a card asap - can anyone tell me how the radeon cards mentioned above differ from nvidia based cards as the pricing is a bit more competitive than nvidia's.
  5. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

  6. OrEoZ

    OrEoZ TS Rookie

    i'd get a geforce ti 4200 8x agp

    i know that u can get that card for min 150$USD.

    i just got a geforce mx 440 8x agp for about 60$USD

    go to ivmm.com and check out their gfx cards.. ;)
  7. nebulus

    nebulus TS Rookie Posts: 32

    I am in exactly the same position as you here Vega, except I only have about £130 to spend. Ive been doing quite a bit of research into cards for that type of money on the Internet, and so far the two most affordable that I am impressed by, are the Gainward Geforce4 PowerPack ! Ultra/650 XP Golden Sample, which is apparently safely overclockable to standards of the Ti4600. I also fancy the Radeon 9500, but like you, i'm quite a big fan of nvidia, and so I think im gonna go for the afformentioned Geforce card.

    Some of the knowledgeable people here on the forum (and also as mentioned by HDMK & iss in this thread) recommended waiting for the Geforce FX that is due out in the next few months. That way we could be looking at a big drop in prices :)

    Also, i'll leave you with this excellent article that I found. It compares some of the cards in our price range with higher models such as the Ti4600 and thoroughly benchmarks them. The overclocking bit is particularly worth a look!


  8. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    I myself would reccomend you get a Radeon 9500 Pro. It's pretty much even with the Ti4600 and is alot cheaper. Best price to performance ratio on the market today, IMHO. Will serve you the best, and with DirectX 9 support it will last longer than any GeForce4 Ti card. I must stress the DX9 functionality - nVidia's latest offerings are only DX8.1.
  9. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    Gainward has been a market leader in performance cards but until they iron out their problems with their latest production run of cards I would steer away from buying a gainward card.
  10. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

  11. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    Please don't get a Ti4200...you will regret it as opposed to a 9500 Pro...
  12. vega

    vega TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 147

    Thanks for the opinions people.
    Despite being an all out Nvidia junkie, some of the points raised concerning the radeon are definately worth checking out and I'v spent time doing just that.
    To date, radeon seems to have several positive issues, primarily, Direct x 9.1 compatiabiliy and price, however ,the radeon everyones talking about - the 9500 pro, does'nt appear to be on sale - at least, I've had no luck finding a retailer that sells this model, more often than not the 9000 appears to be the norm but if the price is reasonable (I'm not going a penny over £150) it would appear to be the one to plump for.
  13. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

  14. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    Komplett sells the Pro as well but it's a bit more expensive. Just search for '9500'. I would get the 128MB version if I were you, it's worth the extra money.

    Scan sells the 9500 as well - 4th product down from ATi's line
  15. vega

    vega TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 147

    Thanks for the links guys but having checked both out, I find that the model indicated is the 9500 - not the pro - can you indicate if the pro IS available? if not, is the 9500 a viable alternative?
    By the way vehementi, you say that I should go for 128 meg as opposed to 64 - can I expect to see any significanct imkprovement in performance if I shell out for 128? when I upgraded from a geoforce 2 mx 32 meg to my current geoforce 2 Ti, apart from the increase in speed (which was expected as the Ti is much faster than the Mx), I could'nt see what the extra 32 meg was doing for me.
  16. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    9500 is certainly a viable alternative - especially when you can actually change it to the 9500 Pro via a BIOS flash. It is highly risky but worth it, IMHO. I did it to my 8500LE and it works great.

    Komplett - Hercules 3D Prophet Radeon 9500PRO

    Because that's a brand name and not a Built by ATi card, it's a bit more expensive but you're getting what you pay for - it includes stuff like games and DVD software. That's the full decked out version of the 9500.
  17. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    I should be a bit more specific about the 9500 NON Pro. the bios can be flashed to allow you to clock the memory to Pro speeds. currently 4 of the eight piplines on the NON Pro are disabled. there are two methods to enable them. one is soldering. the other is the soon to be released Riva tuner which promises a software solution for unlocking the 4 disabled pipelines.
  18. vega

    vega TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 147

    I've made my choice (god help me!) 've decided to plump for the radeon 9500 and if this 'riva tuner' ever becomes available, I'll use it (hopefully) to increase its performance to pro standards.
    The main reason why I've settled for this babe is primarily Direct x 9 and the features and enhancements it offers.
    Buying the geoforce card would have meant disregarding those features and to be honest, I would love to pick up the new geoforce card when it comes out but I can guarantee that the price is gonna be totally humungous!
    Thanks for all the advice, I'll give you my opinion on this babe once I've scraped the money together.
    One final thing, there is a £20 price difference between the 64 and the 128 meg version - is there a real and significant difference in performance between them?
  19. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    First of all go with the Radeon 9500 if you can. The Pro version will be based on a new PCI board made specifically for the 9500 series. The older Radeon 9500 cards are made on the 9700 board and have the 8 pipelines and 256bit bus that the 9700 has, they are just disabled. There is a chance you can use a software mod to get full 9700 (non pro) functionality. An informative thread on this can be found here

    Second, I am not accusing you of lying but I SOF2 isn't a very well optimised game and I couldn't run it at 1600x1200 very well on a 2100+ XP and GF3 64mb, So I don't think a GF2 Ti would have done better job. My combination gave me a 3dmark2001SE score of round 8000 so its the game that didn't run that well at 1600x1200 rather than my hardware. Saying that I usually opted for Image Quality over huge resolutions, so was running anisotropic filtering and 2x AA most of the time.

    Regardless of what I have against SOF2, the 9500 Pro or 9700 pro (which I managed to get for £170 with a trade of my GF3 ;) ). But also heed the wise words of others in this thread saying to wait a little while until the Geforce FX is out so that you can take advantage of its influence on other cards' prices.
  20. Didou

    Didou Bowtie extraordinair! Posts: 4,274

    As Arris stated, the early 9500/9500Pro boards use the 9700/9700Pro PCB & chips which means the extra functions ( extra pipelines, 256-bit bus ) are present, just disabled.

    ATI will release a more "apropriate" reference design for 9500/9500Pro boards so you'd better get the ones available now before it's too late.

    9700Pro performance at 9500 price is very promising.:D
  21. vega

    vega TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 147

    Arris - I don't claim to be fully 'teched up' when it comes to tweaking chipping or overclocking, in fact, I tend to steer well clear of adapting components past their recommended limits simply because I'm not rich enough to buy a replacement at a moments notice should something go wrong - I DO o\c my current card as it appears to be o\c friendly but with great care.
    I built my first pc in 91 and have ALWAYS endeavoured to buy the best components possible within a pre defined budget and two months ago on realizing that 'star wars jedi knight 2' was'nt running as smoothly as it could be decided to upgrade several key components - these being

    256 MEG PC133 to 256 MEG DDR
    WIN98 to WIN2000 pro

    On installation of the above components, I can now play jedi knight with ALL graphical tweaks at 1600 res - soldier of fortune 2 is played at the same resolution and is superbly smooth, and medal of honour can be played at 1280 with all tweaks on - I never use anti aliasing features as this has quite a dramatic 'hit' on performance, instead, I tend to go for the highest possible resolution without compromising on the quality of gameplay.
    Being an avid gamer, I've never been satisfied with games that crawls at snails pace due to cheap\mismatched components - the fact that I can now play and enjoy a graphically intensive flight sim like IL-2 Sturmovik with all graphics fx running to max at 1280 res on my current setup more than satisfies me - if your wondering why I'm intent on buying a new graphics card, its simply because of Direct x 9 and its abilities - I'm also awaiting next gen games like Doom 3 with anticipation and KNOW for a fact that its gonna run at snails pace with my current card (geo 2 Ti).
  22. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    I'm not fully 'teched up' either. I guess my need for AA and AF in games probably killed the performance of my GF3. I'm happy that you get smooth play at 1600x1200, its just hard to swallow, especially since I couldn't get the same from a GF3 :(

    Check out the VGA Charts at tomshardware, I know detonators have improved performance of Geforce cards since this article was published but not by huge amounts.

    At 1024x768 Max detail in JK2 the Geforce2 Ti that they tested with the following setup got about 60fps:

    AMD AthlonXP 2000+
    ASUS A7V266-E
    VIA KT266A
    133 MHz FSB
    256MB PC-266 MHz RAM CL2 (2x128MB)
    Direct X 8.1
    Windows XP Professional

    Bump the resolution up several steps and that is going to drop fairly radically. Another thing for me to take into consideration is that one persons ideal of superbly smooth will differ from the next.

    Also in the recently redone charts where the test setup is considerably more powerful (AMD Athlon XP 2700+
    ASUS A7N8X (nForce 2)) the Geforce2 Ti gets 120 fps which is much improved. And at 1600x1200 may have >60fps peformance which I find does make a difference to game play over the 25fps apparently needed to fool the human eye into believing that the images are infact fluid motion.

    For instance:
    Intel Pentium 4 2,53 GHz (133 MHz)
    2 x 256 MB, PC 333, CL2
    ABIT BG7 (i845G)

    With a Geforce4 Ti 4600 which has a far superior bandwidth available only pulls 84.3 fps in JK2 @ 1600x1200.

    Anyway aside from my apparent crusade for the side of "No way!!!" go with the 9500 Pro as it is the more future proof of the cards around that price range at the moment. Also the ATI driver department seem to have shrugged off the image they had created for themselves as incompetent ever since they started releasing their Catalyst drivers (which are unified drivers in the same style as the Nvidia detonators). The drivers used to be the area where ATI fell by the wayside when consumers were considering what card to buy next...
  23. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994


    as to your question regarding 64MB and 128 MB versions. currently it doesnt make much difference whether you have a 64MB card or a 128MB card. BUT......for future proofing your purchase I would recommend the 128MB version. Doom 3 I think will be the first game in which the amount of Ram your card has will be a factor in how your game performs and other games will follow suite. I expect that not long after Doom 3 is released most major card vendors will be offering 256Mb versions of their cards.
  24. vega

    vega TS Enthusiast Topic Starter Posts: 147

    Arris - if there's one thing I'v learnt in the 12 + years I'v been building pc's, its this - with so many hundreds or thousands of combinations of components and software available, every single computer is unique and buying the fastest processor, graphics card etc is no real guarantee that the end result is a faster, meaner machine - example - me & my brother in law bought our components at the same shop on the same day but when I visited him a week ago, I was surprised to find that quake 3 (running at 1280 x 1024) was very slow and jerky , this despite the fact that his processor was an athlon 2.0 xp running with a geoforce 2 mx400 64 mg - the card being a mx400 should'nt have had any bearing on the performance as my my last card was a geo 2 mx 32 meg and it ran like a dream with my last duron 800 chip.
    At the end of the day, I tend not to rely on charts and estimations but on my eyes - if it moves fluidly and there are no slowdowns when the action gets busy AND if it can do all of this whilst looking sharp, colourful and laden to the hilt with graphical fx, I'm in pc nirvana!
  25. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    So true. So many combinations and so many factors. Things like defragging a hard disk can solve peformance issues with jerky rendering in games. There are so many parts that can contribute to how the system runs smoothly or not.

    One thing that is always a mistake is either putting a very powerful graphics card with a puny processor or vice versa. You will always end up with a bottleneck as your brother in law has found out. Also the life of a computer and how its looked after, drivers updated correctly (detonators removed completely before installing new ones etc.) also affect how the computer will end up performing.

    I'm sure you will be happy with the 9500 Pro. Nice image quality and great peformance tied in with some future-proofness ;)

    Where are you going to get it from? Getting a good price? If your getting it online, post the URL and price and we'll see if we can find it cheaper since we get so ripped off in the UK :D
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