In pursuit of the best sub $100 gamers videocard.

In the past I have been rather impressed with ATI’s low-to-mid range offerings, but their current generation products have failed to impress me. While I find their current high-end products such as the Radeon X1900XTX very inspiring, it is the X1300 and X1600 series that I have been most disappointed with.

For example, the Radeon X1600XT used to cost a little over $200 when first released, and now only ~6 months later, the same card can be had for as little as $135. Personally, I feel the X1600XT should have made its debut closer to its current retail value rather than $200.

It is our opinion however that even at $135 the Radeon X1600XT fails to deliver as for just $90 the X1600 Pro can be had. Making a brief comparison between both models we noticed both feature 12 pixel pipelines, 1 texture mapping unit and 5 vertex processing units, with the only difference between them being the core and memory clock frequencies. The Radeon X1600 Pro memory comes clocked at just 500MHz for the GPU and 780MHz DDR. With the average Radeon X1600 Pro graphics card being sold for about $90, it’s a tempting offer for budget users, and a perfect sub $100 offering to include in our comparison.

However, there is another product that will also tempt the budget user and this one comes from the green team. The GeForce 7300GT is NVIDIA’s latest weapon in war for the most powerful low-cost graphics card alternative. The GeForce 7300GT costs just $85 making a perfect match against the Radeon X1600 Pro.

On paper the Radeon appears to have the edge since the 7300GT features just 8 pixel pipelines, 1 texture mapping unit and 4 vertex processing units. The GeForce 7300GT also only features a core clock frequency of 350MHz and 667MHz for the DDR memory. The end result is a theoretical 2GB/s memory bandwidth disadvantage for the GeForce.

However, this may not necessarily pose a problem for the 7300GT, as we will also set our focus on overclocking performance. The cards tested today will be pushed to the limits using the standard stock coolers. There will also be a Radeon X1300 Pro thrown into the comparison, which will under-go some extensive overclocking as well.

The Radeon X1300 Pro has a clear clock speed advantage over the GeForce 7300GT. Nevertheless, at the default frequencies the results could go either way, depending greatly on the gaming platform used for testing. That said, most retail cards do not reflect the true performance of the GPU as they are usually either below or above the default specification. The 7300GT gained an additional 35% core frequency boost due to overclocking. The Radeon X1600 Pro core on the other hand was only boosted by 15%, as this is was all the headroom available.

It is often hard for the consumer to work out which product will actually offer the best value, and that's precisely what we will try to answer taking NVIDIA's GeForce 7300GT and putting it against the Radeon X1600 Pro and X1300 Pro. Those are all sub $100 cards that represent the best offerings at that price point from the two major graphics providers.