Ok.... I have been seeing numerous threads asking what video card they should buy. I am making this thread to help out some of the new people having these questions. This thread will have Links to the cards themselves and how much they usually cost. I am going to be comparing The most popular ATI and Nvidia cards, and most of them are for PCI-E. Although there are many new cards coming out for agp, such as the 7800gs. Anyways lets get down to business.
This is based on the info I have researched and my conclusions.
How about we start with The Nvidia cards.
Evga is by far the most loved card manufacturer by all the gamers out there, for their outstanding support and warranty In the US. Outside the US BFG is the most popular, mainly for the warranty and the great cards. Well I am expecting that whoever is going to upgrade their video card has at least 50$ to spend so I am going to start there. All prices are based off of newegg.
This is a great card for a PCI slot. Probably the best thing u can pick up for it. I know the pain of not having an agp/pci-e slot and trying to play games on minimum setting scraping 20 fps. Well... thats solved with this. The onboard graphics is no more. As long as you arent putting this thing against games like FEAR you can expect min-low settings on new games. I hear that fear makes this card hard to use on minimum setting so beware. It may not sound like much but ur not givin much for it and it will get u through.
This card is about the bare minimum you want to go when it comes to playing games. You can expect to see low, on nearly all new games coming out. You could probably play fear on minimum with this though. If you go any higher expect it to be choppy. Its best to stay away from this... Not a very good value card. I would suggest the 9600XT from ati for this price range.
Wow... the second best IMHO value card out on the market but, this is only currently. With the ever changing market and technology, this could be obsolete for the price in a couple months. This will play any game you throw at it today. Mostly on medium-high, Graphically demanding games like Quake 4 run on moderate settings. Overclocks well and has shader model 3.0
Not that big of a step up from the 6600gt for 40$ more. It will do about the same as the 6600gt. I wouldnt buy something like this unless it was completely needed. The 6800gs, is a great step up for only 10-20$ more.
This card is probably unmatched for its value currently. As said before the everchanging market and technology this could be obsolete for the price in a few months. At the moment there isnt anything that can deliver this kind of performance for under 200$. This card is even better if you are using agp. The agp version you can unlock the pipes and surpass the 6800gt. If you are on a budget this is the card for you. I can play every game I have (20+ new games) except Quake 4 and Fear on max settings, with good fps. I average about 40 fps at 1024x768 on fear on max.
The second best Nvidia card out there on the market. Can play any game you throw at it on Max settings, As long as you dont turn it up on extremely high resolutions. Constantly reported 8000 3dmark05 scores at stock speeds. Check out the chart below to view fps on fear.
You can expect about an 8200 3dmark05 score with this thing non overclocked. This thing offfers 4× the shadow processing power over the previous generation. It does however consume a large ammount of power. I wouldnt suggest hookin it up to anything less than a 500w.
For the 7800 series i wouldnt suggest spending that kind of money concidering all the new technology coming aout and the direct x 10 cards rite around the corner.
Now... for ATI. Sapphire seems to be the largest ATI supplier. With all the great reviews I have read about them they cant be that bad. Well... I am not as famillier with ATI as I am with Nvidia but I have done some research and heres what I got.
I actually had one of these cards in my old rig. Yea i know ur thinking poor me. Well believe it or not this card isnt all that bad. Its only runnin at 240/400 with 4 pipes but As long as you turn just about every game on low you can get rather decent fps. Personally i loved the card and with old machines you will see almost a double in performance in games and visual apps. At least i did, it definatly beat my old onboard graphics. Anyways... I loved mine and when your on a budget, or have an ancient machine this thing isnt to bad. Although be warned when playing for long hours it does kinda lock up a bit from the heat, if you dont have a well ventelated case.
This is a decent value card, and a couple steps down from the 6800gt. Much better than the 6600LE made by Nvidia for about the same price. Plays most newer games on medium, and sometimes hi. Im sure after a little tuning you can have great gaming performance out of this.
This card appears to be More powerful than the 6600gt. The only downfall to that power is how ATI made this card. There is no shader model 3. If this had Shader model 3 which is going to be vital in future games then I would completely back this card. Atm it can play any game out there. Although be warned!!! this card may seem great but has some very harsh reviews from people with bad experiences with this card. If you trust in ati get it, if you arent sure dont.
Comes with 12pipes 500/780 rite out of the box, AND you can get a 512mb Version of this card for 145$! Its rather unheard of to see a card with that much memory for such a low price. Although you may not use the extra memory for much other than games like quake 4, you still feel better knowing you have it. It may be 128bit and ddr2 but its said to rival the 6800gs for price:value.
For a card in this price range you should go for a 6800gs. This card isnt as powerful and is lacking the shader model 3. Even though this card is about the same price it lacks the performance of the 6800gs.
As bad as it sounds even up to the X850 series there still is no Shader model 3. That is the biggest downfall to the ATI cards in the x*** series. This card features Direct X 9 and the latest OpenGL 2.0 functionality. I would say this card is about as powerful as the 6800gt. Running most games on max and hardly any on hi.
This video card is a great overclocker. Seems to be the solution to Nvidias 7800gt but costs more =(. Runs any game out there on the market Full Blast. Includes Shader model 3, AND easily outperforms the 7800gt with aa or af at higher resolution. For the money a great buy. Would highly reccomend.
The X1900xt and X1900XTX are nearly the same for a 100$ or so difference. X1900xt x1900XT stock is 625 and 1450 x1900XTX stock is 650 and 1550. These cards come with 512 ram. Easily outperforms the 7800gtx and has Unified 48 pixel shader processors. It also can render an image 3 times one for AA one for AF and one for HDR in one cycle. Compared to Nvidias 1 render per cycle. Would reccomend this card for only the ultimate gaming rigs. Just recently put out on the market this is the most powerful gpu of today. Just like with the 7800gtx I still wouldnt reccomend buying one of these things until the Direct X 10 cards come out, because of the extreme price drop coming.
When buying a video card make sure your processor doesnt bottleneck it extremely bad. Its nice to have a processor that can keep up with GPU. Although some bottlenecking is unpreventable the less the better.
Your PSU (power supply unit) is very vital to you and your system. If you have a bad psu that can be the end to your system. They dont reccomend a 450+ watt psu for nothing. Although you can run something like a 6800gs with a 300W like I was, i wouldnt reccomend it for a long time, expecially after making a XXX$ investment. U dont EVER want to hear that pop of death.
The SLI Ability is very Common with Nvidia cards. Most of them have the capability all the way back to the 6200 series. The downfall with ATI cards is that unless specified i wouldnt expect crossfire to work with them. They actually make a completely different line for crossfire products.
Before buying a Video Card make sure that your mother board can support it. Ive seen numerous posts about "ZOMG!!! I JUST BOUGHT A NEW CARD AND IT DOESNT WORK CUZ I DONT HAVE PCIE." Yea... well you dont want that to happen to you. There are 3 different types of slots. PCI AGP and The newest PCI-E. PCI is old basic technology. AGP is 8x, its about reached its end. PCI-E is currently the latest and greatest. All the new cards that come out are PCI-E 16x.
To overclock your video card the easiest way is to download a program to do it for you. For nvidia use CoolBits 2.0 it lets you unlock ur cards fullest potiental and has about everything you could need. For ATI Use a program called ATItool You dont want to overclock your card to far rite away. What i do is measure it in 5% increments. You need to check if everything is stable and not overheating. Idle a card should be about 30-40C and on full load 50-60C.
This Zalaman Fan is probably the best and most widley used aftermarket fan out there. This and a little bit of AS5 will probably drop ur tems about 5-10C. You could always water cool your case...but thats about an upwards of a 300$ investment.
Here is a great performance guide on the 7800 and x1800 and x1900 series.
Personally I prefer Nvidia over ATI. Many people on the forums have told me that the X*** series is bad. It does seem that ATI has cleaned up their act recently with the release of the X1800 series and the X1900 series. Its your choice on what video card you are going to be buying. For a mid range card go with Nvidia for an over the top card go for ATI
Well... thats the end of my guide. I hope I helped some people and prevented a couple which video card sould i buy posts that this forum seems to be flooded with. Also if anyone has suggestions on what I should add pm me or post on board. Thx in advance il update asap