Popular Graphics Cards

Most Popular Graphics Cards

1. Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT

Despite having one less letter after its name, the GeForce 8800 GT is the latest card in the 8800 series. Nvidia made several improvements to the chipset with this release. It consumes less power than other 8800 chips and it now has integrated HD video decoding. The 8800 GT performs better than the 8800 GTS on many benchmarks, and in some cases it almost catches the much more costly 8800 GTX, making both the GTS and the GTX hard to recommend. The 8800 GT offers high-end performance at extremely reasonable prices, especially for the 256 MB version, but they could be difficult to find until 2008.


2. ATI Radeon HD 3870

ATI cards are starting to look a lot more attractive again with the release of the HD 3800 series, their latest round of DX10 video cards. The HD 3870 has a core clock speed of 775 MHz and comes with 512 MB of DDR4 memory. Using a 55 nm process has allowed them to produce a chip with performance that rivals their former champ, the HD 2900 XT, at a far lower cost. The Radeon HD 3870 isn’t quite as fast as a GeForce 8800 GT, but they are priced very competitively.

3. ATI Radeon HD 3850

Very similar to the HD 3870, the HD 3850 is clocked a little slower than its sibling, and it comes with only 256 MB of memory (so far). It’s a respectable performer though, falling only a little behind the GeForce 8800 GTS in most tests. At its current price its among the best deals to be found in a mid-range GPU. The Radeon HD 2900 would have to come way down in price to compare to these new 3800 cards.

4. Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS

Also based on Nvidia’s next-generation DX10 GPU, the 8800 GTS is a toned-down version of the 8800 GTX. They run at slightly slower clock speeds, have a few less shader units, and are available with several different memory configurations. These cards offer solid game performance, but quite frankly, the only reason to buy one at the moment would be because you can’t find an 8800 GT and don’t want to wait, or you find a GTS on sale at a price that is too good to refuse.

5. ATI Radeon X1950 XT

The Radeon X1950 XT was the last chip released in the aging X1900 series. There is a considerable difference in performance and price between Pro, XT, and XTX versions of Radeon cards, with XTX being the fastest. I wouldn’t recommend an X1950 XTX at the moment because you can get a GeForce 8800 for a similar price. The 256 MB X1950 XT sells for quite a bit less, however, which makes it a strong contender compared to other DX9 offerings.

6. Nvidia GeForce 7950 GT

These high-performance DX9 cards are the successors to the GeForce 7900 GT series, which has been discontinued. The 7950 GT is clocked faster than its predecessor and can be found in both 512 MB and 256 MB models. While the 7900 GTX benchmarks slightly higher in many games, the 7950 GT is less costly and is probably a better choice for most purposes.

7. Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS

The GeForce 8600 is a mid-range chipset with DirectX 10 compatibility, so far available in GT and GTS flavors. The GTS has the higher clock speeds of the two. They use a 128-bit memory interface, which is a bit disappointing given that many previous-generation cards have 256-bit memory. Nevertheless, their performance in DX9 is respectable, even if they can’t quite catch some of the DX9 cards in this price range. If you want the option to move to DX10 in the near future and don’t have much money to spend, the 8600 GTS is worth a look.

8. ATI Radeon X1950 Pro

A step down from the X1950 XT, the X1950 Pro is clocked slower and has fewer pixel shader units, but it will handle most games currently available with ease. These cards usually come with 256 MB of GDDR3, rather than the 512 MB of GDDR4 on XTX models. Although the X1950 is a DX9 chipset, it still outperforms some of the DX10 cards in its price range. Recent price drops have made these cards a tremendous bargain, as I see them selling for as little as $150 right now.

9. Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS

The GeForce 7 series has proven to be a favorite for overclockers, and it’s no surprise that many manufacters are selling GeForce 7 cards overclocked in the factory. This can boost the performance of a 7900 GS to almost standard 7900 GT speeds, which has made the GeForce 7900 GS quite popular with gamers. I expect them to get very affordable now that GeForce 8600 cards are out.

10. ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT

There are 256 MB and 512 MB versions of the Radeon HD 2600 XT, and you may want to look for one that uses GDDR4 memory rather than GDDR3. The performance is on par with GeForce 8600s using the latest drivers, and most of these cards need only a single-slot with no additional power connector. Like all Radeon HD cards, it features hardware processed High Definition Blu-ray and HD DVD video.


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