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The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: December 2006

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December 12, 2006 10:40:26 AM

Complex video card specifications and reviews are great if you have the time to do the research, but at the end of the day, what a gamer really needs is to find the video card their money can buy.

More about : gaming graphics cards money december 2006

December 12, 2006 11:19:07 AM

Cant wait to read it. Shame there is a delay in being lifted to the UK site :x
December 12, 2006 1:57:39 PM

Great article, very informative for non-enthusiasts.

There seems to be a significant typo though.....in the 8800GTX section, it says, "In all honesty, the $ 150-cheaper 8800 GTX would probably serve anyone well...."

I believe it should read the $ 150-cheapter GTS....", correct? Might wanna fix that ;) 


Can't wait for the article when the R600 comes out......that'll be an awesome discussion/read.
Related resources
December 12, 2006 2:20:27 PM

What would make the article really informative would be to reference cards that are included in the VGA charts. Neither of the two cards mentioned in the $270 price range (X1950 XT and GeForce 7900 GTO) are included.
December 12, 2006 2:29:01 PM

I am a big fan of the CPU price/performance charts, because it's a great resource for selecting your next processor. You get to pick your own price/performance trade-off.

I would be very interested to see a similar price/performance for video cards. Some sort of averaged performance over the various benchmarks would have to be created, and this won't suit everyone's particular needs (I use 1280x1024 on my monitor, which puts me in a different bracket than those in the 1600x1200 or higher resolutions). However, the generalisations necessary for the CPU performance estimates are no more compromising, are they?

Case in point: in some very specialised cases, the old NetBurst tech still performs extremely well. Given, these are few and far between. I'm no NetBurst fanboy.

It might be necessary to select only the best cards for each price category for the charts, as there seems to be plethora of products over the last two years.

Opinions?

P.S. I do find the current Video Card review format very useful, as I generally do know how much I want to spend before I go shopping.
December 12, 2006 2:34:31 PM

I have not seen the 7600GT AGP flavor available in stock for quite some time--perhaps it has recently resurfaced, but still, I have never seen it available. If that one's out, what would you have to say about the Radeon x1650 AGP? Does it address the "odd duck" problems the x1600 had or no? In your opinion, if price were the same, would you prefer the x1650 or the GeForce 6600GT?

Sorry if I'm bothering you, just I haven't really seen any reviews on the x1650 so I don't know how it holds up...
December 12, 2006 2:50:15 PM

The X1650 PRO is a decent AGP card, about as good as the 7600 GS.

The upcoming X1650 XT AGP should be about as good as the 7600 GT AGP, but I haven't seen those in retail yet.
December 12, 2006 2:52:31 PM

Quote:
What would make the article really informative would be to reference cards that are included in the VGA charts.


The article isn't any less informative, it just doesn't have any numbers to back it up.

So if you want to test the article's validity, I suggest you google some specific reviews that include the cards you're considering...
December 12, 2006 3:32:50 PM

One thing to keep in mind regarding the 7900GTO is that it is sold out everywhere I have looked and no more will be put into production. The only way to get one is eBay or something similar.

Been watching them on eBay the last month or so and cheapest I saw one go was $280 I think, average is like $320 and have seen MANY 7900GTX's go for $300ish lol. People...
December 12, 2006 3:36:19 PM

I am in agreeance with bfcj that the 7900 GTO should have been mentioned, but it is only available at auction sites currently "eBay", but still a kick a** card for the money. Me personally, I love my X850 XT PE I picked up for like 130 US Dollars. Kicks major butt in WOW, AOE III, Halo, and CS:S at 1366x768 on my 32" LCD, but the stock cooler could be quieter.
December 12, 2006 4:49:36 PM

agree. The x1950 XT should be included someplace. Maybe I missed something.
I also still like the 7800GS. Other cards are faster or cheaper, but there is still no 24 pipe 7900 GT AGP.
December 12, 2006 4:57:41 PM

The 8800GTX is fast.
I hope someone can explain why the 128 Universal Shader Units isn't like 3x faster than the x1950 XTX. I know I expect too much.
December 12, 2006 4:57:41 PM

Quote:
The x1950 XT should be included someplace. Maybe I missed something.


you did miss something - the X1950 XT is the best card for ~$270, and it's in the list. :) 
December 12, 2006 5:04:20 PM

Quote:

you did miss something - the X1950 XT is the best card for ~$270, and it's in the list.


I regret missing something so obvious. Must be too focused on work.
December 12, 2006 5:19:35 PM

I am not sure if the UK site is necesary. Maybe just have one English site that includes material from every English locality. I don't decide this anyway..
December 12, 2006 5:36:55 PM

Quote:

I hope someone can explain why the 128 Universal Shader Units isn't like 3x faster than the x1950 XTX. I know I expect too much.


Bottlenecks, plus the fact that the X1900's shader units are much more complex than the 8800's I expect.
December 12, 2006 6:25:31 PM

ahhh! I got my pc in February of 05 now its close to 2 years later and my video card(ATI X700pro pci express) is showing its age....badly. This review proves it with the cards i can get now for the same price I paid 2 years ago. I guess i should be happy that with my first build I was able to make such a "future" proof computer as I did.

I am still completely satisfied with its performance on everything with the exception of the graphics end of things. I could use a bump up on graphics and with vista on approach probably wouldn't hurt to get more than a gig of ram in the thing.
December 12, 2006 6:28:10 PM

Woo. I bought the 7900GS a few weeks ago on sale. It's been treating me well (except for a little driver mishap, but with NVidia, those are easy to fix).

I love the site. One thing that might help is if you list cards that come in 2nd and/or maybe the 3rd place for the price range. Right after I bought an X800GTO for my brother late November, I wanted to look at one for myself but everyone was out of the ~$80 Powercolor and the next X800GTO was around $130, making it not under the $100 level. Of course now Newegg has 2 X800GTOs under $100 now, but they didn't have the cards at that price for almost 2 weeks.
December 12, 2006 8:09:25 PM

Quote:
There seems to be a significant typo though.....in the 8800GTX section, it says, "In all honesty, the $ 150-cheaper 8800 GTX would probably serve anyone well...."

I believe it should read the $ 150-cheapter GTS....", correct? Might wanna fix that ;) 


This typo was in the original thread, too. I almost said something then, but didn't want to seem picky as I thought it would change soon anyway. But this is a copy-paste of that, so maybe I should have spoken up then. :?

Still a great resource regardless of one-letter typos. Keep it up Cleeve.
December 12, 2006 9:57:51 PM

Useful article as previous iterations have proved.

One question for you Cleeve, one of my friends is looking for an AGP upgrade (from 9600xt) and I found 3 cards that seem ok in different price segments:

7600gs - $155
x850pro - $189
7600gt - $221

Note that all of these prices are in CAD and are available locally for me. Which one seems like the best deal? I have recommended the 7600gt, but he seems reluctant to spend that much money since he just wants something faster than his 9600xt (for Call Of Duty 2 at the moment).
December 13, 2006 1:28:06 AM

BAD TOM'S! You missed one!

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

This is the best ~$200 card out there. First off, it's a X1950Pro - which isn't a XT, but it's very close. But look at the picture. Yep, it has a factory-installed Zalman cooler! Not the crummy one, either, but Zalman's biggest one they make!($30 plus DIY install otherwise)

Easy as pie to overclock or leave as-is for nearly dead-silent operation.

It also has dual DVI out, a crossfire cable/operation(if you want to later on), and GDDR3 - not the cheaper memory found all too often.

Newegg is out of stock, but I ordered one last week from them - and it's not like the supply is all gone, either at other places.
December 13, 2006 4:46:06 AM

I also don't know why they chose the 7900GS as the best card for $180 when a X1900GT beats it in almost every bench mark and is $166 after shipping from newegg... Maybe I'm missing something
December 13, 2006 4:50:04 AM

please, add the 1950xt to the VGA Charts. It's been out for a while already, and it's one of the bests buys you can make at this moment (if you can't get the money for a 8800)
She (or he??) deserves it!!
December 13, 2006 9:19:42 AM

Actually, it's very clear what is the best card for the next X-mas, that is......


RADEON 1950PRO 256MB

Periot.

That is not so difficult, good performance, good value, features like HDCP ready fro HDTV. This card rocks for the bucks you paid for...!!

If someone looks for a 3D graphic card, this is the one!
Don't look further and put it on your X-mas wish list :) 

If you don't care about 3D, don't buy it, if you don't care about vista, don't buy it. If you are Gamer Freak, don't buy it.
If you want have some decent (in my eyes the standard) perfromance for 3D, BUY IT...
To this is the standard graphic card for playing everything.

- Ablivion
- Splinter cell
- Second life

The 3D details are enourmes for what you can see with this card...!
And needed for the today games!


I wish that the article was more clear with this kind of statement...
I guess afraid for those BIG names..?
December 13, 2006 11:06:19 AM

Quote:
I also don't know why they chose the 7900GS as the best card for $180 when a X1900GT beats it in almost every bench mark and is $166 after shipping from newegg... Maybe I'm missing something


Tell me why $180 is great to spend for a 7900GS while when spending $200 you get RADEON 1950PRO 256MB. This by far a much more better card.
f you choose 7900GS, then you want to have a above midlevel 3D card.
When you look at that region, then 7900GS isn't the card you want, then you will choose the RADEON 1950PRO. It cost $20 bucks more, but your money by far much more better spended...!!
The 1950 is also better again then the 1900, not much in performance, but you get more features with the 1950, like HDR + Aliasing !!! and more...
December 13, 2006 11:18:01 AM

Quote:
I also don't know why they chose the 7900GS as the best card for $180 when a X1900GT beats it in almost every bench mark and is $166 after shipping from newegg... Maybe I'm missing something


Tell me why $180 is great to spend for a 7900GS while when spending $200 you get RADEON 1950PRO 256MB. This by far a much more better card.
f you choose 7900GS, then you want to have a above midlevel 3D card.
When you look at that region, then 7900GS isn't the card you want, then you will choose the RADEON 1950PRO. It cost $20 bucks more, but your money by far much more better spended...!!
The 1950 is also better again then the 1900, not much in performance, but you get more features with the 1950, like HDR + Aliasing !!! and more...

Do the words "Out of Stock" make this any different, especially since it is less than one day since the price had dropped? I'm sure the x1950pro is good--if you can find it...problem is, right now it has mysteriously gone out of stock :( 

EDIT: What about this one for the ~$130 range? http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Is that competitive with the 7600GT?
December 13, 2006 12:20:51 PM

Quote:

Tell me why $180 is great to spend for a 7900GS while when spending $200 you get RADEON 1950PRO 256MB. This by far a much more better card.


Mostly, because:

1- When I submitted the article, X1950 PROs couldn't be found for less than $240, and

2- The X1950 PRO is better, but ther 7900 GS is fairtly close. Plus, the 7900 GS overclocks much better


Regardless, now thet the X1950 PRO prices have dropped I've added it to the list again (see the top of the thread), but I still think the 7900 GS is a good buy. I've seen them for as little as $160 after rebates.
December 13, 2006 1:51:37 PM

I'm still voting for the Pro with that big Zalman cooler.

Look, most of us end up having to do a cooler swap anyways because the stock fan sounds like a small jet engine when it really gets going. That's $30 plus shipping and then installing all of the heatsinks on the memory and so on...

Better to just get it all at once. And I bet that you can find some way to unlock most X1950Pros. A X1950XT with DDR2 memory or some other cost-cutting measure isn't a bargain IMO.

Also, NVidia has a serious problem with their drivers lately. I recently built a system and found out that they no longer offer individual drivers anymore. Nope, it's all ForceWare or nothing. And in this case, a rather new ASUS board with an Intel chipset - hard crash. Turn on, hit post, and reboot instantly. No recourse, no way to fix it because ForceWare was installing the wrong driver. Now, I could use the original included drivers, but they were incompatable with 5-6 new games. Flat out wouldn't run without a driver update - catch-22.

BAD NVIDIA. I don't recommend them to people anymore, because at some time in the future, you'll run into a "need a driver update to play this game", especially with DX10 coming out. And if NVidia's utility blows up on you, you'll have no recourse an all except a new card.

The ATI replacement BTW is still running strong. I had to move the drivers back a couple of revisions is all. Five minute fix - and it looks better, too.
December 13, 2006 2:00:38 PM

Quote:
And I bet that you can find some way to unlock most X1950Pros.


Not that I've seen, and I've been doing some research. just ask GW...

You're certainly entitled to your preference Plekto, but IMHO the 7900 GS is still a fine card for the $$.

And currently, the X1950 PROs are all but non-overclockable while the 7900 GS's are very overclock friendly, they both have their strengths and weaknesses.
December 13, 2006 4:57:45 PM

Are you ever going to update the AGP VGA Charts any time soon? Its been like a year and none of the new AGP cards are on it yet. Or do you just consider AGP dead and are not going to bother?
December 13, 2006 5:56:09 PM

The VGA charts aren't mine, I just write the buyer's guide.

I reckon the AGP charts won't be updated again. The good news is I'm currently writing an AGP article that'll feature all of the newer cards, and some older ones, battling it out.
December 13, 2006 7:33:48 PM

Cleeve does a very fine job with the Video Card article. However, because the card prices fluctuate so much, I think there needs to a different list. Maybe a list that categorize the the cards in order from best to worst. Go purely by performance and grade them. That way we can see which cards are best for the money.

Any thoughts? 8O
December 13, 2006 7:39:33 PM

Uh, there already is a list of cards based on performance, its called the VGA charts.
December 13, 2006 7:56:09 PM

Sorry,

What I meant was, something that was updated on a regular basis... There are some cards that aren't included.
December 13, 2006 8:03:33 PM

The majority of the cards are on that list. There are probably less than 10 cards missing from that list (not including old cards obviously).
December 13, 2006 8:31:13 PM

Quote:
I also don't know why they chose the 7900GS as the best card for $180 when a X1900GT beats it in almost every bench mark and is $166 after shipping from newegg... Maybe I'm missing something


Tell me why $180 is great to spend for a 7900GS while when spending $200 you get RADEON 1950PRO 256MB. This by far a much more better card.
f you choose 7900GS, then you want to have a above midlevel 3D card.
When you look at that region, then 7900GS isn't the card you want, then you will choose the RADEON 1950PRO. It cost $20 bucks more, but your money by far much more better spended...!!
The 1950 is also better again then the 1900, not much in performance, but you get more features with the 1950, like HDR + Aliasing !!! and more...


Agreed. As far as purely gaming goes, the X1900GT is the best of those 3 price/performance. But if you want extra features etc. the 1950Pro looks like the card to go with.
December 14, 2006 1:51:53 AM

So the X1800GTO? (see my comment on top of page 2)?
a b U Graphics card
December 14, 2006 2:07:04 AM

Quote:
but I still think the 7900 GS is a good buy. I've seen them for as little as $160 after rebates.

I'd have to say, the 7900GS has been one of the better buys lately and while I don't think it is worth $180, I do think it needs to be on your list. I paid $150 for mine a month ago and no rebates. This past weekend Bestbuy had them for $150 again, and I had a 12% coupon to take off that price. Unfortunately I didn't get into the store and the coupon expired. But that would have been $132 and no rebates! (I'm kicking myself for missing it as I already parted with the other one). But even for those without coupons, for two weeks out of the past month that card was $150.

I would still rather have the rev. 1 X1900GT for $160 at Neweegg with no rebates( a week after I bought the 7900GS) , but those are gone now too. I think there is room for recommending any of those 3 cards (X1950 pro, X1900GT, 7900GS), as long as they are priced a bit apart.

Despite your warnings, it seems you'll still be jumped on for price changes and short lived bargains. :cry: 
a b U Graphics card
December 14, 2006 2:14:23 AM

Quote:
So the X1800GTO? (see my comment on top of page 2)?

Nice card for the money, but far outclassed for $20 more: (edit: yours is now $120, so $30 more)

X1900GT Rev:2 :(  for $150 no rebates:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Anyway, this card currently owns the best bang for th buck under $200 IMO.
December 14, 2006 4:22:34 AM

With the new DX10 cards just now starting to hit the streets, I'm leaning towards holding off on upgrading for a while. I'd just like to know if there's a middle of the road($100-$200) DX10 graphics card due to come out of the pipe in the next few months.
December 14, 2006 4:49:48 AM

Quote:
And I bet that you can find some way to unlock most X1950Pros.


Not that I've seen, and I've been doing some research. just ask GW...


I'm really disapointed in the X1950Pro :(  ....who wants a card that will not overclock?
December 14, 2006 5:49:03 AM

Quote:
And I bet that you can find some way to unlock most X1950Pros.


Not that I've seen, and I've been doing some research. just ask GW...


I'm really disapointed in the X1950Pro :(  ....who wants a card that will not overclock?

Oh, it will overclock, but it requires a huge heatsink/fan combo. OTOH, near silence is way more important to me than 10fs. :) 
December 14, 2006 1:41:32 PM

Quote:

Despite your warnings, it seems you'll still be jumped on for price changes and short lived bargains. :cry: 


lol, yeah.

I think I'll respond to the criticism with something new.

In the January list I'm going to tack on a list of 'best to worst' cards so that people can get an idea of where the performance lies if they can't find a card on the list that they're looking for (from worst to best):

1. Nvidia TnT2, Rage 128
2. Geforce 256, Geforce2 MX200, Geforce4 MX 420, Radeon SDR, Radeon LE, Radeon 7000
3. Geforce2MX 400, Radeon DDR, Radeon 7200
4. Geforce2 GTS
5. Geforce4 MX 440, Geforce2 Ultra, Geforce2 Ti200, Radeon 7500
6. Geforce FX 5200 (64 bit), Radeon 9200SE
7. Geforce3, Geforce3 Ti200, GeforceFX 5200 (128-bit), Radeon 9000, 9200
8. Geforce3 Ti500, GeforceFX 5200 ULTRA, Radeon 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO
9. Geforce FX 5600, 5700 (64-bit), 6600 (64-bit), Radeon 9600 SE, X300SE
10. Radeon 9500, 9600, 9550, X300, 9800 SE (128-bit)
11. Geforce4 Ti4200, Ti 4400, 4800SE, GeforceFX 5600 ULTRA, 5700, Radeon 9800 SE 256-bit
12. Geforce4 Ti 4600, 4800, GeforceFX 5700 ULTRA, Radeon 9600 PRO, X600 PRO
13. GeforceFX 5800 ULTRA, 5900 XT, Radeon 9500 PRO, 9600 XT, X600XT, 9800 PRO 128-bit
14. GeforceFX 5900, 5900 ULTRA, 5950 ULTRA, Geforce 6600, Radeon 9700, X1300 PRO
15. Radeon 9700 PRO, 9800
16. Radeon 9800 PRO
17. Radeon 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X700XT, X800SE
18. Radeon X800 GT, X1600 PRO, X1300 XT
19. Geforce 6800LE, 6800, 6800 XT, 6600GT, Radeon X800 LE
20. Geforce 6800 GS (AGP), 7600 GS, X800 GTO 128
21. Radeon X1600 XT, X1650 PRO
22. Radeon X800 PRO, X800 GTO 256, X850 PRO
23. Geforce 6800GT, 6800GS (PCI-e), Radeon X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16
24. Geforce 6800 Ultra, 7800 GS, Radeon X800 XT, X850 XT
25. Geforce 7600 GT, Radeon X800 XT PE, X850 XT PE, X1800 GTO, X1650 XT
26. Geforce 7800 GT, 7900 GS, X1800 XL,
27. Radeon X1900 GT, X1950 PRO
28. Geforce 7800 GTX, 7950 GT, Radeon X1800 XT
29. Geforce 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTX, Radeon X1900 XT
30. Radeon X1950 XT, X1900 XTX, X1950 XTX
31. Geforce 7950 GX2
32. Geforce 8800 GTS
33. Geforce 8800 GTX
December 14, 2006 5:29:12 PM

You're not going to test all of those are you?!?!?
December 14, 2006 6:09:28 PM

Jesus, no.

That list is just for reference - worst performers to best performers.
December 14, 2006 6:19:06 PM

I see, are you going to be assigning any kind of arbitrary performance value? Or is it just that all the cards will be placed in order of performance? Where are you going to get the data from?

I'm not trying to give you the 3rd degree or anything, I'm just kind of curious how this will work.
December 14, 2006 6:30:25 PM

Thats a great list, thanks Cleeve
:D 
December 14, 2006 6:46:31 PM

Quote:
I see, are you going to be assigning any kind of arbitrary performance value? Or is it just that all the cards will be placed in order of performance? Where are you going to get the data from?


This list is a work in progress I've had for years. The data is basically compiled via my vast experience. :) 

That might sound pretty hokey, but it's intended only to give people a general idea where a videocard's performance sits relative to the rest, on average.
The idea being that if you experience performance of two cards on the same 'tier', you wouldn't notice a diffference on average. If you moved up a tier, you would probably notice a difference.
As time goes on, I have to amalgamate the lower tiers because in newer games a difference won't be seen anymore, but in old games on old systems it was more pronounced.

I invite you - or anyone interested in buying - to challenge it with benchmark data. Then again, if you're into checking benchmarks then the 'best card for the money' guide offers very little for you. It's for people who aren't technically capable.

Of course there will always be specific benchmarks that won't jive with this list 100%, but on average and in general it's pretty accurate I think.
December 14, 2006 8:42:13 PM

Sounds good, thats pretty much what I figured. A subjective list will help people out that don't follow hardware that much. One of my friends recently was upgrading from a 9600xt and wanted to know what card he should be looking for. An overall guide like that would definitely be a great reference for that.
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