I am looking for opinions on my next graphics card purchase. I have spent the past several days looking at the various cards within my price range, looking up benchmarks, reviews, and anything I can find, but I'm still undecided. First, here's my current setup.
Windows XP SP2, but I will upgrade to Vista Home Premium at some point.
AMD Athlon 64X2 4600+ 2.4Ghz Socket AM2
2GB DDR2 RAM
eVGA Nvidia GeForce 7600GS 256MB PCIe
Thermaltake 470W PSU with two 12V rails @ 14A and 15A respectively.
I am looking at these cards for a new purchase. From what I've seen, they will all be a substantial upgrade from what I currently have:
Nvidia 8600GT/GTS(If I can find one for a good price)
ATI Radeon X1950PRO
ATI Radeon HD 2600XT GDDR4 edition
At the moment, I'm sure many would say to get the 7900 or X1950, and that's what I was going to do initially until I read more. From what I've heard, the X1950 is very power-hungry, and I'm concerned that my PSU might not be able to handle it. It would definitely be a change considering my 7600GS uses so little and is passively cooled. If I must upgrade my PSU, them I'm afraid the X1950 is no longer an option.
With that said, what I really want is the card that will do what I want to do best. I play games, obviously not heavy ones with my current setup, and I don't ever intend to be playing the latest games when they're released. At the moment, what I most want to play (and why I most want a new card), is to run The Orange Box, that being Half-Life 2 and various other games running on Valve's Source technology, which seems to be heavily backed by ATI. I also play less demanding games such as World of Warcraft, which can still take some power to run if there's a lot of activity on the screen (raid encounters and battlegrounds, etc.), and Final Fantasy XI (which I've read is a bit of an odd beast concerning how it uses the graphics card, but I'm sure it would still benefit from something better).
I don't typically run games with AA or at resolutions higher than 1280x1024 (my monitor isn't quite big enough), so what I want is something that will perfom best at that resolution.
Also, aside from games, I watch a lot of movies and may some day want to move from DVDs to Blu-Ray or other HD content. Also, I watch a lot of video (specifically anime) encoded in H.264. I've heard that the DX10 cards can process H.264 without help of the CPU, so would that at all be worth it?
In short, I am wondering if my PSU will be able to handle an X1950PRO. If yes, my next card is a no-brainer. If no, which card will suit me best for playing things like Team Fortress 2 and other Source games as well as the other two at 1280x1024 and probably without AA?
You did say x1950Pro and not x1950xt, so your PSU should be enough. I went from a 7600GT to a 7900GS myself not too long ago, and I did see some difference (more eye candy, 4xAA, and still better frame rates in Guild Wars at 1440x900). The x1950Pro is an even faster card, so I'm sure it will be fine too.
No flames here i think waiting the month or so for the new cards is probably the sensable thing to do at the min,sure we dont know how they will do on power but if its true that they are on 65nm board then there has to be hope that even given the higher clocks they will do well on power and should easily be (crosses fingers)better than the 8600/2600 series and again should(more finger crossing) still have the HD stuff.
I know ther have been some benchmarks and previews out but its hard to know what to beleive these days.
Thats what i would do any way. as you say you are switching to vista then you will need a card with more musscle to run DX10 anyway.