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Choosing Vid Card...my head is spinning!

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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January 2, 2008 3:02:44 AM

I have begun my search for the replacement to my Dell Dimension 4600 (P4 3.0, 2gb, Radeon x850Pro 256mb) that I use for my gaming. As I scan posts and read articles and reviews of the current lineup of gpu's I can't help but feel overwhelmed and confused. There are so many variations of the same card (it seems) that when I search at Newegg (for example) it seems like the same card is listed 3 times and it's not until I compare them side by side that I see a subtle difference.

I would like a little help and guidance. If you are a sim racer as well, that's even better and you know what I am looking for. Basically here's what I am looking at for hardware and what I want to achieve:

Semi-decided to buy the following:

GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Intel Mobo
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz LGA 775 Quad-Core Processor Model BX80562Q6600
mushkin 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model 996527

Video Card will most likely fall into the $150-250 range to keep the total system cost under $1000.

I already have a Dell 2005FPW Ultrasharp LCD with a native 1680x1050 resolution. I am interested in finding a video card that will run the following in 1680x1050x32 with high enough fps that will let me raise detail levels and/or AA/AF settings without disrupting the game's smoothness. Typically, I find a steady 35 fps is the lowest that I can tolerate without beginning to notice stuttering.

Games I play:
rFactor
GTR2
Race07
ARCA Sim Racing (releasing soon)
Test Drive Unlimited
NASCAR Racing 2003

From the mind boggling research I have already done, it seems like the Nvidia cards are the preferred card for those who are open minded to either brand. Would that be a fair assessment or am I missing something from the Ati camp? I don't need to have the top of the line, fastest card out there...just something that I can rely on for 12-15 months or more. Racing sims is a small genre and thus the games that are released and are accepted by the majority are played forever. "Grand Prix Legends" was released in 1998 and still has a huge following to this day. NASCAR Racing 2003 ran from Feb 2003 and is still going strong.

All that said, what would you guys suggest? I'm looking for suggestions with reasons and if possible, real world experience with the card. What card and why?

Thanks for all the great advice!

Dave





January 2, 2008 3:38:13 AM

It's not necessarily true that Nvidia cards would be preferred. There's a TH article that, in fact, would suggest that the Radeon 3850 is the best for about the low end of your price range. But maybe you'd opt for an 8800GT.

There are other factors that might be important to you, too, like upgradeability. Interesting that you're buying a quad-core, but limiting yourself on graphics to a price range that doesn't match what I would think a quad-core purshaser would be after. Also, the P35 chipset boards are lower in price compared to others, but don't support PCIe 2.0, which might be important to you in 6 months if you're interested in graphics upgrade.

I would suggest more reading in each category: mobos, chipsets, and graphics, and cross-reference your findings in each with your desires.

When you build, be prepared to learn (or brush up) about the entire industry. Welcome to system building.
January 2, 2008 3:46:30 AM

omg the gpu and the cpu are the easiest parts to pick.... its so simple

$150-$200 = ATI 3850
$200-$250 = ATI 3870
$250-$300 = Nvidia 8800 gt
$300-$350 = Nvidia 8800 gts 512 mb *(be sure on the 512 mb because the other gts models 640mb and 320mb are the **** versions which perform worse and cost more..)

no point at all to get the $500 8800gtx or $600 8800 ultra because the $310 8800gts 512mb is of equal performance for cheaper

the more u spend the better performance, simple as that. And yes there is a pretty big difference between all the graphics cards

remember that the graphics card is going to make the biggest difference in games so dont go cheap on it

*all the cards i listed are priced well, you pay for more or less performance. So the best of that list is the nvidia 8800 gts 512 mb and the worst is the ATI 3850
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a c 171 U Graphics card
January 2, 2008 4:03:10 AM

Maverick is more or less right. He might not know about the 256MB 8800GT that has recently come out. Its supposed to be ~$200, so you should get that over either AMD card. The problem is all new 8800s and both of the mentioned AMD cards are hard to find. The 3850 is the one I see in stock most often.

If you are looking for a $200 card, your best bet would be either the 3850, or the 256MB 8800GT. I think the 8800GT is the faster of the two, but I'm not 100%.
January 2, 2008 4:07:04 AM

The 8800GT 256MB is faster, but also harder to find and usually has a more inflated price, so take that in to consideration also.
January 2, 2008 4:12:01 AM

if you can scrape up enough cash i couldn't recommend the g92 gts any more it is an awesome card fast, quiet and cool
January 2, 2008 5:20:13 AM

ya i have the 8800 gts 512, its a great card

and i failed to mention the 256mb gt because i have yet to see any in stock anywhere
January 2, 2008 12:03:15 PM

xelex said:
It's not necessarily true that Nvidia cards would be preferred. There's a TH article that, in fact, would suggest that the Radeon 3850 is the best for about the low end of your price range. But maybe you'd opt for an 8800GT.

There are other factors that might be important to you, too, like upgradeability. Interesting that you're buying a quad-core, but limiting yourself on graphics to a price range that doesn't match what I would think a quad-core purshaser would be after. Also, the P35 chipset boards are lower in price compared to others, but don't support PCIe 2.0, which might be important to you in 6 months if you're interested in graphics upgrade.

I would suggest more reading in each category: mobos, chipsets, and graphics, and cross-reference your findings in each with your desires.

When you build, be prepared to learn (or brush up) about the entire industry. Welcome to system building.


Thanks for the reply. If you mean the TH article that discusses the best card for various price ranges, then I have read it and considered it. My opinion that the Nvidia cards were "better" was based soley on my perception that the bulk of the posts here at TH were about the Nvidia cards, whereas the Ati stuff was discussed less. With the release of the newer 3850 card, I see that there is a bit more discussion about Ati.

My aim is insulate myself for at least 2 years from the temptation to build another whole system. If I get a proc that is better than what I will need at the present time, then it will likely work satisfactorily 24-30 months from now with whatever games come out in that time frame. The vid card, OTOH is something that I am fairly confident that I will upgrade at least once during the life of the computer and I accept that. The games will remain the same, but I may decide that I want to "up" the gfx and buy a new gpu at some point. The "plus" that I have as a sim racer, (thus far) is there are few games that truly test the power of a gpu/cpu, unlike the FPS or RTS crowds which seem to have a system crushing game released annually.

Now, I am glad you pointed out the PCIe 2.0 vs. PCIe x16 issue. I'll have to look into that. Getting back into the system building thing (last build was a P3 333mhz as I recall) has taken some getting used to, thus my need to post requests like this! Now, is PCIe 2.0 going to be as slow to develop as PCIe did originally? When I bought the Dell Dim 4600 3 or so years ago, I bought it specifically because it had a dedicated AGP slot, not just integrated graphics. In those 3 years, I upgraded several times and all the while, I kept hearing "the end of AGP is here". Yet, as 2008 dawns, ATI and Nvidia are still cranking out the AGP cards. So, is PCIe 2.0 going to be something similar where the mfgs. will gradually phase in the PCIe 2.0 stuff while still maintaining production of the PCIe 16x cards? (Please note I am not trying to interrogate you or put you on the spot, just looking for an opinion). I saw a few PCIe 2.0 cards last night while checking out various cards and wondered what the deal was with PCIe 2.0!

Thanks to eveyone for the posts.

Dave


January 2, 2008 2:11:03 PM

PCIe 2.0 is backwards compatible with PCIe x16, so not much to worry about on that front. From what you've said, I think that a HD3850 512MB or preferably HD 3870 would suit your needs better, seeing as they fall right into your price range. REMEMBER to have a GOOD power supply to power it, not some $40 no-name unit.

EDIT: A mistake that I see to be commonly made is that people are buying into Cooler Master power supplies, this is a big no-no, Cooler Master is known for good cooling and cases, but also for their horrible PSUs. I suggest you go for a Seasonic, Corsair, Antec, PC Power & Cooling or other known PSU brand.
a c 260 U Graphics card
January 2, 2008 2:46:19 PM

If your objective is to play games, the video card is MUCH more important than the cpu.
Very few games can take advantage of more than two cores today, and that will probably not change for a couple of years.
With that in mind, consider using a E6750 instead of a Q6600, and using the $85 difference to get a better vga card. With your budget, you could probably get a 8800GT, or possibly even a 8800GTS-512(G92)
If you are willing to overclock the E6750 a bit, you could do even better.
January 2, 2008 4:14:26 PM

I would grab an 8800GT for around $250 price range. That setup is very nice, you should easily be able to OC your Q6600 to 3Ghz, then with an 8800GT on its side you can dominate anything out there while looking good. My final answer is 8800GT.
Also about the patriot ram I bought 2 packs of 2x1GB packs, so I snatched up 4GB's of RAM (Vista see's 3.5, not bad) for under $100. Cant beat that.

Forgot to mention as well, if you do OC your Q6600 I would go to the Egg and grab a Coolermaster TX-2 HSF, it's currently $2 AR and it kicks ass for that price because I have it.
January 2, 2008 4:43:32 PM

A 3850 512mb is usually better than a 8800GT 256 I think. 3850s are like 165 while 8800GT are 210+

See a price difference? and not much performance difference?
January 2, 2008 4:48:57 PM

Quote:
Maverick is more or less right. He might not know about the 256MB 8800GT that has recently come out. Its supposed to be ~$200, so you should get that over either AMD card.


Er... no.

Regardless of the fact that I can't find one for love nor money I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole, for the time being anyway. Its a bit of a flake really - don't know whether NVidia used b-grade cores they didn't risk using in the full 8800GT, but it seems to have very strange issues with many games and filters in particular (in some games any AA at mid-high res can drop the FPS to single-digit numbers for no obvious reason!), as well as some 2D/idling power consumption issues, that the reduction in memory and speed can't quite explain. Remember the price isn't just because it has half the VRAM, its memory is underclocked and the GPU seems to have a personality defect so it doesn't seem to be a normal G92 in there!

New drivers might eventually fix these problems (maybe...) but for now it's not worth the extra money over the cheaper and more stable 3850 (which actually beats it at higher res/filtering!) and you'd be crazy to get it over a much better, much faster and much more stable 3870, at this range the price difference between the two is little more than chump change. Plus the 3850 is supposed to be a nice little overclocker for cheap.
January 2, 2008 5:08:39 PM

The 256MB version of the 8800 GT takes a hit compared to the 512MB version.

At the $210 price point, the 512MB 3850 is a better bet if you want to do higher resolution gaming... or use high detail texture settings, which will choke the 256MB 8800 GT...
January 2, 2008 5:18:12 PM

maverick7 said:
ya i have the 8800 gts 512, its a great card

and i failed to mention the 256mb gt because i have yet to see any in stock anywhere


NewEgg has the new 8800gt 256mb cards in stock (2 out of 6 listed on their site), for around $215 before shipping.

An ASUS EN8800GT/HTDP/256M GeForce 8800GT 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121221

Leadtek PX8800GT 256MB GeForce 8800GT 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card .

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814122044

They also have 2 EVGA 8800gt 512mb cards in stock for around $290.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2000380048+1305520548+106791921+1067932704+1068310557&name=512MB

And the 8800gts 512mb cards in stock (8 out of 9 cards), ranging in price from $330 to 385 before shipping costs.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2000380048+1305520548+106791921+1068310557+1067934653&name=GeForce+8800GTS+(G92)

You can also check out MWave and ZipZoomFly for parts also.

January 2, 2008 5:41:03 PM

EVGA seems to be the brand to choose, primarily for their warranty. What brand for an Ati card is best?
a c 171 U Graphics card
January 2, 2008 6:07:36 PM

Educate me solitare. Provide some linkies so that I know these aren't the rantings of an AMD lover.

I just wanted to throw another option out there for the guy incase he saw one and wanted to know if it was any good. If the 512MB 3850 can be had for ~$200, then by all means grab that over the 256MB 8800GT. I think I've read one review on Hardocp that had the 256MB 8800GT, and it did pretty good. (I always inflate their AMD/ATI scores a bit seeing as they seem so biased against those companies.) I personally would probably go with the 3850, unless the 3870 was in stock and at the price point its supposed to be at. I bought my x1800XT for $240, amazing what that will get you now.
a c 192 U Graphics card
January 2, 2008 6:09:05 PM

NOT Diamond. Their HD3870 is flakey, and their support is lame. A review on Guru3D suggests that a BIOS fix is probably needed on many HD3870s, particularly to allow their fans to respond to increasing heat. In the meantime, expect them to easily hit 95C under load.
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