I don't really want to spend $250 but I think I will. But what is the best graphics card in this price range. I have been just thinking about the 8800gt 512mb 640Mhz, but any other opinions? And is the 9600 better than 8800? Thanks
9600 GT is approximately 80% of the performance of the 8800 GT for about 80% of its price.
I have seen 9600 GT's on sale for below $150 on many occasions.
If you must absolutely purchase a card now, I would first look at your LCD's native resolution. Identify the top 3 games you will be playing at least 80% of the time. Use various online hardware review sites to identify whether the 9600GT can provide you with sufficient performance at your native resolution. If the answer is >60 FPS most of the time, then spend $150 and purchase the 9600 Gt. If you require the 8800 GT to get >60 FPS most of the time, then purchase the 8800 GT, but I'd like to recommend you get a brand like EVGA to "step up".
If your goal is playing a game like Crysis on high settings at 60 FPS, or if the 8800GT 512 does not give you >60 FPS at your monitor's native resolution, I may wait another 2-3 months for the next batch of cards from our favorite Red and Green team.
The reason being, is: ATI is on-track to releasing their next-gen Radeon HD4870 by this July. NVIDIA will likely follow suit with their answer to the HD4870. Many will agree that the jump from 8800 GTX to 9800 GTX has not been as significant as the jump from 7800 GTX to 8800 GTX. The new batch of cards just on the horizon promises to be a significant jump. I would hate to see you commit $250 and be stuck with a video card that cannot provide you with the frame rates that you desire...
You want the 8800GT they float around $200 and usually have a rebate. If $200-$250 is your range don't get a 9600GT and DEFINITELY don't get the old 8800GTS 640, they are old news. The 8800GTS 512 is around $250 but only has a small edge over the GT and better stock cooling. That is what you are looking at.
I probably won't get one for at least another 2-4 months really. I like the first one that paudh posted but is MSI a good company to buy from? The one I was looking at was a XFX G92 512mb 8800GTS but it ran at about $250. But even when better cards come out this is my max price limit.
If you need to buy now then all these suggestions are great. If you can wait 2-3 months you should be able to land a 9800GTX for $250-260 after rebate. Today thier lowest listing is $299. Very soon the first runs 0f the 9900 series will be released. This will force Manufactures to put out some good rebates on the now 'older tech' in an atempt to liquidate stock.
I personally like the 9800 GTX due to its lower power consumption, PCIe 2.0 compatibility, and improved dual slot cooling. Operating temps compared to its older sister (880GTX) are reduced. Some cons are its lower memory limit, and the fact that NVIDIA carried over the same GPU (G92).
No need to worry about it then as in 2-4 months I'm sure you will do even better. As far as brands, I think MSI is as good as any other cards. I've used many of their cards for years. They differ in warranty where evga and XFX are better than MSI. If a lifetime warraty is worth $50 go for it. I'm the kind who doesn't buy extended warranties but will jump on them if almost free. So Priced the same I go evga for sure. I won't spend $50 more for a warranty and brand sticker on the card though. SO if it's $250 vs $200, it's $200 for sure, especially on a reference cooled GTS like that.
To me the biggest downfall of the 9800GTX is that the similar 8800GTS 512MB is available so much cheaper and a much better value. (USA anyway, I understand in Europe they are priced closer) It could very well be the best sub $250 card when he buys though.
The XFX G92 8800GTS 512MB card is the one i use. It's a great card and overclocks well (see sig). And for the price it's probably your best deal. However if your not planning on getting the card for a few months i'd keep an eye out for the next wave of cards.
I recently ordered a 9600GT as a "temporary" video card for my new rig.
Nearly all my current components will be used to build a new HTPC so I am basically buying lots of new parts for my primary rig. The 9600GT (passively cooled) will be moved over to the new HTPC (replacing the X1900XT) when nVidia releases their next generation GPU.