OP; I`d go for either the XFX or EVGA, just because their coolers exhaust all the heat out of the case, importaint if, like me, you have a simple case with only one exhaust fan.
And yes, the HD4870 would be far faster, but it`ll need a powerful CPU to make the purchase worthwhile.
Can you tell us your system specs?
I`m sure most here will say a swich to Intel is in order so I`ll just get it over with straight away;)
Both games and `proper` software are moving towards Quad core so really the quad is the way to go, and more memory might be an advantage too, I`m running 32-bit XP with 4 GB of RAM and it`s much smoother than with the `mere` 2Gb before.
With a faster processor, you could run a HD4870 without too serious a bottleneck or the 9800 to its max.
The 9800GTX is basically a G92 (512MB) version of 8800GTS. The 9800GTX "+" is basically a beefed up or overclocked 9800GTX. Not a super huge difference. Though if you're buying new, I'd get the GTX+ as it is faster.
The ATI 4870 though, is definitely the better of the two video cards. As far as trying to keep yourself from upgrading again too soon, I'd suggest the 4870 if you don't mind the extra cash. It'll impress for sure.
Personally, I could care less whether I'm running nVidia or ATI. Both make very good cards. Right now though, in your price range, ATI has the edge.
I'll second the motion to upgrade your CPU too. That AMD 4200+ is fading out quickly. You'll see much better performance with something newer.
If you're going to go quad core, I wouldn't settle for the current Phenom quad cores. At least bump up to the Intel Q6600, rock solid CPU and overclocks easily on most Intel based motherboards.
4GB of RAM will make a visible difference.
Quad Core CPU will make a visible difference.
4870 will make a visible difference.
If you decide to stick with the 9800GTX+, get the one from Tiger Direct. Looks like a good deal.
You don't want a better card? That makes no sense.
The issue is I don't think BFG's warranty is that good. Considering the possible manufacturing issues that Nvidia has right now, I would want to buy a card that has a lifetime warranty. (or buy an AMD.)
I would not get the card from TD. To expensive. If you are spending over $200 on a card, you should be getting the 4870/GTX260, not a 9800GTX.