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Some questions about graphic cards, what makes certain ones better?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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October 10, 2010 2:56:27 AM

After having some experience building a computer, and doing some low-end PC gaming, I am coming back with a few questions, these ones focused on GPU's.

First: Performance

I have read some other posts with related questions, both on and off of toms, but they were a little out-dated, and with the advancement of technology a few months can make a big difference.

1. Memory - 512MB vs. 1GB, Speed Differences, and other stuff.
*How much performance will I lose if I choose a 512MB card instead of a 1GB one, and what will I lose it in? (e.g. Frame Rates, Graphics ability, Resolution ability).
*What is the performance difference between 256bit and 128bit memory in modern games?
*How superior is GDDR5 compared to GDDR3 on GPU's

2. Processors and everything else on the card besides Memory
*What are stream processors, and why do ATI cards usually have a lot more than equivalent NVIDIA ones?
{Example: ATI HD-5870 with 1600 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... )
vs. GeForce GTX 480 with 480? ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... )}
*Is the core clock everything? If not, how much does it effect?
*Certain chips have different sizes (or architectures?), which are better? (aka 55nm vs 40nm?)

Second: Cooling

3. Do cards with smaller chips run cooler? Are their any particular cards that are generally cooler than others?

4. Should I try to get a card with a fan or a blower? Is one superior than the other on Video Cards?

Third: Other Stuff

5. What is the weakest/cheapest card you would buy - to run most modern games on max settings while remaining above 30fps - from both ATI and NVIDIA?

6. Is there any performance loss while using an NVIDIA card on a mobo with a AMD CPU, or vice versa?

Thank You in advance for any and all answers, and sorry for the wall.
-KC :) 
a c 1363 U Graphics card
October 10, 2010 3:10:22 AM

1) The memory size is based on the power of the GPU. A low end card will run out of processing (GPU) power before running out of memory with 512MB. A powerful card has more GPU power and therefore will benefit from more memory. Cards in the performance level of GTS250 and HD4850 and up will benefit from more than 512MB memory.
2) Nvidia and ATI are two different architectures and can not be directly compared on that, they go separate ways to get the results. The smaller the chip the more power efficient it is.
3) Yes in general, not really just read reviews both producers have hot and cold cards.
4) Does not matter.
5) That is depending on resolution but from ATI I would recommend minimum HD5770 and from Nvidia GTX460 if the main use is gaming.
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a b U Graphics card
October 10, 2010 4:40:34 AM

Some folks (myself included) prefer to use nVidia cards with nVidia chipsets. For instance my wife's pc had a GeForce 6150 motherboard that I paired with an 8800GT. My own pc pairs a 790GX AMD chipset motherboard with a HD4850 from ATI.

Recently my wife had to change motherboards, so I put a 785G but kept the 8800GT. So far so good, but in my experience having Catalyst drivers and nVidia drivers on the same machine, they don't play nice-nice usually.

The CPU won't matter, it will work with nVidia and ATI equally well.

A larger frame buffer can benefit a larger resolution. 512MB is probably fine for 1680X1050. I would recommend 1 GB for 1920X1080 and above, although as rolli suggests it would depend on the card as well.

As far as apples to apples goes, I would typically choose a card depending on price and features like a larger, quiet fan. Take your setup into account, where do you want the hot air venting?

For 22" gaming, I think one could probably get away with a GT240 at the minimum, and I think the 5570 for AMD. I recommend the HD 5770 or GTS 250 as solid GPU's that should last a couple years. Also the HD 4850 is fantastic at a sub-$100 level.

Cards based on a smaller process indeed can run cooler, but I would look more to the implementation on a case to case basis. For instance the Fermi architecture is notoriously hot running, however the GTX460 is a powerful card that runs much cooler the the 470 and 480.
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a c 1363 U Graphics card
October 10, 2010 6:14:28 PM

HD4850 is an excellent card for that resolution! PhysX was developed by a company called Agena to increase visual effects in games, the technology was bought by Nvidia and therefore is exclusive. Very few games support it.
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a b U Graphics card
October 10, 2010 6:36:43 PM

Killer Carebear said:
Ok, thanks for the info.

Now, a few more questions.

What is PhysX (know it is exclusive to NVIDIA cards) and how much does it effect performance?

And, this card seems pretty beastly, but is it, if I use a resolution of 1680 by 1050?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

TY, -KC :) 


Yes, Physx is an addition to nVidia cards that can be enabled while running certain games. However there aren't that many available as suggested. Many games use software physics acceleration, there are some good implementations like the Havoc engine.

I don't think it enhances performance alot, maybe a few frames per second. Sometimes that's enough for some folks. I do not think its worth it to buy a dedicated physx card, but if you have an nVidia card laying around you could experiment with it.
Get the HD 4850, it is quite a powerful card for under $100. I can attest to the fact that you'll be able to play what you like with it. If direct x 11 is important to you, then pay a bit more for an HD 5770. Otherwise wait til prices drop for the holidays or the 6000 series comes out, then grab a 5000 series card on the cheap.
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October 10, 2010 7:14:14 PM

And it does not matter that it only has 512MB of memory if I use a resolution of 1050 or lower?

Sorry for turning this into another 'what card' thread, know there are tons of them already, was originally in it for my primary questions, thanks for all the answers.
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a c 1363 U Graphics card
October 10, 2010 10:20:41 PM

512MB does not matter in raw horsepower but if you like playing with AA and AF on then it would benefit from more.
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October 10, 2010 10:28:35 PM

Alright, thanks for all the help.
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October 10, 2010 10:28:53 PM

Best answer selected by Killer Carebear.
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a c 271 U Graphics card
October 10, 2010 10:54:50 PM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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