Ok, here's my specific situation. I have an AMD TBird 800MHz w/ 384MB PC100 and a GeForce 2 GTS 64MB card. In the next month I want to start playing Star Wars: Galaxies but I have very little money to implement any of my planned computer upgrades right now. The only thing I can splurge on is a video card and I'm hoping that will help my performance in that game initially until I can upgrade my CPU to a P4 2.4GHz around Sept.
Now I know I won't be running SW:G at 90% of the highest settings, but I'm hoping the new card will help a bit.
I had planned on getting the Radeon 9700 Pro in a couple weeks, but am now torn between that and the 9500 Pro. The difference in performance is a significant 28% (based on the benchmarks and the fact that I only play at 1024x768 @ 32-bit), but the price difference is 45%! (based on my employee discount where I work).
The problem that's bugging me is that I want this new video card to run all new games within the next 2 years at 90% of their graphic quality settings. No 8x Antioscoping, but all "detail" levels set to at least "High" and 4x FSAA turned when possible. The minimum is to get the "detail" settings of games to the "High" setting without causing jerkiness or obvious slowdowns.
That's the big question I can't seem to answer. Will the 9500 Pro be strong enough to handle games the likes of Doom 3, Tron 2.0, etc..?
So your honest opinion on this is needed & appreciated. Keep in mind that by the Fall of this year I will have that 2.4GHz processor helping out with 512MB of DDR333 RAM.
First off, it's a good thing you plan to upgrade your processor, because no video card in the world is going to run the new games in the next 2 years at 4xFSAA on an 800Mhz machine.
So, assuming you have a Pentium 2.4, will a Radeon 9500 run all the games in the next two years with 4xFSAA settings?
I believe the answer is yes... and no. While this is wishy-washy, it really depends on what you consider acceptable framerates.
Next-gen games like Doom3 and Deus Ex 2 are requiring a helluva lot more pixel pushing power than we're used to. Hell, even a radeon 9700 isn't running relatively fast framerates for Doom3. And Doom 3 is coming out this year (supposedly)... so how long will even that supercard last?
Having said that, if you're not hooked on high Frames-per-second numbers that are realistically useless because they exceed the refresh rate of your monitor (not to mention the human capability of percieving movement), well, I think the 9500 is a great buy and will give you playable enjoyment for at least two years if need be.
But put it in perspective... the Radeon 8500 I got a year and a half ago can still play today's games. At the time, it was one of the most advanced cards available.
Can I play the newest games with max settings? Not bloody likely.
Can I play them smoothly if I sacrifice a little resolution? Hell yes.
I mean, the Doom3 alpha is even playable on the thing at 800 by 600. But I certainly don't expect to max out settings.
I think my point is, a piece of hardware can definitely provide you with enjoyment for 2 years, but I don't think it's realistic expecting it to provide max detail settings at the end of it's life. I don't think a Radeon 9700 or Geforce FX 5800 will even do that... the technology simply moves too fast.
And remember, in 2 years, DirectX 10 will be out... current video cards won't even support those features.
First off, hell yeah I'm upgrading. I wanted to do it last year but other Real Life priorities tend to piss on your parade more often then not
As for what I consider acceptable framerates, it all depends on smoothness. The odd "jerk & skip" here and there through the entire game is ok, perfection is hard to comeby, but I do NOT want it every 20 seconds. Nor do I want a game to lose it's fun in intense moments.
Since I mentioned Doom III I did a little more digging and found some early Alpha benchmarks. Obviously taken with a grain of salt, but it does seem that this game will punish even the 9700 Pro. For this game, and super-advanced games of it's ilk "Deus Ex 2" I think a "Details" setting decrease might be in order for most of us. But it should still look amazing.
When you mention a drop to 800x600, that's not something I'm willing to do. What I usually do when I see problems is to drop the Detail Level. Now every game is different, but usually you have multiple detail settings with values like "Very High/Highest" "High" "Medium" & "Low". If I can run Highest then cool, but I'm willing to go to "High"...let's say 85-90% of what's possible. But anywhere below and it bugs the hell out of me.
So from what you said & my research it seems the 9500 Pro will do that till roughly April 2005. Especially considering the fact that games of Doom III's caliber will come out in bulk probably at the end of that year.