A new system is unfortunately a long time away, so I thought a GFX upgrade would let me play the latest games at a decent res & frame rate with plenty of eye candy. This isn't a neccessary upgrade of course but you all know how it is...
Obviously I'm looking for the best bang for my buck but I also want a card that will last me a while.
Q1 - Should I go for a 6600GT card (eg Gainward Ultra 1960 GLH GeForce 6600 GT 128MB DDR3) or spend an extra £80 on a 6800NU card (eg Asus V9999GE GeForce 6800 256MB DDR3) or one of the cheaper 6900GT cards (eg AOpen GeForce 6800 GT 256MB DDR3)?
Q2 - How much difference will an extra 128Mb of memory make to the performance of one of these cards?
Q3 - Are there any bottlenecks in my system that would make going to the 6800GT level, for example, a waste of time?
Yors in anticipation
Current System Specs:
Mobo: Leadtek WinFast K7NCR18 nForce2 Ultra400 Deluxe Limited
CPU: Athlon XP 2800 (Barton)
RAM: 1024Mb Twinmos Dual Channel Kit PC3200
GFX: Creative 3D Blaster 5 GFX5900 128Mb, GPU @ 415MHz, RAM @ 700Mhz
HDD1: WD Raptor 36.7Gb
HDD2: Maxtor 160Gb SATA
Case & Power: Antec Sonata w/ 380W TruePower PSU
CPU Cooling: Gigabyte 3D Cooler-Pro w/ speed controller
Other Cooling: 2 x 120mm case fans speed controlled by Antec PSU & : Zalman ZM-NB47J Northbridge Cooler
1- Coming from a 5900 and with your platform I'm not sure *any* of your video card upgrade choices are wise... but if you HAVE to upgrade your current card and you want the best bang for your buck, I guess I'd go 6800NU...
the 6600GT might not be enough of a step-up to make it worth your while, and the 6800GT is probably overkill because your system-limited (see #3)
2. Not really at the resolutions your platform will limit you to in newer games (1024x768). If you're a detail freak get the extra 128mb of RAM, but honestly it'll provide a 5% difference in visual quality in very few games (like Doom3). Probably not worth the extra cash for 256mb, especially if it's an AGP card and not migratable to your next system...
3. Yes, your system is limited by the entire AthlonXP platform... still a solid platform, but it no longer has the CPU/bandwidth power to up the ante, and newer games will be limited by this and not the videocard.
I agree with Marneus... your best bet is an A64 platform upgrade, but I'd wait a couple months for prices to drop. Your system should still be quite playable for at least that long.