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Best AGP Card For ~$270

The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: May 2007
Radeon X1950 XT (by Gecube)
Codename: R580
Process: 90nm
Pixel Shaders: 48
Vertex Shaders: 8
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 628
Memory Speed MHz: 700 (1400 effective)

The X1950 XT - manufactured exclusively by Gecube - is simply the most powerful card ever to grace the AGP bus. This card has no direct competition; in fact, its closest competition is its X1950 PRO AGP sibling, which is much less powerful.

At $270, it is a bit of a tough pill to swallow for a dying interface. I would only recommend the X1950 XT AGP to someone with a very fast AGP system who already has a power supply with enough juice to handle the card. It must be noted, however, that if you have $270 to spend on an AGP card - and potentially an extra $100 for a power supply that can handle it - you may be much better off purchasing a PCI Express motherboard, CPU and PCIe graphics card. PCIe graphics cards are cheaper than their AGP cousins. If you upgrade your system to PCI-E and sell your old components, you may actually spend a similar amount of money compared to buying an expensive AGP card alone.

What About This Other Cards?

This is guaranteed to happen, because both stock levels and prices change quickly. So how do you know if that card you've got your eye on is a good buy in its price range? Here are two resources to help you judge if a card is a good buy.

The first is the graphics card hierarchy chart, which groups graphics cards with similar overall performance into "tiers." The top tier contains the highest performing cards available, and performance decreases as you go down the tiers from there.

You can use this hierarchy to compare the pricing between two cards, to see which is a better deal, and also to determine if an upgrade is worthwhile. I don't recommend upgrading your graphics card unless the replacement card is at least three tiers higher. Otherwise, the upgrade is somewhat parallel, and you may not notice a worthwhile difference in performance.

At the request of readers, I have added mobile and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to make clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphic solutions. While the discrete graphics chipsets on the chart are placed based on a lot of information, many of the laptop chipset positions on the chart are guesstimates based on their specifications. At worst, I don't think they're more than a tier away from their actual performance, but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphic chipsets.

Geforce Radeon
8800 GTX  
8800 GTS  
7950 GX2 X1950 XTX
  X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX X1900 XT
7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 GT X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO
7800 GT, 7900 GS, Go 7950 GTX, 8600 GTS X1800 XL, X1950 GT, Mobility X1800 XT
6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, Go 7800 GTX, Go 7900 GTX, 8600 GT X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, Mobility X1900
6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), Go 7800, Go 7900 GS X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, Mobility X800 XT
6800 GS (AGP), Go 6800 Ultra, Go 7600 GT X800 GTO 256mb, X800 PRO, X850 PRO
6800, Go 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, Go 7700 X800, X800 GTO 128mb, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO, Mobility X1800
6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT DDR2, Go 7600 (128-bit), 8500 GT 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, Mobility X800, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO
FX 5900, FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5950 Ultra, 6600 (128-bit), Go 6600, Go 6800 (128-bit) 9700, 9700 PRO, 9800, 9800 PRO, X700, X1300 PRO, Mobility X1450, X1550, Mobility X1600, Mobility X1700
FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT, Go 7600 (64-bit) 9500 PRO, 9600 XT, Mobility 9800, 9800 PRO (128-bit), X600 XT, Mobility X700, X1050, Mobility X1350, Mobility X1400
4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200 9600 PRO, Mobility 9700 (128-bit), 9800 LE, X600 PRO, Mobility X600, Mobility X1300
4 Ti4200, 4 Ti4400, 4 Ti4800 SE, FX 5600 Ultra, FX 5700, Go 6200, 6600 (64-bit), 7300 GS 9500, 9550, 9600, Mobility 9600, X300, Xpress 1150
3 Ti500, FX 5200 Ultra, FX 5600, FX 5700 LE, Go 5700, 6200 TC, 6600 LE, 7300 LE 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO, 9600 LE, Mobility 9700 (64-bit), X300 SE
3, 3 Ti200, FX 5200 (128-bit), FX 5500, Go 5600, Go 6200, Go 6400, Go 7200, Go 7300, Go 7400 (64-bit) 9000, 9200, Mobility 9600 (64-bit), Mobility X300
FX 5200 (64 bit), 6100, 6150, Go 7200, Go 7400 (32-bit) 9200 SE, Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 7500
256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200
Nvidia TNT ATI Rage 128


There you have it folks: the best cards for the money this month. Now all that's left is to find and purchase them, and we leave that part up to you. The best prices will almost certainly be found online, but sometimes large retail outlets might surprise you with a good sale.

Don't worry too much about which brand you choose, because all of the cards out there stick pretty close to the reference designs by Nvidia and ATI. Just pay attention to price, warranty and the manufacturer's reputation for honoring the warranty if something goes wrong.

Also remember that the stores don't follow this list. Things will change over the course of the month, and you'll probably have to adapt your buying strategy to fluctuating prices. Good luck!

Check the The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money Series Overview for more articles in this series.

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