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GeForce GTX 260: Small Price, Big Performance

Mainstream Graphics Card Roundup

ATI rules the markets where buyers seek high performance with maximum AA from small cards and a killer combination of low power consumption and good 3D frame rates (particularly for the Radeon HD 4670 and HD 4770 models). Nvidia rules when it comes to overall performance, and has carved out a great market niche with its GeForce GTX 260 card. The new and improved version with 216 shader processors (SPs) costs about $50 more than the older model with 192 SPs.

Great base-level pricing for the GeForce GTX 260 makes it tough for companies like Zotac to position its custom GeForce GTS 250 with 1 GB of graphics RAM, because the older GeForce GTX 260 runs faster and costs close to the same. The Radeon HD 4850 with 1 GB needn’t fear the competition either, because its performance falls below that of the GeForce GTS 250 and more graphics RAM really matters only for higher resolutions with AA enabled (which itself affects only a handful of games). Its biggest advantage is a low price point of about $135. Against the Zotac GTX 260 with 216 SPs, neither of the custom cards from HIS nor Sapphire gain much ground, even if differences in performance are minimal. Simply put: the GeForce card costs between $35 and $110 less, and gives Zotac a buying advantage. Despite a reference cooler, this card is comfortably quiet and delivers good performance at a decent price.

In conclusion, let’s compare the two ATI Radeon HD 4870 cards. Here, Sapphire comes out ahead, because its card incorporates quieter cooling, offers 2 GB of graphics RAM instead of only one, and costs around $235. The lone advantage to HIS is its competent overclocking, which delivers about 3.5% better performance than the Sapphire model.

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