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PCI-EXPRESS INTERFACE: $130 to $160

The Best Graphics Cards for the Money: May 08
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BEST PCI-E CARD FOR $130:

GeForce 8800 GS
Codename: G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 96
Texture Units: 48
ROPs: 12
Memory Bus: 192-bit
Core Speed MHz: 550
Memory Speed MHz: 700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The 8800 GS is essentially a crippled 8800 GT with a smaller 192-bit memory interface. This card is now at the price/performance sweet spot, offering performance a bit slower than that of the 9600 GT, but at a lower price. Its weak area is a lower memory amount of 384MB compared to the 9600 GT’s 512MB, but for $130 you can’t do any better than this card.

BEST PCI-E CARD FOR $155: Tie

GeForce 9600 GT 512MB
Codename: G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 64
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 650
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (1800 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The new 9600 GT is Nvidia’s answer to the Radeon 3800 series: cheap, powerful and efficient. The 9600 GT usually performs a bit below the 3870 with no antialiasing, but a little faster than the 3870 when AA is enabled. The 9600 GT is usually a few dollars cheaper than the 3870, although the prices are close enough that both cards are now recommended buys.

Radeon 3870
Codename: RV670
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz: 1125 (2250 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

The Radeon 3870 is a speedy card for the price, and has a slight advantage versus its 9600 GT competitor when antialiasing is disabled. When AA is enabled the tables are turned, and the 9600 GT claims the advantage. With these cards within spitting distance as far as price is concerned, both are easy recommendations.

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  • 0 Hide
    jamesl , May 5, 2008 4:58 PM
    is this correct on page 3
    "The 8800 GS is essentially a crippled 8600 GT ...".
  • 0 Hide
    jamesl , May 5, 2008 5:05 PM
    oh, and the links at the bottom of page 7 are not really links, just plain text
    "PCI Express: (LINK TO NEW VGA CHARTS)"

    "GP: (LINK TO OLD AGP CHARTS)"
  • 1 Hide
    jerreece , May 5, 2008 5:06 PM
    I have to say, I love that you guys are updating this so often lately. Especially since the GPUs available from ATI and nVidia keep changing over the last few months.

    Kudos to Tom's for providing us updates on graphics cards so often. I love keeping tabs on what's the best buy, as one of these days I'll be upgrading my GPU again.
  • 1 Hide
    Sorbert , May 5, 2008 5:19 PM
    9600 gx2 might need an 8 instead of a 6 ;p
  • -4 Hide
    aleluja , May 5, 2008 5:24 PM
    What about this other card.
    Well i have a GeForce 4 MX4000 which is not on the list. Could you please add it so i know what place it takes between the other cards?
  • -1 Hide
    jonsnow13 , May 5, 2008 6:26 PM
    What about all the 3000 series cards not included on the list? Like the HD3400, etc? Or what about the 780G Crossfire configuration with onboard video? I mean, you're excluding SO many cards! You should also include where the DDR2 versions and the DDR3 versions lie (as in the HD3600). You could also include the performance on the chart when combining with the 780G. Please. :) 

    I'm really tempted to pick up a 70 dollar HD 3000 card and crossfire it with my 780 board but I wanna know if it's worth a damn.
  • 0 Hide
    bourgeoisdude , May 5, 2008 7:02 PM
    jonsnow13: The reason these cards are not on the list is because they are not "the best video cards for the money". There are literally dozens of cards (if not hundreds) still available for purchase today, and having a list comparing every one of them to each other is just not feasible, especially to be updated every month. To compare cards to each other on that sort of scale, you can use the hierchy chart on the last page of the article as a general guide, but this article is written just to show the best cards at each price range.

    For the other poster: the GeForce MX 4000 ranks way down the list, you'll notice it in the third-to-bottom tier of the hierchy. That card was not designed for gaming, regardless of what Wal-Mart advertised.
  • 1 Hide
    Katreat , May 5, 2008 9:11 PM
    Same complaint as last month, put SLI in a separate category!

    For a great many people the option of going SLI does not exist unless they are building new. You cover AGP for those people who are still using an AGP MB. You should cover single slot PCIe the same way. Saying put in two cards works just about as well as telling people with AGP to install a PCIe video card……… It does not work!

    Finally, I would like to mention that your SLI option fails to take into account the cost of setting up SLI in the first place which more than often makes it NOT THE BEST option for the price range you quote.

    “Spending more than $350 will provide very little extra in the way of performance. Two 8800 GTs will outperform the 9800 GTX or 9800 GX2 in the great majority of situations.”

    That is nice, but the fact remains I can put a 9800 GTX in my P35 MB for under $400. Right now the price on the cheapest 780i MB with similar features is about $75 more than my P35. The price of buying a 700w PSU instead of a 550w PSU is approximately $25 more. So, your best option for $350 is actually more like $450. Now, taking all that into account makes the 9800 GTX for under $400 starts to look like a pretty sweet deal.

    When the best option includes buying a new MB and PSU it quickly becomes no option at all. Please compare them as two different Interfaces because from a practical stand point they are.

    Kat
  • 0 Hide
    royalcrown , May 5, 2008 9:23 PM
    Quote:
    Same complaint as last month, put SLI in a separate category!

    For a great many people the option of going SLI does not exist unless they are building new. You cover AGP for those people who are still using an AGP MB. You should cover single slot PCIe the same way. Saying put in two cards works just about as well as telling people with AGP to install a PCIe video card……… It does not work!

    Finally, I would like to mention that your SLI option fails to take into account the cost of setting up SLI in the first place which more than often makes it NOT THE BEST option for the price range you quote.

    “Spending more than $350 will provide very little extra in the way of performance. Two 8800 GTs will outperform the 9800 GTX or 9800 GX2 in the great majority of situations.”

    That is nice, but the fact remains I can put a 9800 GTX in my P35 MB for under $400. Right now the price on the cheapest 780i MB with similar features is about $75 more than my P35. The price of buying a 700w PSU instead of a 550w PSU is approximately $25 more. So, your best option for $350 is actually more like $450. Now, taking all that into account makes the 9800 GTX for under $400 starts to look like a pretty sweet deal.

    When the best option includes buying a new MB and PSU it quickly becomes no option at all. Please compare them as two different Interfaces because from a practical stand point they are.

    Kat


    First off, no one is forcing you to buy a 780 series board, you could get a 6 or 5 series sli, or own one already, so your $75 dollar point is not necessarily valid.
  • 1 Hide
    KyleSTL , May 5, 2008 9:26 PM
    KatreatSame complaint as last month, put SLI in a separate category!
    ...
    Kat

    Ditto. Associated costs should be included in the overall decision. SLI motherboards are more expensive than mid-range (read: P35) motherboards!
  • 0 Hide
    shmuls , May 5, 2008 9:59 PM
    I agree with Katreat and KyleSTL! SLI's should be in a seperate section! People who don't have an SLI MoBo would have to spend another few $100 for a new motherboard minimum!! Not to mention the time and effort to re-setup their system. What about those of us with a single PCI-E slot that want to spend $250 on a new graphics card? do we have no other options than to start from scratch?
  • 0 Hide
    SEALBoy , May 5, 2008 11:47 PM
    jamesLis this correct on page 3"The 8800 GS is essentially a crippled 8600 GT ...".


    No, I'm positive it should read 8800 GT, for 8600 GT.
  • 0 Hide
    ThreatDown , May 6, 2008 12:09 AM
    aleluja, I hope you are not serious... every one of these cards is MAGNITUDES better than that thing.
  • 0 Hide
    lbwsandiego , May 6, 2008 12:15 AM
    The lack of 9800GTX on these charts is a bit disappointing, the review of the card on this very site site is over a month old now, and I've had this card in my new rig for over 2 weeks!

    Thanks for the effort guys.
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , May 6, 2008 12:20 AM
    Quote:
    The 8800 GS is essentially a crippled 8600 GT with a smaller 192-bit memory interface.


    8600GT..think it should be 9600GT.
  • 1 Hide
    johnbilicki , May 6, 2008 12:55 AM
    On page 3 it should be corrected that the 8800GS is a crippled *8800GT* since the bus is reduced from 256 to 192 bit.
  • 0 Hide
    KyleSTL , May 6, 2008 12:59 AM
    Quote:
    What about this other card.
    Well i have a GeForce 4 MX4000 which is not on the list. Could you please add it so i know what place it takes between the other cards?

    IIRC the MX4000 is the same as the MX400 on a AGP 8x bus, hope that helps, but I can't help but agree with everyone else that it truly does not belong on the list, unless Tom's comes out with a "Best [Old-School] Cards for the Money".
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , May 6, 2008 7:15 AM
    Wild98600GT..think it should be 9600GT.
    Nope, definitely 8800GT. The 8800GS is G92 whereas the 9600GT is G94.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 6, 2008 9:47 AM
    I can't help but to notice people comain about the mx4000 - despite what some people think, it's not all that horrible. I have serveral socket a system running here and there with mx4 based cards, and they still play anno 1701 & worms forts just fine. They're definetly no match for anything in the geforce 6 series or better, but they're still performing better than anything onboard short of the ati x200 or better.
    In short - for agp it's definetly worth upgrading from that s3 virge 3d or igp i815 chipset if you need - after all those cards can be had for free pretty much everywhere. (and I mean free)

    ps. as noted on the previous page - is it correct that the charts meant 9800gx2 and not 9600gx2 at the top of the list (never heard of a 9600gx2)
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , May 6, 2008 11:30 AM
    Page 2 has the 2600XT, 8600GT, and 1950 in a 3 way win but I would think the 3650 ddr2 at $80 would be the best bang for the buck. At $80 the 3650 ddr2 only loss a few frames off the 2600XT and some times wins against the 8600GT. This slight loss in frame rate will be over turned soon as DX10.1 due to those cards needing to up sample to match quality or suffer a picture quality loss however you see the 3650 ddr2's advantage of DX10.1. The price difference of $20 should make the 3650 ddr2 a winner. An increase of $20 would have these cards against near the same price as the 3850.
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