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Is The Upgrade Worthwhile?

The Fastest 3D Cards Go Head-To-Head
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Between the praise heaped on the new graphics chips, the hype surrounding the Radeon HD 4800-series following Nvidia’s GTX 200-series launch, and the rapid drop in price of many top cards means that many people are a little unsure of whether or not their cards are due for an upgrade. The following charts allow you to make a visual determination of the performance differences among the current 3D models.

The distribution of the charts consists of the game benchmark frame rates and the resolutions used. The distribution goes from right to left, increasing from 1280 to 1680 to 1920 pixels, followed by the resolutions in the same order but with anti-aliasing enabled. The height of the measured points is the frame rate achieved. In an ideal situation, you will have two peaks in sequence with a slope line that starts top left and drops down towards bottom right.

A change between the GeForce 8800 GTS 512 and 9800 GTX cannot be felt, as both cards use the G92 graphics chip, the same 256-bit memory connection, and nearly identical clock speeds.

The drop in price of the GeForce 8800 GTX means that the older G80 graphics chip is an alternative option again. The increases only make a difference with anti-aliasing at 1680x1050 pixels. In new games, the 8800 GTS 512 is often the better choice.

If you can’t make up your mind between the GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 260, here are the differences. First, Crysis shows slight increases, though the frame rate with a Core 2 CPU barely gets over 25 fps. Second, in Mass Effect, performance can be improved slightly, and the additional power of the GTX 280 should be visible in World in Conflict at higher resolutions. Finally, if you overclock the GTX 260 a little, or go for an MSI overclocked model, you can get closer to the GTX 280’s performance.

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