PCI Express 2.0 Graphics Cards Tested

Upper Mainstream: AMD/ATI Radeon HD3850

We used a Radeon HD 3850 graphics card, which is part of Tom’s Reference System. The RV670 graphics core runs at 670 MHz clock speed and has 512 MB DDR3 of video memory that operates at 1660 MHz. It can be considered a solid mainstream card, providing good 3D performance and DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 support with low energy requirements, thanks to the 55 nm process used. However, it cannot compete with the GeForce 8800 cards or higher models.

High-End: Nvidia GeForce 9800GX2

The new GeForce 9800 GX2 is Nvidia’s double GPU Whopper, utilizing two G92 GeForce chips (8800GT) to increase performance. As a consequence, it’s still based on a 65 nm process, which also powers the GeForce 8 family — DirectX 10 is supported, but Shader Model 4.1 is not. However, this is the fastest 3D graphics solution available today, and it will become faster still when deployed into the new nForce 790i SLI platform, where two of these can be combined in SLI mode. Note, though, that while the ATI card mentioned above stays well below 100 W maximum power requirement, this graphics behemoth operates in the 200 W range when processing 3D data.