VGA Buyer's Guide 07/2003
Buying a new graphics card is a often matter of finding the right compromise, usually that of price versus performance. Of course everyone wants the fastest card available, but that longing for more speed is quickly cured by a look at the cards' price tags. With this reality check out of the way, the prospective buyer is suddenly (and not surprisingly) happy to settle for a less powerful and more budget-friendly card. As always, there's the famous exception to the rule, though. In our case, that would be the enthusiasts who don't think in terms of "bang for the buck" - they just wants as much bang as possible no matter what the price, and will therefore pick a high-end card, because they simply must have the fastest and/ or best components in their system. The trouble is that these enthusiasts will wake up in a cold sweat only a few months later to find that their top-of-the-line models are now entry-level cards, and all but obsolete.
This article aims to guide our readers through the maze of cryptic product names and marketing jargon to find the card that suits your expectations and needs as well as your budget. The most interesting question obviously pertains to the kind of performance boost a certain card will give your system. As a starting point, I would suggest you take a look at our Tom's Hardware VGA Charts II (Part 1 / Part 2 ), in which we compared the performance of the most common cards currently available. In case you find one of the more recent cards missing from this round-up, fear not. The update with cards released in the last six months is currently in the works. The benchmarks from the VGA Charts can be directly compared with the results in this article, as well, since all tests were run on the same Athlon XP 2700+.