Nvidia: Mainstream Cards At Good Quality
Although the GeForce GTX 275 actually performs admirably all the way through 2560x1600, making our way down Nvidia's product lineup and realizing how much harder-hit the DX10 boards are compared to the company's DirectX 11-capable cards compels us to downshift to Good quality settings for these next four offerings.
As with AMD's Radeon HD 4850, the GeForce GTX 260, GTS 250, and 9800 GTX would probably be plenty playable using the High quality preset. However, we want to test all the way through 2560x1600 here, so we'll keep everything running Good quality for comparison's sake.
The three top cards continue to muscle through Cataclysm at this lower quality setting. Meanwhile, the 8500 GT is simply too anemic to hang with the more modern boards. Although you could turn the settings down even more to accommodate such an entry-level board, that's really the point where we'd have to recommend a hardware upgrade instead.
The GeForce GTX 260, GTS 250, and 9800 GTX all perform fine through 2560x1600. Realizing that you're probably not gaming on a 30" display using these budget boards, you'll probably be turning your resolution down and experimenting with detail settings between Good and High. More on the more granular tweaks later...
The poor 8500 GT is pretty much maxed out through our benchmark run. If you're expecting to play Cataclysm on an entry-level card like this (or on an integrated graphics solution), seriously consider an upgrade if you're in the position to drop something a little newer into your PC.