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Roundup: Mainstream Graphics Cards From ATI And Nvidia

CrossFire With IceQ Is Very Quiet

Mid-range graphics cards deliver more bang for their buck now than ever before—their many-core GPUs let them play right along with the big boys. In our most recent benchmarks, you’ll see that the Radeon HD 4670, Radeon HD 4770, and GeForce 9800 GT handle the highest graphics quality settings in today's most popular games without any real difficulty. The bit trade-off happens when you try enabling anti-aliasing, which can quickly overwhelm an inexpensive board. It’s important not to set levels too high so as to keep performance acceptable.

It’s impressive to see a Radeon HD 4670, which you can pick up for as low as $65 these days, keep up with a high-end card from yesteryear, like the Radeon HD 2900 XT (ATI’s flagship card in 2007). Likewise, this card matches the Radeon HD 3850 and the Radeon HD 3870, but consumes less power. In the pages to come, you'll also see a comparison between the Radeon HD 4770 and the HD 4830, which explores whether or not a 128-bit memory bus can compete against a 256-bit pathway (loaded with GDDR3), or if good driver support and GDDR5 DRAM can help offset such a mismatch at a comparable price point.

A total of five cards have made their way into this comparison, including actively-cooled single-slot models and a passively-cooled card with a Zalman VNF 100 iSilence4 heatsink. As a bonus, we also throw in a doubled-up CrossFire configuration for the HIS Radeon HD 4670 with the super-quiet IceQ cooler, which provides a genuine alternative to the Radeon HD 4850, the GeForce 8800 Ultra, the GeForce 9800 GTX+, and the GeForce GTS 250.