Half a year ago, THG began testing graphics cards for the PCI Express interface. Since then the graphics card market has seen a great number of changes. Our newest edition of the VGA charts reflects these changes and aims to help you decide which card is right for you.
In all, we have assembled a field of 25 candidates using the PCI Express interface. Of those, 21 are single-board solutions while the remaining four are SLI configurations. Cards range from the GeForce FX 5900 and the Radeon X600 to today's high-end cards such as the GeForce 7800 GTX and the Radeon X1800 XT with its 512 MB of video memory. All of these cards can be compared across 50 charts detailing the results of seven benchmarks run at various screen resolutions and different quality settings.
Playing current games such as Age of Empires III, Black & White 2, Serious Sam 2 and F.E.A.R. with all the eye-candy turned on requires a GeForce 6800, GeForce 7 or Radeon X1800 card. Anything less than that can mean turning off real-time lighting or shadow effects for performance reasons. Certainly, the most important new features of the newest generation of graphics chips are PixelShader 3.0 and HDR rendering, which make water look even more realistic or can produce literally brilliant lighting effects.
NVIDIA's SLI offering is targeted toward the extreme high end. Here, two graphics cards are connected and work in tandem, improving performance by up to 73%. However, performance can also take a hit if a particular game is not optimized for SLI. In this article, four SLI solutions compete with their single-card counterparts and the rest of the field in seven gaming benchmarks.