View Full Version : Buying a video card now

21st Feb 2003, 15:13
Hi All

It's partly a hypothetical question - unless I get some sort of windfall with my tax refund, I probably won't be plunking down the cash for a new video card in the next month or two. But I'm looking around and thinking about it - I'd pick up a new card for this machine, that is meant to carry forward to a new one when it's built, and pass on the GeForce 2 MX 400 that's in this machine to the kids (they have a TNT2).

So three questions:
<ol><li>Would you go for a top-end ATI card (Question 2), or a top-end nVidia (GeForce 4 Ti) if you were buying a vid-card now? (On specs, price and performance, but not just taste!)
<li>The ATI 9700 Pro is around $600 Canadian at the moment, and the 9500 Pro is under $350. I know the 9700 is a very tasty piece of hardware indeed, but given that I'm not (yet) a multimillionaire, is the 9700 worth the extra $250? (By way of background, GeForce 4 Ti 4200s start at around $275 and Ti 4800s around $400.)
<li>Is there anything upcoming that you know about that would suggest I should hold off a while before picking up a vid card? (apart from the normal upgrade cycle stuff)</ol>


Munin the Raven
21st Feb 2003, 18:05
I picked up a GeForce4 Ti4200 128MB 4XAGP model a few months ago from an online vendor for $135 with free shipping, and I don't think I've seen any better deals since, although I have seen equivalent ones. Check out www.pricewatch.com to see what are usually the best deals on video cards and other hardware for any given week.

I really don't know if anything else is coming out soon. There are several 8XAGP versions of the higher end PC cards (like the GeForce4 Ti4200) that have been out for a couple of months but I don't think that extra feature is worth it for home users, especially if you don't have a motherboard with 8XAGP capability.

As for Nvidia vs. ATI, I really can't help you much there. It's just like the comments made on processor types earlier this week; as long as you have a graphics card made by one of the major companies you should be fine. Watch out for some cards that have Nvidia or ATI chipsets mounted on a generic card, as they can be sub-par to the real thing in terms of performance.

22nd Feb 2003, 01:52
These questions are getting increasingly difficult to answer, as the dominance of nVIDIA over ATI has dwindled. ATI has an awesome chip in the R300 (9700, 9500) which not only runs all over the nVIDIA TI series (even 9500 Pro >= TI4600) but is about on par with the all-new GeForce FX (and doesn't sound like a vacuum cleaner).

Several important points need to be considered based on personal use, as there is no definite choice now like there was in the past.[list=1]
ATI 9500/9700 cards are fully DirectX 9 capable. nVIDIA TI cards are only DirectX 8 capable.
The $250 (Canadian) difference between the 9700 and 9500 is likely due to the 9700 being a Pro where the 9500 isn't, or is an All-In-Wonder version (TV tuner, video in/out, video capture, etc). The difference between standard/standard or pro/pro versions is likely less.
The 9500/9700 cards outperform the TI series by a huge margin when Anti-Aliasing and/or Anisotropic Filtering are turned on. Go with ATI if you intend to make full use of these features.
The R350 (ATI 9800 or 9900) and NV35 (nVIDIA GeForce FX) cards will both be available within the next few months, dropping the 9500/ 9700 and TI cards down to more affordable levels. It may be worth the wait.
ATI only recently released their first driver set for Linux. By contrast, nVIDIA has had drivers for Linux for 2 years now, and they perform very well (UT2003 plays better under Linux than Windows for me). If you ever intend to use Linux (or even FreeBSD), nVIDIA is the best choice.
nVidia will likely release drivers for the TI series longer than ATI will for the 9500/9700.
The choice is very difficult, but there is no way you could lose. They are all excellent cards.

Good luck!

22nd Feb 2003, 04:05
Leatherman's response is very good. So, without justification, which is given above, my choices would be:

For an excellent "budget" card: Nvidia Geforce Ti 4200.

For a killer card: ATI 9700 Pro.

I'd bet that the Ti 4200 would be fine for Thief 3. If I am wrong, there would not be too much to lose, because you could probably trade up at that time for not much more than it would cost to buy the better card now, and you would have the side benefit of being able to upgrade your kids' machine with the 4200, if it comes to that.

I am a great believer that second best in computer hardware is good enough and more economical in the long run.

Mr. Perfect
25th Feb 2003, 01:39
Don't get pulled into the 8X AGP thing. There where benchmarks that ran the same exact video card in both 4x and 8x mode, and it came out to about 2 FPS difference. I say it's nothing but a buzz word, with 128MB of onboard memory, the video card isn't going to be boging down a 4x AGP bus with calls to the main memory for a while. :)

Just out of curiousity, do you have a price on the non-pro version of the 9700? It's not to far behind the 9700 Pro and is about $80 cheaper in the states.

26th Feb 2003, 04:09
Thanks all who have replied - I think Peter Smith might have the idea I'll follow for right now - pick up the cheapest GF4 Ti I can get for right now and save up for whatever the leading edge is in six months or a year...

Sorry, Mr Perfect, can't find a price on the non-pro 9700 in my usual places to look, but that's another possibility....

Thanx again,


26th Feb 2003, 15:43
In many cases, it's actually easier to find a cheaper GeForce4 Ti4200 8X AGP card than an 4X AGP version. 8X is the new marketing buzzword which has proven inconsequential in benchmarking. The system boards haven't been tuned to handle the higher multiple data access. The "X" doesn't mean the video card runs at a faster bus speed. The AGP's bus still runs at the same speed as the system bus (which is twice or more faster than the PCI bus; see <a href="http://www.pcguide.com/ref/mbsys/buses/types/agpBus-c.html" target=_blank>PC Guide's AGP description</a>). It just means how many data transfers are executed per clock cycle. You can only pump in/out as much data as the system bus can handle. Besides helping to get a motherboard and CPU with a higher bus speed, the video card's GPU makes a big difference. Obviously an MX version of the video board can't handle anywhere near the bandwidth of an 8X card. See <a href="http://www.tomshardware.com/graphic/200210041/index.html" target=_blank>Tom's Hardware article</a> for some benchmarks of 8X cards. The 2 FPS difference is most likely due to the granularity of measurements in the benchmarking (i.e., margin for error); everytime you run a benchmark you'll usually get a slightly different value.

Okay, now a question for those folks that have the ATI Radeon 9700. Does it do fog effects? Awhile back when I had the Creative TNT2 Ultra 32MB AGP (nVidia's GPU) video card, I could see fogging in Life of the Party OM. I then got an ATI video card (don't remember the model) and no longer could see fog. Got another bigger and better ATI Radeon 64MB VIVO (basically their 7200 model) video card and still could not see fogging. So I'm very leery of continuing my next video card purchase in the ATI line since I've obviously lost some functionality that the nVidia GPU & firmware know how to handle correctly. This isn't just me; I've heard of other ATI owners also losing fog effects. Faster transfer and vertex & shading improvements be da<i></i>mned if I cannot first experience all the effects the game has to offer.