DX9 Graphics Cards

xane

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Reading the latest reviews, I am pretty much convinced I will be needing a DX9 compatible graphics card for the upcoming goodness that is Battlefield Vietnam.

So, having been sufficiently compromised with a GeForce 4 Ti 4200 128MB graphics card for the last year or so, I need today's rough equivilent, something up to spec but not overly powerful or expensive. My card was bought with about £150, so I'd be looking at the same budget.

I have no loyalty to nVidia or ATi.

Recommendations ? Or should I wait a while ?
 

Deadmanwalking

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Well if you are buying now then a Radeon 9600XT is prob your best bet at that price range.

Some people will start shouting 9800SE and then softmod/hack etc (AKA Screw your card up). :p

If i was in your position, it would be a 9600XT hands down.
 

Deadmanwalking

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Indeed. In the end it comes down to cash :)

If you can stretch the extra 50 odd then the 9800.
 

xane

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Recommendations on brands also if you can, either to avoid or watch out for.

The ATi cards over at eBuyer seems to be Sapphires and Hightech, the nVidia are all Leadtek and Gainward. My current card is a Leadtek and I was quite happy with it.
 

Jonty

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Hi xane

If you search these forums you may able to find similar topics. Basically, ATI's full retail 9600XT is a good card for the money. The 128Mb version comes in at around £120, and the 256Mb for around £140. I say the full retail version, as the OEM and 'lite' retail versions don't include the bundle, which at present includes a voucher for Half-Life 2 (N.B. of late not all manufacturers are now including this voucher in any of their packages, so be sure to double check if this is the card for you). I'm currently running a 9600XT and I've been very impressed with it (and I'm a big nVidia fan, so that's saying something, hehe). The only thing which lets it done, in my personal opinion, are the drivers.

From nVidia, the 5700Ultra and 5900XT are the 9600XT's main rivals. Both offer roughly the same performance, give or take, although the 5900XT should outperform the 9600XT is pretty much all tests. The price of both cards should hover around the £150, although it does a vary lot according to the manufacturer. The bundles tend not to be as excited as Half-Life 2, but some 5900XT cards do ship with Call of Duty, which isn't bad (that said, this may be in the US and Canada only at present). As for nVidia's drivers, they tend to be traditionally more stable than ATI's, dare I say it, but they're not without their problems, of course.

One thing to note is MicroDirect, who last I checked were selling a PixelView 5900 non-ultra card for around £135 inv.VAT. This card is based on the 5900 non-Ultra reference design, so it's nothing too innovative, but it should offer good solid performance which should surpass all the cards mentioned above. Usually 5900 non-Ultras retail for between £160-£200+, so if this is what it looks like, it ought to be a very good deal.

Kind Regards

Edit ~ In terms of brands, ATI: Sapphire, Hercules, ASUS and Connect3D (maybe) are all known to have good cards, especially the first two or third brands mentioned. For nVidia: ASUS, Gainward and MSI all tend to produce good cards which often tend to surpass the reference designs. Other manufacturers will often just produce reference design based cards, so although they'll be nothing too original, they will provide solid no-frills performance at a reasonable price (usually aided by reduced bundles).
 

throdgrain

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Dunno about this brand business tbh, I bought a Powercolour 9800 pro , a make some people sniffed at, and its been spot on.
And i think Jonty's driver comment is a bit out of date really , the last few lots Ive had have been spot on, particularly the latest 4.10.
And Ive heard a few things about problems with the lartest NVidea drivers re BF1942 and CoD if I remember rightly.
 

Jonty

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throdgrain said:
Dunno about this brand business tbh, I bought a Powercolour 9800 pro , a make some people sniffed at, and its been spot on.
And i think Jonty's driver comment is a bit out of date really , the last few lots Ive had have been spot on, particularly the latest 4.10.
And Ive heard a few things about problems with the lartest NVidea drivers re BF1942 and CoD if I remember rightly.
Hello

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one for covering old ground, and you're spot on about the improvements ATI have made in their drivers. It's merely been my experience that problems do exist, and that they vary from system to system. The 3.10s were great for some people, yet for me personally I had problems with CoD, Jedi Academy, Max Payne and even some of ATI's own technology demos. The 4.1s help, but issues exist in the FarCry demo for me still. Like I say, credit where credit is due, ATI have made big improvements, but personally I still don't believe they're quite as stable as they would ideally be (FiringSquad have recently reviewed the 4.1 drivers and found little reason to upgrade).

Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not saying nVidia's drivers are perfect. Issues still exist as to image quality and performance in some games and, for what they're worth any more, benchmarks. Whilst FarCry has problems with ATI's drivers, it also doesn't like nVidia's ForceWare drivers where fog table emulation is disabled. Finally, the jury is still out on whether nVidia's DX9 driver performance is as competitive as it should be.

So I'm not saying one company's drivers are definitely better than the other's - as they both have their merits and faults - merely that nVidia have traditionally been more stable (although, like some traditions, they don't always stand up to close scrutiny).

Kind Regards

Jonty

P.S. At the end of the day, you're unlikely to be disappointed with either nVidia or ATI, as both make fantastic products at relatively low prices.
 

throdgrain

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Yeah fair comment too Jonty :)

When I was buying a new video card a while back to replace my ti4400 there didnt seem to be any choice at all, the ATI cards were like , the latest thing, whereas the numbers and names of the NVidea offerings didnt inspire me with the confidence to buy any somehow.
But as you say, its about personal choice at the end of the day .
 

jaba

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powercolor radeon 9800 pro is now £176 if i had that money that baby would be mine
 

Krazeh

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Unless you desperately need to upgrade right now i'd wait a few months, by then we should start seein NV40 and R420 boards entering the market along with the associated drop in prices of current gfx cards
 

fatbusinessman

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Deadmanwalking said:
For gods sake man, make a decision one way or the other!!!

Stop being so diplomatic. :wub:
In Jonty's defence, there really isn't a huge amount to choose between them - if I had to choose at the moment, I wouldn't know which way to go either. So it's not just him being nice to everyone.
 

Deadmanwalking

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fatbusinessman said:
In Jonty's defence, there really isn't a huge amount to choose between them - if I had to choose at the moment, I wouldn't know which way to go either. So it's not just him being nice to everyone.
I would get the one with the prettiest colours then :(
 

Ch3tan

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If you are not planning to upgrade the rest of your PC for a good while, then get the 9800 pro. At under £200 it really is a bargain. You will not be dissapointed with it, it is a marvelous card.
 

Doomy

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Im in the same boat really... I have a ti4400 and have done for well over a year (when they first came out anyway).

What id like to now seeing as i dont really play any new titles as such, maybe will at some point tho, i just cant decide whether to upgrade...

I guess what i am trying to say, i dont want to spend £300 on another card but id like something that could handle new games aswell as my ti4400 did back then... And will i notice any major improvements in framerate with say a 9600 xt? Im sorely tempted to get a 9800 pro but i dont think i really need it, do I? :)
 

Jonty

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Hi Doomy

It's quite hard to give specific advice since everyone's needs are specific, so don't take what I'm about to say as the gospel truth :)

You say you don't really play new titles, and as such the improvements in visual quality and realism which new cards offer perhaps won't be noticable to you if you're running older, classic software titles. If you started playing forthcoming games like Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Deus Ex 2 etc. then you really would notice a difference in terms of quality and speed, but if these games aren't your cup of tea then that's slightly less of a reason to upgrade.

That said, newer cards aren't just about improving image quality, the raw speed they bring should be noticable in pretty much any game. How much of an improvement varies dramatically on the game and your system as a whole, but as a rule of thumb most modern mainstream ATI and nVidia cards should outperform the 4400. Also, image quality features such as anti-aliasing (effectively smoothing jagged edges in 3D games) can still be applied to older software title, so you would potentially notice improvements there too.

Then of course you could play the waiting game. Around March this year ATI and nVidia will announce their next generation cards, which go beyond merely speed bumping their existing products. As ever, this means you will have a choice of either getting the latest and greatest card (mainstream versions of these new products may take a while to come to market, however) or getting today's technology at a lesser price. Considering Deus Ex 2 is expected in Europe in March, Half-Life 2 rumoured for April and Doom3 for later still, it's arguable that even if you wated to get into playing newer titles you'd be waiting for games like these to really push your new card (that said, Call of Duty, Max Payne 2 etc. all make good use of DirectX 9 features at present).

So I don't know what to suggest, really (hence the rambling ;)). If you're not going to buy new games like those mentioned above, and you're not going to buy existing games like Call of Duty, Max Payne 2 etc., then the main benefits of getting a new card would merely be to increase framerates in existing games. If you were to purchase some new software along with the card, then not only would you notice a speed increase in your existing games, but these newer software titles would look and run a lot better of the latest technology than they would on a 4400 card. Or you could wait, save you cash, and see what spring time brings both in terms of new cards and new games, and then make your mind up then.

Kind Regards

Jonty

P.S. I mentioned first-person shooter games simply because they tend to be broadly popular and make good use of pushing 3D cards to their limit.
P.P.S. Performance gains etc. really do depend on the specs. of your system as a whole.
P.P.P.S. A 4400 card isn't exactly antiquated, so you could easily afford to wait if you wanted to do so.
 

Doomy

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Thanks Jonty.

The main thing im interested in really is AA as my ti does not like AA in the slightest. I can run a couple of games with full AA nicely (such as Q3 etc) but im really after fps in my favourite RPG namely NWN. Its no slouch on my p4 2.8, 512 3200 twinmos specced machine but i want it perfect as i am spending a lot of time with it.

As far as later games, (i have deus ex 2 on xbox so no worries there) obviously Halflife 2 will be a concern but i refuse to pay for a card before that is released as i have seen a few already doing so and getting frustrated. The 'Tech Demo' runs nicely here with just the ti4400 albeit rather sluggish in places. As for Doom3 i will probably get this for xbox as it doesnt really look like a fast paced fps where the mouse is needed too much, in fact i think it looks like a first person Silent Hill more than anything :) The 'Tech Demo' of that runs 'ok' too.

Picture quality i guess is paramount, i dont want to pay for a card that will cover me for 12 months at least (like my trusty ti has) i just want something that will give me a few more fps (10-20), one that will allow full AA and maybe even anisotropic filtering (is this feature still a huge performance hit?) and not cost too much. And spend less than £150 if possible. Too much to ask?

TIA

Ill happily spend money on a ninja card when i can be bothered, just now there is no need for me.
 

Jonty

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Hi Doomy

I don't think you're asking too much, and the quality of mainstream cards is certainly very good at present. In my experience I've found that the performance impact of AA and AF vary greatly according to the game you're running, so it's hard to give solid rules. In games like Q3A, you can happily run with 6x AA and 8x AF without framerates becoming unplayable on a system like yours. That said, in Call of Duty, you'd probably be looking at around 2-4x AA and 2-4x AF. Its hard to say because factors such as the detail settings and the resolution also make a big difference (the resolution particularly has a big impact on AA and AF performance).

Anyway, what I'd suggest is going and reading some reviews of the radeon 9600 XT, the Radeon 9800 Pro (blowing your budget, I know, but still worth checking) nVidia 5700 Ultra and 5900 XT (and maybe the 5900 non-Ultra). Then just see what you think. As you say, I wouldn't really advise getting an insanely expensive card at present, but a solid mainstream solution would tide your over nicely. For around £120, last I checked, you can pick up a retail 9600XT, maybe with the HL2 bundle, and most people would be happy with that buy. nVidia's offerings probably won't be that cheap at this moment in time, but they do (generally) have a slight performance lead.

Kind Regards

Jonty

Edit ~ If that 9800Pro offer were extended to Europe, that'd be a very cool deal, but I wouldn't hold my breath, as the US often tends to get the best deals :(
 

babs

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Coincidentally I just ordered the 9600XT (Sapphire 128MB model). Going from my creaking MX440 I hope is going to show a major difference. I like to hold onto a card until it really is pathetic, the performance jumps for the money are very satisfying ;) Only £104 inc VAT and Delivery from Komplett.
 

Jonty

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babs said:
Coincidentally I just ordered the 9600XT (Sapphire 128MB model). Going from my creaking MX440 I hope is going to show a major difference. I like to hold onto a card until it really is pathetic, the performance jumps for the money are very satisfying ;) Only £104 inc VAT and Delivery from Komplett.
That's a good buy, babs :) Just for reference, the £104 model is the 'lite retail' package and so doesn't include the Half-Life 2 voucher or much else of a bundle. But still, at that price you can't go wrong.

Kind Regards
 

babs

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TBH I don't think I've ever installed a game I got with hardware, and by the time HL2 finally makes an appearance I'll probably be getting another card ;)
 

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