I need help choosing a graphics card.
March 23, 2004 3:18 PM   Subscribe

All day, I've been looking into the murky world of graphics cards, and I don't feel any wiser. Need help [mi].

Partially, it's because there's no real single answer, I guess.. but I'd like to know - which card should I buy? Radeon or GeForce? I just want a graphics card to take over from my integrated chip, with a TV out, that might give me a shot at playing Doom 3 the way its supposed to be played when it comes out. Any good links appreciated, I've checked all the usual suspects. Thanks in advance.
posted by ascullion to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
What's your budget, and your system spec?
posted by Jairus at 3:44 PM on March 23, 2004

...and does your current chip have TV out, or are you looking for a card with it?
posted by Jairus at 3:46 PM on March 23, 2004

i looked at cards and read reviews for 6 months, finally i just bought something that was 1)on sale 2)outdated 3)affordable...figured my home system wasn't worth a card that i wanted.

what i would like to see, and maybe this could help you, and maybe someone here knows....i want a sliding scale thingy, where i can put in my system components and it will spit out the card that will have maximum effect on performance.

because i don't own a system that matches tom's hardware guides benchmark.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:47 PM on March 23, 2004

The Radeon 9700/9800 Pro are highly recommended. I have a 9700 myself, and have video running out to my TV. The software was surprisingly easy to set up and use, with nice features such as "Theater Mode" for automatically switching to full-screen when starting a video on your PC. Plus, performance in every game is amazing. (They ain't cheap, though.)
posted by waxpancake at 3:47 PM on March 23, 2004

waxpancake, you have a well deserved reputation for coding things that make sense of numbers, trends, metafilter, mp3 calcs, etc...., want to code a video-card-calculator for us?
posted by th3ph17 at 3:52 PM on March 23, 2004

th3ph17: SiSoftware Sandra has something like that, as I recall, although it might just be for CPU/RAM/Motherboard. Mind you, if your system is a much older one, the video card isn't the bottleneck.

The ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128 and the Radeon 9800XT are probably your best bets for video cards right now, if you want to be able to play Doom 3. The XT is pricey, but it's (IMHO) the best card on the market. I, however, am waiting for the next-gen cards before I buy a card to play Doom 3.
posted by Jairus at 3:58 PM on March 23, 2004

I don't think the XT is worth it, though no argument it's the best out there.

It's worth mentioning: Video cards never last forever of course, but with the incoming PCI Express stuff, any card bought now isn't likely to be transferrable to your next computer.
posted by malphigian at 4:27 PM on March 23, 2004

ascullion, if you're sensitive to noise, please bear in mind that high-end graphics cards (like the 9800) are notorious for having cheap, whiny, piercing fans. If you're hell-bent on maxing out your framerates, though, you could mod your graphics card with a heatsink from Zalman, and enjoy the quiet.
posted by stonerose at 4:31 PM on March 23, 2004

Radeon. It seems to be the featured graphics card for MS XP Media edition, so I'd guess that XP/Microsoft compatibility is better.
posted by seanyboy at 4:47 PM on March 23, 2004

Bah. Humbug.

Buy a Radeon 9600XT or a Radeon 9800 Pro and save yourself a few bucks.

Buy RAM with the leftover cash; as much and as fast as you can afford. DOOM 3 will thank you for it.
posted by yangwar at 5:41 PM on March 23, 2004

If things haven't changed while I type this -- they do, that fast -- ATI currently holds the performance crown. If you absolutely have to have the fastest video device you can get, ATI offers it.

That said, I wouldn't willingly give my money to ATI. Their Windows drivers have been, over the years, varying in quality from appalling to abyssimal, driver releases for older hardware are almost completely nonexistant, and they never seem able to decide if they do or don't want to offer specs to X11 GLX driver developers. I've been burned by crappy ATI drivers one or two hundred times too many, and the minor improvements they've made haven't yet impressed me.

nVidia has won my loyalty by consistently persuing top flight drivers; there are occasional bugs in bleeding edge drivers but they rarely accumulate. nVidia threw its weight decisively behind OpenGL, not half-assing it, still supports old cards with new driver releases, and has been in general a good IHV citizen. They're far from perfect: the X11 GLX driver options are acceptable but not great, the cycle time for new Windows driver releases is getting longer, and at the high end their cards draw a ton of juice and generate lots of heat. But they have a proven track record and trustworthiness that ATI doesn't have at all and would have to bend over backwards to get.
posted by majick at 7:28 PM on March 23, 2004

My new PC I configured with an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB card, and it has been purring. I cranked up Unreal 2004 at 1280x1024 with all the effects turned on, and it didn't even blink. It is digital output, so it is ready for digital monitors of the future, VGA, for your monitor of today, and your S-Video for outputting to your television.
posted by benjh at 8:03 PM on March 23, 2004

Response by poster: Sorry to be slow. Budget is flexible, but I don't want to spend a stupid amount of money on a card that will be out of date in three months. I'm running a P4 2.8ghz, with 512MB ram
posted by ascullion at 3:07 AM on March 24, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help, it's much appreciated
posted by ascullion at 3:08 AM on March 24, 2004

Response by poster: Oh, and, I'm looking for a TV out..
posted by ascullion at 3:11 AM on March 24, 2004

What kind of games do you like?

I'd say (with a radion 9600 pro), get a 9600 xt with a half life 2 voucher - they have adaptable fan speeds when they aren't completely silent and a good amount of performance. The price differential between them and a 9800 means you'll be able to get the mid range next gen cards for but a small outlay when this one finally retires (it'll last a few years at the very least).
posted by Mossy at 1:31 PM on March 24, 2004

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