Which graphics card manufacturer should I choose, and does it make a difference?
June 29, 2007 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Buying an Nvidia graphics card... which manufacturer to go for? Does it make a difference?

Hello all,

I'm building a PC and I've settled on a Geforce 7600GS 512MB, but I find that there is a fair amount of choice when it comes to manufacturers, and obviously you find a difference in price between them.

MSI make one, Gigabyte make one, and there are a few others as well.

How can I tell which is a good manufacturer to buy from? Will it make a difference?
posted by edbyford to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At that price range, it doesn't really matter, unless you care about the box art. I think it's more important to buy from a store that has excellent customer service and allows exchanges / returns without a hassle.
posted by bshort at 10:22 AM on June 29, 2007

Dan's Data on how to pick a video card brand. Essentially, brand name doesn't really make a difference. Go nuts.
posted by chrominance at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2007

At that price range, it doesn't really matter, unless you care about the box art.

Not necessarily true. BFG, for instance, has a no-hassle lifetime warranty which I have taken advantage of in the past. I don't believe any of the other manufacturers do that... usually they are 2-3 year limited warranties, and the way things have been going lately you may not have to buy a new video card for 4-5 years.

Lifetime warranty always gets my vote with the way these chips run so hot these days.
posted by fusinski at 10:44 AM on June 29, 2007

I've always gone with whatever's cheapest and offers the features I want (sometimes, you'll see the same chipset with different connectors on it, with or with S-Video, etc.). I haven't had any trouble with things burning out, but I guess if you're going to spend a significant amount, I would be okay spending up to 20% more to get a lifetime warranty.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:47 AM on June 29, 2007

I haven't had any trouble with things burning out

Unfortunately it only takes one failed fan.

Or one bad Vista driver. Not that I'm bitter about that.
posted by fusinski at 11:02 AM on June 29, 2007

Another factor to consider is the bundled software packages. There may be games or video utilities included with some that aren't in others. I usually go for the cheapest though.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 11:04 AM on June 29, 2007

A lifetime warranty? In 4 years your video card will be outdated, no matter which model you buy. Spend that money on something that will actually matter, like more system RAM.
posted by bshort at 11:17 AM on June 29, 2007

Personally, the noise of a video card is important to me. I want a quiet one.

I read reviews of the specific version of the card froma vendor and see what they say. Often they will mention the loudness. I buy passively cooled, silent cards, but I'm a freak.

Second, you want to see the connector options DVI/VGA/s-video and how they match up to your uses. You want to avoid adapters if you can.

Also, you can compare the type of memory used, faster is better.

Lastly, the bundle can come with software like games or DVD players that are actually valuable. YMMV, depending on your tastes.
posted by Argyle at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2007

There are vendors that make aftermarket passive coolers for graphics cards. I don't knof if there are any for your choice (it may generate too much heat) but my old Radeon 9600XT is now fanless and completely silent.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out Central Computing. They have lots of no-noise and low-noise components (but also a restocking fee for returns)
posted by zippy at 12:13 PM on June 29, 2007

Read the reviews for your card at newegg.com. There are some real differences in brands. Some actually honor mail-in-rebates. Others don't. Yes, its a scam. Biostar I'm looking at you.

Then you've got the fan on the thing. Is it super-loud? Is it dying in 3 months?

Not only is every brand different so is every card. The only thing you can do is check out reviews and user reviews and try to avoid the lemons.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:23 PM on June 29, 2007

Cooler, connections, clockrates and cost are the big 4 to look out for -- some push clockrates higher than others, and will use higher quality memory or testing to get there. Some put more emphesis on quiet or passive cooling while others stick religiously to the reference designs. nVidia gives different manufacturers different deals too, as the earlier referenced Dan's Data article mentioned.

Here's a slightly overpriced passively cooled 512MB XFX 7600GS for instance, but perhaps better would be this cheaper Gigabyte one with higher clocks, provided you can live without dual DVI.
posted by Freaky at 12:27 PM on June 29, 2007

I'll second BFG. I just went through the RMA process with them and it was the most painless tech support experience I've ever had. friendly, English speaking techs (they're based in IL, I believe) who are gamers answered my calls both times, and were extermely helpful. Not that I'm overclocking, but one tech indicated that that wasn't as issue, going so far as to tell me about his overclocked rig at home =). The card failed after a year and a half, so the lifetime warranty is useful in this case.

For the most part, manufacturers implement a reference design from the chipset manufacturer, so brand doesnt matter much, but my customer service experience has me leaning towards BFG for
posted by kableh at 12:29 PM on June 29, 2007

Also, its almost never smart to a buy a GS product from nvidia. The much better peforming GT is usually priced the same if you look around. This one is only 95 dollars!
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:00 PM on June 29, 2007

Also, you want that GDDR3 memory. Don't settle for GDDR2 nowdays.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:02 PM on June 29, 2007

Avoid brands that put cheap fans. They will fail and begin emitting a banshee wail in months. This has happened to me more than once.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:09 PM on June 29, 2007

I agree with damn dirty ape - EVGA is nVidia's personal retail brand so the boards are stock specifications.

I got a EVGA 7600GT 256MB and I'm super happy with it. My previous card was another EVGA 6600GT and I would have kept it except for a motherboard upgrade. Just for kicks I played around with overclocking the 6600GT when I first got it and it overclocked great. The EVGA 7600GT has an on-board GPU temperature monitor which is quite nifty.

I've also heard that 512MB memory is overkill and that 256 should be enough...
posted by porpoise at 3:33 PM on June 29, 2007

512MB can help quite a bit at higher texture resolutions and geometry detail levels (though of course it varies between games). However, with a 7600GS you probably won't be using them, since even if the card isn't constantly swapping textures in and out of main memory, it's still likely to be struggling just from lack of fillrate, shading and T&L performance.
posted by Freaky at 7:47 AM on June 30, 2007

There are benchmarks at Anandtech specifically addressing the differences between the 8800 with 320Mb and 512Mb. The short answer -- not much, for most games. If I buy a new card this year, it will definitely be a 320Mb 8800.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:21 PM on July 1, 2007

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