Geekwar: ATI or nVidia chipset?

I’m not looking for advice on their newest series, run-Doom3-at-300-fps, $800 cards that require a complete overhaul of my power supply and three times the RAM type card. I’m looking discount, just need to run some less demanding games tolerably enough 128mb AGP card. The type I could get at Newegg for $60 after shipping. So, for these lower demands, is there any notable difference between the two chipsets, between offbrand and first-party brands, etc?

For the record: 1.6GHz P4, 384MB RAM, XP Home. Ashamed to admit the computer, aging in its own right, has always had a pitiful 16MB video card.
The games in question that run poorly right now, and I’d like to enjoy: Simcity 4, Silent Storm, and GTA Vice City.

I’ll turn in my Dork Decoder Ring for stooping low enough to ask this question.

The two main cards you will find in this price range would be the GeforceFX 5200 & the Radeon 9200. If you do get a 5200, stay away from those using a 64 bit memory controller, and cough up the extra $5-10 for a 128 bit memory controller, like the card I linked to. It doubles memory bandwidth. Also, stay away the Radeon 9*00 SE cards - they are also crippled with a 64 bit memory bus. You would also want to look at the GeforceFX 5500, and they are just rebranded 5200 (just like the Radeon 9200 is just a rebranded Radeon 9000, gotta love video card naming :rolleyes: ) as well as checking the the Radeon 9550(make sure to get the 128 bit memory bus), as both these cards are roughly in your price range.

As for the specific brand, most are pretty good, I prefer Sapphire for ATI cards, but whatever you do, DO NOT buy a card made by Powercolor, or you will be sorry.

What he said.

Also, there will be a lot of geeks dumping their cards to get “run-Doom3-at-300-fps, $800 cards” now that Doom3 is out and HL2 is only weeks away. Take advantage of this by buying used.

I’m not a gamer so this is biased, but I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the single coolest “toy” I have ever purchased for my computer is the ATI All-in-Wonder card. I absolutely love this product to the point that I base my PC system around this card :cool:

Be sure to at least look at the warentee offered with what ever card you end up buying.

I recently had a video card go bad. I called the manufacturer, who informed me that I had a life-time warentee on that card. I mailed them the bad card, they sent me a refurbished card they day after they received mine. Total expenditure, about $7.00 in postage and insurance.

I would say both cards are about the same (really depends on personal bias). One thing I do not like about ATI is lack of legacy driver support. I recently reinstalled my USB TV Wonder (the original one, not USB2.0) and ATI no longer has drivers for it online! Nvida uses (and maybe ATI does to, I don’t know) unified drivers for their entire line of videocards. I love my GeForce 2 GTS for this because I can get new drivers for a 4 year old videocard (and it works perfectly for all my games on a 2400XP with 1 gig of PC3300 ram).

My next buy may be a X800 but I’m really waiting for Nvidia to counter it first.

I have a GeforceFX 5200 and both SimCity4 and GTA Vice City play on it very nicely. It would be my recommendation between the two certainly. ATI doesn’t always perform as well as it should do… IMHO

Question, I currently have a GeForce 4200 ti. How much would I have to spend to get a noticable improvement? (IOW, how does it fair against the 5XXX line from NVidia, and what’s a comperable ATI card?)


I looked it up and there seem to be two, yours is the 128mb, right? The new PC I bought this weekend an intergrated card (blech), but part of the reason I picked this computer because it has expansion slots for both PCI and AGP cards if I find I need something better than comes with it for games I purchase while I have it.

Oops. The link is the same ATI card for both. Which nVidia set card would you say?

Oops, sorry about that. Here is a good 5200. Just make sure to get a card version with the 128 bit memory bus - the 64 bit bus versions have only half the memory bandwidth, which is not good for performance, so pony up the extra $10. Note that ATI also has a 64 bit memory bus version, the Radeon 9200 SE, but that is more clearly labled.

The performance of both the Radeon 9200 & GeforceFX 5200 is about the same, and various from game to game as to which is faster. The GeforceFX 5200 does have DirectX 9.0 support, while the Radeon 9200 is limited to DX8, but the 5200 is slow enough that it really can’t take advantage of this any actual DX9 game.(Though in Doom3 you do get the “Heat Shiver” effect. :wink: )

I should note that my parents have a GeforceFX 5200 in their machine (1.6ghz P4, 512MB RAM), and it does pretty well at gaming. Even Doom3 will run on it, though at low resolution & detail level, but still playable.

Of course, Doom3 looks pretty darn good even with the minium video card- the Geforce 4 MX, and the lowest video settings, as I found out recently. My Geforce 4 Ti 4600 decided to die on the day I bought Doom 3. :rolleyes: Oh well, this gives me a good excuse to scrape up $290 and go get myself a Geforce 6800. :smiley:

You might want to check Tom’s Hardware Graphics card comparison.

The Geforce 4 Ti 4200 does pretty darn well, often holding its own against the Geforce 5600 Ultra & the Radeon 9600 Pro, though it starts falling behind when you crank up the AA & AF, and start using DX9 features. Overall, I would say if you want a really noticable improvment on the 4200, go with a GeforceFX 5900XT for $176 or a Radeon 9800 Pro for $198.

Thanks. I try not to spend more than $200 on graphics upgrages, but I also like to at least double my performance when I do so. Sounds like the time isn’t quite right yet.

If you already have a Geforce card, you can avoid a lot of driver related headaches by buying another Geforce card to replace it with.

I use a 128 Geforce 5200 and am pretty happy with the performance I got for the price.

If you already have a Geforce card, you can avoid a lot of driver related headaches by buying another Geforce card to replace it with.


I’ll second that. If you’re REPLACING a video card, it’s often easier to stick with the same brand as the original. With nVidia’s universal drivers, it’s a definite win.

In general, the spiel seems to be that ATI has slightly better (faster, anyway) hardware in any given generation, and nVidia has better drivers and compatibility. But seriously, these aren’t as finicky as they used to be. For mainstream games, you could probably buy a video card at random and it would work well for you.

You might want to check again in a month or two - the Geforce 6600 & 6600 GT will be out by then, at $150 & $200 repectively, and so far they look like they will perform pretty darn well.

As a quick, related question, is there a real difference between the Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra and the ATI Radeon 9800 XT? Looking at the spec sheets for both cards, I can’t find any modulo a trivial difference in memory clock speed (730 MHz for the Radeon, 1.1 GHz for the Nvidia).

For $200 you should have no trouble in getting a crad that will play pretty much anything out there, Doom III included.

I know it’s not the reason you want the card but why not get an ATI Radeon 9800 which is also coming down in price now that the X-series is out. You’ll find it for less than $200 and will keep you happy for years…

Nearly 400mhz isn’t a trivial memory speed difference; it is a major one. Also, the Geforce 6800 Ultra has 16 pixel pipelines, while the Radeon 9800XT has 8 pixel pipelines. The performance of the 6800 Ultra is often twice that of the 9800XT, at least in situations were the CPU or other things is not a limiting factor.

But it really isn’t fair to compare the Radeon 9800XT with the Geforce 6800 Ultra; the 9800XT was ATI’s top of the line of the last generation, while the 6800 Ultra is Nvidia’s top card this generation. The 6800 Ultra cost around $500; 9800XT’s run about $350, with the slightly slower clocked but otherwise identical Radeon 9800 Pro coming in at around $250 for the 256MB version, and $200 for the 128MB version.

A better card to compare the 6800Ultra with would be ATI’s x800XT, which also cost about $500. The two cards also provide similar performance, each faster in some games, and slower in others.
Here is a good review and comparision, that has both cards, plus their slower, cheaper siblings, the Geforce 6800GT & the Radeon x800 Pro, as well as the top of the line from the last generation, the GeforceFX 5950 Ultra & the Radeon 9800XT.