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Graphics Card Upgrade Tips

Nvidia vs Ati
The battle between these two major chip manufacturers is intense but at the moment it’s all one way traffic in Nvidia’s favour and I will tell you why. However it has not always been this way and I would think it would be interesting to reminisce about the contest between these two epic rivals in the past to start off with.
A few years ago, Nvidia went through a very dark phase, when Series 5 graphics cards were out, they were overpriced and underperforming chips compared to the 9xxx series from ATi. I vividly remember the frustration I got with my FX5200, albeit it was a budget card but I’d expect more for the 100 or so Australian dollars I paid for it, the 9200 back then was around the same price and it performed much better, probably because ATi opted for the 128-bit memory interface while Nvidia still use the 64-bit one on the FX5200’s.
Then came a new era with the 6 series and the 6600GT absolutely dominated the mid-range market which is where all the money is in the graphics industry. At first ATi’s answer to the 6600GT was the X700pro which was plagued with heat problems and under-performance, it was quickly scrapped and the X800GT was rolled out to take its place. The X800GT used left over chips from the X800XT the previous generation’s high end card, however it was unable to steal the 6600GT’s lion share of the market although it did close the gap a little.
Nvidia reinforced its dominance with the 7600GT another solid performer that the market embraced with open arms. The 7600GT was the best valued card for a long time being the sweet spot between price and performance. The key to Nvidia’s success in the 6 and 7 and now 8 series was its quick utilisation of the smaller fabrication process for its chips which means they can perform faster but generate less heat and uses less power. So with heat being the number one enemy to computer electronics followed by power it’s no wonder that Nvidia is increasingly becoming the more attractive option. Another factor is overclockability, most gamers out there overclock to gain free performance and it is a widely accepted practice. I would like to point out that overclocking is an absolutely safe practice because of the various safeguards both built into the hardware as well as programmed into the drivers. For example, ATi drivers have VPU recover which means if you try to push its core or memory frequency too high it will automatically reset to default to prevent a restart or damage to your system. For Nvidia, it will restart your system preventing any damage to you graphics card. Back to overclockability, I have certainly discovered a trend in the card from both companies and I have found that Nvidia cards seem able to be pushed to a higher clock speed. That was certainly true with the FX5200 and the 9200, X800GT and the 6600GT and the X1950pro and the 7900GT. I would like to add that I’m speaking from experience and not just some review someone did on the internet. I own every one of those cards and have tested them myself. Even in nvidia’s darkest hour, the FX series, although the 9200 performed better, the FX5200 was able to be overclocked more than its ATi counterpart.
When it came to the high end market the 7900GT came out on top, and one would only need to see the cards to see which is better. The 7900GT is a lean and mean card; it only sports a puny heatsink and fan assembly with no active cooling whatsoever over the memory chips, while the X1950pro has a very large slab of copper over the GPU as well as the chips coupled with a large fan. You can’t see any of the memory chips as they are cooling by the large copper heatsink, and the weight difference is very astounding. Although the X1950pro produced more heat, it was always one step behind the 7900GT in stock speed benchmarking and when it came to overclocked benchmarking the 7900GT was miles ahead.
With the current standoff, the 8 series versus the X2K, the 8 series certainly comes out on top, although I haven’t not had the opportunity to test cards from the two series but if benchmark scores from reputable computer magazines are anything to go on, Nvidia is ripping the competition to shreds. So if you are looking for a graphics card, either wait abit and go for the DX10 compatible 8800GTX or if you want a DX9 card now, then get at the very least a 7900GT as DX9 cards are becoming obsolete with the release of DX10 games like Crysis, they will certainly not able to keep up.

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