HotHardware Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008
Looks Matter: Video Cards
Whether you’re gaming, watching movies, or editing photos or video, image and video quality matters. That’s why we’re bringing you a handful of video cards, for both ATI and NVIDIA fans, that are sure to please any budget.
Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe - $537
At the high end of the graphics card line-up, you’ll find the Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe Radeon HD 4870 X2. This card features 2GB of GDDR5 memory, pre-overclocked core and memory speeds, and dual GPUs. The Revolution 700 Deluxe has a triple slot cooling solution to help lower temperatures, reduce fan noise, and offer better overclocking potential. It also offers serious connectivity in the form of VGA, DVI, HDMI, and a Display port outputs. Palit combined 2.4 teraFLOPS of graphics horsepower and 1,600 stream processors to make the Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe one of the most powerful graphics cards on the market today. If you have the cash, this is definitely a card to consider.
eVGA GeForce GTX 280 FTW - $454
The GeForce GTX 280 knocked the 9800 GX2 off the top spot when it initially arrived. For even greater performance, eVGA’s FTW version increases the card's default GPU and memory clocks. NVIDIA's reference design calls for a 602MHz GPU clock with 1.1GHz memory; eVGA configured its FTW edition with a 670MHz GPU and 1.21GHz memory. With 240 shader processors, 80 texture processors, and 1GB of frame buffer memory, the GeForce GTX 280 will provide excellent 3D graphics performance. This card also has 2nd Generation NVIDIA Unified Architecture with PureVideo HD and CUDA technologies, along with PCI Express 2.0 support. In terms of outputs, the GeForce GTX 280 FTW offers 2 x DVI-I outputs and 1 x HDTV output.
PowerColor PCS+ HD4870 1GB - $290
For an upper mid-range card, the Radeon 4870 HD 1GB is popular mong the enthusiast community. PowerColor's PCS+ HD4870 1GB version has a 780MHz GPU clock and a Memory Clock of 925MHz (3.7Gbps effective). The outputs consist of a pair of dual-link DVI outputs and an S-Video / HDTV output. HDMI output with audio is also available through the use of a DVI to HDMI Adapter dongle.
The Radeon HD 4870 GPU is built using a 55nm fabrication process and features 800 stream processing units, more than double the number featured in the Radeon HD 3800 series. For additional performance, PowerColor pre-overclocked the AX4870 Radeon HD4870 and packs on 1GB of GDDR5 memory.
Compared to the high-end GTX 280, the more affordable GTX 260 has one of its ten thread processing clusters and one of its eight ROP partitions disabled. The GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 features 216 general purpose "stream" processors. In addition, the shader, or stream processor clock speed, on the eVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked is increased for enhanced performance over reference models.
This card offers NVIDIA SLI technology and NVIDIA PureVideo HD. It has 2 x DVI ports and an HDTV / S-Video Out port. The eVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 Superclocked has a 626MHz GPU clock and a memory clock of 1,053MHz.
If you’re a tad strapped on cash, it’s amazing what you can get for $100 nowadays. To tackle demanding HD games and applications, the Sapphire Radeon HD4670 1GB DDR3 has 320 Stream Processing Units and a 750MHz Core Clock. For scalability, the card offers ATI CrossFireX technology with up to quad GPU support. This card also has Dual DL-DVI-I and HDTV I/Os.
The Radeon HD4670 1GB DDR3 delivers a respectable amount of gaming performance and also supports DirectX10.1 games. Our pick from Sapphire has 1GB of DDR3 with a memory clock of 873MHz.
Another sub-$100 card, the 768MB XFX GeForce 9600 GSO, offers respectable gaming performance and graphics as well. The 9600 GSO is driven by the same G92 graphics processor that's inside the GeForce 8800 GT and the GeForce 9800 GTX, only it's been knocked down to six thread processing clusters and three ROP partitions. As a result, you’ll get 96 stream processors, 48 texels per clock of filtering power, and a 192-bit memory interface. This card is SLI ready, has 768MB of DDR2, a GPU clock speed of 580 MHz, and memory clock of 1GHz.