Wogg’s Update on the PC Market – Graphics Cards

Video Cards – Game junkies

This market moves faster than a cheetah on crack so I won’t spend much time here. You’ve got two primary choices for chip manufacturers, nVidia and ATI (now owned by AMD). These companies use third party manufacturers to produce cards based on their chips so you’ll find quite a few brands of the same card. Some of the bigger players are Sapphire, PNY, MSI, eVGA, and ASUS. There’s really very little separating these manufacturers so pay attention to the chip type, the clock speeds and memory size to pick your best value.

Both of these types of board will get you some gaming fun with the following general rule of thumb:

Money talks…. Every release cycle there’s generally a breakdown like this:
$500 and up – The smokin’ fast top of the line dog that will take at least a year before the next generation blows it’s doors off. ALL current games will fly on these suckers.
$300 – The “I want the fastest but I’m not paying stupid amounts for it” class. All current games will be plenty fast on these suckers.
$200 – The “I want to play all the games but don’t have that much money” class. All current games will be playable on these, but perhaps not fully featured or with the resolution at ridiculous levels.
$100 – The “I just want to play a game or two” class. Most current games should work fine, just at reduced quality levels.

A fact of life in video cards… the card you just dumped your precious money into will be trumped completely off the charts by the next generation card to be released in another 6-12 months. This is always the case, so get used to it and don’t cry when your buddy’s new system runs your favorite game at twice the resolution smoothly, forcing you to consider another couple hundred dollars on another stinkin’ video card.

Watch out for the generation changes, typically there’s some overlap in availability so while a top of the line card from the last generation will come down in price to match some middle of the pack new cards, it’s performance may not be as good in some situations. This is becoming the case as more and more games use the latest programmable shader effects and other pretty little eye candy features.

As for the interface… PCI express vs. AGP
Bottom line: AGP is going away. If you’re building new, go with PCI Express. The supplies are broader and you’ll spend less money than a comparable performing AGP part. These days, if you’re running a computer with an AGP slot, you need an upgrade of your whole system before you’ll be able to compete with the latest.