Price Guides October 2003: Video Cardsby Kristopher Kubicki and Howard Johnson on October 18, 2003 9:17 PM EST
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A couple days ago we had the opportunity to look at CPU and memory prices. Fortunately, today we are going to take the opportunity to look at the prices of our personal favorite subject, video cards.
As Anand likes to say, don’t buy a video card now for a game you want to play in 3 months. Generally speaking, if you follow the volatility of the GPU prices, you know that’s a good ideatm. This week we will start with ATI first, but to prevent any fanboy accusations, we will start with NVIDIA first next week.
ATI, unfortunately, has more product lines than you can shake a stick at. And believe us, the naming convention is a bit out of hand. Without further ado, let’s start with the ultra high end cards and work our way down.
As many of you know, there are three editions of the 9800 video cards floating around, the 9800 Pro, the 9800 XT and the 9800 SE. The fourth Ultra high end Radeon card, the 9800 non Pro, is akin to the Radeon 9500 Pro; fast, cheap and near impossible to find. It seems once ATI found out it was incredibly easy to turn your $250 9800 non-pro into a full blown 9800 Pro, they stopped their supply of the units.
In our opinion the Radeon 9800 SE (which only has 4 pipelines) really shouldn’t even be categorized with the other 3 cards. Only rarely does it outpace a Radeon 9600 Pro but still comes with a $20 premium over the 9600 Pro. There seems to be a few soft-mods around to upgrade your 4 piped 9800 SE to a 9800 Pro, but our best guess is the 9800 SE’s are cards based on chipsets that were unable to clock properly with all 8 pipes. Banking on the assumption that your 9800 SE will easily unlock to 8 pipelines is probably not a safe bet.
Finally, we have our two champions, the 9800 Pro and the 9800 XT. Of course the 9800 XT is just coming to market and in limited supply. For us, it’s a little hard to justify the near $500 price tag. Particularly since the 9800 Pro 128MB, which performs slightly worse than the XT, sells for $300 brand new. Granted, this still is not a bargain, but $300 firmly establishes our cap for what to spend on a ‘high end’ video card.