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.

Midrange ATI GPUs and Prices
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  • Anonymous User - Monday, October 20, 2003 - link

    both are great cards. you cant go wrong with one of those. but if i had to say which card performs better, id give my vote to the 9800np. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Monday, October 20, 2003 - link

    which is the better deal? ati radeon 9800(non-pro) from circuit city for $249 plus tax or e-vga geforce fx 5900(non-ultra) from newegg for $229. which card performs better? although if the 9800 can be converted to a 9800 pro then that would be great!! anybody know of anywhere i can get instructions to flash bios for this ati 9800 card?? Reply
  • Anonymous User - Monday, October 20, 2003 - link

    #11

    The ones from Circuit City are the "Built By ATI" versions. I received one with Infineon 3.0ns BGA memory(max 333mhz on paper) :( , but from what I hear it is a 50/50 chance of getting one with Samsung BGA memory. But it is still a nice video card stock. I only OC it when I play games/benchmarks.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 19, 2003 - link

    i read that the version of half-life 2 that comes bundled with the 9600xt or 9800xt will only be the single player game not with multiplayer. something to consider. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 19, 2003 - link

    #13: Thats a good point. I didnt think about that.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 19, 2003 - link

    "It all depends if your $50 (25% percent of the cost) is worth 4 FPS in UT2K3 (13% percent performance). Nay, $150 is the right price for a midrange video card."
    think they should have mentioned that $50 of that will be going toward half-life 2 ,and if your looking forward to that , that 9600xt then becomes a $150 card.
    sounds like a good deal to me
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 19, 2003 - link

    I think the eVGA GeForceFX 5900 128MB deserves to be noted as well, as it offers a lot of performance for its $229, much more than a $ 249 Radeon 9700 pro, that was mentioned as pick of the week in the performance section. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 19, 2003 - link

    #10: Yeah. I think they carry the Sapphire ones with the SAmsung BGA right?

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 19, 2003 - link

    The 9800 non-pros (not the SE version) are available online from Circuit City for $250+free shipping. I would try to get one while they still have them in stock. The Samsung BGA memory is preferred over the Infineon BGA memory if you want to flash the BIOS to a 9800"pro." However, you can still OC them nicely though. Just my two cents. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 19, 2003 - link

    I thought the review was very cogent and not at all biased towards one camp or another. #5's comments were completely unfounded. Reply

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