Price Guides, June 2005: Video Cardsby Kristopher Kubicki on June 26, 2005 3:49 PM EST
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It looks like our June edition of the Price Guides came along at an extremely opportune moment. Wednesday's GeForce 7800GTX launch, we got our first taste of a major graphics card launch where retail shipments were available for purchase immediately. This is a huge step for the PC component market as typically Intel was the only manufacturer capable of doing this with their chipset launches (not CPU launches however). Of course, we have a lot of commentary on that this time around with the price guides. Not surprisingly, prices on other cards from ATI and NVIDIA have adjusted themselves to compete as well.
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GPU Ultra High End
The best of the best always grabs the most headlines, and the headlines this time around belong to a little company called NVIDIA. The GeForce 7800GTX series cards demonstrate a great boost in performance over current generation video cards, although the $600 price tag certainly doesn't flatter anyone. XFX GeForce 6800GT cards [RTPE: PVT45GUD] ring up just over $300 after rebate (and they should considering a single G70 performs about as well as two 6800GTs in SLI mode). Unfortunately, GeForce 6800 Ultras have a difficult time fitting into the price bracket, although there are some pretty large rebates on the AGP eVGA 6800 Ultra 256MB [RTPE: 256-A8-N345-AX]. PCIe, on the other hand, doesn't fare so well compared to G70.
Granted, we always recommend against buying the newest of the new, particularly when it comes to an NVIDIA launch. NVIDIA launched the GeForce 6800 Ultra just over $550 about a year ago, and vendors like eVGA were the first to have video cards. By the power of Castle Greyskull, let's see how those retail video cards fared over the past year.
eVGA GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB
Would it be too much to speculate the GeForce 7800GTX line could drop $50 by December? NVIDIA's product launches tend to follow very similar guidelines, but also consider the fact that this time around NVIDIA had shipping products the day of launch. Also recall that generally during a graphics launch for NVIDIA, instead of moving the current top end models into lower value segments, NVIDIA just keeps the existing cards in stock and releases a next generation on top of the old one, thus sticking merchants with the extra inventory (anyone check the prices on GeForce 5950 [RTPE: GeForce 5950] lately?). It seems as though the vendors probably talked some sense into NVIDIA this time around as the 6800 Ultra prices are adjusting, but just barely.
As always with the ultra high end, we don't recommend any of these cards. The Merriam-Webster word of the day on Saturday was Pyrrhic: achieved at excessive cost. The performance of these video cards is phenomenal, but they cost a month's rent. Considering the fact that NVIDIA is pretty good at making their current generation ~$200 video cards perform approximately as good as the previous generations best of breed card, you may have to do a little bit of cost-benefit analysis to determine how much a year's worth of technology is worth. I would much rather buy a $200 video card once every year for three years than to buy a top of the line card for $600 once every three years. Now let's look at ATI's rip-off segment.
Same story, different brand. Crossfire stuff (motherboards and master cards) are still not shipping yet and our optimistic estimates put shipping cards into August. They won't be cheap either, so don't expect ATI to start breaking any sales records either. Coupled with the rumor that R520 is delayed, it looks like ATI might have a real tough second half of 2005. X850 Pro cards are starting to show more reasonable pricings, but their NVIDIA counterparts are just barely undercutting retail prices. The GeForce 6800 Ultra is a slightly better buy, and if you feel the need to spend $600 on a video card any of the GeForce 7800GTX cards have ATI licked.