Video Cards Price Guide: Demystifying December Editionby Kristopher Kubicki on December 5, 2004 10:43 AM EST
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Video Cards GeForceFX
As expected, those fifth generation GeForce continue to dry up and as a result prices are slowly back on the climb. NVIDIA's GeForce 5900 and 5900 Ultra remain the only really worthwhile cards left in the series. Anand's recent Half Life 2 analysis showed the GeForceFX 5900XT - which is clocked slower than the 5900 and 5900 Ultra counterparts - performing very capably in the "midrange" ~$200 arena (I remember when we used to call midrange $60!).
However, just because a video card is capable does not mean you should go out and buy it. Of course, that's assuming you can still find a reasonably priced GeForce 5900. The Ultra versions now run over $400 and that is a ridiculous price to pay for yesterday's 'just capable' hardware. The 5900 non-Ultra versions still pack a punch for $200, but stock is mostly limited to PCI-Express versions. GeForce 6600GT's go for $200 on the PCI-Express bus and will be available for about the same price on the AGP bus shortly. Since the PCIe GeForce 6600GT's swiftly outperform every 5xxx model on the block (as we saw back in September) any reason to buy the 5xxx midrange cards over the 6xxx midrange cards seem ridiculous - and thus putting the nail in the 5900's coffin.
Prices continue to rise on the older GeForce cards while more capable cards eat the 5xxx lineup for breakfast. Don't put yourself in a difficult position by ever buying a GeForceFX.
Video Cards GeForce 6xxx
As we mentioned on the previous page, you would have to be insane to buy a 5xxx GeForce over a 6xxx right now. Derek's recent X850 analysis gave a pretty clean breakdown of the high end Radeon and NVIDIA cards earlier this week and the results were pretty interesting.
Only the XFX GeForce 6600GT can be readily had for the AGP bus right now, and it still carries a premium at this point. However, within the next couple weeks we project the price of this card to flatten out just over $200. With the X700XT just starting to hit shelves, it's a little too close to call whether or not NVIDIA has the better buy on the AGP bus right now, and performance is so close in most instances that buying the cheaper one of the two won't be a huge deal.
On the PCIe platform, however, the choice is clearly the GeForce 6600GT. With the added incentive of future SLI upgrades, the 6600GT produces some awesome performance with a very nice price tag. To briefly paraphrase Anand concerning SLI - performance of SLI on two of today's $200 cards today is great, but performance on today's $200 card now combined with performance of tomorrow's $50 card tomorrow is better. In fact, the thought of not getting stuck in the perpetual upgrade cycle appeals to even the most conservative buyers out there - but unfortunately right now we have to pay a large premium on PCIe capable motherboards just to get there. If you're buying a new rig or you have a newer Intel machine right now, run, don't walk, to the nearest establishment of NVIDIA video cards and get a 6600GT PCIe. If you wait much longer, the X800 non-pro, non-xt, non-percolator scheduled for release in the next few weeks might begin to edge out the 6600GT's advantage.
Not surprisingly, the 6600 Non-GT does pretty well for itself also. A more traditional "mid range" card, the 6600 non-GT goes for about $150 right now, but doesn't have an AGP counterpart yet. As the tests show, you pay about 25% less for the non-GT version, but you get about 25% less performance as well. The vanilla 6600 doesn't have any SLI support, which is disappointing. Although a great card for the price, you won't get that small future-resistant buffer like with the 6600GT.