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What to Buy?

Sapphire Radeon 9500
What cards should you consider buying based on what we have seen here today?

If you have $200-$250 to spend…
The obvious choice is the Radeon 9700. Not only are getting the best performance at 1024×768 and at 1600×1200, you are also getting the best image quality of all the cards tested here. Basically you get more playable combinations with the Radeon 9700 than with any other card reviewed today. Also, of all the cards, this was the only card capable of running 1600×1200 games without big problems.

Assuming you use 43.45 drivers or use newer (hopefully fixed) drivers, NVIDIA’s FX5600 Ultra is also priced in the same range and performs considerably better than the plain FX5600. Hopefully we would be able to review the FX5600 Ultra sometime in the future and compare it to the Radeon 9700.

MSI FX5600 MSI FX5200

If you have $125-$160 to spend…
The Radeon 9500 is the best choice for a card in this price range. It offers more playable options at 1024×768 and better performance when compared to the FX5600 and Ti4800SE. Also it has superior anti-aliasing quality and functioning anisotropic filtering. It is also superior to the Ti4800SE in that it supports DirectX 9.

The FX5600, though priced in this range, does not have the same value as the Ti4800SE or the Radeon 9500. The poor anisotropic filtering quality in Unreal Tournament 2003, texturing and other driver issues make it unattractive to some users (general users may not even notice these issues). If you’re one of the many people waiting for Half-Life 2, I would suggest waiting until the outstanding issue of anti-aliasing on the FX chipset is resolved. However, if you’re looking to buy an NVIDIA product that performs decently at 1024×768 with DirectX 9 support, the FX5600 is a fair choice. Just be aware that anisotropic filtering quality and/or the state of NVIDIA drivers may not be as good as you would like (hopefully that can be fixed with a driver release). Please so your research before making a decision.

The Ti4800SE is hard to recommend now considering there are better options in the same price range. The lack of DirectX 9 support is the major reason for not buying this card. Otherwise, the card performs remarkably well and better than the FX5600. There are some pretty handsome packages for the Ti4800SE which may entice a few consumers.

MSI Ti4800SE

If you have $70-100 to spend…
Well, the only option based on what we’ve seen here is the FX5200. This card is pretty much limited to gaming at 0x anti-aliasing and 0x anisotropic filtering at 1024×768 and maybe 2x anti-aliasing if you tweak settings a bit. I suspect many of you are interested in this card are looking for a card that’s “good enough” (some light gaming usage) and doesn’t break the bank account.

You should also look at the Radeon 9000-9200 and the GeForce Ti4200 when doing your research.

From the Reviewer – Some Final Remarks

For those of you who have made it this far I thank you! I realize it’s a long review and I’m glad you made it here.

Some of you may be wondering where are the comparative image quality reviews with respect to overall “beauty” of the produced image. I opted to not include that in this review because judging something like “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore whatever I have to say on the matter is irrelevant because:

  1. It’s impossible to quantify the prettiness of one image over another.
  2. What I find beautiful may be different for another consumer.

What I encourage you to do, if this is something you are interested in, is to download the larger images from UT2K3 in the previous pages and see for yourself. I also have 3DMark 2003 images taken from the different video cards if you want them (please email me).

I think the most important lesson we have learned today is that the consumer and reviewer really need to be alert! There are many issues surrounding drivers and even game compatibility which are not mentioned on the box at your local computer store. Nor will you hear the clerk (or other parties) warning you about some of these issues. We all need to be more vigilant and more thorough in our research and potential purchases.

We realize that the review today is by no means complete but we hope it gives you a good sample of what to expect from low to mid-range products on the market. We will try to keep updating this article as new cards are released and sent to us for review. As always, we appreciate your time to send us constructive feedback. Thank you for reading our articles and for visiting AMDMB!

Use our service to find the best prices on these graphics cards.

Radeon 9700
Radeon 9500
GeForceFX 5600
GeForceFX 5200
GeForce4 Ti4800SE

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