With DX 10 and all that it's promising just around the corner, a lot of people have begun thinking of buying graphics cards. Both NVIDIA and ATI have launched mid-range and entry-level graphics solutions, which have pushed prices of earlier graphics hardware even lower; this is the ideal time, in my opinion, to buy a graphics card. Why? Well, for one-and (sigh!) I've been saying this over and over-integrated graphics just doesn't cut it for the current crop of Desktop applications, let alone games, any more. You have high-resolution movies, and image and 3D editing, not to mention games. Indulgence requires sacrifice, of course-a few thousand rupees to be exact.
Two of my close friends finally decided to fortify their computers with graphics cards this month. One is upgrading, and the other is an onboard graphics user. After some deliberation, the three of us decided to meet at Lamington Road on a Saturday. They had different requirements, though-the first pal could spare 14,000 rupees, and he wanted a good gaming solution. The other had only Rs 5,000, and humbly requested we make the best of what he had.
The NVIDIA GeForce 7 series and ATI Radeon X1000 series are still very much around, although NVIDIA has a good supply of their latest 8 series cards coming in to our shores. ATI should follow suit, though to their defence, they launched their DX10 range only very recently.
There was this one guy who had a couple of graphics cards on display. He showed us an XFX 7600GT for Rs 6,000. This is a solid DX9 solution, and is a touch faster than an 8500GT. A Zebronics 8500GT was also on display-just Rs 5,000. I was shocked to see the prices of the latest cards: A Palit 8600GT costs just Rs 8,000-excellent value for money. Such cards will run all current games at medium settings and resolutions. They're even more suitable for movies, where their superior decoding capabilities come into play.
There were also some older cards-a powerful XFX 7900GS for Rs 13,800 and a GeForce 7900GT for Rs 16,000. The 7900GT is your best bet for gaming in the sub-20,000 category, unless you can find a 7900GTO / GTX, which offers 512 MB of RAM (the other 7900s all feature 256 MB) and higher core and memory clocks. An XFX 8600GTS was on display for Rs 11,000; this is basically an overclocked 8600GT that offers 15 per cent more performance. The 8600GT / GTS are DX10-ready, but do not be fooled-these won't offer great performance on DX10 titles, however the silver lining-unlike DX9 cards, they will at least be able to run DX10 titles.
The next vendor showed us a Leadtek GeForce 8800GTS 320 MB. This one was priced at Rs 22,000. Other brands like XFX, Palit, and Zebronics also have these cards. The bigger brands-ASUS, Gigabyte, and MSI-also have the full range of GeForce cards. In fact, we found an XFX 8800GTS 640 priced at an astronomical 30,000 rupees. The GeForce 8800GTX is also available on demand; no vendor stocks the card-the price (Rs 34,000 and upwards depending on the brand) is probably the deterrent. ATI's latest HD 2000 series isn't available in India right now. We did find a vendor saying he could arrange for an HD2900XT for Rs 30,000. This card has a massive 320 shader units, although all bets are off till we actually test one.
The older ATI cards are still in the market-a Sapphire X1950 Pro was available for Rs 16,500. A very good gaming option for older and current-generation games, for all but the highest detail and resolution settings. An X1950XTX is also available for Rs 25,000, but this is, frankly, too much to spend on a DX9 card. I cautioned my friends to be thrifty, particularly if they wanted to go with a DX9-only solution, as anything in that space would be strictly stop-gap.
We had a cola at a nearby restaurant as I racked my grey matter for the perfect solutions. I was looking at frugality, performance on all fronts, and future proofing as essential parameters. Eventually, I decided on a GeForce 8600GT for my first friend; he was happy, since his budget was much higher. I even counselled him on SLI as a later possibility. We settled for the Palit 8600GT, though I couldn't get the guy to go lower-8,000 bucks. My friend wouldn't pay the premium that XFX demands as a larger consumer brand. I was OK with it, since the warranty period was the same. Friend number two was thrilled with the Zebronics 8500GT for 5,000 bucks (my bargaining skills failed again).
On the way home, my friends started ribbing me about me not having a graphics card myself! I took it all good-naturedly. But to let you in on a little secret, I'm expecting a big green box very soon…