Agent 001 On A Display Run

Published Date
01 - Feb - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Feb - 2006
Agent 001 On A Display Run
Operating systems such as Vista will depend heavily on the graphics sub-system to run their visual-heavy interface, so if you're considering buying a graphics card, make sure it is compliant with the needs of this new OS

Lately, I have taken up a serious liking for computer games, spending most of my time racing and fragging. The new breed of games such as NFS Most Wanted, Age Of Empires III, etc. are brilliantly made and demand to be played more. My office machine, with the 6800GT, is powerful enough to run them in their full visual glory; sadly, the same cannot be said about my home machine, which runs on anaemic Nforce2 graphics. I decided it was time to upgrade my graphics card at home.

When it comes to these beasts, the choices are virtually infinite-choosing the right one is always a problem. Moreover one has to pay close attention to critical features such as Pixel Shader, Vertex Shader, the number of pipelines it supports, etc. In the near future, operating systems such as Windows Vista will depend heavily on the graphics sub-system to run their visual-heavy interface, so if you're considering buying a graphics card, make sure it is compliant with the needs of this new OS. The minimum requirement is that the card should be DirectX 9.0 compliant and we strongly suggest you to keep some headroom, or be prepared to upgrade to a new card later.

As of today, two companies (nVidia and ATi) have competing products in the graphics cards category. Both companies have chipsets in different series that cater to various market segments. The newer chipset cards are based on the PCIe technology and are hardly available on the older AGP standard; this might pose as a problem for people with AGP motherboards. One more thing to keep in mind is the SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology from nVidia and CrossFire from ATI; these technologies allow you to install two graphics cards for improved performance. The thing to remember is that both these technologies require special cards, hence if you plan to use two cards, make sure you buy the appropriate ones.

Arriving at Lamington road, I went straight into a small shop. I asked for an entry-level graphics card and was offered some based on the MX-4000 chipset from nVidia-stay away from these cards. I asked for something better and was offered two cards, one based on 6200 TC chipset and the other based on X300SE. Today, if you want an entry-level card, you should settle for cards based on these two chipsets. The XFX 6200 TC 128 MB card retails for around Rs 4,500, whereas a PowerColor X300SE-based card will set you back by about Rs 3,500.

I moved on to the next shop and enquired about mid-range graphic cards retailing at between Rs 5,000 and 10,000. This range is completely dominated by nVidia's 6600-based cards. ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte, XFX, etc. have products based on the 6600 chipset. The cheapest card based on the 6600 chipset is from XFX and it retails for as low as Rs 5,000. There are two variants of this chipset, namely the vanilla 6600 and the 6600GT. The 'GT' versions retail at between Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,000 depending on the features and memory they have.

The expensive cards based on the 6600GT chipset have 256 MB of onboard memory. The general misconception is that the higher the memory the better the performance; while that might be true for high-end chipsets such as the 7800 GTX, it's not true for the 6600 chipset. The reason here is that the 6600 chipset is just not fast enough to utilise the extra memory. I would say 128 MB is more than enough for these cards-and you should increase your main memory with the money you save. ATi fans need not worry; in the mid-range you can go in for the X800 GT chipset based cards, they retail for around 10K for PowerColor branded cards.

High-end cards are a rare sight, and the dealers will order one only if you are interested in buying it. However, they provide all the necessary product information. Upon enquiring about the best card money can buy, I was offered cards based on the 7800 GTX chipset. "What about the X1800 chipset?", I asked. "They haven't made it to the Indian market yet," came the reply.

ATi recently launched a new series called the X1000 series, consisting of the X1800, X1600 and X1300 chipsets. The X1800 is the top-of-the-line ATi card, which is in direct competition with nVidia's 7800 GTX. The X1600 goes head-to-head against the 6800 and the X1300 competes with the 6600 GT.

The XFX 7800 GTX retails for around Rs 32,950, whereas MSI has cards on the same chipset that retail for Rs 35,000. If money matters and you still want to enjoy games at high resolutions, I'd recommend you opt for cards based on the 6800GT; they sell for around Rs 18,950.

During my short trip, one thing was quite clear; nVidia seems to be the favourite amongst the dealers. If you are an ATi fan, you will have to do some homework before you can buy a card, since vendors are not as conversant with the ATi product lineup as they are with nVidia products.

After a lot of pondering I decided to invest in a 6600 GT-based card. I got myself an XFX 6600 GT with 128 MB memory for Rs 7,500.

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