Not everyone has the money to spend on graphics cards that cost two hundred dollars or more. And, not everyone who has money to spend cares to have the latest and greatest in features and performance. But whatever the reason, when building a PC on a budget, we want the most bang for our buck.
Current gaming performance is of utmost importance in this segment of the market as these cards aren't designed to be future-proof. Most DirectX 9 games will have a hard time running with their bells and whistles (the parts that will be written for DX9) turned on under these cards, especially at resolutions above 800x600. The best way to pick a budget card is to determine which game(s) are most important to you and buy the card that works best for that game regardless of other factors.
Many of the tests that we ran would have benefited from running resolutions lower than 1024x768, but we feel 10x7 is a valid resolution to shoot for these days. Lower resolutions are sometimes necessary, but this way, we can see what games for which these cards can handle with the extra load.
We will be pitting the budget cards against the cards from the earlier parts of this roundup series to add some performance reference. These numbers are just for perspective, as our current article employs the ATI CATALYST 3.9 drivers along with NVIDIA's 53.03 ForceWare release, while the previous performance numbers were run with CAT 3.8 and FW 52.16 drivers.