Introduction

Affordable, full-featured cards have been long in coming from ATI and NVIDIA. With the HyperMemory and TurboCache cards, we are finally able to recommend a budget card that can absolutely play the latest games with all the eye candy that developers have built in. The tradeoff that we have to make for the lower price is resolution and filtering options, but we no longer need to sacrifice effects or realism and are rewarded with the immersive experience that modern games are able to deliver at a reasonable price.

For those who have experienced huge resolutions with AA and AF enabled, it would be very hard to go back to playing games at an aliased 800x600 with no filtering. On the upside, casual computer users who may not have any real gaming experience now have a cost-effective way to add DX9 level graphics to their next computer upgrade.

Another major upside of the current landscape is that when the bear minimum in graphics cards supports DX9 level graphics, the minimum requirements of games will shift up to the DX9 level. Designing for DX9 at the outset will change the way that game developers approach their work. This is really the excuse that we need to see gaming experiences jump up to the next level.

In this look at ATI's HyperMemory and NVIDIA's TurboCache parts, we will be trying to determine which card is the best value for the money. Something that we also want to learn is whether the cheapest budget card can still hold its own, and whether the most expensive card that we test is worth the price difference.

We have already written about the technology behind TurboCache. Today, we talk about HyperMemory and concentrate on what these products are actually able to deliver.

Round 1: Architecture
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    Despite the fact that the system was high-end, the performance of the cards is the limiting factor. A 3.0 GHz or 3000+ CPU with the same amount of RAM would likely post similar scores. However, 512MB of RAM would have something of an impact on performance. Anyway, $100 gets you 1GB of RAM these days, so we're more or less through with testing anything with 512MB of RAM or less.

    Consider these tests as a "best case" scenario for budget graphics performance. It will work, but it won't be too impressive. Dropping detail levels will also help, of course. However, reduced detail levels don't really help out performance in some games as much as you might want. Doom 3, for instance, doesn't get a whole lot faster going from High to Medium to Low detail (at least in my experience).
    Reply
  • patrick0 - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    A Budget-card comparision, with 1024MB System memory? I think it would have been better to use 512MB of system-memory. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    Wellsoul2,

    The ATI solution does not have DVI -- just one HD15 analog port.

    These cards are fine for running native resolution desktops, but you are not going to want to push them over 1024x768 even without AA/AF ... as you can see the numbers dropped off at that resolution for most tests and 800x600 is really the sweet spot for gaming with these cards.

    If you really want to guess about the framerate, just remember that moving from 1024x768 to 1280x1024 increases the number of pixels per frame by a greater ammount and percentage than when moving from 800x600 to 1024x768. Eventhough we can't effectively extrapolate performance from our (fairly linear) graph, we can bet that we'd be getting < 30fps which is considered unplayable by our standards. As HL2 posts relatively high framerates (compared to other games of this generation), we made the call to limit our tests to 1024x768 and lower.

    If LCD users want to game on a 1280x1024 panel with these cards, they'll need to do it at a non-native resolution.
    Reply
  • Wellsoul2 - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    Again..anyone with an LCD monitor would prefer
    native resolution numbers. No amount of AA/AF
    seems to make up for the crappy interpolated
    video at lower resolutions.
    At least give the numbers for Doom3/HL2..
    Reply
  • Wellsoul2 - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    I'd like video reviews with 1280x1024 resolution.
    This is the native resolution of my 19in LCD.

    It would seem more useful to have tests for the
    low budget cards at high resolution for LCD and
    using no AA/AF.

    People I know are buying the new cheap cards because they have DVI output to use with LCD.
    If you buy a cheap/mid priced computer they often
    have built in analog video only.

    I'd like to know if you can run Half Life 2 at
    1280x1024 with no AA/AF on these cards and what
    the frame rate is.
    Reply
  • cryptonomicon - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    WTF?

    what is this thing? these puny performance cards with only 32mb memory can beat previous generations of retail mid-range cards??? how the heck...
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    stevty2889 and others:

    The tests are run on the highest end components to assure the bottlenecks are the video card and not the CPU. Furthermore, since we test every single other video card and motherboard on the same setup, it makes sense for us to use the same hardware this time around as well.

    Neither the X300 nor the 6200 will receive a magical advantage by using low end hardware instead of high end.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Hikari - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    The x300 is more like a neutered 9600 instead of a 9200 I thought. Given that the one tested here won in HL2, that would seem to be the case, no? Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    ^

    Ignore, just re-read :)
    Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    DerekWilson see my other post at 5. I then saw the graphs are not wrong, BUT you said the "The 16 and 32 MB TC cards round out the bottom and top of the pack respectively" which is not true. The 64mb and 16mb round out the bottom, while the 32mb is at the top. Reply

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