Price Guides July 2004: Video Cards and Memoryby Vinney Shimpi on July 30, 2004 6:00 AM EST
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Video Cards: ATIThis week prices continue to be quite normal for ATI's bleeding-edge X800-based cards. Even though ATI is working to put more on store shelves, and roll out their X600 and X300 cards, they are all still a bit too pricey to recommend in a guide that is focused primarily on price. Recent benchmarks comparing X800's to NVIDIA's 6800-series cards also show that it may be best to wait and see what's in stock as more DX9-intensive games are released later this year. Doom 3 seems to be a mark against ATI while other games such as Half-life 2 are still missing in action and not yet available to balance the scale, or tip it further.
While you may be tempted to rush out and pick up one of the newer cards, we suggest giving the market at least a few more weeks, preferably a month or more, to figure out whether or not an X800 Pro or PE is worth your cash, or if NVIDIA may be the way to go. With the spotlight shining directly on the latest generation of video cards, it's easy to forget that there are other, very solid alternatives available if your system just can't wait for an upgrade.
The best value for ATI-based cards currently available goes once again to Sapphire's Radeon 9800 Pro, which has finally started showing up more frequently below the $200 mark without rebates or special sales being involved. Considering that price point, it may be possible to hunt around and find even better deals or special offers from various retailers. The Radeon 9800 Pro continues to provide very respectable frame rates in today's gaming titles without sacrificing quality or noise and without sounding like a blow dryer. The upcoming patch version of 1.2 for Far Cry promises to bring even more to the 9800 to help sweeten the deal.
Alternatively, the ATI Radeon 9600 Pro 128MB is a great option if high-end gaming is not a prerequisite. Don't take that the wrong way either, since this card is still capable of providing satisfactory performance and resolution in most current game titles. Be aware that once games such as Doom 3 and Half-life 2 are available, this card will most likely be the bare minimum when it comes to system requirements.