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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  • A554SS1N - Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - link

    Hello Derek, are you planning to test the AGP 6200 version which uses the NV44A core - it's virtually the same core as the PCI-E Turbo-Cache cards, except it is a native AGP solution. They are all 64-bit as far as NVidia have told me and although all board makers only provide passive cooling, that's all it needs. I've only seen one brief review on another website so far (of the Inno3D one) that didn't really have enough information. As reviews on Anandtech are very thorough, it would be good to test and compare this card. The core is clocked at 350MHz like the Turbo-cache cards and the card has 128mb of 500MHz effective memory. Reply
  • Zoomer - Monday, May 16, 2005 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2413

    Typo?

    " ...the bear minimum in graphics cards supports DX9 level graphics...
    "

    Shouldn't bear be bare?
    Reply
  • pxc - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    The x300 HM results wouldn't be so disappointing if ATI had not been saying that HM cards would be faster than TC cards.

    Derek: 128MB HM doesn't make much of a difference. I had an XPRESS 200M laptop with 128MB dedicated memory plus HyperMemory and performance was horrible, much much slower than a x300 SE. I wouldn't be surprised if turning off HM made the card faster.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, May 13, 2005 - link

    #23 Jarred- "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."

    Whilst I agree that 1GB and it is not unreasonable for even budget systems to have that amount, $100 certainly won't buy you 1GB of OCZ PC3200 with 2-2-2 timings. Given that the performance of these cards is very dependent on system memory and a budget system is likely to use budget memory, it is important to have benchmarks done with 2.5-3-3 timings or even 3-3-3.

    I support AT's use of a very fast CPU etc in all their usual graphics-cards reviews, and a very fast GPU for all their CPU reviews, so that performance is dependent on the component being tested rather than the rest of the system. However with the TurboCache and HyperMemory cards, the system memory effectively becomes an important part of the card, so it is important to test with the sort of budget memory these cards would be used with.

    By using premium memory, AT has probably reduced the importance of the quantity of onboard memory and skewed the relative results of the tested cards. The 64MB TC may have performed significantly better in comparison with the others, had the test system been outfitted with 1GB of budget memory at 3-3-3 timings.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    #28, you can get decent integrated graphics with the ATI XPRESS 200 chipset - however the only motherboard at NewEgg is $102, which is a bit high. I once saw them for around $80.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82...
    Reply
  • bupkus - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    "...perhaps upcoming integrated graphics solutions from ATI and NVIDIA will be as compelling as these parts show value products can be."

    I have a need for cheap but functional graphical PCs for smaller children, so I'm still waiting for a replacement for the NVIDIA nForce2 IGP. What's the holdup?
    Reply
  • RadeonGuy - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    Moral of the story is they both suck Reply
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    Our comparison tests will continue to be done on higher end hardware. Our environments are designed to test the performance of graphics hardware not to determine the actual performance an end user can expect.

    We run these games on a fresh install of Windows XP SP2. Audio hardware is not installed and the service is disabled in Windows. Nothing that isn't necessary to get the graphics to the screen is not enabled.

    Most people have lots of background programs, services, and audio running. With the way Intel and AMD are approaching dual core, multitasking is perched to become even more pervasive. This will enevitably widen the gap between our tests and real world performance when we are looking at graphics cards. Our CPU performance tests will continue to grow and include more and more multitasking as we are able to come up with the tests.

    Of course, #25 has a very valid point -- it may well be worth it to run one test in a price targeted system running a more "typical use" environment for reference purposes. Budget systems cluttered with loads of apps running in the background are no place to build a hardware comparison, but that doesn't mean they are entirely unuseful.
    Reply
  • jediknight - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    #17
    It would be useful, however, to include benchmarks with all budget hardware - to see if you really can get acceptable (30fps+) gaming performance with these cards in realistic settings.
    Reply
  • Wellsoul2 - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    Thanks Derek.

    Seems crazy that there's no DVI since CRT's are
    going away fast. Even my old budget 9200SE card
    had DVI.

    Just wondering..I would think with 17inch LCD's
    around $175 and 19inch around $300 (with DVI)
    that this is the future.
    What do you all think?
    Reply

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