Thanks for joining us for another edition of our video card price guide. We've got quite a few updates on recent new generation and last generation's graphic cards, but first, we would like to remind our readers to try out our RTPE if they haven't already done so. It's definitely a valuable source for most of your computer hardware buying needs!

We've picked up quite a few mail-in-rebates (MIR's) this time around. Many of the prices of the new generation, ultra high-end cards are very close to the high-end card pricing. If you are currently looking for a new video card, an ultra high-end or mid-range card is the best gaming option. Bang for the buck, the high-end cards aren't there.

The 6800 GS cards have been quite a hit, bringing many of the prices up fairly high. If you are looking to go with this card, be sure to pick one up as soon as possible as there will not be many surplus cards floating around too much longer. We can see that the 6800 Ultra cards have nearly reached their EOL, and we expect them to be out of stock soon.

Now on to the meat of our guide, starting off with the ultra high-end cards....

Ultra High-End Graphics

Most of these ultra high-end cards have gone up in price since our last video card price guide, but a few have gone down significantly. Leading the group this week is the eVGA GeForce 7800GT 256MB with VIVO [RTPE: 256-P2-N515] going for $300 after a $20 instant rebate along with a $20 MIR.

If you're like some of us AnandTech editors who dislike dealing with MIRs, coming in very close behind the eVGA card is the Leadtek GeForce 7800GT 256MB [RTPE: PX7800GT] which dropped $56, bringing it to a final price of about $310; the lowest recorded price for this card, which you can see from the graph below:


Leadtek GeForce 7800GT 256MB

If you're looking for the best gaming performance possible, you will want to consider the 7800GTX line of cards. Of these, the best bargain (no, we don't consider a $450 card to be a bargain) we found is the MSI GeForce 7800GTX 256MB [RTPE: NX7800GTX-VT2D256E] on sale for $450 after a $33.00 price drop. At the moment, our RTPE is only showing one version of the 512MB 7800GTX from BFG [RTPE: BFGR78512GTXOC] which is selling for about $750 after approximately a $42 price increase.

These high-end video cards are not something we unequivocally recommend you purchase, but if you're they type who has to have the best card available, then the 7800 series is what you will want to consider, namely the GT or GTX versions. For most of us average Joe's, we recommend you take a gander at our mid-range cards, which we'll get to in a moment.

Competing with the 7800 series, we have ATI's X1800 series. The 7800 GT generally outperforms the X1800 XL, but it's not a huge difference. The problem is that the XL cards go for around $360 while the GT runs closer to $310. The ASUS Radeon X1800XL 256MB [RTPE: EAX1800XL/2DHTV/256] is $359, or if you're one of those people that likes mail-in rebates, you can go with the ATI Radeon X1800XL 256MB [RTPE: 100-435703] for $340. Honestly, and unless you're a diehard ATI fan, we'd pick the 7800 GT over the X1800 XL.

This is our first price guide where the XT models are actually available, and while the price is rather high, it's generally better than the 256 MB 7800 GTX cards. These cards have only been on the market for about two weeks (or less), and anyone anxious enough to buy them in that first week probably paid close to $700! Since then, prices have plummeted to slightly under MSRP, and you can now buy an X1800 XT for "only" $500. Sapphire leads the pack with the Sapphire Radeon X1800XT 512MB [RTPE: 100134], so that would definitely be our pick for ATI people looking to spend over $500. You can see how the price has changed in the past two weeks in the following graph:

Sapphire Radeon X1800XT 512MB

Unless you crave the best performance at any cost, as with the NVIDIA cards, we would once again recommend that you look to the midrange cards rather than the X1800 series. And of course, for those willing to spend over $700 for multiple cards, SLI is available for the 7800 series while we're still waiting for CrossFire X1800 cards. Here's the complete list of X1800 cards.

Like we took the time to mention last time around, we would like to reiterate that it is better, performance and price-wise, to go with a single GeForce 7800 GTX card rather than two 6800 Ultra's in SLI. The 6800 Ultra's are being discontinued and are becoming more and more difficult to find. Dropping roughly $310 is the BFG GeForce 6800 Ultra OC 256MB [RTPE: BFGR68256UOCX] going for $275.00. Please do take notice that vendors are extremely low on supply and expect them to run out fairly soon. The discontinued BFG card actually qualifies as a high-end price range, but the remainder of the 6800 Ultra cards are basically high-performance cards at an ultra high cost. Quite a few of them cost as much or more than a 7800 GTX!

By the way, have we mentioned that purchasing a single high-end card now and planning on upgrading with the second high-end card in the future might be a bad idea? There's probably a decent number of people out there that by the 6800 Ultra for a lot of money, with the intent of purchasing a second one when the price dropped below $300. Now they're stuck with a single card and the option to upgrade to SLI at a premium that just isn't worth it. Until ATI and NVIDIA get their multi-card solutions to work across generations, we would suggest you either go the whole hog and buy two cards initially, or just buy a single card and stick with it. There will be occasions -- like the 6800 GT -- were the prices do drop to reasonable levels, but we certainly wouldn't plan on that.

High End Video
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  • unclebud - Thursday, December 15, 2005 - link

    @ best buy this week
    because there may be people (like me) who only have pci slots and not any pci-e slots whatsoever on ANY of their machines
    hth somebody. it did me
    Reply
  • h7o - Saturday, December 10, 2005 - link

    "...and less you're a diehard ATI fan" on the first page. Reply
  • semo - Saturday, December 10, 2005 - link

    what the hell is happening with the low end cards. they're approaching the cost of mid-range and mid-range keeps getting higher and higher.

    this situation is not helped a lot by cards from the last century still being in the market me thinks.
    Reply
  • GhostlyGhost2 - Friday, December 09, 2005 - link

    quote:

    but the remainder of the 6800 Ultra cards are basically high-performance cards at an ultra high cost. Quite a few of them cost as much or more than a 7800 GTX!


    Wow... And to think I was contemplatin buying a first 6800U and go SLI some time later as AnandTech always pushed as a wonderful idea. I'm sure glad I didn't make that ***COSTLY MISTAKE***.

    I sure feel for those who did, though.
    Reply
  • rrcn - Friday, December 09, 2005 - link

    For the past few price guides, we've been restating that it's definitely better, performance and price-wise, to go with a single 7800GTX rather than two 6800U/GT's in SLi. ;) Reply
  • GhostlyGhost - Friday, December 09, 2005 - link

    Yeah,. Ok. Great.

    But what will you say when the next iteration comes around? In the end, isn't SLI a pointless feature since (it appears) Nvidia can outdo itself in just one card generation?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 10, 2005 - link

    I put this in the article, as I never have been a strong proponent of SLI "upgrades":


    By the way, have we mentioned that purchasing a single high-end card now and planning on upgrading with the second high-end card in the future might be a bad idea? There's probably a decent number of people out there that by the 6800 Ultra for a lot of money, with the intent of purchasing a second one when the price dropped below $300. Now they're stuck with a single card and the option to upgrade to SLI at a premium that just isn't worth it. Until ATI and NVIDIA get their multi-card solutions to work across generations, we would suggest you either go the whole hog and buy two cards initially, or just buy a single card and stick with it. There will be occasions -- like the 6800 GT -- where the prices do drop to reasonable levels, but we certainly wouldn't plan on that.


    Obviously, AnandTech has many writers, and we don't all agree on every point.
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - link

    The best use for SLI that I have found is this:

    Two brothers are building new systems around the 7800GT.

    Both get inexpensive SLI boards (Biostar or Abit KN8 SLI come to mind).

    When one of the brothers upgrades to the next generation. The other can buy the replaced 7800GT and get a nice boost.

    Sure, they have to get slightly beefier powersupplies. Is that really such a bad thing?
    Reply
  • rgreen83 - Friday, December 09, 2005 - link

    Where the heck are the 6600 non gt's? thats probably the most compelling card around the low-mid to low range right now which i am looking into for my little bro's pc. Reply
  • Cygni - Saturday, December 10, 2005 - link

    Ya, i too felt the absence of the standard 6600 for comparisons sake to the X700 series. But... its not exactly the price/performance leader it was a few months ago. A vanilla 6600 is $99 at newegg... the DDR2 version is $117... and the 6600GT's in the $120-125 range. The performance of the 6600GT for only an extra twenty spot really makes it the best choice right now, and ive even seen 6600GT's drop as low as $105 AR. The performance of the DDR2 6600's is deffinitly stronger than the vanilla 6600, but not GT levels, and the price gap is too small to reccommend that purchase either.

    The 6600 is a solid card, to be sure, and its something worth keeping an eye on... but right now, the GT's are probably the better choice.
    Reply

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