One thing we’ve all been noticing is that the system requirements of games have been slowly going down. The best example of this is the upcoming id Software RAGE game title. Any gaming enthusiast will tell you that id Software makes some really intensive games and Doom 3 pushed the boundaries when it came out back in 2004. RAGE it seems, will be able to run on three year old graphics cards. A mid-range range card today then makes ideal sense for those on a tight budget, but who still want to game. There’s no shortage of these cards, but which one do you buy? To find out, we called up all of the graphic card manufacturers in India, asking them to send us all their budget graphics cards. We’re happy to report we received 19 of them, all priced roughly between the Rs. 6,000 and Rs. 8,000 range.
We received products across chipsets and features from brands such as ASUS, Galaxy, MSI, Palit, Sapphire, XFX and ZOTAC. There were also some new comers. Forsa, for example, is a relatively new brand and HIS, a brand not so commonly known in India was also present for the test. Chipsets ranging from NVIDIA’s GTS250 to AMD’s Radeon 6790 were all present. The point of the test was to try and pinpoint the best graphics card around in this price range. Users using 22-inch and 24-inch displays and wanting a graphics solution in a somewhat tight budget would find these cards suitable.
Being graphics cards, the key factor that governs the buying decision is the performance. In order to do this, we ran a barrage of benchmarks, which included the synthetic benchmark 3DMark Vantange. Games such as Resident Evil 5, Mafia 2, Far Cry 2, DiRt 2 and Just Cause 2 were also run. This ensured that we covered most popularly used game engines across developers. We ran games at two resolutions - 1280x1024 and 1680x1050. We also wanted to see how well the cooling solution on these cards would perform. Many of the systems running these cards might be run as 24/7 rigs. Temperatures under gaming load also must be under reasonable levels, so we took a separate reading to see how hot the cards would get under load.
There was one card that stood out across all tests in this comparison and that was the XFX Radeon HD 6790 (HD-679X-ZH). This card, which looked larger than most other cards was the fastest of all by far. It just about managed to make it within our price range for this test. Priced at just under Rs. 8,000 in the market, it manages to be faster than all the other cards by a good bit. The only games where it drops below some of the other cards are Mafia 2 and Far Cry 2. The GeForce GTX550 Ti cards from Sparkle and Galaxy are the ones that rise to the top. One of the surprising scores is from the ASUS GeForce GTS 450 TOP, which with its overclocked core manages to come somewhat close to the GTX 550 Ti cards.
Dirt 2 test scores (Click for larger image)
Both the XFX Radeon 6790 and the Sparkle GTX 550 Ti come very close in this test. Between these three chipsets, there’s hardly a 5 percent performance difference. With frame rates touching 70fps at 1680x1050 resolutions, one can easily crank up the resolution to 1920x1080 and notice a small hit in performance.
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 test scores (Click for larger image)
A bigger performance boost can be seen in Far Cry 2, where the GTX 550 Ti cards again, from Sparkle and Galaxy seem to dominate. Some of the slightly older cards such as the MSI GTS450 and the overclocked ASUS ENGTS450 TOP also make an appearance here.
Tags: Graphics card comparison test , graphics cards , graphics cards comparison , GPU test , NVIDIA cards , AMD cards , GTS 450 , GTS 250 , Radeon 6670 , Radeon 6790 , XFX , Palit , Forsa , ZOTAC , Sapphire , Sparkle , MSI
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