Graphics Card Buyers Guide (2008)

👤by Melbourne720 - OcUK Comments 📅13-05-08

Melbourne720 over at the OcUK forum was kind enough to write up a Graphics Card Buyers Guide. So if you are in the process of upgrading your GPU read further on...

Don't know what graphics card to buy? This guide has been specifically written up so that you can make a sensible decision when it comes to upgrading your GPU.


This is the premier format of development for graphics cards. The following are the cards of choice (not all the PCI-E cards). Although there will be some variety between manufacturers, the following is basically the order of PCI-E power.

PCI-E Cards

Least Powerful

7600 GT {36W}
7900 GS {45W}

x1950 Pro {66W}
HD 3850 Pro 256MB {} [DX10]
8800 GTS 320MB [DX10]
HD 3850 Pro 256MB {} [DX10]
(G92) 8800 GS 256MB{115W} [DX10]
HD 3850 Pro 512MB {} [DX10]
(G92) 8800 GT 256MB{115W} [DX10]
HD 2900 XT/Pro {up to 225W} [DX10]
Is approximately tied with…
8800 GTS 640MB {145W} [DX10]
Is approximately tied with…
(G94) 9600 GT 512MB {} [DX10]
HD 3870 XT 512MB {} [DX10]
(G92) 8800 GT 512MB {115W} [DX10]
(G92) 8800 GTS 512MB {185W} [DX10]
8800 GTX {185W} [DX10]
8800 ULTRA {175W} [DX10]

HD 3870 X2 512MB(x2) {} [DX10]
9800 GX2 {} [DX10]

Most Powerful

Legend [] = technical info, i.e. special edition or dx version
(S/H) = second hand availability only
{} = Maximum power draw of the card
Red = ATI
Green = NVidia

TIP: Always buy the cheapest version, and clock it up to the speed of the fastest brand

Current contenders

8800 GT - Fast and clocks well, 10-20% in many cases.

9600 GT - Almost as fast as 8800 gt, very cheap, good for SLi

8800 GTS 512 - As good for 1680 x 1050 as the 8800 GT are for 1280 x 1024. 2 of them are 9800 GX2 beaters, but you'll need an SLi motherboard.

3850 Pro 512 / 3870 XT - Clocks well and dirt cheap. Good for 'crossfiring', and all the popular intel boards can do that.

Old Technology Warning

There are numerous ATi cards that are very powerful, such as the X1950XT-X and the x1950 XT, and NVidia cards such as the 7950 GT, that haven't been listed here. The reason for this is that they are powerful DirectX 9 cards, and as we move to VISTA with DirectX 10 they have been superseded by cards which are approximately the same price but have more future proofing with Direct X 10.

Poor DX10 Card Warning

Sadly the 8600 GTS has proven to be a bit of a let down in the frames per second department. Even Gibbo can’t recommend them, and they loose out to the x1950 Pro in DX 9 games.

The sticking point appears to be the 128Bit memory interface – NVidia has now released the 8800 GT with a 256bit memory interface, which supersedes this card in every area.

Just to be absolutely clear:-

8800 GTX/GT/GTS – good for games
8600 GTS – bad for games


This is where two NVidia GFX cards do one screens worth of work, giving up to 2x performance. Note that they don't have to be the same brand, just the same model & clock speed for instance an OCUK 8800GTX will work with a BFG 8800GTX.

This is possible on all the above recommend NVidia (green) cards with SLi capable motherboards of 2 x 8, but in my opinion is only worth it if (a) you get a really good price on the additional card or (b) you have a top of the range card and there isn’t any further you can upgrade! In most cases upgrade to a more powerful single card, it will be faster and less hassle.


SLi for ATi cards (red). Same rules apply, but for ATi. N.B. Crossfire no longer needs an external dongle, it can be performed on most chipsets (known: P965) with a BIOS update.

Originally Posted by Boogle on OcUK
CrossFire works on P965, 975X and P35 Should work on the graphics versions on those chipsets (where applicable) too, but haven't seen it in actual use. X38 & X48 will support CrossFire.


Whilst we all hanker after a PCI-E motherboard and either a 8800 GTX SLi or a R600 crossfire setup, when reality sets in and the bills have to be paid, a good value AGP setup can keep you gaming for a long while. Here is a list to what’s what:-

Least Powerful

9200 (S/H) {35W}
Geforce 4 MX (S/H) {30W} [DX7]
9500 Pro (S/H) {17W}
Geforce Ti4200 (S/H) {35W} [DX8]
Geforce Ti4400 (S/H) {35W} [DX8]
Geforce Ti4600 (S/H) {35W} [DX8]

9600 Pro (S/H) {18W}
9600 XT (S/H) {22W}
9700 (S/H) {42W}
9700 Pro (S/H) {42W}
9800 Pro (S/H) {47W}

6600 GT (S/H) {48W}
7600 GS {27W}

X800 Pro (S/H) {48W}
6800 GS {54W}
X800 XL (S/H) {49W}
6800 GT (S/H) {55W}
6800 Ultra (S/H) {72W}

X800 XT (S/H) {58W}
X850 XT (S/H) {68W}
X850 XT PE (S/H) {74W}

7600 GT {36W}
X1650 XT {55W}
7800GS [16 Pipes] {52W}
7800GS [20 Pipes] {52W}
7800GS+ [24 Pipes] (S/H) {52W}

But the top AGP card is...

x1950 Pro {66W}

However! The most powerful is:

GeCube x1950XT TEC {100-120W} , This card is provisionally the most powerful, awaiting confirmation by review sources. Note the cost and power requirements are unknown. Read this review by honestjohn and decide for yourself


[] = technical info, i.e. special edition or dx version
() = OCuk Price or second hand
{} = Maximum power draw of the card

Note the above cards are DX9 unless stated, (S/H) stands for second hand, and where new the prices have been included. The order above will change slightly depending on whether the games are Pixel heavy (ATi for the win) or Vertex heavy (NVidia for the win).

What type of user are you?


The cheapest card you can find really. Keep an eye out for what (and how many) outputs are needed (DVI or VGA for the monitor, S-Video with splitter leads for composite are most common). Passive heatsinks are good with a well ventilated case, otherwise the bigger the fan, the quieter it is (generally speaking).

Casual Gamer

We’re still in the Second Hand Market, with purchases like the ti4200 and the 9700 Pro for older/retro games (3+ years old) at lower resolutions (800x600,1024x768), and the 7600 GS, 6800GS/GT and the X800/850 XT giving increasingly better performance with the medium resolution (1280 x 1024) and newer games (1-3 years old). Please note that with these comparisons I’m not always using the highest detail, just medium to high.

Serious Gamer

The choice in this league is really the 7600 GT, X1650 XT, x1950 Pro and the 7800GS[16/20 Pipes]. When paired with a suitable CPU and 2GB of RAM this can handle the latest games at respectable frame rates (25fps+). Also these cards will allow you to add some AA and AF without too much fear.


VISTA Aero interface requires 128MB of video RAM and DX9. The following chipsets are deemed by Microsoft to be VISTA compatible:-

All 8 series
GeForce 7900 GPUs
GeForce 7800 GPUs
GeForce 7600 GPUs
GeForce 7300 GPUs
GeForce 6800 GPUs
GeForce 6600 GPUs
GeForce 6500 GPUs
GeForce 6200 GPUs
GeForce 6100/6150 GPUs
GeForce FX 5900 GPUs
GeForce FX 5700 GPUs
GeForce FX 5600 GPUs
GeForce FX 5500 GPUs
GeForce FX 5200 GPUs
GeForce PCX GPUs

HD 2x00 Series (2900, etc)
Radeon 9500, 9550, 9600, 9650, 9700, 9800, X300, X600, X700, X800, X850
Radeon X1300, X1600, X1800, X1900, HD 2900 series
Mobility Radeon® 9550, 9600, 9700, 9800, X300, X600, X700, X800
Mobility Radeon® X1300, X1400, X1600, X1800

As a final note, if you are just browsing the web, writing e-mails and using office applications any graphics card will do - just get the cheapest!

Power ratings from

NVidia Drivers -

ATi Drivers -

Useful Utillities

GPUZ - see what card you have

Rivatuner - clock that card to go faster