Going one step down we meet four cards: GeForce 6800, GeForce 6600 GT AGP, RADEON 9800 XT ? GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.
One new product came to this category since our last-summer roundup, the NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT AGP model. Despite its 128-bit memory bus and simple design this card easily beats the ATI RADEON 9800 XT in a majority of applications, in low and high resolutions alike. Besides that, the GeForce 6600 GT AGP features advanced video encoding capabilities as it carries a full-fledged version of the PureVideo processor from NVIDIA on board.
The NVIDIA GeForce 6800 offers you somewhat more performance than the RADEON 9800 XT and the GeForce 6600 GT AGP, but it also costs more; its recommended price is $299 against $199 for a GeForce 6600 GT. This solution has 12 pipelines and a 256-bit memory bus, but the memory itself is clocked at 700MHz, so sometimes the GeForce 6800 performs like the RADEON 9800 XT or even worse.
You can still come across an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra in shops, but we don’t recommend it for purchase since the obsolete NV3x architecture doesn’t meet the requirements to modern mainstream graphics cards. This device is beaten by the RADEON 9800 XT, GeForce 6600 GT AGP and, of course, by the GeForce 6800 almost everywhere. We can claim it now that the time of the GeForce FX architecture has passed.
Alas, the prices for RADEON 9800 XT and RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB cards remain too high, about $300-350, while you can find a GeForce 6600 GT AGP for $210-230, or a GeForce 6800 for $275-290. Since the AGP version of the GeForce 6600 GT has been around for a very short while, it is yet rare in shops, but that’s a transient situation as NVIDIA has no problems with the shipments of the NV43.
So, if you’re ready to spend about $220-300 for a graphics card, choose a GeForce 6800 or 6600 GT AGP. These cards have the advantages of the new graphics architecture and have excellent speeds for their class. A RADEON 9800 would cost you the same money as a GeForce 6800, but will give you less performance.
We advise you to avoid the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra – its price is inappropriately high for its speed.