We would put the following products into the category of entry-level graphics cards that have a high enough performance for playing modern computer games:
- GeForce 6600
- RADEON X700
- RADEON X600 XT
The RADEON X600 XT should be struck off your shopping list even if you have a very limited budget. This graphics card is based on an obsolete architecture and has the worst technical characteristics of the three (only 4 pixel pipelines and 2 vertex processors). In some games it can outperform the GeForce 6600 due to the faster memory, but most often it is slower than the NVIDIA card, not to mention the ATI RADEON X700.
The GeForce 6600 is evidently hamstringed by its down-clocked frequencies (300/500MHz against the 400/700MHz by ATI). There’s no wonder then that the RADEON X700 wins in its price category. It just has no real rival. There are numerous modifications of that card available, mostly with varying type and frequency of the memory chips.
Like the RADEON X700, the GeForce 6600 comes in many flavors that reflect the fantasies of the particular manufacturer. Most often, however, it is equipped with slow TSOP-packaged memory with limited overclockability. The GPU frequency of the GeForce 6600 can usually be increased to 400-500MHz and even higher, but the memory frequency seldom gets as high as 600MHz, so there’s no talk about competition with the RADEON X700 even in low resolutions where the influence of the memory subsystem is the lowest. You should also keep in mind that graphics cards of this category do not usually give out playable frame rates with enabled full-screen antialiasing, with the exception of some particular games and low resolutions.
As for our recommendation, we would advise you to buy an ATI RADEON X700 rather than a GeForce 6600, their prices being similar. The RADEON is just faster in almost all modern games, with rare exceptions like Doom 3. Try to find a card with PGA-packaged memory as it overclocks better. Avoid the RADEON X600 XT which is an obsolete and slow graphics card.
P. S.: So, this is the end of our comprehensive testing of graphics cards with the PCI Express interface. You have seen 13 graphics cards and 4 SLI configurations perform in 30 gaming and theoretical applications and we hope the information you’ve received will help you make a wise choice as you’re upgrading the graphics subsystem of your existing PC or buying a whole new computer. We’ve given you our recommendations for each product category above basing on the results of the tests, but after all it’s you who make the choice.
You should also be aware that this test session is a snapshot of the 3D graphics market as it is today. The market is changing constantly and we may have quite a different situation in no time (after the upcoming releases from ATI Technologies, for example). So, stay tuned to us!