The consumer graphics hardware market is always ready to offer a broad range of solutions to suit everyone’s budget. The current year of 2008 brought no revolution in this respect even though the introduction of advanced cards into the below-$200 and below-$100 price sectors might seem like one. For example, the ATI Radeon HD 4850 seems to be able to satisfy the demands of most PC gamers as is confirmed in tests carried out by our labs as well as by other reviewers and users. The current trend to develop multiplatform game projects contributes to this, too. Besides the PC platform, game developers now have to account for game consoles such as Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3. That is, they must take into account the hardware capabilities of each console which remain the same throughout its entire lifecycle. Game consoles can’t be upgraded as easily as a PC/Windows computer.
On one hand, this means that games come with less advanced visuals than what could be implemented basing on the capabilities of the latest gaming hardware for the PC. But on the other hand, such games have modest requirements to your gaming system’s configuration and do not usually force you to invest a serious sum of money into purchasing a top-end graphics card.
PC-exclusive projects are, on the contrary, at the cutting edge of progress and have tremendous system requirements as was the case with Crysis. This first-person sci-fi shooter is notorious for having been unable to run at a playable frame rate on any of top-end graphics cards available at the moment of its release if you turned on the highest graphics quality settings. With such games you may also find out that even the system configuration recommended by the game developer proves unable to provide smooth gameplay, making you think about buying a new and faster graphics card.
Again, there is a wide choice of shopping options these days. The price range goes all the way from $50 to $600 and even beyond. If you have the money and are ready to part with it, you can spend more than $1000 for your computer’s graphics subsystem.
To make this review comprehensive we benchmarked 12 graphics hardware solutions in seven popular games of different genres. We hope this test session will help make you an informed shopping choice.