High-End Graphics Cards
Being considerably more expensive than any other card, the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX takes the lead from the start. It maintains a frame rate over 60fps even at 1920x1200. If you’ve got such a card, you will be able to play Half-Life 2: Episode Two comfortably.
The other cards, excepting the ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro, have nearly identical results in all of the resolutions. They provide full playing comfort at 1600x1200 and a very good speed at 1920x1200, yet do not reach the desired 60fps mark in the latter case. The Radeon HD 2900 Pro looks good too, considering that it’s not a top-end product.
It’s different when we use 4x MSAA: ATI’s solutions are inferior to Nvidia’s cards in this mode for some reason despite having a more advanced architecture and better memory characteristics. They cannot maintain an average frame rate of 60fps even at a resolution of 1280x1024. Is it the result of architectural flaws in the R600 chip or a lack of optimizations in the Catalyst driver? Considering the good performance of the ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro series in other games, we are inclined to believe in the latter version. It can also be seen that the game does not use over 320MB of graphics memory. A memory amount over 512MB is perfectly useless for the game – it doesn’t affect the performance at all.
Without a doubt, the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX is the best choice in the high-end category if you cannot afford it. Purchasing an Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB may seem unwise since it is no better than the cheaper Geforce 8800 320MB, but you should consider other games you are going to play besides Half-Life 2: Episode Two . Some of them may run faster with 640 megabytes of graphics memory.
The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT in its two versions is not exactly good or bad in this test. It delivers high performance, but only when you don’t use full-screen antialiasing. If you’ve already got such a card, you’ll be able to play with comfort. But if you are choosing a card to buy, we recommend you to wait and see if the performance of AMD/ATI solutions changes for the better with driver updates.