Every overclocker faces a difficult task when choosing the graphics card for his/her home system today. Instead of well-ordered ranks of graphics cards with sharp separating lines between price niches we see a confusing crowd of devices where high-quality and fast products stand next to value cards, which sometimes have a higher appeal to the user due to their lower price at a tradeoff of a slightly lower performance. Some graphics cards don’t even try to look fast – they just come under loud names, allure the user with cooler highlighting and take him by fright with the futuristic shape of the heatsink.
Many graphics cards are overclockable to some extent. There also exist unique graphics cards that offer you excellent overclocking opportunities or permit modification to reach the level of much more expensive products.
In our previous article, we examined top-tier expensive graphics cards and their cheaper versions. Each card underwent overclocking and, if possible, modification, like the RADEON 9800 SE. The frequencies and benchmark results that we achieved don’t pretend to be an etalon. Overclockability is of course an individual trait of each particular graphics card. I hope, though, that our testing the cards in popular games gives you more information about available products and helps you to make your shopping decisions.
In our previous review, graphics cards on the RADEON 9600 XT and GeForce FX 5700 Ultra were the bottom bar. We took them as mainstream products that could compete with “cheapened” top-end cards.
In this article, these graphics cards are on top as we are going to talk about mainstream graphics cards and their cheaper modifications. We also carry on our tradition of including graphics cards of a lower class, which look competitive against the mainstream produce.
By the way, the “lower class” means GeForce FX 5200, ATI RADEON 9200 and NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti4200-8x here. The latter two graphics processors were not originally positioned as “weak and cheap”, but after more advanced DirectX 9-comaptible GPUs appeared, their prices went down into the “value” sector. It doesn’t mean, though, that the RADEON 9200 and the GeForce4 Ti4200-8x have to lose in performance to their new neighbors in the price niche.
Well, you will see the results of the tests shortly. Right now, let’s examine graphics cards participating in today’s tests.