Opinion: Radeon 9800 or GeforceFX

I’ve been considering a new video card for a while now, my GeForce MX440 is still serving me fine, but I want something a little beefier. I’ve been hashing and rehashing with a co-worker of mine, and my dilemma is whether to get a Radeon 9800 or a GeforceFX.

To me, GeForce seems like the way to go. I’ve had a very consistently positive experience with Nvidia. They have maintained good driver support, even for older cards, and have delivered a constantly stable, and very satisfactory history.

On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot about the Radeon 9800. Supposedly it is quite a nice little card. My experience with ATI has always been negative. Poor support, poor drivers, poor compatibility (especially WRT VIA chipset motherboards, which my wallet forces me to purchase time and time again), but if there’s a considerable difference, maybe it’s time for me to give them another chance.

My upgrade cycle typically runs from 6 months to a year, and I don’t want to end up with a “fluke” success in the 9800 that will end up as another negative experience once games start pushing the limits of the board, but I don’t want to march blindly into a GeForceFX and find myself in an unhappy circumstance…

Any thoughts? Does it matter?

Neither. Get an inexpensive Radeon 9700 (pro or not, your choice) and wait for the next generation. There’s never any good reason to pay the early adopter tax for the ‘best’ videocard any more. It’s completely and utterly pointless. And I say this as a guy who has religiously purchased new video cards every 8 months for the last 5 years. Now I don’t.

The only FX worth having is the 5900, and it’s pricey. The 9800 is a slightly faster 9700, and certainly the 10% speed boost (at best!) over the 9700 is not worth paying 33% more for.

Both cards are very fast and powerful, but…

DOOM 3 is likely to run fastest on a GeForceFX 5900, since the game has a GeForce-specific code path, while Half-Life 2 is likely to run fastest on a 9800 PRO, since it (the 9800 PRO) seems to have the faster shader engine.

As far as drivers are concerned, ATI currently has robust and largely stable drivers, while NVIDIA has robust and slightly less stable drivers.

If you plan to upgrade again in six months to a year, it probably doesn’t matter which way you go, but for now I’d recommend ATI.

Oh, and Wumpus is right in this instance – both flavors of the RADEON 9700 are damn sexy for the price.


Ditto - the 9700 Pro is a great deal for the price, get it before they’re wholly replaced by the 9800 series. Hell, if you’re looking for something cheaper and can find a 9500 Pro, that’s just a hell of a steal.

Me personally, I would take the Radeon over the FX. Two reasons: one, the anti-aliasing is smoother on the 9700/9800 cards. Two, it’s just plain faster in all those “standard texture mapping” kinds of games. NVIDIA might downplay the games where they draw four pixels a clock instead of eight, and looking down the road they’re right. But Tron 2.0 will probably be lots faster on a 9800, Vice City, World of Warcraft, Plantside…there are lots of big games out there and still coming which do enough of their work in the “write color + Z” space to be faster on a 9700/9800.

And ATI finally got their drivers in good shape.

Not least because you can software upgrade the 9500 pro to a 9700 pro.

Industry Dwarf

Just to illustrate how uninterested I remain in the video card market, I’m sticking with my now-ancient Ti 4600 for a while longer.

Unless you absolutely must have extra anisotropic filtering or anti-aliasing, with a Ti 4600 or 9500/9600, you’ll get performance very much in the same ballpark as the fancier cards at standard settings @ 1024x768 or 1152x864. Which most Joe Sixpacks are perfectly happy with.

I think it’s an absolute crime how cards are being sold solely on the basis of how fast they run with these stupid, most-users-wouldn’t-even-be-able-to-see-the-difference features like AA and AF. Unfortunately for all of us, that’s the only way to generate a meaningful performance delta between the cards these days… as virtually no game uses advanced video card features anyway. You could make the case that Doom III and HL2 will change this-- assuming they are actually released this year-- but still, color me skeptical.

In summary: Fuck Video Cards.

I usually end up turning off AA because it seems to always bork something in some game. The text in BF1942, for example.

I needed a new video card for my kids’ computer so my 7-year-old could play Neverwinter Nights with me. Since they are using my old P3/733 I didn’t need anything super powerful, just more than the Voodoo3 that was in there.

This product search made me fell like I had entered the land of the non-geeks. Trying to find any useful information was difficult. The usual review sites were extremely unhelpful, with all of their reviews focused on the high-end whiz-bang cards. I ended up buying a Radeon 9200, which should handle anything that old CPU would throw at it. It’s not a DX9 part though, so I hope that’s not a problem when the other kids try to run Reader Rabbit :roll:

I have a 9700 pro and I turned on AA in Planetside a few days ago. It makes it look so much better. Even running at 1280x960 before still yeilded crawling jaggies everywhere. So I took it down to 1152x856 and turned on 4x AA and it looks a lot better overall and still runs great. AA and AF are not just gimicks.

I do tend to agree however about not buying the top of the line video card. The 9700 Pro is a nice sweet spot. The $400 and $500 cards are just not going to give you enough extra perfomance to justify the cost right now.

– Xaroc

Is THAT what caused it? I posted a question here about the BF text way back in the days when the demo was the only BF game available. No one answered (not a single reply, actually) how I could clear up the text and I bagged the idea of playing BF.

Not that it matters; RoN is now the Qt3 game-of-the-month… :)

If you are absolutely going to get a new card in that range, I would go with the NVIDIA. The hardware for both the ATI and NVIDIA are solid but I prefer the NVIDIA drivers. Also, ATI cards don’t have something at full 32 bit (is it alpha?), not sure if that matters. ATI cards don’t have a W Buffer, which doesn’t matter for a lot of games except one of the ones I play the most, Operation Flashpoint.

Currently I own a Radeon 9500 Pro and it’s very solid, but every time I play NWN and see these weird graphical glitches with falling leaves, I have to just sigh. The problem is that many games in development over the last few years (the ones coming out now) were developed when NVIDIA was the reigning champ. Interesting to see how games currently in development adjust.

P.S. Is it tough to get a Radeon 9500 Pro up to a 9700? I have a VisionTek brand. Can it be done with stock cooling?

For those of you who consider yourself hard core gamers, what is the “sweet spot” for a graphics card?

Until the most recent generation, cards seemed to be introduced at around $300 when they’re the new top of the line (at least for NVidia cards – I remember buying my Geforce 256 for $289). This price slowly seemed to be creeping upwards until the latest generation just took the top off ($500 for the new Geforce FX!!! WTF are they smoking?)

I have a hard time rationalizing spending over $250 on a primary gaming machine’s graphics card, to be honest, and more than $150 on a secondary machine’s graphics card. The refurb’d 128MB TI4600 over at Compgeeks for $150 looks pretty good to me for my backup machine right now, and a new 9700 pro for $225 seems like a decent deal on a primary machine graphics card.

How much seems like the right amount to spend to you for a video card upgrade, and how often do you upgrade? I upgrade about once a year, and spend about $250.

The identification of the 9500 Pro as the sweet spot is where it’s at, not the 9700 Pro. I was planning on waiting until fall to upgrade, but I’ve been sorely tempted by the 9500 Pro. By the way, refurb’d 9500 Pro at newegg for $132, asjunk.

The 9700 Pro is still well above the sweet spot of price and performance. It’s still at worst the third best card available, you’re paying a killer premium for 5 extra FPS with 4x AA. Pricewatch has the lowest 9700 Pro for $265, while 9600 and 9500 Pros are $80 less than that. The middle card is generally the sweet spot in a given generation, sometimes the low end good card(Ti4200) can be. Budget cards are generally missing features and premium cards are wastes of your money.

Good rule of thumb- every dollar over $200 you spent you might as well have set on fire. You’re paying for features that the games of today don’t use, by the time you need those features the card will be $130 and yesterday’s news.

The 9500 Pro is a nice card for sure if you can get one of the ones that can be software altered to be a 9700 Pro then you can really make out. The 9700 Pro is really the sweet spot if you want a high end card but not having to pay the $400-500 just released price. Basically if you want to run at 1024x768 then the 9500 Pro is the better choice if you like higher resolutions plus AA and or AF then the 9700 Pro is the way to go.

– Xaroc

It was the early version of the 9500 (non-pro) that could be upgraded to true 9700 Pro performance, from what I remember; that’s the one with the “half-disabled” R300 on it, that if you upgraded, it would open up the other memory bus and pipelines, giving you the real deal.

9500 Pro will still be limited to 128-bit memory bus even if you upgrade it, if I remember correctly. But you can certainly get the core up to 9700-pro levels, you just won’t have the same bandwidth (it’ll be half), so high resolution AA will have reduced performance if that’s important to you.

Screw that, I’ll stick with my 64MB Ti4200.

So who’s got the most obsolete video card around these parts?

My cubicle-mate has a Voodoo 3 at home. WHOO! I think he wins…

I still have an old Trident 4 MB card, but it’s not actually installed in anything, just laying around.

I’ve got an ATI Mach 64 (ISA) kicking around, not installed in anything. I may use it for an ATI trade-up if there’s and ATI card that I desparately want.

I’m lazy and have been playing Port Royale and Rise of Nations recently, so I haven’t bothed to upgrade my Geforce4 MX420, which is a real piece of shit(got a Dell, they won’t let you select no graphics card and they absolutely rape you on a good one. My other option was a 9700 Pro for $340 more than the MX420, this was back when you could get a 9700 Pro for like $320). When I see a real graphics card intensive game I want I’ll buy a new card, but since I bought this computer the only new games I’ve bought have been Galciv and the two I mentioned.

I was real tempted by that refurbed 9500 Pro that I mentioned, I’m going to do some more research and maybe buy it, cause I will need something better for Half Life 2. My thinking is buy it when you need it, cause that 9700 Pro won’t get more expensive by September. I could wait even longer and get something from the next generation, but I think I’ll get either a 9600 or 9700 Pro in the fall if I decide against the refurb’d 9500 Pro. I generally like to spend in the $175 range on a new card when I feel the need.

Anyway, I doubt many people have my combination of a pretty decent 2.66Ghz, 1 GB PC2700 RAM system with a 18 month old low-end budget card. That’s some ineffiecent allocation of resources for you. I could get significant important(and at the low end, the differences can be actually seen) for well under $100. A 5200FX or 9200 would do wonders for my UT2003 benchmarks, but all I do is play skirmishes of RoN and try to figure out to make my router let me play RoN online. Unless the new ATI drivers make my router not suck, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

Anyway, I’m just boosting my word/post count for Koontz’s next stage of research.

I’m still stuck with a Voodoo 3500 and a Vortex2 sound card for my computer. I got a wife and a house instead of computer parts.

At least it forces me to be frugal and hit the bargain bins since I can’t run DX 8. I managed to pick up 18 games for about $100 last time I did a big shopping spree.

This probably doesn’t count, but in my server machine (which has become my repository for obsolete technology and is the “friends” gaming machine when there are more than 2 people playing on the LAN), I’ve got a TNT (the original one) and a pair of Voodoo2’s. It still runs counterstrike quite nicely, which is kind of scary. :)

Sitting in a drawer, I’ve also got an original Voodoo – one of the Canopus cards with 6MB! Woohoo!