by Rob Williams on November 24, 2008 in Graphics & Displays
In the $250 – $300 price-range, there exists two graphics cards that want to see your dollar, but which one deserves it the most? To find out, we’re taking a thorough look at each. In addition to general performance comparison, we’re also taking a look to see which excels where power consumption and temperatures are concerned, in addition to overall pricing.
We’ve established that NVIDIA’s GTX 260/216 performs better than ATI’s HD 4870 in every test, but those facts don’t matter as much if pricing doesn’t work to their favor. To see how things stand right now, we hopped over to NewEgg and did a little bit of investigation, to see what price you are likely to pay for either card. We have no connection to NewEgg, but we chose them because they’re without question the most popular place for most enthusiasts to go to.
After taking a look at the search results there, I noted each one of the stock-clocked versions of each model we looked at today. Pre-overclocked models were left alone, as their relevance is minor, since they’re generally more expensive than the rest. In total, we found seven ATI cards and six NVIDIA cards. Three cards in total include a free game, while ten of the thirteen include MIRs.
ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
- ASUS – $289.99 ($269.99 after MIR)
- Diamond – $309.99 ($299.99 after MIR)
- Gigabyte – $299.99
- HIS – $299.99
- MSI – $299.99 ($269.99 after MIR, includes Rainbow 6 Vegas 2)
- PowerColor – $299.99 ($289.99 after MIR, includes Frontlines: Fuel of War)
- Sapphire – $299.99 ($289.99 after MIR)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 / 216 896MB
- eVGA – $289.99 ($239.99 after MIR)
- Galaxy – $289.99 ($264.99 after MIR)
- Gigabyte – $264.99 ($244.99 after MIR)
- Sparkle – $294.99
- XFX – $289.99 ($259.99 after MIR, includes Far Cry 2)
- Zotac – $269.99 ($229.99 after MIR)
(Prices as of Nov 24, 2008)
Without taking mail-in rebates into consideration, the median value for the ATI cards is $299.99, while NVIDIA’s is $283.32. Do things change after a mail-in rebate is used? Not so much, as ATI’s new median becomes $288.56, while NVIDIA’s is $255.82. Even if you look for the cheapest card possible from each, the favor still goes to NVIDIA, with their lowest-priced card being $264.99, while ATI’s is $289.99. I think we definitely have enough information now to wrap this up, so let’s shall.
NVIDIA has been pushing their GTX 260/216 quite hard lately, and after exhaustively looking at its performance and other factors, it’s easy to see why. The card is faster in (almost) every regard to ATI’s HD 4870 1GB, more power efficient at idle, runs cooler with a reference cooler design and is $16.67 less expensive on average. If you use mail-in rebates, then you can get a GTX 260/216 for a full $40 less than the least-expensive HD 4870 1GB.
The question also has to be begged as to whether or not you personally need such a large GPU. If you are pushing large resolutions (1920×1200+) or love layering on the anti-aliasing, then a card with more memory is pure common sense. If you are less than 1920×1200 or avoid anti-aliasing, then a card with 512MB is going to suit you just fine, as you can learn from our recent graphics card reviews.
However, to counteract my own point, we are quickly getting into a time when lots of memory on a GPU is going to be far better utilized with upcoming games, so to purchase a card with lots of on-board memory now would be a good way to “future-proof” (that’s possible with computers, right?).
When all said and done, NVIDIA has without question won this round. ATI either needs to make great performance-related improvements with their 8.12 Catalyst driver or price their cards more competitively in order to earn your dollars. The numbers here speak for themselves. NVIDIA suffered a somewhat humiliating fate this past summer, but their holiday season is looking to make up for it.
I didn’t take image quality into consideration here, because throughout all six titles, I found it to be almost exact between the two cards. The only differences at all were seen with ATI’s card in both Crysis Warhead and Far Cry 2, where certain objects (probably from lighting) appear slightly lighter in color than on the NVIDIA card. This is hard to conclude upon though, as even slightly different circumstances in the game could have caused the changes. Please refer to our related thread for those resized (from 2560×1600) screenshots and also our “best playable” settings, which I was unable to include in a nice format in this article due to time.
Also, since this is our first-ever head-to-head (or graphics card roundup for that matter), we welcome comments and suggestions for future roundups. Want to see us take a look at cards other than the high-end? Want us to include more specific information about something? Comments and the like can also be left in our related thread.
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