I feel like your giving half the story bud. The $250 price tag means they would need an external power connection and thus would be in the X60+ range, to me it sounds like a power supply and not with the card it's self. Your talking about taking a $39 ATI card with no external power requirements and it is running AVI files just fine at 1080p but you didn't put in one from Nvidia at that same price range? I have a 8500 passive MSI video card for my MCEPC, that cost my about $45 when it was new and it runs all of my 1080p content just fine.
As for the games running the same it sounds like your running only 2d games not 3d, because even on board video will run 2d just fine as well. Seriously dude it sounds like your comparing Apple to Oranges. I don't disagree the power requirements and most of the heat issues are down side, but isn't that the nature of a computer? I agree an ATI will run cooler and SOMETIMES give the same performance as an Nvidia card, but then we get into drivers and other factors I'm not gonna touch. The point is you need to shop for what you need, not whats higher priced and think is going to be better, more doesn't equal better. I would never ever recommend some one who plays facebook games, Big Fish games or solitaire to buy a $250 card, never.
This is what it sounds like to me they thought bigger would be better and got the bigger card and the psu isn't working like it should and failing to run that card, don't let the dislike of Nvidia cloud the fact you put in a video card with lower power requirements say the problem is fixed, when it isn't! Your just doing a patch job and that psu needs to be replaced or its just gonna be back when it has failed. Now that opinion is based on what you have said.
Anyways Rob nice review, glad I don't do air cooling any more! I love my single slot water cooled video cards, I don't necessarily like the work I have to put into it for the setup but in the long run having those slots available is always nice.
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