Holiday Hardware Buyers Guide

by Techgage Staff on November 15, 2006 in Editorials & Interviews

The holiday season can be a rough time if you are not sure what you buy, or ask for. We have taken out the hassle and delivered a comprehensive guide of our top picks that covers every type of component inside your computer.

Update: We’ve added a gadgets page!

Video Cards

Ultimate – NVIDIA 8800GTX

Just last week, NVIDIA released its G80 based video cards to the eagerly awaiting gaming enthusiasts. While there are 2 cards with the G80 core, one being the 8800GTS, the only one can be called “Ultimate” is the 8800GTX. Keeping with the premium GTX badge, the 8800GTX is far and away the most hardcore GPU on the market today and the benchmarks prove it. In fact, it is difficult to truly push this card unless you have a rather large display. The 8800GTX can cut right through gaming on a 24” LCD and is only slightly taxed when driving a Dell 30” LCD screen worth of pixels. It is also worth mentioning that the 8800GTX is the first DirectX 10 card on the market.

Being of the PCI-E flavor, NVIDIA created the 8800GTX to be SLI capable. This is good for all the benchmarkers out there but in all honesty, there are very few people out there who can cripple one, let alone two.

Everything about this card is big. The card is longer and the die itself is larger than the GPUs of the past. Shipping with the now standard dual slot cooler, the 8800GTX is relatively quiet. More importantly, NVIDIA has pulled off another hard launch and these deadly cards are available at this very minute from any reputable retailer online or down the road. With a MSRP of $599, this card takes the GPU performance crown in price as well as raw horsepower. This is a card that any gamer would personally write Santa thank you note should one be found under their Christmas tree this holiday season, this editor included.

As good as this card is, it is only going to get better. At the time of publishing, there isn’t a single DirectX 10 game out at this time. As time goes on though, we will see Alan Wake and Crysis and if these games live up to the hype, you better wire your bottom jaw shut as this card is going to look amazing with those games.

Great – ATI x1950XTX

With the launch of the 8800GTX by NVIDIA, ATI lost the performance crown. While this might sting the ego a bit, very few people can afford the best of the best and while expensive, the cost of an x1950XTX is a bit of an easier pill to swallow.

Being the current flagship gaming GPU from the men and women at ATI, the x1950XTX certainly has a lot to offer. The addition of GDDR4 has allowed ATI to reach much higher clock frequencies with the RAM and the dual slot cooler keeps the temperatures in check and while doing so, rarely get anywhere close to being loud. The ability to add a second x1950 or x1900 CrossFire master card for CrossFire performance only adds to the appeal of the x1950XTX. Having worked with the card in question, the performance impressed me greatly in all games that I have played. With a street price anywhere from the very high $300 dollars all the way up to the mid $400s, the x1950XTX is expensive but well within reach of most consumers.

Good – ATI x1950Pro

Released only a few short weeks ago, ATI brought their first GPU produced on the 90nm fab process to market. This smaller core allows the x1950Pro to run cooler as it is far less power hungry. Because of this, the cooling requirements are less than its bigger brother, the x1950XTX, and thus only needs a single slot cooler. This is a huge plus for everyone with little room in their cases.

The ATI x1950Pro is also unique in the sense that it’s the first ATI GPU to ditch the massively hated CrossFire dongle for an all internal solution now. Apparently ATI had been listening to the complaints and taken a cue from their green enemy to the south because the internal CrossFire adapter(s) are extremely similar to NVIDIA’s SLI adapters. With prices ranging anywhere from just under $250 to $300, a little shopping around will do you some good. This is the card for those of us on a budget. The x1950Pro is a card that puts its money where its mouth is and the prospect of adding a second card down the road makes this card that much more appealing as this card can be found for only $250.

You can check out our preview of the x1950Pro here.

Stocking Stuffer – NVIDIA 7600GT

The 7600GT from NVIDIA is card for those who game, but not at incredible resolutions and those who game on a budget. With high clocks, the 7600GT makes up for its glaring weakness, it’s 128-bit memory bus. Cooled by a single slot cooler, the 7600GT takes up little space in your PC and remains relatively cool too. With shader model 3.0 support, the 7600GT is a steal in the mid $150 dollar range. For that price, you also get a SLI ready card should you ever decide to get a second card.

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