- 2D or 3D: that is the question
- PCIe or AGP
- Graphics card models
- ATI cards
- ATI variations
- Nvidia cards
- Nvidia variations
- What the specs mean
- Other features
- Other components
- Power usage
- Integrated graphics
The market price of graphics cards (especially those using chips from Nvidia and ATI) is very much dependant on the performance they offer. As a general rule, one $300 graphics card is going to perform roughly the same as another $300 graphics card. This is generally true across model types and across brands. The ATI and Nvidia lines mirror each other quite closely on a price/performance scale - one of the consequences of their duopoly on graphics chips.
An exception to this rule are the now rare Matrox graphics cards, which tend to provide an host of extra features at a slightly higher cost (the Matrox Parhelia can drive up to 3 monitors on its own.)
At the present time, there are broadly three price categories of graphics cards:
- The lowest-cost cards (sub $150): Some can even be purchased for less than $70. These cards are not going to perform at all well on recent 3D games such as Doom3 and Half Life 2. However, they will be perfectly fine for most non-gaming applications, such as Web surfing and office applications.
- Mid-range cards ($200-$400): For around $300 you can get a card that performs pretty well in most games, allowing you to switch on most, if not all, of the graphics features (shadows, anti-aliasing and the like) in most 3D games and still get a playable frame rate.
- The elite cards (over $600): These are premium cards, for those who simply must have the best of everything, no matter what the cost. Much like CPUs, the performance of cards does not scale linearly with price (a $600 card will not be twice as fast as a $300 one, for instance). These cards exist for people who take their 3D games very seriously.