The building of a killer gaming computer, Entry 6!

File:Gpu-connections.pngThis week is all about Video Cards.

What is a video card?

A video card is a circuit board that you attach to your motherboard.  It enhances your computer’s ability to output a higher quality/quantity of frames.

Video is made up of still frames.  The more frames you have, the smoother your gameplay is.  The higher the quality of your frames, the more realistic the games look.

FPS – Frames per Second.  FPS tells you how many frames are generated in one second.

Quantity – As a general rule of thumb, 60FPS is when gamers and review sites consider the game ‘playable’.  ‘Playable’ is defined by fluid motion and no stutter in the video.  The higher you can get the better, but don’t spend over $10,000 trying to play Counterstrike: Source at 300FPS.  (Counterstrike: Source was made in 2000 and is a very old game.  It doesn’t require very expensive computer equipment to make the game look nice.

So which brands can we choose from when selecting a video card?

You can look at Nvidia and ATi.

File:Nvidia logo.svgFile:ATI Logo.svg

The video card brands are much the same as the processor brand.  One aims for premium performance at a premium price, and one aims for good performance for the price.

Nvidia – If you wanted to buy the Nvidia card, it might run you a lot of money, but you would get the best of the best.

ATi – If you wanted to buy an ATi card, you would not empty your wallet completely, but you won’t get the best performance out there.

*Note* *Performance and reliability are not the same thing.*

So now we need to pick out which graphics card we want to compare.  Comparison’s are usually one of ATi’s cards, and one of Nvidia’s cards.

For this comparison, we’re going to choose the ATi HD Radeon 5870 and the Nvidia GTX 295.  Both of these cards provide excellent performance at a high price.  Sometimes the Radeon will win, sometimes the GTX will win, it all depends on the game.

The GTX 295 will run you $519.99 US, the Radeon HD 5870 will run you around $429.99 CAD.

Now on to talk about the cards!

The GTX 295 consists of two GTX 260 GPU’s on the same board while the Radeon consists of one 5870 GPU.

Didn’t you say up there that the GTX 295 has two GPUs?  How is that possible?

That is not a typo.  The GTX 295 consists of two GPUs.  Usually, each video card will contain one GPU as it is cheaper to manufacture them this way.  When we are looking at a brand’s top of the line card, it will almost always contain two GPUs.

File:DirectX logo.pngDirectX –  A Microsoft API.  (Application Programing Interface).  An API sets guidelines and rules for programs to follow, so they can interact with each other. In the case of gaming, the operating system also has to support DirectX 11 for games to be able to run in it DirectX 11 mode.  Currrently, Windows 7 is the only operating system capable of DirectX 11.  DirectX 11 is the newest version, and the Radeon 5870 supports it while the GTX 295 doesn’t.  As of publishing this post, the only game capable of DirectX 11 is Dirt 2.

So which one are we going to buy?

The Sapphire Radeon 5870 Vapor X Edition @ $499.99

Why did I choose the Sapphire Radeon 5870 Vapor-X, and why this specific model?

I chose the Vapor X Radeon 5870 because I believe that it provides the best value for what it does, and that it’s a very powerful card capable of maxing out almost any game I throw at it.  I know the video card I chose looks different than the stock version, but that’s because the Vapor X edition has a larger and better cooling system.  Below are benchmarks for some popular games, as well as Team Fortress 2. (My personal favorite.)  *All settings are set to as high as they can go.  Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering are documented on each test.  I only include my monitor resolution of 1920×1200.*

Looking at the above benchmarks. We can say the the Radeon 5870 outputs extremely well, but it doesn’t always measure up the the GTX 295.

So why did I choose the Radeon 5870 over the GTX 295 then?

The Radeon 5870 model that I chose:

  • Has less mature drivers.  As time passes, better drivers will come out that increases the Radeon’s  performance.  The GTX 295 has been out for a while, and it’s drivers are not going to get much better.
  • Supports DirectX 11.  Rememeber how I always talk about future proofing?  Game developers are moving to the Direct X 11 platform, and the Radeon 5870 fully supports DirectX 11.
  • Is a single core GPU outputting close the performance of two GPU’s.  The GTX 295 consists of two GPU cores.  Some older games do not support two GPU cores and getting everything to work right with two GPU cores can sometimes be a hassle.
  • Includes a third party cooler!  The cooler installed on the Radeon 5870 that I chose has been proven to keep temperatures 12-15 degrees Celsius lower than the stock cooler.  (Which is a good thing.)
  • Includes a free game!  Dirt 2 is included with my Radeon 5870.  This is awesome, because Dirt 2 is the first game to support DirectX 11.

Hope you enjoyed it guys.  Until next time.


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