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What video card to buy? Answered

My old graphics cards died (two 8600 GT's in SLI), so now I need a replacement.  I've narrowed it down to either a GTX 260 or a Radeon 5000 series card, basically I can't decide whether Direct X 11 is worth it or not.  I've always been a fan of nVidia and I'd prefer to stick to their cards, but if I can get the same performance for the same amount of money with an ATI card w/ DX11 then I'd probably go with ATI.  My (original) price limit was $150, but since there isn't jack for that much, I've bumped it to $200.  I'd prefer not to go over that.  So how does the Radeon 5000 series compare to the GTX 200 series (within my price range)? Also, is DX11 worth it?

My PC's specs:

OCZ 550 Watt PSU (50 amps total on the 12v rails, 2 X 25A)
Core 2 Duo E6850
Asus P5N-E SLI mobo
2 GiB DDR2 800 Mhz RAM
3 7200 RPM SATA drives
The usual DVD drive
A fairly crappy 16" CRT (1280x1024)

Vielen Dank!


From what I've seen so far, DirectX 11 will be worth it - when more games implement it.  Until then, if you're investing in video cards it's not a bad idea to have the compatibility, just to be "future-proof"; just don't expect to see much happening with it for awhile.

From what I understand, DirectX 11 has some really nice features that are hardware-dependent (like tessellation and Shader Model 5.0), but many of the performance boosts in the new API (such as multi-threaded resource handling) are still usable on hardware going as far back as DirectX 9.

I have to say I am really sad to see nVidia dragging its feet when it comes to DirectX 11.  I think that if you are happy using one card and want to be an early adopter, you could go with a single ATI; so far, the specs boast more bang for the buck over nVidia, and the benchmarks seem to agree.  Granted, my references are generally based on quick thumbing through NewEgg and Google searches, but it seems even hardened nVidia fan-boys are happy with the results.

From what I've seen I agree with you, the one I'm looking at (an XFX 5770) is especially lucrative with free shipping and $20 cheaper than the cheapest GTX 260.  I'll be a little sad about no PhysX support, but I can always run it with my old 8500 GT for PhysX in Windows 7.  Plus DX11 has it's own physics engine, which developers will hopefully adopt.  Thanks for the input.

Yeah, I have to admit that I haven't kept up with the recent developments of the latest and greatest; since the extent of my wife's and my gaming is limited to Guild Wars (which I must say has an amazingly well-designed graphics engine to do as much as it does with so little) I've run an nVidia 8500GT for a long time.  Incidentally, PhysX is only available on nVidia cards with 32 or more cores, and the 8500GT only has 16.

I will say that it seems developers have been making pretty good use of all the features of DirectX 11 so far, so I wouldn't get too hung up on the lack of PhysX in an ATI.  The card you're looking at seems pretty sweet, and I'm sure it will be a vast improvement over what you had.

Until I did some on-the-spot research, I was about to recommend getting two cheap nVidia's and running SLI since you already have a motherboard capable of it (as many cheap cards these days smoke the 8600's you were running).  However, after a closer look of prices, capabilities, and reviews, I couldn't say something like that in good conscience.

As I said before, I'm highly disappointed in nVidia's stance on DirectX 11.  They state that they are looking at the new version more as something that will allow the GPU to share some of the burden of normal computing instead of a reason for consumers to choose one card over another.  It seems in my opinion to be an implication that they are holding out on a DirectX 11 card until they either finalize some design that utilizes this capability more, or for developers to design code that does so.

In the meantime, though, they need to keep up with what's available now if they want to stay in the lead.  Otherwise, they will continue to lose market share and the next new thing they do might be too little too late.

I thought it a bit suspicious that the "Enable PhysX" option was gone from the nVidia Control Panel...  I'm looking forward to the new card, we'll see how ATI compares to nVidia.  My expectations aren't high, but then I guess the only way to go is up :)

What games do you play?  Do any of them use DX11?  A couple of the games I used to play had specific recommendations as to which card they worked best with.

Most (if not all) of my games are pretty graphic intensive: Far Cry 2, Borderlands, Fallout 3, Crysis, etc.  None of them use DX11, but from the research I've done, it seems like it has potential to take off more than DX10 did.  I'm not sure how important future-proofing is, in around a year and a half I'm off to college where I'll have better things to do.  But I don't want to shell out 200 bucks for a GTX 260 and then regret it.  As you can probably tell, I'm pretty biased towards nVidia, but if you've got any solid evidence promoting ATI cards, I'm open to it.

It seems to me (especially with XP still hanging on by its fingernails) that developers will have to keep supporting games with DX9 and Dx10, and since the majority of consumers won't have DX11 video cards, that won't be their focus either.  Or maybe they'll jump ahead and screw us all over, who knows.