If you’re a gamer, it’s all about graphics quality. The best graphics card produces the best image quality – vital if you’re immersing yourself in a shoot ’em up or an MMORPG scenario. Even if your applications are a little more serious such as CAD auto programming or graphics packages, your work will only be as good as the tools you use. The proliferation of high quality graphics cards have given the discerning PC user plenty of scope for upgrading and the two most popular suppliers have been ATI and Nvidia. But which is better?
Nvidia – cutting edge graphic tech
Nvidia rocked the graphics world last year with its introduction of a dual 3D-card SLI set up. But an SLI setup requires a motherboard upgrade, high voltage power supply and two identical SLI graphics cards. All pretty high tech stuff, and not for the uninitiated. Thankfully, both Nvidia and ATI supply a range of graphics cards to suit all pockets, all levels of technical competence and all types of requirements. Take that latest buzzword, 3D. You don’t have to go down the dual SLI route to achieve a 3D effect.
Nvidia has products that will have you ducking incoming fire or zooming through the blue-tinged world of Avatar in glorious 3D. ATI, although not 3D ready just yet, are working hard to get their cards 3D-capable and bring them to market. However, 3D ready cards are going to require a hefty investment of several hundred pounds. If you’re a committed gamer then that may seem like small change, but for sporadic gamers or those who merely want better graphics without the 3D bells and whistles, it might seem a bit steep when compared to other graphics cards on the market.
For those who have invested in the latest Windows 7 package with DirectX 11, both ATI and Nvidia have graphics cards to complement. The ATI 5000 series and Nvidia’s 400 series are all DirectX 11 compatible and provide gamers with exceptional quality graphics, quick frame speeds and multi-screen gaming capabilities on the very latest cards.
For those on a limited budget but who still want to upgrade their graphics capability, then both suppliers have a plethora of graphics cards that do the business. Both ATI and Nvidia have cards that are reasonably priced, give you fast frame speed, 3D graphics and excellent image quality.
The two arch rivals have one thing in common – they both know that their market isn’t just made up of cash-flush hardcore gamers willing to spend top money on their graphics cards. The trouble is with the low range cards though, is that many of them will not have the frame speed or image quality to play the most recent games on, and the whole experience will be lacking that special something – namely not having to wait every few seconds for the frames to load.
However, if your PC uses an integrated graphics chip and as long as you’re not trying to run too many applications at once, a low price graphics card should be able to cope with a reasonable amount of processor demand without completely pixelating your images. It may be tempting to opt for a graphics card that has its own 128MB of memory and doesn’t piggyback off your main processor, but by using a card that does borrow from the system memory cache you can effectively get a cheap alternative to dual processing.
Both ATI and Nvidia have their plus points, particularly in the more high end packages. But, as we asked at the beginning, which is better? Well, the honest answer is neither – they’re both as good as each other depending on your requirements, your OS and how deep your pockets are. The standard rule for graphics cards applies – the more you pay, the better the results. And with more gaming manufacturers embracing 3D, it might be time to think about putting a little more financial investment into your graphics package.