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I'm trying to determine which is the better of these two video cards: 128MB Nvidia GeForce 8600GT card while the other has a 512MB ATI Radeon X1650 card.

Both cards are the upper-level mid-range versions of their respective series. On the one hand, the ATI has substantially more VRAM, but the Nvidia supports D3D 10 and SM4.0 as opposed to D3D 9.0c/SM3.0 that the ATI supports. Also, I have always heard better things about Nvidia cards compared to ATI cards.

I'm trying to find some advice on which one is better, but I can't find any actual comparisons or anything for these specific cards (the comparisons I can find are only similar ones like the X1650 Pro or 8600GT PCI-E), so I figure that what I need to know is whether the extra VRAM is that important. Looking at the ATI table and the Nvidia table seems to indicate that the Nvidia is better, but then again, the Nvidia table also says that the GeForce 8600GT is a PCI-E card with at least 256MB even though the card in question is an AGP with 128MB. (:-?)

(It looks like the ATI card is not supported in Windows 7 while the Nvidia card is, which I suppose is also a factor, though not quite as immediately relevant as performance.)

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Shopping/buying recommendations are not allowed - see the FAQ –  ChrisF Nov 28 '10 at 23:16
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Just a second... there. –  Synetech Nov 28 '10 at 23:17
    
It looks like this specific comparison is probably going to be moot. However, I am still interested in finding out to what extent VRAM plays a role in a video card. Should I rewrite this question over, or create a new one from scratch? –  Synetech Nov 29 '10 at 21:48
    
Updated my answer w.r.t. your comment. –  Billy ONeal Nov 30 '10 at 2:18
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A useful link to roughly compare GPU performance: http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/high_end_gpus.html (see also the mid range GPU list)

A useful tool to roughly compare GPU performance: m3fe fillratetest (Google is your friend)

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That's pretty nice page. Graphs are good, and easy to read and understand. :) Best of all, it seems to be regularly updated, so it's quite useful at any time. Thanks—and for the record, Google and I are not really friends right now, we've had a falling out. :D –  Synetech Jan 6 '11 at 16:49
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In response to the comment on the question. (Original answer follows under the horizontal rule)

VRAM serves two purposes on a graphics card:

  1. Holding textures
  2. Holding models

I'm sure there are other things it's used for, but this is my (albeit limited) understanding. When you give the graphics processor more memory, it allows games to use higher resolution textures, and more detailed models (though the models can be limited by the processing power of the card as well). This can improve realism in games significantly.

The effects of increased video RAM are going to be more noticeable at higher game resolutions.

That all said, one really has to just look at the cards hierarchically. Better cards generally come paired with more RAM. But cards can come with bleeploads of RAM and suck too (i.e. Intel's GMA900, which has enough power to run Aero and little else, but uses the system RAM which is often several GB). Generally one can go to the most recent "Best Graphics Card for the Money" article on Tomshardware, and there's usually a chart listing the cards in hierarchical order.


According to this, it appears the cards are approximately the same, depending on which version of the X1650 you have.

If the card really is an AGP card though, it can't be an 8600GT. Are you sure it's not a 6800GT? (Reversing the 6 and the 8?) If so, the 6800GT is a much worse off card than the Radeon.

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Err, that is a troubling thought. I'll confirm now... –  Synetech Nov 28 '10 at 23:19
    
She says that the specific card in question might be a 9800. If so, in that case, the choice is clear. –  Synetech Nov 29 '10 at 21:47
    
@Synetech: That doesn't make sense. The 9800GT is a PCI-Express card as well. –  Billy ONeal Nov 29 '10 at 21:48
    
True. When she said 9800, I forgot she also said Nvidia and assumed she meant ATI Radeon 9800. She said that she will check it and get back to me... –  Synetech Nov 30 '10 at 1:43
    
Yup, it seems that the card in question was a Radeon X850. I have no idea how she managed to confuse it with a GeForce 8600GT. Other than an 8 and a 0 (and an E and an O), they have nothing in common. :roll: –  Synetech Dec 2 '10 at 22:32
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