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This is for a Dell gaming PC (XPS 630) but it's primarily used for work stuff (software development, video editing) not so much for high end gaming (I'm still playing Star Craft )

My main criteria is NOISE and secondarily performance for the above types of applications.

-nVidia GeForce GTS 240,1 1024MB (concensus is this is just a supercharged GT 9800) and not as fast as the GTS 250. view Specs.


-ATI Radeon HD 4870 1024MB

I've read opinions that the Radeon is a bit loud (but they weren't comparing it to the GeForce).

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Not an answer, because I don't know if it applies to the asker, but the Linux ATI drivers for newer cards (HD 3xxx+) are rubbish. Apparently the nVidia ones are better. – Macha Sep 24 '09 at 16:50
up vote 4 down vote accepted

This article treats how the GTS 250 stacks against the Radeon HD 4870 (and others).
It contains this comparison chart that tells you everything technical that you ever wanted to know and were afraid to ask about.

More importantly, it contains detailed performance analysis for different screen resolutions in the section First-Person 3D Shooters. My personal conclusion is that performance-wise there are only slight differences between the models. Which probably means that the lower model of GTS 240 is inferior to the Radeon.

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GTS 240, 1024MB (concensus is this is just a supercharged GT 9800)

I'm suspicious of OEM-only products like the 240. Why isn't this released to consumers? Well, maybe it's only there so that Dell can boast about having “1GB VRAM!!”. This amount of memory probably isn't justified by the specs of the GPU itself; 1GB is big even on a full 250.

You say you're not doing high-end gaming; if that's the case both those cards are hugely overpowered and will generate far more heat and noise than you need. Don't buy a big butch power-sucking 3D monster unless you're really going to use it.

ATI are generally considered to be winning the mid-end at the moment. Take a look at eg. the 4650, which is widely available with passive cooling (zero noise). It's not the polygon-masher the 4870 is, but it'll cope with any of today's games.

Hell, “Starcraft and video editing” will run just fine on the poxiest of current integrated chipsets.

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It depends which NVIDIA card. NVIDIA does not make their own chipsets, but license them to third parties to manufacture. ATI does the same, but they also make their own.

Regardless, I'm an NVIDIA fanboy and would say to go with at least the GTS 240... Although there are a lot of video cards which give much better performance and are very reasonable in price (*cough* the GTS 250, which is based off of the N92 chipset - ever hear of an 8800GT/9800GT? *cough*).

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The noise on the HD4870 isn't terrible if you go into the Catalyst Control Center and manually adjust the fan speed (it is in the overdrive section). I have mine set around 38% and it runs perfectly cool even under load and is no louder than any other video card.

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The overdrive section on my Catalyst Control Center is grayed out. I think Overdrive is not applied currently (no reason for it). – Clay Nichols Sep 24 '09 at 21:12
You need to click the little key/lock icon to unlock it. They do this because there are also overclocking features in that section. – MDMarra Sep 24 '09 at 21:28
@MarkM - I clicked the lock icon and enabled "ATI Overdrive" (per the ATI Catalyst help file" but there's not adjustment for Fan Speed (although the help file mentions this setting as well). – Clay Nichols Sep 27 '09 at 19:30
There should be a slider at the bottom for manual fan control. Are you using the latest CCC from ATI or are you using the version that shipped on the disc for your video card? Try getting the latest right from the ATI site. – MDMarra Sep 27 '09 at 19:59

Actually, a 9800GT would be perfect for you. They're still available, are cheap, very quiet, and unless you decide to get some crazy complex game they're more than sufficient.

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