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The year 2003 is nearing its end, and it's time to sum up the events... We will touch upon it in our 3Digest as well, and today we will just draw a final line.
Unfortunately, the sub$100 sector covers a lot of various cards: those which were targeted at the low-end market and those which jumped from the middle-end sector. The prices vary a lot! There are GeForce2 MX, RADEONs of the first releases, and GeForce4 MX with a 64bit buses standing next to them... The same mishmash is in the upper subsector of $60 to $80.
So, what's better, how do the relatively old accelerators perform in modern games, especially at the maximum quality settings? You can check our 3Digests of the last several years to see how they performed in older games; as to the newer games, it's quite complicated to keep all the cards (both old and new) in our 3Digest. That is why it often becomes a problem to compare old models with modern ones targeted at the low-end sector.
We have decided to revive such reviews covering video cards of the value market sector. Today we will test 22 cards priced from $15 to $100. To see whether a certain accelerator justifies its price the diagrams also indicate the prices for the end of November, 2003.
|1. NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 200|
|Gigabyte GeForce2 MX200 32MB SDR 64bit, 175/166 MHz|
|2. NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 400|
|Reference card NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 32MB SDR 128bit, 200/183 MHz|
|3. NVIDIA GeForce2 Pro|
|Inno3D Tornado GeForce2 Pro 64MB DDR 128bit, 200/400 MHz|
|4. NVIDIA GeForce4 MX440|
|eVGA e-GeForce4 MX440 64MB DDR 128bit, 270/400 MHz|
|5. NVIDIA GeForce4 MX440SE|
|eVGA e-GeForce4 MX440 64MB DDR 128bit, downclocked 250/200 MHz|
|6. NVIDIA GeForce4 MX440-8x|
|Reference card NVIDIA GeForce4 MX440-8x 64MB DDR 128bit, 275/512 MHz|
|7. NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 200|
|ABIT Siluro GF3 Ti200 64MB DDR 128bit, 175/400 MHz|
|8. NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4200 64MB|
|Gainward Powerpack GeForce4 Ultra/600 64MB DDR 128bit, downclocked 250/400 MHz|
|9. NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 64bit|
|ASUS V9520 Magic 128MB DDR 64bit, 250/333 MHz|
|10. NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 128bit|
|ASUS V9520 128MB DDR 128bit, 250/400 MHz|
|11. NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra 128bit|
|MSI FX5200U 128MB DDR 128bit, 325/650 MHz|
|12. NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600 XT 64bit|
|Chaintech GeForce FX 5600 XT 128MB DDR 64bit, 235/400 MHz|
|13. NVIDIA GeForce FX 5600 XT 128bit|
|Chaintech GeForce FX 5600 XT 256MB DDR 128bit, 235/400 MHz|
|14. ATI RADEON 7200 128bit 64MB|
|ATI RADEON 64MB DDR 128bit, 183/366 MHz|
|15. ATI RADEON 7500LE 128bit 64MB|
|Manli RADEON 7500LE 64MB DDR 128bit, 260/380 MHz|
|16. ATI RADEON 9000 PRO 128bit 64MB|
|TYAN Tachyon G9000PRO 64MB DDR 128bit, 275/550 MHz|
|17. ATI RADEON 8500LE (9100) 128bit 64MB|
|SuperGrace RADEON 8500LE 64MB DDR 128bit, 250/460 MHz|
|18. ATI RADEON 8500LE (9100) 128bit 128MB|
|Joytech Apollo Monster II RADEON 8500LE 128MB DDR 128bit, 250/500 MHz|
|19. ATI RADEON 9200SE 64bit 128MB|
|PowerColor RADEON 9200SE 128MB DDR 64bit, 200/333 MHz|
|20. ATI RADEON 9200 64bit 64MB|
|Sapphire RADEON 9200 64MB DDR 64bit, 250/400 MHz|
|21. ATI RADEON 9200 128bit 128MB|
|Gigabyte RADEON 9200 128MB DDR 128bit, 250/400 MHz|
|22. ATI RADEON 9600SE 64bit 128MB|
|ASUS A9600SE 128MB DDR 64bit, 325/400 MHz|
|However, it's still doubtful whether two of them can be considered
to belong to this sector: they are the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra (which is
still hard to find at the price lower than $100), and the GeForce FX 5600
XT 128bit which must be definitely cheaper than $100 in a month.
Quality of all the cards is described in out 3Digests.
Testbed and drivers
VSync off, S3TC off in applications.
All tests are carried out at 800x600@32bit color. It's made for weak cards which are not able to play at 1024x768 at all. Even at 800x600 in some benchmarks the performance isn't ok at all!
Even at this resolution the weak cards perform very poorly in modern games, that is why I beg you not to cry that it's nonsense to test the GeForce2 MX on the Pentium4 3200 MHz as the processor and platform do not make a strong effect there.
Test results: performance
If you need demo benchmarks please email me.
Attention! There's a misprint on the diagrams: you should read "ATI RADEON 9200 128MB DDR 128bit" instead of "ATI RADEON 9200 64MB DDR 128bit"
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Multiplayer)
Unreal Tournament 2003
Unreal II: The Awakening
The video cards that do not support shaders are not tested.
HALO: Combat Evolved
Originally all the cards were tested since the game is able to work without shaders, but the quality was so awful that I removed scores of the cards that did not support pixel shaders.
The situation is similar to the above one.
So, for every price sector we have made up a list of benchmarks within which you can see the cards taking the first, second and third places.
The GeForce4 Ti 4200 is a leader here, with the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra following it. If the former disappears from the market and the latter is taken out of production the upper position will be taken by the GeForce FX 5600XT 128bit (provided that its price is not higher than US$100).
In all other respects (multimonitor support etc.) the cards look equal. The GeForce4 Ti 4200 shows the best summary scores.
The RADEON 9100 128MB and RADEON 9000 PRO turn out to be the leaders. But these cards, as well as the GeForce3, are not produced anymore, and when they disappear from the shelves, the leading position will belong to the RADEON 9200 128bit. Although the GeForce FX 5600XT 64bit supports DX9, it's an outsider (the 2.0 shaders are too slow in the FX, and there are few games with such shaders).
As to the other traits, it's only the RADEON 9000/9200 (not the 9100) and GeForce FX 5600XT that support multimonitoring. In general, the RADEON 9200 128bit scores the best results here.
The best runners are RADEON 8500LE 64MB (RADEON 9100) and GeForce FX 5200 128bit. But the former is not produced anymore and can soon disappears from the retail market, that is why the FX 5200 128bit can be considered a leader. Besides, if you compare its price and that of the FX 5600XT 64bit (an outsider of the upper sector), the GeForce FX 5200 128bit will look more beneficial than the 5600XT 64bit.
Taking into account multimonitoring (all latest RADEON 8500/9100 do not have a second RAMDAC) and DX9 support, the GeForce FX 5200 128bit comes out a leader.
As we can see, the oldies which have pretty low prices today keep the lead in the competition. The RADEON 9200SE wins only because of the multimonitoring and DX81 support.
It was clear even at the end of 2000 that the RADEON 64MB DDR (renamed RADEON 7200) was stronger than the GeForce2 MX. Today we have proven this fact once again. All these cards are already taken out of production; you can find only remains of the stock.
Also note that if the speed doesn't allow playing even in 800x600 you
should sacrifice quality by reducing the detail level and switching off
effects. It also should be accounted for when estimating the cards.
Andrey Vorobiev (firstname.lastname@example.org)