iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Graphics Card + Processor, Part 4

Choosing an optimal PC configuration for $300.

September 3, 2008

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After the previous analysis named "Graphics Cards + Processor: Gaming Combo", in which we had tested graphics cards with AMD GPUs, we are ready for a sequel to the fixed-budget research, now with graphics cards based on NVIDIA GeForce GPUs. We have updated the list of games and have run all tests at the 1680x1050 resolution. In the next article of this series we'll add tests at the 1920x1200 resolution. In practice, tests at lower resolutions are of little interest now -- even if a game is too heavy for a given graphics card, you'd better reduce graphics quality settings (e.g., 'Medium' instead of 'High') and still use the native display resolution, for it will look better.

Speaking of other plans, we believe it's reasonable to research two complementary "branches", because we can publish articles faster this way. One large article would have taken longer to prepare, and many cards would have become outdated by the time it's published. However, to unify test methods to provide for direct comparison looks like a natural decision.

And now let's find out how to spend a limited budget on a new PC, so it pleases you in typical home tasks, of which games are most resource-critical.

Configuration and software

Graphics cards

  • GeForce 8600 GT 256 MB
  • GeForce 8600 GTS 256 MB
  • GeForce 8800 GS (9600 GSO) 384 MB
  • GeForce 9600 GT 512 MB
  • GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB
  • GeForce 9800 GTX 512 MB


  • Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (2.5 GHz, 2 x 512 KB L2 cache, HT2000)
  • Athlon 64 X2 6000+ (3.0 GHz, 2 x 1 MB L2 cache, HT2000)
  • Pentium E2180 (2.0 GHz, 1 MB L2 cache, FSB800)
  • Core 2 Duo E4700 (2.6 GHz, 2 MB L2 cache, FSB800)
  • Core 2 Duo E7200 (2.53 GHz, 3 MB L2 cache, FSB1066)
  • Core 2 Duo E8400 (3.0 GHz, 6 MB L2 cache, FSB1333)
  • Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz, 2 x 4 MB L2 cache, FSB1066)

To make the budget complete, we've also considered prices of other PC parts:

  • ECS P45T-A motherboard ($108) based on the Intel P45 chipset for Pentium/Core 2 processors
  • ASUS M3N78-EH motherboard ($86) based on the NVIDIA nForce 730a chipset for Athlon processors
  • Memory: 2 x 1 GB DDR2-800 SDRAM Hynix CL5 ($60)
  • HDD: 500 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA, 7200 rpm ($80)
  • DVD-RW ($30)
  • PC case with a 450-W PSU ($60)
  • Card reader ($10)


  • Windows Vista Ultimate (32 bit), NVIDIA Forceware 175.19
  • SYSMark 2007 Preview (Official Run)
  • 3DMark Vantage (Default settings, Performance)
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 1.003 (GSC Game World/THQ) -- DirectX 9.0, maximum quality settings (dynamic lighting enabled); demo; copy files to the savegames folder, run the game, load level 'ixbt3', and type "demo_play ixbt3" in the console.
  • Company Of Heroes (Relic Entertainment/THQ) -- DirectX 10.0, Shaders 4.0, maximum quality settings; batch file; run the game, invoke graphics settings and click the test button.
  • Call Of Juarez (Techland/Ubisoft) -- DirectX 10, Shaders 3.0 (HDR); benchmark.
  • Crysis (Crytek) -- DirectX 10, High, Crytek Built-in; benchmark
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (Epic Games) -- DirectX 10, 5 Details Level, 5 Textures Level, CTF-coret; benchmark.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, testbeds

Page 2: Tests, calculator

Page 3: Analysis, conclusions

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