Whether youíre hunting for a slick new progressive scan DVD player, or the perfect radar detector to go with the new sports car you just purchased, nothing beats the satisfaction of finding a good deal. Bargain hunters scour the Internet looking for the perfect product. In a perfect world itís that top-of-the-line model with all the bells and whistles; price is no object. But more often than not, price is a concern, especially when youíre dealing with computer hardware: the latest and greatest product is usually outdated in a matter of months. Fortunately you can often find an alternative to the high-end that offers most of the performance and features, but at a much lower cost.
In the 3D graphics world, NVIDIAís GeForce4 Ti 4200 GPU was this product last year. The GeForce4 Ti 4200 was built on the same core as NVIDIAís flagship GeForce4 Ti 4600, so its feature set was identical. NVIDIA clocked it more conservatively however, 250MHz core/500MHz memory in the case of the 64MB model, while the 128MB card shipped with its core at 250MHz and the memory at 444MHz. In comparison, GeForce4 Ti 4600ís core operates at 300MHz and is equipped with 128MB of DDR memory running at 650MHz.
Ultimately, the GeForce4 Ti 4200 proved so popular it was the first card in the GeForce4 Titanium lineup to receive an updated AGP 8X interface. This update didnít do much to improve performance, but NVIDIAís board partners took advantage anyway, releasing a slew of second and third generation cards that held over well into 2003, a year after the first GeForce4 Ti products were announced.
Can you spot the RADEON 9800 card?
A closer look at the cooler
ATI has been busy trying to concoct a hot product of its own. The RADEON 9500 family was their initial counter. The RADEON 9500 PRO was well received by online press for its blazing 8-pixel pipeline architecture. Meanwhile, consumers were raving over the RADEON 9500, which could often be modified to function like a RADEON 9700/9700 PRO! Both of these cards were essentially based on ATIís 110 million transistor R300 core (nearly twice as many transistors as the GeForce4 Ti family), which was expensive to produce, and therefore utilized expensive PCBs that required an external power source to operate. But with the $180 asking price for the RADEON 9500 and $200 (with $20 rebate) MSRP of the RADEON 9500 PRO, these cards sold for narrow premiums. ATI needed something that was cheaper to produce to serve this market more efficiently. ATIís answer to this problem was the RADEON 9600 series.
The RADEON 9600 PRO was cheaper to produce, thanks to its 4-pixel pipeline RV350 core, but didnít have as much horsepower as some gamers wanted. In many cases it was outperformed by the card it was intended to replace! For consumers looking for a little more performance, ATI quietly released its RADEON 9800 VPU about two months ago. This card is based on the same chip as the RADEON 9800 PRO, but it costs significantly less -- MSRP is $300 ($100 less than the 9800 PRO) but online prices for these cards can often be found for under $250. As a result, these cards have been selling like hotcakes!