The Games of Christmas '08: GPU Performance Part II

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     December 23, 2008

This holiday season, Hardware Canucks has decided to bring you a pair of GPU Performance articles incorporating this seasonís latest games along with some of the newest graphics cards and their recently-released drivers. The first part of these articles centered around high-end GPU performance on a well-heeled system and provided a clear picture of the current situations in the above-$200 price brackets. Indeed, even though there are plenty of reviews out there of every card we are testing, finding benchmarks done on the current driver sets from ATI and Nvidia is next to impossible. As we saw with the progression of the 9800 GTX+ versus HD 4850 battle, drivers can change everything and make a once-lagging product in the 9800 GTX+ into a real competitor. Yes, we know that this article is being released extremely close to Christmas, but what better time to do some seriously last-minute shopping?

With the recent glut of high-powered graphics cards, many of us tend to forget that there is a burgeoning market out there for cards which are priced at less than $200. Some may scoff at the thought of pairing up these cards with our high-end systems but there are plenty of potential customers out there who donít have the means or simply donít want to spend untold amounts of money on a gaming rig that may be considered obsolete in a few months. In this article we will be concentrating on just that: those graphics cards that arenít released in a blaze of performance-owning glory but are still supposed to offer us a modicum of performance for a more than reasonable price. These arenít the performance titans we saw last time; they are the HD 4600-series and the 9600-series of this world that are hardly ever reviewed. Why? To be absolutely honest with you, the board partners of both ATI and Nvidia donít really want to part with lower end cards. They want their products to (naturally) be shown in the best light possible which means the recognition that comes with high-end performance. Thus, the many of the cards used in this article have been purchased with our own money.

Naturally, we didnít go about this article the way we did with the last one; the overclocked QX9770 has been replaced with a Q9450 and the memory was left at default settings. This should give you an idea of how these cards will perform in a more modestly-priced system rather than having slightly inflated benchmark numbers due to an overclocked processor and memory. The resolutions and in some cases the detail settings in games were toned down a bit as well since seeing these cards stuttering along at high resolutions would prove to be pointless for the vast majority of you.

I know we all love seeing the blisteringly-fast framerates that come with an article including cards like the GTX 295 and HD 4800-series but let me tell you now; I had more fun doing this article than I did the first one. It is interesting to see how much value companies pack into their cards when it comes to the sub-$200 price brackets and how far performance in general has really come. I wasnít even sure that these cards would actually be able to play the latest games on the market but armed with my trusty Q9450, I was on a mission to find out.

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