- 2D or 3D: that is the question
- PCIe or AGP
- Graphics card models
- ATI cards
- ATI variations
- Nvidia cards
- Nvidia variations
- What the specs mean
- Other features
- Other components
- Power usage
- Integrated graphics
- Getting the most from your card
Radeon 9000 series - a largely outdated series of cards, superseded by the X series. The 9000-series cards are still widely available as low-cost graphics solutions, however. There are a lot of different card models in this series, but the most commonly encountered are the Radeon 9250, 9550, 9600, 9700 and 9800.
Although the cards have largely been supplanted by the X-series of cards, they can still offer decent performance at the top-end of the range. A Radeon 9600 has a comparable rendering speed to a X300 card, and a 9800 Pro can rival the X600 line. Neither can match up in terms of geometry performance, however, and they lack some of the image quality features of the X series. They also lack the X series' support for video compression acceleration.
Radeon X series - currently the mainstream and top-end processors of the ATI line, these PCIe and AGP solutions go head to head with the Nvidia 6 series. At the bottom end of the range you find the sub-$150 X300 cards, while at the top end, the X850 cards can set you back more than $750.
Pound for pound, they're a little better than the 9000 range of ATI cards, although the top-end of the 9000 series will outperform the low end of the X series. The X series does not see a dramatic improvement in the fill rate over the 9000 cards, but the geometry and image quality capabilities are considerably better. For instance, the Radeon X700 Pro has roughly the same fill rate as the Radeon 9800 XT (3.4 gigapixels) but 55 per cent better geometry performance (637.5 million triangles per second, as opposed to 412 million for the 9800 XT).
The X range includes the following base chips: