ATI Video Card Buying Guide

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ATI Radeon video cards are some of the most popular after market graphics cards available. When shopping for a new ATI video card it is easy to get confused not only by the various model numbers available but also by the sheer number of vendors of cards with the same basic features.

This buyers guide for ATI video cards will provide a little bit of clarity to help a buyer understand exactly what they are getting when they invest in a new ATI graphics card.

There Is No Short Answer On Which Video Card Model Is Best:

The problem with ATI video cards is that each step in the series has its own advantages and disadvantages and just because a particular model has a higher number does not necessarily mean that it will perform faster/better than one with a lower model number.

Each segment of the HD series (2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000 models) has its own internal quality system. Traditionally the lowest model number(s) in each segment are considered to be “value,” models and intended for low intensity uses such as basic Internet applications and word processing.

The next models in each segment are known as “mainstream” models and are good all around choices for most users. The higher end models in each segment are considered “performance” models and are best for gamers and individuals that perform graphics intensive tasks.

In general, a buyer should use the basic rule of buying the highest model card that the individual can afford, but do not necessarily choose a value card in a higher segment over a performance card in the next segment lower. Other issues may also come in to play that can help an individual make a final decision. All of these are important factors that must be considered before purchasing a card.

Type of Memory:
  • There are several different types of memory being used on the Radeon HD series. Lower quality or earlier model cards utilize GDDR2 memory while the most powerful cards will use GDDR5. The higher quality memory allows the card to process more data at much higher bandwidth rates.
  • For casual users of email, word processing, and Internet applications GDDR2 or GDDR3 memory is adequate.
  • For power users that do lots of intensive video or photo editing or that play graphics intensive games GDDR5 is a better choice and will provide the user with a better frame rate and overall experience.
PCI Slot Requirements:

As graphics cards have become more and more powerful they have begun to require more and power and computer bandwidth to operate at their full potential. To get around this problem some models of ATI graphics cards can be connected and made to work together in tandem to process more information more quickly, producing vibrant, fluid images even at the highest of screen resolutions.

The technology, called CrossfireX, has different hardware requirements depending on the model of graphics card that the buyer selects. Some applications may even require a special CrossFireX compatible motherboard to allow the video cards to work together correctly.

Power Supply Requirements:

When adding an ATI video card to a pre-built system be sure to check what the power supply requirements are for the card. Computer manufacturers are notorious for putting tiny power supplies in their computers, and depending on the video card chosen it may require as much as a 500 watt or higher power supply to function correctly (especially if using CrossFireX in tandem with another card). For the best
power supplies check out our article about Best PC Power Supplies for Gaming.

Before purchasing a new graphics card users should be certain to check the wattage of the computer that it is to be installed into and also take into account any additional peripherals or cards that are already installed and that pull power from the same power supply.

As mentioned previously there is no easy answer as to which card is best as new models are continually being released by ATI. However, keeping the previous suggestions in mind will help a user make the best choice for their individual application.

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