Integrated Graphics vs Budget ATI and Nvidia Video Cards

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Final Thoughts

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So what we did learn here? That integrated video is slower compared to even the least expensive cards on the market including an add-in board with the same name. The X300 was much faster while the 6200TC was easily capable of doubling the performance of the integrated video in all but one situation. It’s really important to point out that the integrated video and the ATI card in this test are using the same GPU, but they are clocked at different speeds and have much different ways of accessing the memory, which is why there is such a difference in our tests. This should illustrate just how much more efficient an add-in board is.

It is always worth upgrading from on board video regardless if it’s only a minor step. You get more power for watching DVD and HD video, more features for things like TV out, as well as the latest in graphical features (Shader model 3.0). The caveat is that if you are at all serious about gaming performance you should really consider spending a bit more than what these value cards sell for. Despite the fact that the add-in cards provided double the performance of the integrated video, none of these solutions really provided playable performance at the settings we tested. We found that to get playable performance you had to sacrifice a lot of the visuals that make today’s games interesting. Playing any of the games tested would be a huge improvement on a video card in the $100 range and anyone spending much time gaming should be able to justify the additional cost by enjoying playable performance with a good deal of the advanced visual settings enabled. Playing Doom3 at settings that make it look like the original Doom doesn’t give you nearly the same game experience, the immersion factor that the developer intended just isn’t there.

Our recommendation is that if you’ve got integrated video and just looking for more features to go with an add-in solution such as the X300 or 6200TC. If you are looking for something a little more serious that will give you a quality gaming experience then look no further than the X1600 Pro for just under $100, or the 7600GS for just over $100.

The most important thing to remember for any video card purchase you may make now is that Windows Vista is just around the corner and with it comes a new visual experience called Aero Glass. Video cards aren’t just for gaming any more as Aero Glass will provide a working 3D interaction with your computer and requires a certain level of graphics horsepower. Each component tested here is capable of running Aero Glass in all of its glory, although faster components will of course provide a smoother experience.

Finally, though it may seem we were harsh on the integrated video, we are extremely happy to report that the motherboard was able to complete all of our testing without any fuss. We were actually surprised at how well it did. The ECS RS482-M motherboard was 100% stable running the fastest socket 939 processor through our SuperPI, Sandra, and other benchmarks which is more than we can say for many boards that we’ve had here costing double and triple it’s $60 price tag. Other than the integrated video that left more to be desired, this board is a solid platform for anyone looking for a quality 939 motherboard to use as a HTPC or a gaming machine….with the appropriate video card of course!

Legit Bottom Line: When it comes to everyday tasks like web browsing, Excel spreadsheets, Photoshop, and brief bits of gaming an integrated solution will work fine. But if your gaming is more Quake 4 than keeping your Sims happy and healthy an add-in video card is just what the doctor ordered.

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