It's that time of the year when some of the major game titles are launched, and if you plan to play them on decent settings, you better have the right graphics card.
To start off with, there are a wide variety of graphics cards in different price segments so if you don't know what you're looking for, things can get really confusing. That's why we've split up the graphics card market into four categories - Entry Level, Mid Range, High end and the Ultra High End.
When we talk about gaming cards, I mean those cards that will allow you to play Crysis on Medium settings with good frame rates of at least 25 and above. There are many other cheaper cards but there is no way they will be able to handle games at a decent frame rate and are only good for may be an HTPC setup.
Instead of just providing the best card in each segment, the competition is really close between both parties so the solution to that is suggest the best value for money card from both manufactures so that you have an idea about what's available and choose which one suits you the best.
The Mainstream segment offers you a strong a mix of gaming and HD performance compared to the Entry-Level cards. These cards will allow you to easily play games on Medium to High settings up to a resolution of 1280x1024, so people with a 17-inch monitor or a 19-inch LCD should be looking at this segment if you want a good mid-range card in the 6K-7K range.
The 9600GSO and the 9600GT fall into this category ever since Nvidia dropped the prices. The average price for the 9600GSO 384MB is around 5.5K and the 9600GT will cost you a thousand more. The GSO comes with 96 shaders and a 192-bit memory bus width, whereas the 9600GT has 64 shaders with the full 256-bit memory bus giving it the edge. Right now the 9600GT hits the sweet spot in terms of pricing, so if this is your budget, you can't really go wrong.
Another thing to note is that 512MB of GDDR3 memory is more than enough, even though some vendors will offer you 1GB of video memory. It's not worth spending that extra cash since the performance difference is negligible.
Coming to the ATI shore, we have the HD4670, which displayed some really good numbers in our benchmarks. For a price of around 5.5K, it performs very closely to the 9600GT but does not beat it. However, the best part about this card is that it does not require an extra power connector and consumes just 50W, which is great.
If you're looking for an alternative to the Nvidia 9600GT and you want to save power or don't have a very good power supply, then the HD4670 is a likely candidate.