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Autumn 2009 Graphics Card Upgrade Guide

Autumn 2009 Graphics Card Buyer’s Guide


After what’s seems a long wait since last summer’s RV770 and GT200 launches new architectures are finally emerging from the R&D departments of ATI and Nvidia, with AMD and ATI first to strike with the HD 5870 now released and HD 5850 hitting e-tailers in a few weeks time.

With these exciting new products already on, or heading to, shop shelves, you’d be forgiven for being tempted to crack open the wallet and splash some cash on a graphics upgrade, especially with an array of much anticipated titles such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Operation Flashpoint 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Dragonage: Origins all coming to PC this winter and ready to test your graphics cards mettle.

With this in mind, and following feedback from our forums, we’ve put every major graphics card from the last eighteen months that’s still on sale through our new batch of graphics benchmarks using our Core i7 test rigs. This will allow you to see whether that upgrade is really worth it, or if your current card still has what it takes to cope with modern games. We’ve also dropped in a few older cards from previous generations to allow those who’ve avoided an upgrade for a while to see how their card compares.

Autumn 2009 Graphics Card Upgrade Guide Autumn 2009 Graphics Card Buyers Guide

All our tests were run on a top-end system using a 3.2GHz Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition processor with 6GB of DDR3 to help make direct comparisons between cards clear. An aging Intel Core 2 system will offer a much less capable platform for your gaming in some titles. Games such as Dawn of War 2 and Fallout 3 can be CPU limited at lower resolutions, so be advised that dropping a £300 graphics card into an ageing system may not be the most effective upgrade. If you’re considering a wider-reaching upgrade, we’d recommend checking out our full hardware buyer’s guide. All being well, we update this guide at the start of every month.

As well as putting ten cards through their paces we’ve also introduced a new bang for buck page, pitching a card's ability to deliver smooth performance at a set resolution against its current price. This allows us to more clearly show which card is best value for any given screen size. This page will be useful for those on a budget that need their money to work harder.