Discussion Tom's Hardware top 5 AMD and Nvidia GPUs

MrTeal

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Dec 7, 2003
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Nvidia
5- RTX 3060 (2021)
4- GTX 680 (2012)
3- GTX 980 (2014)
2- 8800 GTX (2006)
1- GTX 1080 Ti (2017)

AMD
5- RX 480 8GB (2016)
4- RX 6800 XT (2020)
3- HD7970 (2012)
2- HD 5870 (2009)
1- 9700 Pro (2002)

Interesting lists, but there definitely seems to be some recency bias and a preference for top cards. I'd argue that some families should have been included that weren't and some were not even the best cards of their generation, but I'd be interested to see other people's takes. Here's a few I look back at that weren't listed that could have made top 5

NV
8800 GT - The 8800 GTX was amazing. If you had $600 in 2006, it was way faster than anything else out there. A little less than a year later they dropped essentially a die shrunk version of the G80 chip with almost the same performance, for a theoretical $250. Good luck finding one at that price, but even at $300 it was a doubling of performance/$ a hair under a year later, and made the HD2900XT look like a joke. AMD would eventually respond with the excellent HD 4870 8 months later at the same $300 price point, but for awhile as Anandtech said it was the only GPU that mattered.

GTX 970 - Yes, NV was skeezy. Yeah, they deserve the blowback they got for that 512MB of vram off on its own. The 970 was still a fantastic card though, and one of the last times NV really gave a huge Perf/$ advantage to the step down series. It was literally 60% of the price of a GTX980, and that card was only 10% faster at 1080P.

RTX3080 - It might be a bit much to call Turing a debacle, but it sure didn't represent a huge leap forward in performance at any price point. Ampere on the other hand... was a mixed bag. The 3090 was launched at Titan pricing levels, and the 3070 while a couple hundred cheaper than the $700 sticker on the 3080 it just couldn't hang with GA102 especially at higher resolutions. The 3080 though was great. It was 30% faster than the 2080 Ti, and destroyed the similarly priced at launch 2080 by ~70% at 4k. If you missed out and then kept HODLing for the next gen, you now get to save a cnote and spend $600 on an RTX 4070 that's the same or slower than it at 1440p and 4k. Bonus points if you bought one near launch and paid it off in a few months mining Eth overnight.

AMD
HD 5850 - The 5870 was a great card compared to Fermi, but the real star was the 5850. $260 vs $380, but the same memory bus and size, same ROPs, and just a 10% cut to shaders vs the big card meant that if you pushed a slider up to equalize the clocks you got within 10% of an overclocked 5870 for less that 70% of the price.

R9 290 - Another tiny cut to only shaders for a big drop in price, the 290X drops 9% of its shaders but $150 off its $550 price to give a $400 R9 290. To be fair, even at $550 the full Hawaii could fill in this spot. The launch was hurt be the poor reference cooler, but the card itself was a beast putting it ahead of the GTX 780 that launched 6 months earlier at $650. It was just edged out by the $700 3GB 780 Ti by 12% or so that launched shortly after it, but was still only 57% of the price. It wasn't launch that made this card excellent though, it was the legs it had. It's competition kept dropping, and people started talking about FineWine.

Radeon 9500 - GPU manufacturers hate this one simple trick...
 
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MrTeal

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Yeah, that and the 3060 were the real ones on there that made me say Huh? The AMD list isn't terrible, but the Nvidia one is just off. The 980 was good, but it was probably the 4th best Maxwell card IMO if you count the 750 Ti. The 1080 Ti obviously deserves a place and probably the 8800GTX too just got how dominant it was at launch, but the first three definitely wouldn't make my top 5.
 
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carrotmania

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I mean... where is the GeForce 1?! Literally the card GPU was coined around. Also intro'd DDR for GFX cards. Yeah, not worthy of the list at all...
 
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SteveGrabowski

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JFC RTX 3060? No one even liked that card when it came out. GTX 980 is a joke, the 970 was so much better for the price. And GTX 680/770 aged pretty badly compared to the HD 7950/R9 380x thanks to having only 2GB of VRAM. RX 480 8GB is also pretty underrated as a $240 card that was good for ~5 years.
 

SteveGrabowski

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R9 290 - Another tiny cut to only shaders for a big drop in price, the 290X drops 9% of its shaders but $150 off its $550 price to give a $400 R9 290. To be fair, even at $550 the full Hawaii could fill in this spot. The launch was hurt be the poor reference cooler, but the card itself was a beast putting ahead of the GTX 780 that launched 6 months earlier at $650. It was just edged out by the $700 3GB 780 Ti by 12% or so, but was only 57% of the price. It wasn't launch that made this card excellent though, it was the legs it had. It's competition kept dropping, and people started talking about FineWine.
R9 290 at $200 with four free games in October/November 2014 is the greatest gpu deal I have ever seen. I remember wanting a 270x that summer but by the time I was ready to buy the 290 was on fire sale and there was no point going lower to say R9 280 when it would only save you $30 to $40. Still, I talked myself into a GTX 970 because I wanted Far Cry 4 which came with it. Can't complain too much since that was a great card too, especially with the $30 payout from the class action factored in, but not doing that again paying more for similar performance just for the Nvidia name.
 

GodisanAtheist

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Hmmm ok so those lists arent great (esp NV) what if we break it down a bit.

Best High End NV Cards:

1) 8800GTX - Massive jump off of the 7xxxGTX series, start of DX10 era, CUDA which is basically the foundation of modern Nvidia. Basically there was NV the video card company prior to the 8800 and then there was NV the processor company after.

2) GeForce 256 - Laid 3DFX to rest. Nuff said.

3) 6800 Ultra - Return to form after the FX5xxx blunder.

4) 980TI - I mean, incredible performance, OC Ability, Price. The complete package.

5) 1080ti - 980ti part deux, but with their boost algorithm dialed in so OCing was less of a thing.

Best High End DAAMIT Cards:

1) 9700 Pro - Took a giant steaming dump on the FX5800. Last time AMD would have this large of a lead on NV.

2) HD4870 - Return to form after the disaterous HD2900XT and it's die shrunk 3xxx successor.

3) 7970 - Incredible amount of untapped OCing potential, while AMD released a GHz version later, people were getting unheard of 20%+ OCs off of stock on stock voltage. Start of the "FineWine" meme as well.

4) 290x - I was torn between this and the 5870, but despite the bad stock cooler dragging down the initial impressions here, the 290x matured into a beast of a card that eventually left the competing 780s in the dust. Also the foundation and zenith of the absurd dual GPU crossfire/SLI wars.

5) 6900xt - After years of being out in the competitive desert, Fury getting stomped by 980ti, not even showing up at the high end with Vega and RDNA1, the 6900xt got everyone by surprise. Everyone expected something that might match the 3070, and instead we got something rivaling the 3090. A recovery on the level of the 4870 at least.
 
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Saylick

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I'll toss my hat into the ring. In no particular order:

Nvidia:
  • 8800 GTX
  • 8800 GT
  • GTX 1080 Ti
  • RTX 3080
  • GTX 970
The 8800 GTX and 8800 GT both deserve to be on the list in my opinion, but for different reasons. One represented a generational leap over its predecessor and the other opened up that performance level to the masses.

AMD/ATI:
  • 9700 Pro
  • HD 4870
  • HD 7850
  • R9 290
  • RX6800
I admit, the RX6800 is fairly recent and arguably the weakest entry on the list. It didn't offer the best bang for your buck, but what it did offer was outstanding 1440p performance and perf/W, all without compromising VRAM amount.
 

Ranulf

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I mean... where is the GeForce 1?! Literally the card GPU was coined around. Also intro'd DDR for GFX cards. Yeah, not worthy of the list at all...

Ahem, it prefers to be called the Geforce 256. Birthplace of the Rob Roy er I mean Transform and Lighting.

And I concur on the 5850, the 290 (especially when they hit $250 and under) and toss in the 7870.
 

Shmee

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I am not a fan of the GTX 970 at all. I think the 980Ti was much better, and then the 980. The 680 was also kinda meh.

I agree R9 290 should be on the list. Great card for a good price, especially later, and given you could get two when CF was at its peak. Also some could be unlocked to 290X. I also agree 8800 GT belongs on there, and maybe 6800 GT.

I will add to the list Fury Air, one of the first HBM cards, though only 4GB, but greatly discounted, and could sometimes unlock shaders on them. They were also generally faster than the Polaris cards which came after, at least for a while until driver support ended.

Also adding the 6950 2GB, many of them would unlock shaders to 6970. I had 2 of them in CF.
 

tajoh111

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The 7970 and 7870 were mediocre cards when they launched.

Looking at techpowerups reviews, they represented a 10% increase in performance over what was already in the market for 10% more money. It was AMD's greed moment and it shattered their goodwill with customers. People may remember differently because of the AMD bias on this forum but the market spoke for itself.

It would turn cards like the GTX 680 and 670 into value cards when they were just being greedy like AMD charging big money for small dies.

The 7870's $350 dollar price for a 200mm die has only been equaled this year with the RTX 4060ti.

AMD cards just rotted on shelves and AMD became desperate to sell cards.

It would eventually lead to AMD having to massive price drops 6 months after launch and having to bundle the cards with 3 AAA games to sell.

Just over a year later, the 7970 and 7870 would be selling at 299 and 199 dollars. AMD did not have Nvidia's brand strength to protect them and it did lasting damage. The GTX 680 and 670 may not have aged well but they put the RTG into a coma and forced the graphic division to shift to Shanghai to save the group from AMD's self inflicted blunder.
 

Thunder 57

Platinum Member
Aug 19, 2007
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Nvidia
5- RTX 3060 (2021)
4- GTX 680 (2012)
3- GTX 980 (2014)
2- 8800 GTX (2006)
1- GTX 1080 Ti (2017)

AMD
5- RX 480 8GB (2016)
4- RX 6800 XT (2020)
3- HD7970 (2012)
2- HD 5870 (2009)
1- 9700 Pro (2002)


I don't know if I could name 5. But I would certainly say this:

Nvidia
8800GT
1080 Ti
4200 Ti or maybe the Geforce 3 Ti 200

ATi/AMD
Radeon 9700 Pro
Radeon HD 5870, could easily slot the 4870 just below this (Huge power hog though)
RX 480 8GB was a pretty solid choice back when 14nm just came out
6700XT maybe?
 
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Thunder 57

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Aug 19, 2007
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Nvidia
5- RTX 3060 (2021)
4- GTX 680 (2012)
3- GTX 980 (2014)
2- 8800 GTX (2006)
1- GTX 1080 Ti (2017)

AMD
5- RX 480 8GB (2016)
4- RX 6800 XT (2020)
3- HD7970 (2012)
2- HD 5870 (2009)
1- 9700 Pro (2002)

Interesting lists, but there definitely seems to be some recency bias and a preference for top cards. I'd argue that some families should have been included that weren't and some were not even the best cards of their generation, but I'd be interested to see other people's takes. Here's a few I look back at that weren't listed that could have made top 5

NV
8800 GT - The 8800 GTX was amazing. If you had $600 in 2006, it was way faster than anything else out there. A little less than a year later they dropped essentially a die shrunk version of the G80 chip with almost the same performance, for a theoretical $250. Good luck finding one at that price, but even at $300 it was a doubling of performance/$ a hair under a year later, and made the HD2900XT look like a joke. AMD would eventually respond with the excellent HD 4870 8 months later at the same $300 price point, but for awhile as Anandtech said it was the only GPU that mattered.

GTX 970 - Yes, NV was skeezy. Yeah, they deserve the blowback they got for that 512MB of vram off on its own. The 970 was still a fantastic card though, and one of the last times NV really gave a huge Perf/$ advantage to the step down series. It was literally 60% of the price of a GTX980, and that card was only 10% faster at 1080P.

RTX3080 - It might be a bit much to call Turing a debacle, but it sure didn't represent a huge leap forward in performance at any price point. Ampere on the other hand... was a mixed bag. The 3090 was launched at Titan pricing levels, and the 3070 while a couple hundred cheaper than the $700 sticker on the 3080 it just couldn't hang with GA102 especially at higher resolutions. The 3080 though was great. It was 30% faster than the 2080 Ti, and destroyed the similarly priced at launch 2080 by ~70% at 4k. If you missed out and then kept HODLing for the next gen, you now get to save a cnote and spend $600 on an RTX 4070 that's the same or slower than it at 1440p and 4k. Bonus points if you bought one near launch and paid it off in a few months mining Eth overnight.

AMD
HD 5850 - The 5870 was a great card compared to Fermi, but the real star was the 5850. $260 vs $380, but the same memory bus and size, same ROPs, and just a 10% cut to shaders vs the big card meant that if you pushed a slider up to equalize the clocks you got within 10% of an overclocked 5870 for less that 70% of the price.

R9 290 - Another tiny cut to only shaders for a big drop in price, the 290X drops 9% of its shaders but $150 off its $550 price to give a $400 R9 290. To be fair, even at $550 the full Hawaii could fill in this spot. The launch was hurt be the poor reference cooler, but the card itself was a beast putting it ahead of the GTX 780 that launched 6 months earlier at $650. It was just edged out by the $700 3GB 780 Ti by 12% or so that launched shortly after it, but was still only 57% of the price. It wasn't launch that made this card excellent though, it was the legs it had. It's competition kept dropping, and people started talking about FineWine.

Radeon 9500 - GPU manufacturers hate this one simple trick...

The Radeon 9500 Pro activate more pixel piplines thing? There was a huge difference in pricing between the two IIRC. Also the 9600 Pro that was made on a smaller node but laked the horsepower of the 9500 Pro.

The 7970 and 7870 were mediocre cards when they launched.

Looking at techpowerups reviews, they represented a 10% increase in performance over what was already in the market for 10% more money. It was AMD's greed moment and it shattered their goodwill with customers. People may remember differently because of the AMD bias on this forum but the market spoke for itself.

It would turn cards like the GTX 680 and 670 into value cards when they were just being greedy like AMD charging big money for small dies.

The 7870's $350 dollar price for a 200mm die has only been equaled this year with the RTX 4060ti.

AMD cards just rotted on shelves and AMD became desperate to sell cards.

It would eventually lead to AMD having to massive price drops 6 months after launch and having to bundle the cards with 3 AAA games to sell.

Just over a year later, the 7970 and 7870 would be selling at 299 and 199 dollars. AMD did not have Nvidia's brand strength to protect them and it did lasting damage. The GTX 680 and 670 may not have aged well but they put the RTG into a coma and forced the graphic division to shift to Shanghai to save the group from AMD's self inflicted blunder.

LOL AMD bias? Maybe in the CPU forum. Then you go on to say AMD did not have "Nvidia's brand strength to protect them and it did lasting damage"? The 7970 was a good product. The 7870 was a bit late to market. Not sure why AMD made the 77xx series first. They got it right though with the RX 480 targeting the mid range. I am not sure why they didn't follow up with the rumored "Big Polaris" though.

The 8800 is probably one of the best tech products of all time, not just GPUs. I still remember how much of a step up it was at the time.

It is right up there. Along with the 9700 Pro, and a few others.
 

Thunder 57

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Aug 19, 2007
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I forgot to include the worst since they will be making those to according to Jarred Walton:

FWIW, there are still two more articles in this series coming: the Worst AMD GPUs and the Worst Nvidia GPUs. For precisely the same reasons, the 4090 doesn't fully belong on the worst list. So when you look at the full picture (best and worst), the 4090 stands out as one card in particular that warrants mention on both lists. Hence, the Honorable and Dishonorable bit.

Nvidia doesn't have many failures. I'd say the FX series and Fermi (480).

AMD, HD 2000 series, probably Fury as well. Vega wasn't great either.
 

linkgoron

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Mar 9, 2005
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LOL AMD bias? Maybe in the CPU forum. Then you go on to say AMD did not have "Nvidia's brand strength to protect them and it did lasting damage"? The 7970 was a good product. The 7870 was a bit late to market. Not sure why AMD made the 77xx series first. They got it right though with the RX 480 targeting the mid range. I am not sure why they didn't follow up with the rumored "Big Polaris" though.
tl;dr If I had to bet, big Polaris would get murdered on power usage alone, and also Vega was close behind.

The RX 480 used about the same amount of power as the GTX 1070... It was a full generation behind Nvidia. I assume that AMD just didn't have the funds to make it, and as Vega was already relatively close behind, big polaris never happened. Of course, Vega later got delayed because it was terrible. I assume that they could never make the smaller Vega financially viable, so somehow Polaris lived a very long life.
1701473945066.png
 
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gdansk

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My picks are
R300 and later G80 for being innovative.

RV770. Saved us from a $450 GTX 260.

GA102/N21 joint award. Jensen says this was the last generation where we can expect big performance per dollar gains. That makes these products historically significant as the earliest parts from the plateau of cost-effective micromanufacturing upon which we are now stuck. No wonder many people paid hundreds over MSRP for these momentous cards!
 
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DeathReborn

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Oct 11, 2005
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I am not a fan of the GTX 970 at all. I think the 980Ti was much better, and then the 980. The 680 was also kinda meh.

I agree R9 290 should be on the list. Great card for a good price, especially later, and given you could get two when CF was at its peak. Also some could be unlocked to 290X. I also agree 8800 GT belongs on there, and maybe 6800 GT.

I will add to the list Fury Air, one of the first HBM cards, though only 4GB, but greatly discounted, and could sometimes unlock shaders on them. They were also generally faster than the Polaris cards which came after, at least for a while until driver support ended.

Also adding the 6950 2GB, many of them would unlock shaders to 6970. I had 2 of them in CF.
We all know the GTX 960 was the best GPU of the Maxwell generation, just look at the legendary AnandTech review of it...

Seriously though, the GTX 750/Ti is a worthy mention, it brought affordable gaming to PC's without extra power plugs from dodgy OEM Dell/Gateway etc PSU's.
 
Jul 27, 2020
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Nvidia
8800GT
1080 Ti
4200 Ti or maybe the Geforce 3 Ti 200
I had the GF3 Ti 200 and I probably could have afforded the 8800GT (but actually got the 9600GT). Those were the good old days when the succeeding x600 series card would put the previous gen's x800 series card to shame. Now we are just getting scammed, unless we go with AMD or Intel.
 

tajoh111

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Mar 28, 2005
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The Radeon 9500 Pro activate more pixel piplines thing? There was a huge difference in pricing between the two IIRC. Also the 9600 Pro that was made on a smaller node but laked the horsepower of the 9500 Pro.



LOL AMD bias? Maybe in the CPU forum. Then you go on to say AMD did not have "Nvidia's brand strength to protect them and it did lasting damage"? The 7970 was a good product. The 7870 was a bit late to market. Not sure why AMD made the 77xx series first. They got it right though with the RX 480 targeting the mid range. I am not sure why they didn't follow up with the rumored "Big Polaris" though.



It is right up there. Along with the 9700 Pro, and a few others.

AMD was known as the good guys and generally this good will allowed them to sell cards just a little under Nvidia's msrp to sell well. You remembering it as simply a good card, just shows the bias of this forum but financially it was a poor showing from AMD.

The 7970 in terms of business and execution, was a blueprint on how not to launch a graphics card. The poor tuning of the card(overvolted and underclocked to deal with the variability of the silicon), the high MSRP, poor price to performance increase over last gen, poor driver performance from the value brand, along with high heat and power made it a bad time for AMD to take the driver seat and try to price themselves above Nvidia.

The launch of the 7970 eroded that goodwill and the cards did not sell well until major price drops and game bundles. These game bundles were legendary but likely expensive(Crysis 3, tomb Raider and Bioshock infinite). People may remember this fondly as great value but it shows more than anything AMD desperate to sell cards as it destroyed AMD margins when combined with the massive price drops.

The GTX 680 and particularly 670 made AMD cards unprofitable for the company. Ironically it also gained Nvidia lots of good will since their cards launch with significantly better price to performance vs AMD but they were being greedy too since they were charging big money for small silicon like AMD. This translated into AMD selling so bad, that AMD had to drop their prices even lower than normal compared to their Nvidia contemporaries to sell. In Canada, it was possible to to get a 7970 for 369.99 just 6 months after launch on top of a 6 game bundle. These type of poor margin moves are what moved the graphics division to China. AMD had to massively overcompensate to regain goodwill which resulted with the starting MSRP of the 290x and 290 being so low. .
 

Golgatha

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Jul 18, 2003
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I am not a fan of the GTX 970 at all. I think the 980Ti was much better, and then the 980. The 680 was also kinda meh.

I agree R9 290 should be on the list. Great card for a good price, especially later, and given you could get two when CF was at its peak. Also some could be unlocked to 290X. I also agree 8800 GT belongs on there, and maybe 6800 GT.

I will add to the list Fury Air, one of the first HBM cards, though only 4GB, but greatly discounted, and could sometimes unlock shaders on them. They were also generally faster than the Polaris cards which came after, at least for a while until driver support ended.

Also adding the 6950 2GB, many of them would unlock shaders to 6970. I had 2 of them in CF.
The 570 was pretty excellent at the time it was released. The 600 (ran hot) and 700 (less hot but not much of a performance increase) series were garbage. The 970 was pretty good as long as you didn't use more than 3.5GB of VRAM. Totally agree the 980 Ti was pretty amazing in terms of performance and longevity, and this card finally moved me from SLI or Crossfire to a single GPU. The 1080 Ti was equally amazing if not a bit more so than the 980 Ti due to 11GB of VRAM, keeping it relevant even today, nearly 7 years since its release.

The 4850 and 5850 where my go to cards during the "bad" nVidia years, and I did Crossfire with both of those. Going further back, I'd put the GeForce 3 in there due to a huge performance leap. Also the 8800 GT was pretty amazing value in its day. From team red, the 9700 Pro and vanilla 9800 were both overclocking monsters, and I'd give the vanilla 9800 the nod for being so well priced. Going even further back, I'd say the Voodoo 2 8MB was the card that started the trend towards the amazing 3D graphics we have on PCs today. Playing Need for Speed 2 SE, Quake 2, and Final Fantasy 7 (among other games) on a Voodoo 2 from Creative Labs was what started my PC gaming addiction back in the summer of 1998. Happy 25th PC gaming addiction anniversary I suppose! :)

Edit - The first gaming PC I built myself was a Pentium 2 400Mhz, 160MB PC100 SDRAM, a Matrox Millenia 2MB for 2D and Voodoo 2 8MB for 3D, and a Creative Labs AWE64 ISA sound card. I had a 4.3GB Maxtor and 10.2GB Western Digital for storage in that sucker too. My how things have progressed in 25 years!
 
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nOOky

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Aug 17, 2004
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Tom's brought out the 5 worst AMD cards today, assuming the 5 worst Nvidia is soon to follow. What's funny is that I still have a 7970, a couple HD6870's that I ran in Crossfire before that, and my secondary gamer still has an AMD Vega 64LC in it. I also have an 8800GTS-512 sitting around, an HD4890, and RX-580'S in my wife's current build and one of my older PC's.

Even though I go a few years between new builds, I can't bring myself to throw old stuff out. I have at least three mobo/cpu boards siting in boxes, each sporting a Hyper 212 cooler IIRC.
 

Thunder 57

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Tom's brought out the 5 worst AMD cards today, assuming the 5 worst Nvidia is soon to follow. What's funny is that I still have a 7970, a couple HD6870's that I ran in Crossfire before that, and my secondary gamer still has an AMD Vega 64LC in it. I also have an 8800GTS-512 sitting around, an HD4890, and RX-580'S in my wife's current build and one of my older PC's.

Even though I go a few years between new builds, I can't bring myself to throw old stuff out. I have at least three mobo/cpu boards siting in boxes, each sporting a Hyper 212 cooler IIRC.

Seems like whoever wrote it hasn't been into hardware for awhile. The RX 7600, really? But not mention of the HD 2000 series? I'm sure I could pick out more. I haven't read all of the reasoning yet, so I will have to come back to it.