Not everyone's a gamer. When you see ATI or Nvidia release chips for cards that will cost upwards of $600, quite a few people simply shake their heads and wonder what the hell those companies are thinking. Aren't there any next-gen cards for non-gaming PCs? You know, computers that are mainly used for Web surfing, email, and shopping online; or for business, finances, spreadsheets, and monitoring stock tickers?
Meanwhile, Windows Vista is making its best attempt to steamroll across the country, though the actual need for it is questionable at best. But some of us are early adopters, and we want the latest. Not all of us who fall into that category, however, want to pay an ungodly sum of money for a graphics card that will handle Window Vista's frosty-cool Aero interface.
These are cards for people who think like that. Released with less fanfare than those enthusiast-level, crazy-priced cards, they're quietly available for far less money. They also pack less power for 3D applications like games--and Vista's Aero. Both AMD and Nvidia have made tiered products in their latest lines. Siblings to AMD's top-of-the-line $400 ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT card come in the form of the 2600 and 2400 cards. In Nvidia's GeForce 8800 series, there are also the 8600, 8500, and even 8400 series of cards (although the last seems to be available mainly to OEMs).
These lower-tiered cards run from under $200 down to under $100, but are they sufficient for new technologies like Vista and DirectX 10? Can they handle any gaming at all? Let's find out, shall we?