The videocard section in CompUSA is a place of hopes and dreams. Up on the top shelf, ensconced in complex anti-theft packaging, sit the $500 behemoths. Sadly, the card you can afford lies in an inconspicuous white box on the bottom shelf, unprotected and unloved. Is there a budget videocard worthy of your desire?
There may be a kick-ass $200 videocard out there someplace, but the PCI Express Toxic X700 Pro isn’t it. With a mere eight pipelines and a puny 128-bit memory interface, it’s in a different league than higher-priced parts—a much, much lower league. Here’s the big problem: To accommodate the Toxic’s higher-than-standard clock speeds, Sapphire slapped a two-slot cooler on the board. While this cooler enables Sapphire to clock its board at an impressive 472MHz core/525MHz memory (up from the standard 425MHz/430MHz), it takes up a whopping three slots. That’s right kids, a protruding nub on the blue fan inside the housing will touch large PCI cards—an Audigy 2, for example—even two slots over.
We’ve come to grudgingly accept two-slot cooling solutions at the extreme high end of the graphics spectrum, but for a $200 part, it’s just stupid. It’s even dumber that this underperforming budget card eats three slots in your system. Come on, people; this is a bad idea! Last month we reviewed a comparably priced MSI NX 6600 GT board, which is faster in every benchmark and fills only the single PCI Express slot you mount it in. Couple that with the potential upgradeability you get with the SLI-capable 6600 GT board, and we see no reason compelling reason to recommend this card.
With 12-pipe Radeon X800 XL-based videocards on the horizon at the same price point, and a better-performing nVidia solution available now, the X700-powered card looks like a bad buy. --Will Smith
+ Ruby: Comes with Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow.
- Garnet: Poor performance and a three-slot cooler.