System Builder Marathon: Day 4

3D Games, Continued

F.E.A.R. really needs at least the midrange system to perform well, the low end system dropping out at a low 1024x768 once AA and AF were enabled. The midrange system carries acceptable frame rates at quality-enhanced settings all the way up to 1600x1200, while the high-priced build goes all the way to the highest resolution and quality settings.

The budget build can't play the outdoor environment in Oblivion even at the low 1024x768 resolution, at least with quality enhancements turned on. Quality seekers must therefore choose the mid-priced build as the minimum acceptable solution.

We should add that the Oblivion benchmarks were performed with 4x antialiasing. With no antialiasing enabled, even the low-cost system can offer very playable performance at 1024x768.

And that's the bottom line as far as gaming goes: Low-cost cards like the 7600 GT top out at 1024x768 in newer, demanding titles like Oblivion and F.E.A.R., while in older titles like Doom they can offer excellent performance at higher resolutions due as much to their CPUs as their graphics processors.

The 8800 GTS on the other hand can handle 1600x1200 with relative ease. When you're paying more for a graphics card, you're paying for higher resolution. This applies to the 8800 GTX's in SLI mode, where the incredible 2560x1600 resolution is playable across the board.

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