10 Years of Graphics Cards (part 1)

10 Years of Graphics Cards (part 1)

I recently upgraded my graphics card, and realized it was something of a ten year anniversary of upgrades. Join me when I look back (misty-eyed) at the graphics cards I have owned and hopefully you will feel some of nostalgia that I do.

ATI Radeon 9600 Pro

This was the card that came with my first computer in 2004. It was a company lease deal that I managed to convince my mother to buy into. I don’t have that many memories with it, since it unfortunately didn’t last very long. Around half a year after purchase the graphics card broke down in a magical explosion of visual artifacts. We sent it back to the company for repair, and when it came back…

radeon_9600_pro

ATI Radeon 9600 XT

… This card had been installed. A much improved version, to my delight. While the previous model didn’t quite manage to squeeze out the performance I required, this one felt like the perfect match. It would even run Half-Life 2 better than on my friends PC, which was rocking a Radeon 9700. Model naming was as confusing back then as it is today.

It was excellent for the games of the day; Far Cry (my god, the graphics blew my mind, I spent so much time with the demo when it was released), Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Star Wars: Battlefront and of course, Counter-Strike: Source.

radeon_9600_xt

ATI Radeon X1650 Pro

Once TESV: Oblivion was released in 2006, it became obvious that it was time for an upgrade. The lease had expired and we had bought out the PC, so I was now free to upgrade it to my heart’s content. My first plan was to buy a GeForce 7600GT; I even ordered it online. After a week without sleep (I was that excited), I went to the pick-up store and asked why the hell my card still hadn’t arrived. Apparently the order never made it, so I was out of luck. But I wouldn’t let that stop me, not after all that wait. Right then and there I purchased the Radeon X1650 Pro, out of pure frustration. It was a bad purchase, just like most impulsive purchases, although in all fairness, it wasn’t necessarily the card itself that was bad. My computer was old, so a new graphics card paired with an age-old processor (AMD Athlon XP 2600+) and slow memory (512MB DDR1) didn’t harbor the performance gains that I had expected. Not only did it not really improve my gaming experience, but the PC sometimes rebooted when the card required too much juice. This problem, on the other hand, was something completely due to the impulsiveness of the purchase as I had overlooked the PSU requirements.
The disappointment still hurts today, and I get flashbacks to the moment I booted up TESV: Oblivion and realized I had barely made a dent in the framerate.

radeon_x1650_pro

 

For the number freaks:

Model Process Core clock Memory Memory clock
Radeon 9600 PRO 130 nm 325 MHz 128 MB DDR 600 MHz
Radeon 9600 XT 130 nm 500 MHz 256 MB DDR 600 MHz
Radeon X1650 PRO 80 nm 600 MHz 512 MB GDDR3 700 MHz

Every upgrade led to a doubling in the amount of memory. Like always though, these numbers don’t say much since a lot of factors are in play when it comes to real world performance.

This was all for this time, check back later for part 2!

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