The Bottom Line: Best video card for Windows 2000/XP for people watching their budget. Performance is outstanding; I highly recommend it.
I build my own computers, which has proved to be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I am free to choose my own components, in which to install inside my boxes, thereby holding down costs. But on the other hand if something goes wrong I have no one but myself to rely on to fix the problem(s). And believe me; something always goes wrong when one is building a new box!
Since I install nothing but Microsoft Operating Systems (OS) on my computers, I have learned to rely on the Microsoft Hardware Compatibility List (HCL), to ensure that all the hardware I purchase is supported in some way, shape, or form, by Microsoft. I was burned badly early last year by a video card that was not on the HCL. It wreaked havoc with the OS (Windows 2000) and the experience left me jaded for a while, but I recovered. Since then I do not buy any piece of hardware that is not on the HCL.
I have build three computers since that experience, and I have used the ATI Radeon 7000 AGP 4x for all of them, because its on the HCL. For my needs the Radeon 7000 AGP offers the best bang for my buck! The nominal street price for the card is $49.00 at various sites on the Internet. I usually purchase mine from Mwave.com (www.mwave.com).
What is AGP?
All of the motherboards I have purchased over the last two years have had AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) slots. If you have an available AGP slot in your computer (it is usually the small black or brown slot in close proximity to the processor), you'll want to select an AGP video card over a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) video card, because AGP offer much faster throughput. But what is AGP? The AGP standard was originally designed by Intel for Pentium II based motherboards. AGP can deliver a peak bandwidth 4 times greater than then PCI using advanced bus-mastering techniques. AGP is designed to enables the graphics cards to execute texture maps directly from system memory instead of forcing it to pre-load the texture data into the graphics card's local memory first. As a result AGP presents a much smoother frame rate and the ability to display 3D graphics and video that is much more realistic and much at a much higher quality than heretofore found on a PC. Such performance used to be limited to high-end graphics workstations. Though AGP is geared towards the Pentium class processor and its Dual Independent Bus (DIB) architecture, you do not need a Pentium processor to take advantage AGP, since the use of AGP doesn't depend on the CPU type. The Radeon 7000 AGPoffers full AGP 4X (Version 2.0, 1.5 volt) implementation for a 1GB/sec data transfer rate, sideband addressing, pipelining and AGP texturing support. AGP 2X (3.3 volt) operation is also supported for systems / motherboards which do not offer 4X compatibility. PCI versions of Radeon 7000 are offered in both 32M and 64M DDR memory configurations.
The Radeon 7000 AGPis available with 32MB or 64MB of onboard Video Random Access Memory (VRAM). The older models sported SDRAM while the newer models come with high performance DDR. Unless you plan to use the card for serious game playing the 32MB version of the Radeon 7000 should be sufficient to meet your computing needs.
Installation of the Radeon 7000 AGPis pretty straightforward; the included instructions from ATI are logical, well written, and easy to follow. Both Windows 2000 and Windows XP detected the card and installed the software drivers (written by Microsoft) for it. ATI includes a CD-ROM with better drivers and utilities designed to get the most from the card. I would skip the installation of most of the software because it offers little in the way of functionality and clutters the desktop.
I love this card! Even without the installation of the ATI specific drivers, the cards performance was exceptional. The picture was clear and crisp; the colors were vibrant and true to life; the text was sharp and in-focus; and the monitor flickered not a bit. After I installed the included drivers, I noted little difference in performance, but I was able to control the functionality of the Radeon 7000 AGP down to the smallest detail. Though through use I will probably never need to manipulate them the cards many functions and controls, its nice to know they are there.
I am not a gamer, nor a graphics designer, so I come nowhere near to putting this card through its true paces, or realizing the full potential of the AGP technology. Video and DVD playback are both outstanding at the standard size, but predictably becomes choppier as the images become larger. It is hard to know what to attribute this to: the card or the mediums used to record them. Its not a bothersome problem, but Ill be happy when the technology finally matures.
I like this card for three reasons: 1. It is on the Microsoft HCL; 2 its affordable and; 3. it offers outstanding performance for my money. ATI is one of the oldest and most trusted names in computer hardware, and the Radeon 7000 AGPcontinues their tradition off offering superior products at a reasonable price. If you are looking for a Windows 2000, or Windows XP video card look no further then the Radeon 7000 AGP.
~Pentium 4/III/II/Celeron, AMD K6/Duron/Athlon/Athlon XP or compatible with AGP 2.0 Compliant BUS- AGP 2X (3.3V), AGP 4X (1.5V), or AGP2X/4X based systems.
~Pentium 4/III/II/Celeron, AMD K6/Duron/Athlon/Athlon XP or compatible with PCI universal slot Installation software requires CD-ROM drive.
~DVD playback requires DVD drive on PCs with an Intel Pentium II processor (or equivalent) and 32MB of system memory.
~32 MB DDR
~Register compatible with VGA ~BIOS compatible with VESA for super VGA ~DDC1/2b/2b+ monitor support ~VESA Display Power Management Support ~Separate horizontal and vertical synchronization at TTL levels
ATI RADEON 7000 delivers enhanced 3D and 2D graphics performance for today's demanding applications. Powered by the RADEON 7000 graphics processor, RADEON 7000 features HYPER Z technology to increase effective memory bandwidth and Pixel Tapestry for fast image rendering. Plus RADEON 7000 has industry-leading, built-in DVD playback capability.