Yes, this is another one of those, "I’m going to show pictures of my computer" posts.
I got a new graphics card in the mail today. It’s a Sapphire HD 3850, which is a (you guessed it) ATI Radeon HD 3850 manufactured by Sapphire. The cool thing about this card, other than it uses PCI-express 2.0, is that the thing is fanless. Yesterday I had a fanless MSI card with an ATI Redeon HD 2600XT chip in it, so I was ready for an upgrade.
Now for the performance…
It appears now that the new bottleneck in my system is the speed of the RAM. I can’t do anything about that without upgrading the motherboard, but that is for another day.
About upgrading the motherboard. This card supports PCI-e 2.0, but my motherboard only supports 1.0. Luckily PCI-2 2.0 is both backwards and forwards compatible, but even so, I won’t get the double bandwidth that 2.0 enables, even if I have a 2.0 card. So when that motherboard upgrade happens, I’m curious to see how much better the graphics card performs.
As for practical gaming, I found that I could increase the settings on Unreal Tournament 3 to 1920×1200 resolution (the native resolution of my 24" monitor), with the screen percentage up to 90, the texture detail in the middle with 2, and the world detail a little higher at 4. All the while the game runs smooth. It is a bit disappointing that I can’t turn the settings up all the way without affecting the frame rate, but with such a big monitor I can’t complain.
The card runs in the upper 40 degrees Celsius at idle, mid 50’s with regular windowing in Vista, and intermittently breaks 70 with intense gaming.