Budget graphics cards compared
ATI, NVIDIA, and S3 duke it out for under $80
HIGH-END GRAPHICS CARDS
tend to get a disproportionate amount of attention, and for good reason. They're often the first to showcase new features and capabilities, and they generally represent the cutting edge of graphics technology. Sure, we might not always be able to afford them (or at least justify their cost to our better halves) but sooner or later we know the technology will trickle down to lower price points. In recent years, this trickle down has happened sooner rather than later. Gone are the days when low-end parts were a generation behind their mid-range and high-end counterparts; these days, budget offerings share the same basic architecture as bleeding-edge flagships and often launch on the same day.
While ATI and NVIDIA have successfully massaged their Radeon X1000 and GeForce 7 architectures into more affordable flavors, they're not the only ones duking it out in the budget space. S3 has slowly clawed its way back into the game, and the Chrome S27 is poised to take on the GeForce 7300 GS and Radeon X1300 Pro at the low end of the market. S3 may not have a high-end line from which to borrow technology, but at least on paper, the Chrome S27 looks more potent than the budget offerings from ATI and NVIDIA.
Can S3's Chrome S27 pull off an improbable coup and snatch the budget graphics crown, or does either the Radeon X1300 Pro or the GeForce 7300 GS prove superior? We've rounded up a trio of graphics cards that cost under $80 and subjected them to an array of graphics performance and video playback tests to find out.