My search for the perfect business/game graphics card continues. And, although I haven't found it yet, I've come close!
One card that's on the cusp of perfection is the Radeon VE from ATI Technologies Inc. ($99).
Unlike other cards I've tested, the Radeon packs more 3D punch and still retains all the features we look for in a 2D "business" card. The one I played with could handle two monitors (one digital and one analog) and had an output to connect to a television set. It also came with 32 megabytes of DDR memory, and a fast Radeon VE graphics processor, which is a budget version and lacks some of the features of the company's superfast Radeon chip.
Because of this, I don't recommend this card for hard-core gamers. It's more for business users who play an occasional game of Quake.
The only problem I had: the card's inability to synchronize with a computer using a 1 gigahertz processor. But that was resolved when I downloaded a patch from ATI's Web site (www.ati.com) using a rival's graphics card. This could have been due to the slower Radeon VE graphics processor. So, as a word to the wise, if you're using a computer that has a processor of a gigabyte or more, stay away from this card.
But, for the rest of us, who are constantly looking for a good budget card that has many of the features found on the higher-priced cards, the Radeon VE is probably as close to perfection as we're going to get.
This is one of several twin-head cards on the market, but it's the only one I've come across that can handle two monitors without demanding that you reboot your computer. This is due to ATI's Hydravision Multiple Monitor management software. This allows you to expand your Windows desktop across two monitors or run one program on one monitor and a second on another.
Both monitors had to be set at the same resolution, but that's a minor inconvenience.
Other features of the card include:
- Built-in support for DVD playback.
- Using Hydravision, you can assign hot key shortcuts for the functions you use most often: moving active windows or applications, accessing controls on the fly, or opening applications - with a single keystroke
- You can set your applications to automatically open in your preferred position on your monitors using the Application Position Memory feature - eliminating the need to reset settings every time you turn on your computer
- It supports DirectX 7.0, DirectX 8.0 and Open GL.
- You can multitask during DVD playback.
- It can handle resolutions up to 2048 x 1536 and 3D at 1920 x 1200.
Although I still haven't found the perfect combo card, this one comes closer to perfection than any of the others I've used. And it's really the only choice for those of us on a limited budget.