Graphics card round-ups from overseas gaming and hardware sites are all well and good, but generally don’t apply in the SA context, as pricing and availability vary greatly.
What graphics card is right for you depends mainly on what resolution you game at and how much you are willing to spend. What power supply you have is also a factor. A 400 watt is okay for low- to mid-level graphics cards, with 500 watts more suitable for high-end cards. An online calculator comes in handy once again.
Another thing to keep in mind is what settings you like to play on. If you feel like you have to max out the graphical settings you’ll need to spend much more than someone that just plays The Sims 2 or older Need For Speed titles.
When looking for graphics cards, the model numbers can be deceiving. An NVIDIA 8800 GT will perform far far better than a 9400 GT even though it’s from an older range. Memory size is also not a good way to judge performance. A 512MB 4850 will always beat a 1GB 4670. In actual fact, you only really need 1 gig of video memory when gaming at resolutions of 1920*1080 or higher with high levels of AA and AF. Even then, some games don’t show that much difference in performance.
Gaming at 1280*1024 or 1440*900
The “light” gamer will only need the ATI Radeon 4650 which comes in at around R800. Going cheaper drops performance significantly, while only saving a couple hundred bucks. For such a gamer, the 4650 should last the whole life of their PC. For the moderate gamer, a 4670 is a great option. Coming in at under R900 from Prophecy, the value is hard to beat. For the heavy gamer on a budget, the 3870 is worth a look for under R1200 (R600 less than the 4850). While the 4850 is great value for money, it might be considered overkill if you are only gaming at 1280*1024.
Gaming at 1680*1050
For the light gamer I will still recommend the 4650. For the moderate gamer, the 3870 becomes the weapon of choice, having enough power to run most games with low levels of AA. If you have an SLI board and wish to use an NVidia card, the 9600 GT for around R1200 is not a bad buy. For the heavy gamer, the 4850 for R1800 is a godsend. It’s main competition being the 9800 GTX+/GTS 250 which are priced around the R2200 mark.
Gaming at 1920*1080 or 1920*1200
For the light gamer the 4650 is still an option, but I’d consider the 4670 for only R100 more. The moderate gamer should be looking at the 4850 512mb. The heavy gamer has two options depending on the settings they play on. If you need everything maxed out with very high AA and AF, the card to get is the 1 gig 4870 for R3400. If not, you can get a 512mb 4870 for R2600, which is actually better value for money.