Equally important as a processor in assembling a respectable gaming system is the selection of a graphics card. All to often we find systems being sold with high-end processors outfitted with an underachieving graphics card. Then again if you're into older games such as Counter-Strike or Half-Life, a GeForce2 MX seems to fit the bill.
The Half-Life hardware survey is based on over 670,000 responses and reveals a couple of other interesting pieces of information. The most popular graphics resolution is 800x600 (27.9%), followed by 1024x768 (25.8%), and then 640x480 (19.7%). The majority of processor speeds used are in the 400MHz to 900MHz range. We should be grateful to game developers like id Software and Epic for raising the bar in overall game complexity. Otherwise, you would be hard pressed in justifying your high-end hardware purchase.
Pulling a couple of older GeForce based graphics cards from inventory, along with testing offerings from Gainward's awesome GeForce4 lineup, I've thrown together some results from Quake 3 and 3DMark2001.
However, Quake 3 and 3DMark2001 aren't necessarily indicative of the performance we're seeing in the leading edge 3D games of today.
The GeForce2 Ti begins to lose some punch at a resolution of 1024x768. If playing with higher quality graphics settings or antialaising and advanced texture filtering is important, you'll want to move up to a more capable graphics card.
The GeForce3 Ti 500 continues to perform well with a high end processor at a resolution of 1280x1024. However, enabling antialiasing at this high of a resolution is best left to the GeForce4 Ti class of graphics cards.
One might even be able to get away with playing Quake 3 at the extreme resolution of 2048x1536 using a high-end processor - that is if you have a big screen monitor that supports it.
GRAPHICS SCALING: 3DMARK2001
If the features that a programmable transform and lighting engine offers are important, you'll want to avoid the GeForce4 MX 460 and GeForce1/2 family of graphics cards.