So this is a biggie, especially for gamers. Choosing a video card maybe the most time consuming and confusing part of building a gaming PC. Both Nvidia and AMD put out a full range of video cards from entry level to top of the line enthusiest and figuring out what is what involves decoding some strange numbering scheme that changes every year.
Your video card should support PCI-Express 16x, have at least 512Mb of on board video, and be at least in the “mid range” product lineup of the respective manufacturer. Most people agree that there’s a sweet spot for price vs performance. Right now that falls at about the $200 mark.
The other factor to consider is the 6 month cycle. Basically every 6-9 months video card manufacturers are going to release a new model of video card that’s bigger, better, and faster than something else on the market. You want to try to buy a card as early in the life cycle as possible so you don’t fall too far “behind.”
While some may argue that the recently released AMD 6870 based cards are where your money is at, we’re going with NVidia’s solution which can be found for around $20-$30 cheaper and sometimes even more with many offering rebates. The EVGA card comes overclocked out of the box, is backed by a lifetime warranty, and has an external exhaust cooler blowing hot air out of your case instead of keeping it inside.
The card is also excellent in pairs for SLI performance reaching the same level as the top of the line cards - this could be a cheaper upgrade option down the road. SLI allows you to pair two cards of similar make and model to divide up the graphics workload.
Perhaps best of all EVGA allows you to “trade up” your card within 90 days (for a price) if something newer and better comes out. With the card a little more than halfway through that lifecycle there’s a good chance you can upgrade soon if you want.