The 6870 (~$260) is out and is generally faster than a 5850 (~$230, priced all over the place).
That being said the 5870 (~$320) IS FASTER then both of those, but not by THAT much. The newer 6000 series has better tessellation.
That being said, they are all good performing cards and you should be happy with any of them.
Thanks for the replies, guys. What I was looking for in particular is a particular model of, say, a 5870 people might recommend. For example, I'm looking at a wall of 5870's on Newegg, and trying to get a sense of how to narrow the list down.
Well, if you've made up your mind and you're ruling out all cards that aren't 5850/5870, then there's no point in me posting, but for $310 you can get the Gigabyte 470 Super Overclock Series. It consumes less power,has 3 fans to keep it nice n cool( its quieter than you'd think) and comes with a nice 13% overclock. I like to think of it between the 5850/5870, but it can easily compete with the 5870, with one normally trailing the other by a small margin. Just puttin it out there.
Thanks for the replies, guys. I noted those two cards simply because they are ATI (which I want to stick with), and seemed to be in the vague price range I figured I'd set for myself (around 3 bones, give or take whatever).
Lemme read up on the new series you all have kindly mentioned.
Unfortunately there are no HD6870s with aftermarket cooling yet so it mainly comes down to price and warranty as the cards are all essentially the same. This Gigabyte card would be my choice; http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
If you can wait a bit the HD6950/70 should be out a week or two into December. The HD6950 will probably be right in your price range.