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Best PCIe Card: $400 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For the Money: March 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$460: Tie

2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2240 (2 x 1120)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 900
Memory Speed MHz: 1100 (4200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:302 W (2 x 151 W)

Two Radeon HD 6870 cards are a very powerful combination when paired in CrossFire mode, and the same can be said for a couple of GeForce GTX 560 Tis in SLI. Either of these options will perform a little better than a single GeForce GTX 580 or Radeon HD 5970.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6870 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

2 x GeForce GTX 560 Ti (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

2 x GeForce GTX 560 Ti
Codename: GF114
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 768 (2 x 384)
Texture Units: 128 (2 x 64)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 822 / 1644
Memory Speed MHz: 1002 (4008 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5

340 W (2 x 170 W)

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560 Ti for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$500:

2 x Radeon HD 6950 1 GB in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Excellent 2560x1600 performance

2x Radeon HD 6950 1 GB in CrossFire
Codename: "Cayman"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2816 (2 x 1408)
Texture Units: 176 (2 x 88)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 800
Memory Speed MHz: 1250 (5000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:400 W (2 x 200 W)

Recent tests performed by our very own Thomas Soderstrom have confirmed that the Radeon HD 6900-series has vastly improved scaling performance in CrossFire compared to previous-generation boards. As such, a pair of these cards represents a realistic pinnacle for our recommendations. At $500, two Radeon HD 6950s will handily beat a similarly-priced GeForce GTX 580.

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 580 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

GeForce GTX 580
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 512
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 48
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 772 / 1544
Memory Speed MHz: 1002 (4008 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:244 W

Nvidia has come up with a card that can challenge the dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970's title as the fastest graphics card in the world. The GeForce GTX 580 wins its share of battles against the previously undisputed king-of-the-hill, and while it's outperformed by dual-card solutions like Radeon HD 6870s in CrossFire and GeForce GTX 560s in SLI, the GeForce GTX 580 scores a well-deserved place on the honorable mention list.

The Radeon HD 5970 has become so scarce and overpriced that the GeForce GTX 580 takes the lone honorable mention on our list, and the supply is plentiful now that the holiday rush is over.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 580 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

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