Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

PCI Express Interface: $0 To $130

Best Video Cards For The Money: August '08
By

Best PCI-E Card For under $100:

GeForce 9500 GT GDDR3
Codename: G96
Process: 55/65nm
Universal Shaders: 32
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 550
Memory Speed MHz: 700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The 9500 GT GDDR3 is essentially a reworking and optimization of the popular 8600 GTS GPU on a smaller process. Even though the clock speeds are lower than those of its 8600 GTS brethren, the 9500 GT GDDR3 performs a bit faster in the limited benchmarks we’ve seen, and the card has been found in stock for as low as $70 online. The extra $30 is well worth stepping up to a Radeon 3850, but if you want the absolute cheapest gaming card and don’t plan to go higher than the 1280x1024 resolution, the 9500 GT is a good option. Just be sure to get the faster GDDR3 version, not the slower DDR2-equipped cards.

BEST PCI-E CARD FOR $100:

Radeon 3850 512MB
Codename: RV670
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 670
Memory Speed MHz: 833 (1666 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

The Radeon 3850 is the only high-performance 512MB card for about $100; this is an absolute steal for the powerful level of performance this card will supply. Easily capturing the best price/performance segment at $100, the Radeon 3850 will game at 1650x1080 with relative ease, even breaking into 1920x1200 territory.

BEST PCI-E CARD FOR $125: Tie

GeForce 9600 GT 512MB
Codename: G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 64
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 650
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (1800 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The new 9600 GT is Nvidia’s answer to the Radeon 3800 series: cheap, powerful, and efficient, the 9600 GT usually performs a bit below the 3870 with no antialiasing, and is a bit faster than the 3870 when AA is enabled. The 9600 GT is usually a few dollars cheaper than the 3870, although the prices are close enough that both cards are now recommended buys.

Radeon 3870
Codename: RV670
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz: 1125 (2250 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

The Radeon 3870 is a speedy card for the price, and has a slight advantage versus its 9600 GT competitor when antialiasing is disabled; when AA is enabled the tables are turned and the 9600 GT claims the advantage. With both of these cards within spitting distance as far as price is concerned, though, both are easy recommendations.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 97 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • -1 Hide
    middeneast , August 5, 2008 8:18 AM
    The 2x 9800gtx's specs are wrong :)  Accidentally took the same specs as the 4850 in crossfire.

    Not that it matters a lot, but hey :D 
  • 0 Hide
    pulasky , August 5, 2008 8:29 AM
    Quote:
    Be forewarned that it’s been reported that the official AMD drivers don’t work with the AGP version of this card, but that the modified Omega drivers work fine.

    Serious look here http://support.ati.com/ics/support/KBList.asp?folderID=10551
  • 0 Hide
    aleluja , August 5, 2008 8:55 AM
    I wish i could get HD4850 for only 175$.
    It costs 230$ where i live :D  And that is the cheapest Gigabyte model.
    And HD4870 costs 340$.
  • 1 Hide
    otheos , August 5, 2008 9:09 AM
    I think you need to revise the texts on the AGP cards. Both for drivers (as noted above) and a few more clues regarding the performance.
  • 2 Hide
    Transsive , August 5, 2008 9:51 AM
    Would someone fix the table on the last page of this article.
  • -1 Hide
    gridener , August 5, 2008 10:00 AM
    I guess you forgot to mention the 9800GT. Its out for purchase and you can get one for around 140$-160$.
  • 1 Hide
    modtech , August 5, 2008 10:13 AM
    4850 costs $250 here and at that price it's still worth it.
  • 0 Hide
    kitsilencer , August 5, 2008 10:28 AM
    First time in a LONG time that ATI is dominating Tom's recommend list. Good to see.
  • 0 Hide
    tntom , August 5, 2008 1:03 PM
    There is something wrong with the table on the last page
  • 7 Hide
    Ignotus , August 5, 2008 1:05 PM
    THe 9800GT is mentioned... it's the 8800GT. :-D
  • 0 Hide
    hixbot , August 5, 2008 1:13 PM
    Can they take the time to write new paragraphs? Even just to slightly change the wording so we can see that the authors actually give a #$%5.
    Official drivers now work for AGP ATI cards. Get with it.
  • 0 Hide
    nottheking , August 5, 2008 1:19 PM
    Good to see another update; the list needed one. Though there are some comments I have to make... As well, of course, as my slight disappointment that it appears that while still a pinned thread, it appears that the thread in the Graphics & Displays forum is no longer quite connected with the list itself.
  • 0 Hide
    origosis , August 5, 2008 1:20 PM
    hixbotCan they take the time to write new paragraphs? Even just to slightly change the wording so we can see that the authors actually give a #$%5.Official drivers now work for AGP ATI cards. Get with it.

    Alot of Work Goes into Testing the cards ALOT! and besides this is a monthly article that most people will simply flip through to thier price point see what card they need then run to Newegg. So extra work on the article may fall on deaf ears.

    I agree I like to hears each persons opinion on each card, but even I just like to skim this article each month.
  • 0 Hide
    hardwarekid9756 , August 5, 2008 2:12 PM
    It's very pleasant to see Radeon finally get some Face time on the BVCftM charts. It's been a GeForce world for so long, and even if I have dabbled in the dark side, it's always a pleasant relief to see my champion back on the board.
  • 0 Hide
    ahslan , August 5, 2008 2:14 PM
    great work guys! Keep it up!
  • 2 Hide
    gwolfman , August 5, 2008 2:15 PM
    I still think Tom's should recommend single board graphics cards at the higher end even though some crossfire/SLI configurations are better. Some people don't want SLI/CF configurations, power requirements, and some can't run it due to their chipset or limited PCIe slots.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , August 5, 2008 2:31 PM
    gwolfmanI still think Tom's should recommend single board graphics cards at the higher end even though some crossfire/SLI configurations are better. Some people don't want SLI/CF configurations, power requirements, and some can't run it due to their chipset or limited PCIe slots.


    I did. The 4870 is in there... that's the best performing single card for the money. The 260 and 280 are overpriced by my reckoning.

    If they lower the price, or the 4870 X2 comes in at a reasonable price, those will be put on the list too.
  • 1 Hide
    gwolfman , August 5, 2008 2:54 PM
    Even if the 280 is overpriced, isn't it still faster than the 4870? It's still good to see the 4870 in there and I'm sure the x2 will make it in somewhere.
  • 2 Hide
    spaztic7 , August 5, 2008 3:25 PM
    I think this review is much, much better than the July. Good stuff and thanks for the disclaimers at the beginning!!!

    Keep up the good work!
  • 0 Hide
    vladsinger , August 5, 2008 3:34 PM
    Ahem - the tables on the last two pages don't seem to be rendering.
Display more comments