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Best Video Cards For The Money: Nov '08

Best Video Cards For The Money: Nov '08
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Detailed graphics card specifications and reviews are great—that is, if you have the time to do the research. But at the end of the day, what a gamer needs is the best graphics card within a certain budget.

So if you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to make the right decision, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid, with a simple list of the best gaming cards offered for the money.

October Review and November Updates:

Graphics card news doesn’t seem to be slowing down—it seems for months there has been a non-stop flood of new hardware, and October 2008 didn’t disappoint either.

AMD’s new Radeon 4830 arrived in force—the company’s first answer to the tremendously long-running success of the GeForce 8800/9800 GT cards at the $125 price point. While the Radeon HD 4830 quickly established itself as a contender, it by no means erased the GeForce 8800/9800 GT as an option. It also helped that Nvidia cards received a small boost from the new “Big Bang II” driver.

Speaking of which—in addition to performance gains, this new driver also introduced multi-monitor configurations for SLI, something AMD has been doing for a while already with CrossFire. It also provides the first official SLI support for Intel chipsets—specifically, Intel’s X58 chipset for use with the new Core i7 CPUs. Licensing SLI on Intel chipsets has been a long time coming, and now Nvidia and AMD can engage each other’s multi-card solutions on the same platform. In this battle, the consumer will definitely emerge as the winner.

Other than that, we keep hearing rumors of an upcoming Radeon HD 4850 X2 card, although we haven’t seen any yet. We’ll keep our fingers crossed as we march forward into the holiday season.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:

  • This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, the cards on this list are more expensive than what you really need;
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing info, but we can list some good cards that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest;
  • The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary;
  • These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list; they might be a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
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  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 6:59 AM
    Good write up. Thanks for the chart, helps to pick between ATI and nVidia on price points :) 
  • 1 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:03 AM
    BTW, first 4850x2 card on Newegg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102809&Tpk=4850
  • -2 Hide
    cobra420 , November 10, 2008 7:09 AM
    the 4850x2 belongs in the spot between the 4870 and 4870x2 ? lol
  • 3 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:19 AM
    Not quite sure on that though. At $430, the price is a little high for it though as a crossfire of 2x 4850s would only run about $320. I would rather invest that extra $100 in a better motherboard.
  • -6 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 7:21 AM
    "It doesn’t need an external power cable, which for some upgraders is a really important feature."

    Actually I was wondering how important that really is. My best friend lives a long way from me, so to avoid having to carry heavy computers with serveral terabytes of harddrives etc I built a lightweight pc with a brisbane, a zalman 9700, 3 raptors and a dvdrw drive in a lanfire (3kg) chassis. It's power by a puny xilenz (or spelled another way) 450W psu. When my friend visits he just plugs in his 8800gtx and plays. We power it via two converters from molex to the 6pin plugs - and it runs just fine when I got to his place and use my hd4870 in it - so I'm actually wondering if it's that big a deal if the psu is adequate or not. For longterm use it may be, but in the 4 months I've had the system, we haven't see any problems with it. So even without pcie power on the psu you can get a decent lan gamer it would appear.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , November 10, 2008 7:26 AM
    This "big bang 2" driver was total rubbish, only thing it did was cause my first BSOD for this year in Vistax64.

    Noticed no improvement during the three minutes I played on it prior to bsod either..
  • 3 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:34 AM
    neiroatopelcc"It doesn’t need an external power cable, which for some upgraders is a really important feature."Actually I was wondering how important that really is. My best friend lives a long way from me, so to avoid having to carry heavy computers with serveral terabytes of harddrives etc I built a lightweight pc with a brisbane, a zalman 9700, 3 raptors and a dvdrw drive in a lanfire (3kg) chassis. It's power by a puny xilenz (or spelled another way) 450W psu. When my friend visits he just plugs in his 8800gtx and plays. We power it via two converters from molex to the 6pin plugs - and it runs just fine when I got to his place and use my hd4870 in it - so I'm actually wondering if it's that big a deal if the psu is adequate or not. For longterm use it may be, but in the 4 months I've had the system, we haven't see any problems with it. So even without pcie power on the psu you can get a decent lan gamer it would appear.


    Using less power means saving $$$ in the form of lower electric bills. Also, that card would be great for any individual looking to build a machine with low power consumption without sacrificing too much performance(on-board chipsets are horrid for gaming).
  • -3 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 7:39 AM
    asdasd555999This "big bang 2" driver was total rubbish, only thing it did was cause my first BSOD for this year in Vistax64.Noticed no improvement during the three minutes I played on it prior to bsod either..

    Then be glad you ain't got an ati card! while my vista64 doesn't generate bsod, it does frequently crash the display driver (and successfully recover it) when I'm running media player classic on the secondary monitor while playing world of warcraft on the primary one in window mode. (both with 8.9 and 8.10)

    @Slomo4sho : Ye sure it's useful for that, but that's not what I was talking about. The article does seem to assume the card will be used for gaming, and most gaming systems are not built to be cost effective on the power bill ; or at least I don't know of anyone who cared for efficiency when building a gaming pc. My point was, that it doesn't seem to matter if the psu has pcie connectivity or not in order to use a card requiring it.
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:51 AM
    "The Radeon 4350 joins the list not because it’s a great gaming card, but because it can be found for only $40"

    The article indicates that they are aware the 4350 is not the top contender for a gaming PC. But anyone with a budget system and a 17" inch screen would find it worthwhile over on-board graphics. I am actually thinking about using the 4350 in a build for my parents :) 
  • -3 Hide
    vochtige , November 10, 2008 7:55 AM
    Now at $100, the Radeon HD 3870 is an easy recommendation, lying between the GeForce 8800 GT and the new Radeon HD 4670. It is still a force to be reckoned with at 1600x1200, and even at 1920x1200.

    isn't 4670 the wrong number you meant? because who want to pay $100 for a card that performs like a $dollar gpu?

    like always a good article
  • -8 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 7:57 AM
    Slomo4shO"The Radeon 4350 joins the list not because it’s a great gaming card, but because it can be found for only $40"The article indicates that they are aware the 4350 is not the top contender for a gaming PC. But anyone with a budget system and a 17" inch screen would find it worthwhile over on-board graphics. I am actually thinking about using the 4350 in a build for my parents

    Hey kid don't take it out of context! the card you're quoting isn't the one they point out the feature of no extra pcie on. That card is infact futher down the page, and being passed on as a decent cheap gaming card - which it probably is.
  • 2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 8:06 AM
    neiroatopelccHey kid don't take it out of context! the card you're quoting isn't the one they point out the feature of no extra pcie on. That card is infact futher down the page, and being passed on as a decent cheap gaming card - which it probably is.


    First off, there is no need for name calling as I am probably older than you are. Secondly, the quote is not out of context. The quote is the introduction to the write-up on the
  • 0 Hide
    stridervm , November 10, 2008 8:22 AM
    On page 3 :

    Even though the Radeon HD 4830 offers the 8800/8900 GT its first competition in its price class, the card remains a strong contender, and is still a viable option.

    8900GT?
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 8:24 AM
    Slomo4shOFirst off, there is no need for name calling as I am probably older than you are. Secondly, the quote is not out of context. The quote is the introduction to the write-up on the


    grr seems half of my post got cut off somehow...

    As I was saying, the quote is the introduction to the write-up
  • 1 Hide
    Doltron , November 10, 2008 9:02 AM
    Hmm 260+ but not 4870 1GB? The Asus card can be had for $270. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121277
  • 0 Hide
    Marvelous Marv , November 10, 2008 9:44 AM
    sapphire made a custom Radeon HD 4850 X2 2gb.
  • -8 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 9:46 AM
    Slomo4shOgrr seems half of my post got cut off somehow...As I was saying, the quote is the introduction to the write-up

    Fine that is what you interpret it as, but I do not.
    In the intro it sais it's for gamers, not for home cinema systems.
    And as for kid, fine you may not be one, but you're still either taking it out of context, or not understanding it even remotely the way I think it's meant.
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 10:13 AM
    neiroatopelccor not understanding it even remotely the way I think it's meant.


    Either your perception is right or I am wrong. Either way, the 4350 and 4670 are both low power consumption cards and both can be considered for gaming on budget systems on which a individual plans on playing low resolution.
  • -3 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 10:36 AM
    Read what I quoted in bold and underlined. What you perceive to be true may not be true for another individual. Each individual has their own interpretation of reality.

    Either way, its almost 5 AM, I am going to bed :p 
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