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PCIe Interface: $150 To $240

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: Jan. '09
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Best PCIe Card For $150 :

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games, some with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 512 MB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 625
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (1,986 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.0

The Radeon HD 4850 is the new people’s champion, instantly bringing yesterday’s $300 performance level down to the mainstream $160 price point. This card has a lot of potential when used on its own, and becomes a devastating force when paired with a second 4850 in a CrossFire configuration.

Best PCIe Card For $170 :

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games, some with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 1 GB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 625
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (1,986 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.0

For a few dollars over the base-model Radeon 4850, a 1 GB version is available. While raw performance is not all that different, the extra video RAM is helpful in some situations and with some game titles.

Best PCIe Card For $210 : Tie

Good 1920x1200 performance

Radeon HD 4870 512 MB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.0

The Radeon HD 4870 offers the same architecture that the HD 4850 series does, except it is paired with its secret weapon: brand-new GDDR5 memory. This technology provides about twice as much throughput as the GDDR3 does, so its 900 MHz clock speed is comparable to a 3,600 MHz effective memory speed. This edge allows the 4870 to up the ante and offer a very compelling level of performance for the price. It even competes with the more expensive GTX 280 in some titles.

GeForce GTX 260
Codename: GT200
Process: 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 192
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 28
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core Speed MHz: 576
Memory Speed MHz: 999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

The GeForce GTX 260 offers a compelling level of performance now that its price has been reduced to $220, allowing it to trade blows with the Radeon HD 4870 on its own turf. This is one of those situations where a buyer really should look at which card is best for the games he or she plans to play (although you really can’t go wrong with either card).

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