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Best PCIe Card: Under $100

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July '09
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Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For ~$50:

Radeon HD 4650 DDR3 (Check Prices)

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4650 DDR3
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 700 (1,400 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

We've seen some DDR3-equipped Radeon HD 4650 cards approaching the $50 price point, and this makes for a card that packs a lot more punch than its DDR2-equipped cousins. Overclocking this card might bring it surprisingly close to Radeon HD 4670-class performance, so it's an especially good value for tweakers.

Best PCIe Card For ~$75:

GeForce 9600 GT (Check Prices)

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

GeForce 9600 GT
Codename: G94
Process: 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 64
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 650
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (1,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

A recent price drop lets us recommend the GeForce 9600 GT, which is now within spitting distance of the Radeon HD 4670 and GeForce 9600 GSO. The GeForce 9600 GT is a great performer thanks, in part, to its high-end 256-bit memory interface and speedy DDR3 memory. It's a killer choice if $75 is your budgetary limit.

Best PCIe Card For ~$100:

Radeon HD 4850 512 MB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

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 4.1

With Radeon HD 4850 512 MB prices dropping to a surprisingly low $100, this card easily takes the price/performance crown from the Radeon HD 4770 (which is still about $115 due to availability issues). With generally-better performance compared to the Radeon HD 4770 and equal performance with the more expensive GeForce GTS 250, the pressure is on Nvidia to drop prices in order to compete.

Of course, we're wondering how e-tailers feel about hacking down the prices for the Radeon HD 4850 in response to the Radeon HD 4770, only to see 4770 inventory levels evaporate. Ouch.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    rdawise , July 21, 2009 8:22 AM
    Funny, I was thinking to myself yesterday "It's almost August and no best graphics cards articles" and look what we have today. Maybe I should play the lottery today...

    Anyway, good article. Even included intel IGPs this time.

    coondayI cant help but feel like this article is showing me information that I have already seen several times before.


    It's a glitch in the matrix...
  • 10 Hide
    Onus , July 21, 2009 1:15 PM
    How can Intel even SAY "Graphics Media Accelerator" and keep a straight face? Epic FAIL is right.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    doomtomb , July 21, 2009 6:37 AM
    I'm a little surprised that you consider the HD4850 as giving "Good 1920x1200 performance in most games"

    This card is good but definitely meant for 1680x1050. I don't see this card playing Far Cry 2 or any moderately new game on anything past medium on 1920x1200.
  • -1 Hide
    haplo602 , July 21, 2009 6:39 AM
    Radeon HD 4730? I found out about that card by accident. It seems to be a harvested 4870 (at least some sites report that).

    Will there be a review of this card (the Powercolor version seems better). Or is this too much low end for Tom's ???
  • 7 Hide
    masterjaw , July 21, 2009 6:40 AM
    Nice article you have there. Kudos!

    Intel IGPs are total wreck. They aren't even worth mentioning. :p 
  • -3 Hide
    masterjaw , July 21, 2009 6:43 AM
    haplo602Radeon HD 4730? I found out about that card by accident. It seems to be a harvested 4870 (at least some sites report that).Will there be a review of this card (the Powercolor version seems better). Or is this too much low end for Tom's ???


    I think this card is a mess. I've read a review somewhere that it performs like a 4670 but consumes power like 4870.
  • 1 Hide
    one-shot , July 21, 2009 7:29 AM
    It's tempting to get another GPU, but most games run so well on just one GTX 260 C216 I may just get a new Intel SSD instead. :) 
  • -1 Hide
    eddieroolz , July 21, 2009 7:40 AM
    Wow, it's a good time to buy a new graphic processor...I don't even see my GTS 250 recommended anymore, and that was only a month or two ago! Pace of innovation is fast, I say....
  • 3 Hide
    Ramar , July 21, 2009 8:07 AM
    doomtombI'm a little surprised that you consider the HD4850 as giving "Good 1920x1200 performance in most games"This card is good but definitely meant for 1680x1050. I don't see this card playing Far Cry 2 or any moderately new game on anything past medium on 1920x1200.


    Eh, if you're on that tight of a budget you can stand 20 fps or medium settings.

    @anyone tempted to buy now:
    Don't spend too much, you'll just be upgrading in six months anyway for a shiny new tessellation unit.
  • -6 Hide
    coonday , July 21, 2009 8:20 AM
    I cant help but feel like this article is showing me information that I have already seen several times before.
  • 14 Hide
    rdawise , July 21, 2009 8:22 AM
    Funny, I was thinking to myself yesterday "It's almost August and no best graphics cards articles" and look what we have today. Maybe I should play the lottery today...

    Anyway, good article. Even included intel IGPs this time.

    coondayI cant help but feel like this article is showing me information that I have already seen several times before.


    It's a glitch in the matrix...
  • 3 Hide
    juliom , July 21, 2009 9:45 AM
    masterjawI think this card is a mess. I've read a review somewhere that it performs like a 4670 but consumes power like 4870.

    Nope. It performs AND consumes in betwenn a 4870 and a 4670. Pretty good card, if you ask me.
  • -1 Hide
    skora , July 21, 2009 11:48 AM
    Not that I would ever buy one, but since you do address the enthusiast market, does the GTX 295 Hydro justify the cost over the vanilla 295?

    And since you also carve out some of the same GPUs with varying ram size, does the same type of performance increase with IGP? MSI has 1gb DDR3 sideport on their 790gx board available.

    And agreeing with doomtomb, can we get definitions of what good/exceptional performance is for the varying resolutions? I wouldn't but a 4850 up to 1920x1080. Maybe the 1 gb card, but the 512 is going to choke along the way, and I wouldn't consider that good performance.
  • -1 Hide
    scook9 , July 21, 2009 12:12 PM
    wow. FAIL at Intel Graphics department

    Nice to see my GTX 275 SLI are still being recommended :)  Now we just needs to see something new come out in the next month before my 90 day step-ups run out.....been a slow summer on the graphics front
  • 4 Hide
    San Pedro , July 21, 2009 12:36 PM
    Can't believe how good performance you can get for the money right now. It's unbelievable.

    I was pretty happy when I got my 4870 512mb for $250, and now it's almost half the price. Hopefully these prices will help grow the PC gaming market. Another $150 to most computers sold now give you a good gaming computer pretty much.
  • 2 Hide
    JeanLuc , July 21, 2009 12:53 PM
    masterjawNice article you have there. Kudos!Intel IGPs are total wreck. They aren't even worth mentioning.



    There so bad a lot of Intel's IGP can't even run Vista Areo Interface (Microsoft have already had a pop at Intel for the lack of Areo support)! It's almost as if Intel went all out the produce the crappiest video chipset they could possibly make.

    The Radeon HD 4870 1Gb is such as good deal at the moment it's hard to believe this was the 2nd best performing card on the market just sitting behind the GTX280 last summer. I'm tempted to get one to replace my 8800GT but the Radeon DX11 cards are just around the corner it seems almost pointless getting one now.
  • 10 Hide
    Onus , July 21, 2009 1:15 PM
    How can Intel even SAY "Graphics Media Accelerator" and keep a straight face? Epic FAIL is right.
  • 6 Hide
    gxpbecker , July 21, 2009 1:26 PM
    newegg has 4850s in the $80-$90 range, I dont think you can beat that bang for your buck.. I am hoping this is a sign of the soon to come 5xxx series >=D

    Side note: Where is the 2009 CPU Chart BTW?????
  • 0 Hide
    xsamitt , July 21, 2009 1:57 PM
    Yes ...Just where is that chart?
  • 0 Hide
    eyemaster , July 21, 2009 2:13 PM
    Funny looking at the chart. I went from Rage 128, GE Force 256, X850 Pro, to my current card the x1950 pro AGP. Next card will probably be HD 4870 X2.

    I really don't upgrade often! :) 
  • -1 Hide
    thebatman , July 21, 2009 2:15 PM
    xsamittYes ...Just where is that chart?


    This. From this point on, this comment thread will now be about petitioning that toms updates the CPU chart.
  • -1 Hide
    gxpbecker , July 21, 2009 2:24 PM
    xsamittYes ...Just where is that chart?


    .. -1 for my observational skills
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