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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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