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Best PCIe Card: $175 To $300

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$195: Tie

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance in most games, 2560x1600 in most titles (some with lowered detail)

Radeon HD 4890 (Check Prices)

Radeon HD 4890
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 975 (3,900 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

The Radeon HD 4890 is essentially an overclocked Radeon HD 4870 on a tweaked die that allows for much greater overclocking headroom. However, it's probably not worth the $45 price premium over the Radeon HD 4870 unless you plan to overclock it.


GeForce GTX 275 (Check Prices)

GeForce GTX 275
Codename: GT200b
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 240
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 28
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core Speed MHz: 633
Memory Speed MHz: 1,134 (2,268 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

The GeForce GTX 275 performs neck-and-neck with the Radeon HD 4890, although it doesn't have the same overclocking headroom. It's still a powerful card though, and while most GeForce GTX 275s tend to be more expensive, we did manage to find one at Newegg for under $200.


Best PCIe Card For ~$220: 

Radeon HD 4850 X2 2 GB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most games with some lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 X2 2 GB
Codename: 2 x RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600 (2 x 800)
Texture Units: 80 (2 x 40)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 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

The Radeon HD 4850 X2 is essentially two Radeon HD 4850s in CrossFire mode on a single card, and it will beat the more expensive GeForce GTX 280. It will even put the hurt on the new, more expensive GeForce GTX 285.

The Radeon HD 4850 X2 2 GB card remains cheaper than a pair of 1 GB Radeon HD 4850s in CrossFire, which is a little surprising. The single Radeon HD 4850 X2 card can be used with any PCIe motherboard, as well.


Best PCIe Card For ~$260-$310: Tie

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance in most games, 2560x1600 in most titles (some with lowered detail)

Two Radeon HD 4870 cards in CrossFire configuration  (Check Prices)

Two Radeon HD 4870 in CrossFire Configuration
Codename: 2 x RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600 (2 x 800)
Texture Units: 80 (2 x 40)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 16)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Two Radeon HD 4870 cards are a powerful combination, especially when equipped with gobs of memory. However, with the price of a Radeon HD 4870 X2 at $370, we now recommend two Radeon HD 4870 cards in CrossFire mode to save the cash. You can spend as little as $260 on two 512 MB cards, or spend $300 and go all out with the 1 GB cards. Just make sure you have a CrossFire-compatible motherboard and a good power supply in order to use them.


Two GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216) cards in SLI configuration (Check Prices)

Two GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216) cards in SLI Configuration
Codename: 2 x GT200
Process: 55/65 nm
Universal Shaders: 432 (2 x 216)
Texture Units: 144 (2 x 72)
ROPs: 56 (2 x 28)
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core Speed MHz: 576
Memory Speed MHz: 999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

If you have an SLI-only motherboard your options are limited - you will be spending the full $310 because there is no $130 GeForce GTX 260 available. For that price you will get a pair of very powerful graphics cards, however. As we noted with the single-card recommendations, two GeForce GTX 260 cards in SLI offer advantages in titles that run better with the GeForce GT200 architecture.  As with the single cards, we recommend the newer Core 216 versions, thanks to the similar price and enhanced performance.

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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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