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Best PCIe Card: $350 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$370: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 4870 X2 (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 4870 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: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Two separate  Radeon HD 4870 cards in CrossFire are notably cheaper than a single Radeon HD 4870 X2, which is why that setup scored the recommendation. Having said that, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is a single card and is therefore viable for those of you with a single PCIe slot on your motherboard. For this reason, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 gets an honorable mention.


Best PCIe Card For ~$400:  Tie

Two Radeon HD 4890 cards in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

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

2 x Radeon HD 4890 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: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 975 (3,900 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Two Radeon HD 4890 cards should, on average, perform on par or better than a single GeForce GTX 295, and the Radeons cost less. If you have a CrossFire motherboard and want some serious high-resolution performance, this is the way to go.


Two GeForce GTX 275 card in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

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

2 x GeForce GTX 275 in SLI Configuration
Codename: GT200b
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 480 (2 x 240)
Texture Units: 160 (2 x 80)
ROPs: 56 (2 x 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

It's funny that we're recommending two GeForce GTX 275 cards in SLI over a single GeForce GTX 295, when you consider that each GeForce GTX 275 is essentially half of a GeForce GTX 295. Saving the $210 compared to the GeForce GTX 295 doesn't result in a performance penalty. If anything a pair of GeForce GTX 275s will display a slight performance edge due to their faster clock speeds.


Best PCIe Card For ~$510: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 295 (Check Prices)

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

GeForce GTX 295
Codename: 2 x GT200b
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 480 (2 x 240)
Texture Units: 160 (2 x 80)
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

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 with SLI-on-a-card is the most powerful single graphics card on the planet. Essentially two conjoined GeForce GTX 275 cards, the GeForce GTX 295 offers very notable gains over the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in the great majority of game titles. Even more impressive is that it does so while consuming less power than ATI's flagship card, which is no small feat.

To get more performance than what the GeForce GTX 295 offers, you'd have to look to extreme solutions such as multiple GeForce GTX 285s in SLI or Radeon HD 4870 X2s in CrossFire. But unless you have a 30" monitor, that would be a gratuitous waste of cash considering the small performance gains you'd get for spending a whole lot more money.

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