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Best PCIe Card: $390 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: September '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$390:

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

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x Radeon HD 4890 in CrossFire Configuration
Codename: 2 x RV770
Process: 55nm
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 performance at high resolutions, this is the way to go.

Best PCIe Card For ~$430: None

Honorable Mention: Two GeForce GTX 275 cards in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x GeForce GTX 275 in SLI Configuration
Codename: GT200b
Process: 55nm
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

Once again, if your motherboard only supports SLI, the Radeon cards are not an option. You'll have to spend a little more, but a pair of GeForce GTX 275 cards paired up will perform similarly to a pair of Radeon HD 4890 cards in CrossFire.

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 $100 compared to the GeForce GTX 295 doesn't result in a performance penalty, though. If anything, a pair of GeForce GTX 275s will display a slight performance edge due to their faster clock speeds.

Best PCIe Card For ~$470: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 295 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 295
Codename: 2 x GT200b
Process: 55nm
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 (no small feat).

To get more performance than what Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 brings to the table, you'd have to look at 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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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    doomtomb , September 10, 2009 6:37 AM
    I agree, a good article but really there is nothing new to report. The graphics card market has been very stagnant for the past year... We want 5XXX and 3XX series please.
  • 21 Hide
    dirtmountain , September 10, 2009 6:29 AM
    Still the best monthly feature here at Tom's and the hierarchy chart is a great reference list. As always a great job.
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    dirtmountain , September 10, 2009 6:29 AM
    Still the best monthly feature here at Tom's and the hierarchy chart is a great reference list. As always a great job.
  • 21 Hide
    doomtomb , September 10, 2009 6:37 AM
    I agree, a good article but really there is nothing new to report. The graphics card market has been very stagnant for the past year... We want 5XXX and 3XX series please.
  • 7 Hide
    drealar , September 10, 2009 6:43 AM
    I have always browse through first 3 pages and the hierarchy page ONLY :D  Yeah call me cheapskate :p  Oh well I'm always on a budget for everything.

    Anyway was it last month or earlier did Tom's update the hierarchy chart with 'discrete','integrated','mobile' tags?
    Didn't notice it till today, and I found it very useful for quick lookup.
  • 2 Hide
    haplo602 , September 10, 2009 6:49 AM
    adding the best price listings just hit you in the face ... 9600GT 129.99$ :-) talk about cheap cards ...
  • 5 Hide
    Proximon , September 10, 2009 7:01 AM
    GTX 260 is out of the picture I see. I had to go check prices for myself and sure enough NVidia seems to be having trouble competing. Hopefully they'll have something going by next month.
  • 0 Hide
    dirtmountain , September 10, 2009 7:35 AM
    There's only a few games where i'd pop for the extra $20 or $30 for a Nvidia card right now, and only for the games (WoW is one) where Nvidia has a large edge.
  • 1 Hide
    anamaniac , September 10, 2009 7:37 AM
    Just waiting for the 5xxx already...
    My main concern.. What will the power consuption of the 5870 be?
    Will I need a new PSU just to use one, nevermind crossfire?

    I bought a 4870 1GB, but I regret not getting a 4890. =/

    Is it me, or, other than a few prices, this chart hasn't changed in a long long time? (excluding 4770)
  • -2 Hide
    dragoon190 , September 10, 2009 7:43 AM
    The lower part of the hierarchy chart looks messy...

    Are they really offering that many varieties of mobile graphic cards out on the market at the moment?
  • 7 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 10, 2009 8:27 AM
    @ Cleeve : Two things :

    1) page 1 : "The flagship will of course would be the Radeon HD 5870 X2" not brillaintly written.

    2) Are you sure all those dual card setups with 512mb memory are actually a good recommendation? I know you're recommending them every month, but still. Even my single 4870 is appearently more often limited by its 512 memory than it is by computation power - and crossfire only adds computation power. Sure it'll add more fps in most games, but as you often point out yourself, the improvement is only relevant if it's improving the gameplay experience.
  • 1 Hide
    maulataur1 , September 10, 2009 8:28 AM
    I found an XFX 4870x2 for $299 at mwave.com about a month ago. I wasn't looking for a new card but I immediately purchased it when I saw it. Replaced my 8800GT.
  • -1 Hide
    knekker , September 10, 2009 8:44 AM
    what do they mean with Discrete, when they write "Discrete: HD 4850 X2" any able to enlighten me?
  • 2 Hide
    IronRyan21 , September 10, 2009 9:01 AM
    knekkerwhat do they mean with Discrete, when they write "Discrete: HD 4850 X2" any able to enlighten me?


    Discrete: Separate; distinct; individual; Non-continuous. All Video Cards are discrete. The only video that isn't, is called "integrated" graphics, like Intel GMA. Some Mobos have Integrated, some dont. Integrated is built in with the mobo and already has a VGA or DVI port.
  • -1 Hide
    micky_lund , September 10, 2009 9:55 AM
    ok i have a question....where it always says "cards in SLI offer advantages in titles that run better with Nvidia's GT200 architecture" , what games actually run better for Nvidia ? and what games are favored for ATi

    any help...
    MICK
  • 1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 10, 2009 10:17 AM
    micky_lundok i have a question....where it always says "cards in SLI offer advantages in titles that run better with Nvidia's GT200 architecture" , what games actually run better for Nvidia ? and what games are favored for ATi any help...MICK

    Check out the i5 platform comparison by Chris. That clearly sais that, at least in the games they tested, sli scales a lot better than cf. Ofc. most ati cards perform better than nvidia ones (taking price into account), but they don't scale as well.
    Typical scaling for sli I'd say would be around 30-50% more performance (ie 130-150% of single card performance), and for cf it's often more like 20-40% or something. It's highly dependant on the game, resolution and driver though, so it's like impossible to say. In genenral games with the 'nvidia' logo in the intro are supposed to work better with sli than cf, but even that isn't always the case.
  • -1 Hide
    masterjaw , September 10, 2009 10:40 AM
    Nice article. Still no big news since the release of the ATI 4800 series, just miniature price adjustments.
  • -2 Hide
    mikepaul , September 10, 2009 12:34 PM
    I think there should be a new user category for GPU apps like BadaBoom: Crunchers. Like Gamers, they want a GPU that screams through whatever they throw at it. Rating new video cards on the apps they run will be easier when the universal GPU API eventually launches, but knowing how well the existing card-specific apps work will help some of us out...
  • 0 Hide
    theubersmurf , September 10, 2009 1:02 PM
    I can't understand why you couldn't have waited a pair of days for the new radeons to be released so that they could be included in your review (should they make the cut).
  • -2 Hide
    grimrod518 , September 10, 2009 1:29 PM
    I am curious as to why there has been no listing for 8800GT 512MB SLI on the performance charts in a long time. I have 1 rig with 2 of those oldies but goodies and am curious as to where they stack up so I can determine if it's time to replace them
  • 3 Hide
    streak , September 10, 2009 2:38 PM
    I'm still amazed the venerable 8800GTX sits so high up in the hierarchy chart after almost three years. It has served me very well and despite the excellent pricing over the past several months on some great cards like the 4870 and GTX 260, it just hasn't been worth the money to get an incremental upgrade when the next generation of cards is rapidly approaching. Crossing my fingers that the upcoming wave of DX11 cards from AMD and Nvidia will be as impressive as the 8800GTX was when it was first released.
  • -1 Hide
    eyemaster , September 10, 2009 2:41 PM
    I don't want to feel bad for buying the MSI OC ATI 4890 card. Once it's bellow 200$ CAN, I'll buy a 2nd one and Crossfire them... For now, CnC3 is running quite well on that! :D  he he

    I need new games!
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