Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November '09

Best PCIe Card: Under $75

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For ~$50:

Radeon HD 4650 (Check Prices)

Great 1280x1024 performance in most games, 1680x1050 with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4650 DDR3
Codename: RV730
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 400 (800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

When you slide in under the $50 price point, you will not find a card that packs more punch than ATI's Radeon HD 4650. With solid stock performance and an overclockable GPU, this card is an excellent starting point for our recommendations, and a wholly worthwhile upgrade if you're currently stuck using a motherboard with integrated graphics.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For ~$65:  Tie

Radeon HD 4670 (Check Prices)

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4670
Codename: RV730
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (4,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

The Radeon HD 4670 continues to retain the distinction by being the most powerful reference card that doesn't require a dedicated power connector. Performance is excellent and power usage is very low, making this product an impressive performer all-around. Its accelerated clock rates and modestly-higher price tag are worth considering if you originally had your eye on the Radeon HD 4650.

GeForce 9600 GSO (Check Prices)

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

GeForce 9600 GSO
Codename: G94
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 48
Texture Units: 48
ROPs: 12
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 550/1375
Memory Speed MHz: 800 (1,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

This is another card that seems to be getting harder to find, in terms of availability. Nevertheless, the GeForce 9600 GSO is a powerful competitor when you compare it to the Radeon HD 4670. While the GeForce requires a dedicated PCIe power connector to supply more juice than the Radeon, it does offer better performance in some situations.

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    Top Comments
  • dirtmountain
    The 2 monthly articles by Mr. Woligroski (Best Graphic Cards for the Money and Best Gaming CPUs for the Money) are some of the best and most informative articles here at THW and should be required reading for anyone posting questions about a new gaming build or an gaming upgrade.
    14
  • Other Comments
  • wintermint
    Ahh the article finally came out :D
    7
  • dirtmountain
    The 2 monthly articles by Mr. Woligroski (Best Graphic Cards for the Money and Best Gaming CPUs for the Money) are some of the best and most informative articles here at THW and should be required reading for anyone posting questions about a new gaming build or an gaming upgrade.
    14
  • Onyx2291
    Finally another! Was wondering when it'd come out. November is a good month to take a look at this.
    2
  • liquidsnake718
    A year and a half ago when I upgraded my 8800gt to a 9800gtx+ that card was considered one of the best and most efficient at a pricing/preformance standpoint. Now that card or any of its counterparts are nowhere to be seen..... Good job Ati for putting out the dismal 4850.....
    -7
  • noob2222
    would also be noteworthy to mention that the 58xx cards can be xfired for even better futureproofing. Honorable mention at 5850 290, recommended at $580 imo since its considerably faster than the 295 for $120 extra.
    0
  • avatar_raq
    It makes sense to put the 5800 cards as honorable mentions, after all they are extremely hard to find online..I'm waiting to see their performance in DX11 games, probably I'll wait for the 2Gb version of 5870.
    1
  • Anonymous
    Isn't the 8600M GT a mobile variant?
    -4
  • Anonymous
    To Nivdia.

    ATI
    .....
    .......
    .........
    ...........
    .............
    ..
    ..

    Merry Xmas from ATI, 2009
    0
  • coonday
    Honorable mentions are lame.
    -6
  • eddieroolz
    Thanks for the great article as usual! This time around it was more fun to read than the other times for some reason.

    I also caught one typo in the hiearchy chart: HD 485?
    0
  • Samamba
    Typo in last page
    Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 485, HD 5750

    **HD 4850**
    0
  • manwell999
    September's hierarchy had the GTX295 one level above the 4870x2, this month they are on the same level.
    1
  • xizel
    typo also in last page third tear mistake on the 4890
    Discrete: HD 4870, HD 489, HD 5770
    1
  • skora
    Great article again. The ever changing GPU market keeps us on our toes.

    Is there any merrit to suggesting CF setups with the note of minimum PCIe lanes? I know once you get into the boards that really start to saturate the lanes, you're in a budget that shouldn't be using x8/x8, but it might be worth noting when that happens.

    Typo?
    The 9600GSO is listed with a 256bit memory bandwidth. Never seen anything higher than 192.
    0
  • coconutboy
    Hey Don, question/comment. It's great to have mobile and integrated chipsets added to the hierarchy chart, but the huge amount of added text saying "discrete" makes things less readable. I think a good compromise would be to have a note at the top or bottom of the chart saying that all parts listed are assumed to be discrete unless otherwise noted. This will have the added benefit of making it easier to spot the mobile/integrated chipsets for those who are actually interested.
    3
  • donovands
    Ok, how likely is it that we'll be seeing exclusive DX11 games anytime in the next five years? The 5800 series gets a mention here because of their DirectX11 compatibility as 'Futureproofing'. I strongly suspect that even if games are released with DX11 support, they will run just fine on 9 and 10. That being said, we're probably better off with a pair of 4890's rather than a single 5870.
    -6
  • donovands
    4890 x2 not on the list. Should be tier 1.
    -9
  • Zenthar
    I'd like to point out that for really high resolution like 2560x1600, the limited 512MB of the 4870 in crossfire could be a limiting factor. Then again, if you were planning on spending only 250$ on a card to play at that resolution, you might be delusional :P.
    1
  • Zenthar
    donovands4890 x2 not on the list. Should be tier 1.

    The chart only include single cards, the X2 presents are for dual-GPU cards. Since there is no dual-gpu card based on the 4890, it isn't present. But if you are eager to see ATI on top, wait for the 5970 (aka 5870X2 ;)).
    2
  • cleeve
    manwell999September's hierarchy had the GTX295 one level above the 4870x2, this month they are on the same level.


    You noticed that, huh? :)

    Yes, I went and ran a ton of cuurent results through a spreadsheet. To my surprise, there was less than a 5% performance spread between the 295 and the 4870 X2. Looks like ATI's drivers have pushed the card in the past months, or maybe I just assumed a bigger performance spread between the two cards. In any case, I tweaked the heirarchy to reflect that.

    The sad part is, based on availability it looks like the 4870 X2 is being end-of-lined. :(
    0