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Best PCIe Card: ~$150 To $300

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: January 2010
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Best PCIe Card For ~$155:

Radeon HD 5770 (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5770
Codename: RV840 "Juniper"
Process: 40nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1,200 (4,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

While the new Radeon HD 5770 isn't any faster than its older Radeon HD 4870 cousin (we've found that it's even slightly slower in many instances), it does have something the Radeon HD 4870 doesn't have: full DirectX 11 and Eyefinity support. Indeed, while the Radeon HD 5770 doesn't run away with any performance crowns in this category, it does look good from a longevity/value standpoint.

Perhaps more importantly, at the $155 price point there is nothing to compete against it, now that the Radeon HD 4870 is gone and the GeForce GTX 260 is suffering from rising prices.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5770 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$200:

Radeon HD 4890 (Check Prices)

Excellent 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4890
Codename: RV790
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 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

The Radeon HD 4890 is essentially an overclocked Radeon HD 4870. However, the tweaks that AMD made to the newer RV790 die result in higher overclocking headroom. At stock speeds, this card is worth the $200. But to get the most out of it, some overclocking is in order. And now that the prices on Radeon HD 5850 cards are through the roof, there's not much between this board and ATI's next-fastest solution.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 4890 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$250: Tie

2 x GeForce GTS 250 1GB in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

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

2 x GeForce GTS 250 1GB in SLI Configuration
Codename: 2 x G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 256 (2 x 128)
Texture Units: 128 (2 x 64)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 16)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 738 / 1,836
Memory Speed MHz: 1,100 (2,200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

Two GeForce GTS 250 cards in SLI pack a punch and make a strong case for multi-card setups. These GeForce cards are an excellent choice for sub-$300 brute force power, especially if you want to run a favorite game with PhsyX or in a GeForce 3D Vision configuration, both of which need the extra graphics horsepower.

2 x Radeon HD 4850 1GB in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 4850 1GB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55nm
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

Two Radeon HD 4850s in CrossFire continue to offer a combination of high performance and reasonably low cost, making them a good choice for a gaming enthusiast on a budget.

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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    shubham1401 , January 11, 2010 5:22 AM
    Nice article as usual.

    Nvidia has nothing to compete after GTS 250.

    Though I like that they call 9800GT LEGENDARY.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , January 11, 2010 12:00 PM
    Notty = absolute tool. He is logging on his forum alts and giving people thumbs down. Randomizer caught him logging on forum alts last night too.

    IP ban this sad tool please.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , January 11, 2010 11:42 AM
    You're an idiot notty, the 5850 is at least 20% and more like 30-40% faster than the gtx280. The gtx295 is about 5-10% faster than the 5870 in selected titles.
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    shubham1401 , January 11, 2010 5:22 AM
    Nice article as usual.

    Nvidia has nothing to compete after GTS 250.

    Though I like that they call 9800GT LEGENDARY.
  • 7 Hide
    WheelsOfConfusion , January 11, 2010 5:52 AM
    The "Best PCIe Card For ~$155" says it's a Tie, but only lists the 5770.
  • 5 Hide
    The Lady Slayer , January 11, 2010 6:03 AM
    Australians might be interested to know that MSY have backstock of 512Mb 4850s that they're clearing out at
  • 5 Hide
    The Lady Slayer , January 11, 2010 6:04 AM
    ...clearing out at under $90 per card.
  • 0 Hide
    skora , January 11, 2010 6:23 AM
    Have you done any benchmarking of the 5770 in CF? Seems like the low 128bit bus might stifle performance too much if trying to run it hard at 1920 or at all at 2560.

    Great article, thanks for keeping this updated every few months!
  • 3 Hide
    skora , January 11, 2010 6:25 AM
    Also, at the $145 price point, you state the 5750, but the label for the spec chart says 5770. The specs are for the 5750 though.
  • -2 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 11, 2010 6:29 AM
    Not much new since last year really. Except availability changes.

    How much slower are two 4870-512 cards in cf in comparison to two 4790-1gb cards ? Do the 512mb memory in general hinder them @ 1680 or 1920 ? (the 'how much vram yada yada' article doesn't deal with cf far as I remember)
  • -1 Hide
    zinabas , January 11, 2010 7:05 AM
    I can tell you that a 4850 512mb can get slowed down on memory hungry games all the down at 1280x960. Oblivion would be my case and point. (Texture packs do that for those of you wondering.)
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , January 11, 2010 8:19 AM
    Nice article but the Heirarchy chart at the end is screwed up badly. If you are going to pretend the 5850 is the same speed as a gtx280 (seriously now), then at least pretend the 5870 is the same as the gtx295.

    I can assure you the 5870 is a lot closer to the gtx295 than either the gtx280 or gtx285 is to the 5850.

    Either give the 5850 it's own level in the chart or move the 5870 into the gtx295/4870x2 position please. The gtx280 should also be moved down a notch from the 4850x2/gtx285 I feel.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 11, 2010 8:51 AM
    I wonder what Fermi will do to this chart in the near future? Hopefully we'll see some ATI 5870 price cuts and we'll all be happy, only time can tell since we have no real information =(
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , January 11, 2010 8:55 AM
    Heh, I have 8800GT (G92 chip). I can't believe it's been more than two years since I bought it and it's still a competitive piece of hardware (both 9800GT and GTS 250 are essentially the same card).
  • 9 Hide
    shubham1401 , January 11, 2010 9:20 AM
    Quote:
    Heh, I have 8800GT (G92 chip). I can't believe it's been more than two years since I bought it and it's still a competitive piece of hardware (both 9800GT and GTS 250 are essentially the same card).



    Both 9800Gt and GTS250 are very different cards.
    GTS 250 is faster.

    You should say 8800GT and 9800GT are essentially the same cards. :sarcastic: 
  • 3 Hide
    AMW1011 , January 11, 2010 9:41 AM
    The same thing, the GTX 295 has no place in the market and the "notable gains" you speak of are not very notable at all.

    The GTX 295 has no place between the 5870, 5970, and 5850 crossfire.

    Also the 5870 is a far better deal than 2 4890s, Tom's seems to completely ignore the benefits of a single card over a dual solution:

    1. Higher minimum FPS = the single card tends to be smoother.
    2. Less bugs and glitches from SLI or CFX
    3. Much more linear scaling instead of SLI and CFX being all over the place at times.
    4. That whole cooler running and less power consumption can mean much better overclocking.
    5. Since the 5xxx series is new you CANNOT ignore that they will get better with time with driver improvements, the GTX 280 went from being beaten by the 9800 GX2 to tying with it and coming out on top at times with driver improvements, however the GTX 2xx and 4xxx series are at their peaks.
  • -1 Hide
    Efrayim , January 11, 2010 9:57 AM
    Thank you guys for taking the time and doing this! Great articulate as always.
  • 3 Hide
    Efrayim , January 11, 2010 9:59 AM
    Article*
  • 1 Hide
    leon2006 , January 11, 2010 11:16 AM
    It's still good to hold on to existing CF 4890.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , January 11, 2010 11:42 AM
    You're an idiot notty, the 5850 is at least 20% and more like 30-40% faster than the gtx280. The gtx295 is about 5-10% faster than the 5870 in selected titles.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , January 11, 2010 12:00 PM
    Notty = absolute tool. He is logging on his forum alts and giving people thumbs down. Randomizer caught him logging on forum alts last night too.

    IP ban this sad tool please.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 11, 2010 12:07 PM
    psycho sykesThe said article deal with it as it's known that CF/SLi don't double memory.

    No it doesn't deal with it!
    You know cf doesn't doublt vram. Good! That's EXACTLY my point.
    The article concludes that 512mb is enough for most cases. But the article doesn't deal with CF, and therefor does not deal with the effect of doubling the performance - which enables higher resolutions and more AA. 512mb is enough for 1680x1050 and 4xAA - fine - but what if you were to run at 1920x1280 with 8xAA and 16xAF ? Would 512mb still suffice in AFR mode on modern games? There's so much texture data these days that I'm not sure it does.
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