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Best PCIe Card: $300 To $400

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: October 2011
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This month we're discussing the impact of recent pricing changes and mourning the loss of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 768 MB. It's also time to talk about some of the potential changes to the graphics card landscape in this final quarter of 2011.

Best PCIe Card For ~$325:

GeForce GTX 570 (Check Prices)

Excellent 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 570
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 480
Texture Units: 60
ROPs: 40
Memory Bus: 320-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 732 / 1464
Memory Speed MHz: 950 (3800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:219 W

The GeForce GTX 570 offers unmatched performance for $325, competing with the Radeon HD 6970 priced at $350. In many cases, both cards perform slightly slower than GeForce GTX 460 cards in SLI and Radeon HD 6850 cards in CrossFire, but they do so without the hassles associated with a multi-card rig (such as micro-stuttering).

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 570 for more information on this card and its underlying architecture.

Honorable Mention:
2 x Radeon HD 6850 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6850 in CrossFire
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1920 (2 x 960)
Texture Units: 96 (2 x 48)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:254 W (2 x 127 W)

We already know that two Radeon HD 6850s in CrossFire are fast. However, based on our recent exploration of micro-stuttering, there's a fair chance that enthusiasts sensitive to this phenomenon might not be satisfied with the way a pair of these cards behave. If you already know this doesn't affect you, then you're in the clear.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Honorable Mention:
2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance

2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI
Codename: GF104
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 672 (2 x 336)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 675 / 1350
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5

300 W (2 x 150 W)

Two GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards in SLI or Radeon HD 6850s in CrossFire beat down a single GeForce GTX 570 or Radeon HD 6970 most of the time. While the performance potential of these solutions is very high, keep in mind is that resolutions beyond 1080p may require more than 1 GB of on-board memory for unconstrained frame rates, especially when using high levels of anti-aliasing.

Again, both this pairing and the one above get dropped to honorable mentions as a result of our findings in Micro-Stuttering And GPU Scaling In CrossFire And SLI coverage.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$340: None

Honorable Mention:
2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2240 (2 x 1120)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 900
Memory Speed MHz: 1100 (4200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:302 W (2 x 151 W)

Two Radeon HD 6870 cards are also a very powerful combination when paired in CrossFire mode. Just keep in mind that, if you plan to combine resolutions higher than 1080p with high levels of anti-aliasing, you may want to consider boards with more than 1 GB of RAM, such as a pair of Radeon HD 6950 2 GB cards.

This solution is also being demoted to honorable mention status based on Micro-Stuttering And GPU Scaling In CrossFire And SLI.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6870 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    Zero_ , October 19, 2011 4:45 AM
    So, atleast AMD is winning the graphics war...
  • 13 Hide
    Martell77 , October 19, 2011 5:54 AM
    On Newegg the price difference between the 560ti and 6950 1gb is $20, until you add in the rebates, lowering the gap tp $10. Then you add in shipping: 560ti - $7.56, 6950 - Free. Gap closes to $2 for a faster (on average) card.

    That is probably why the 6950 gets the recommendation.
  • 12 Hide
    AbdullahG , October 19, 2011 5:04 AM
    I honestly think the HD 6750 is a great buy for under $100 (it's $99 on Newegg; from Diamond and HIS). Anyway, seems as though not a lot changes in the Best GPUs for the Money until prices drop. Then again, if it isn't broken, don't fix it.
Other Comments
  • 15 Hide
    Zero_ , October 19, 2011 4:45 AM
    So, atleast AMD is winning the graphics war...
  • 10 Hide
    wolfram23 , October 19, 2011 5:04 AM
    So... Southern Island and Kepler will be out when? :D 
  • 12 Hide
    AbdullahG , October 19, 2011 5:04 AM
    I honestly think the HD 6750 is a great buy for under $100 (it's $99 on Newegg; from Diamond and HIS). Anyway, seems as though not a lot changes in the Best GPUs for the Money until prices drop. Then again, if it isn't broken, don't fix it.
  • -6 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , October 19, 2011 5:30 AM
    Keep ignoring GTX 560 Ti much?
  • 1 Hide
    Pekish79 , October 19, 2011 5:39 AM
    I dont understand why at $220 you dont conside at all the GTX560ti

    it cost 20 dollar less then HD6950 1gb (20$ over 220 it's almost 10% less)

    and not only it's cooler use lot less power when idle is quieter


    according to this it's RARELY 10% slower and in few games is even faster
  • -5 Hide
    Pekish79 , October 19, 2011 5:40 AM

    i guess i cant put picture here is the url for my previous post
  • 13 Hide
    Martell77 , October 19, 2011 5:54 AM
    On Newegg the price difference between the 560ti and 6950 1gb is $20, until you add in the rebates, lowering the gap tp $10. Then you add in shipping: 560ti - $7.56, 6950 - Free. Gap closes to $2 for a faster (on average) card.

    That is probably why the 6950 gets the recommendation.
  • 0 Hide
    Darkerson , October 19, 2011 6:27 AM
    Thanks for the updated list! Been starting to plan out my upgrades for tax time, and some new cards to shake things up a little would be nice. Shouldnt be too much longer, hopefully.
  • -3 Hide
    kyuuketsuki , October 19, 2011 6:29 AM
    So... you just released an article stating there's zero advantage to getting a (single) 6950 2GB. Yet you still give it a recommendation. Wat.
  • 7 Hide
    kyuuketsuki , October 19, 2011 6:30 AM
    KyuuketsukiSo... you just released an article stating there's zero advantage to getting a (single) 6950 2GB. Yet you still give it a recommendation. Wat.

    For clarification: zero advantage relative to a single 6950 1GB.
  • -2 Hide
    Lunarion , October 19, 2011 7:09 AM
    Yeah there appears to be no gtx 560ti love.
  • 1 Hide
    felduque , October 19, 2011 7:57 AM
    Agree with the lack of 560. I own both a 6950 and a 560. They,re very similar in performance but the 560 is a few inches shorter so it fits nicely in my media center. the 6950 is on my gaming PC. At the very least the 560 should get an honorable mention or more appropriately a tie.
  • 1 Hide
    de5_Roy , October 19, 2011 8:04 AM
    nice article. good to see ati amd rocking the charts.
    with similar max tdp, radeon hd 6870 is a far better card than radeon 6790. and one can get an hd 6850(lower max tdp than 6790) or a geforce gtx 460 1gb for a new bucks more.
    waiting for southern island cards to get released.:) 
  • 1 Hide
    gio2vanni86 , October 19, 2011 9:00 AM
    I'm still glad the 580GTX is still considered the fastest single GPU. That makes me glad i bought it 5 months ago =D I could do Sli but Sli never showed me amazing FPS with my 9800GTX+ setup so i will stick with this till the new king is released =D.
  • 0 Hide
    stereopsis , October 19, 2011 9:04 AM
    I am hoping the Radeon 7000s will be PCI-e 3.0 enabled.
  • 1 Hide
    DSpider , October 19, 2011 9:41 AM
    stereopsisI am hoping the Radeon 7000s will be PCI-e 3.0 enabled.

    Maybe the high-end ones. Hmmm... Have the HD69XX tapped out PCIe x16 2.0 yet? Because I remember a HD 5870 benchmark (remember that 6870 was a 5850 upgrade, not 5870's successor like the name would imply), where it ran on x16, x8 and x4 slots at various resolutions - meaning the x8 would be the equivalent of PCIe x16 1.0 (half the bandwidth).

    The difference? ~1%, 2% tops.

    So if they release something that fits in the hierarchy chart lower than a HD 5870 (or GTX 470, GTX 560 Ti)... it would be pretty much pointless to release it on PCIe x16 3.0. Anyway, I would stay away from the first generation PCIe x16 3.0 cards.
  • 5 Hide
    vaughn2k , October 19, 2011 12:00 PM
    My HD5770 is still there! 10 straight months!
  • 1 Hide
    billybobser , October 19, 2011 12:14 PM
    pretty much and AMD clean sweep.

    Disappointing really, we need some real competition from nvidia to keep em honest xD
  • 2 Hide
    billybobser , October 19, 2011 12:20 PM
    as an added note, it's still interesting to see my 4870x2 still kicking it up there.

    I picked one up second hand for under £100
  • 2 Hide
    nerrawg , October 19, 2011 12:30 PM
    For gaming at 1080p the 6870 really appears to be the sweet spot. You pay $15 for a 5-10% increase in performance over the 6850 (sometimes better). Going up to the 6950 1gb the increase is a shocking $80! From what I have seen of benches there is only 10% in it in terms of performance, so you are paying a hefty premium for that larger, hotter, more power consuming chip. Don't understand how this is justified really, other than that it probably costs AMD a lot more to make the silicon, it certainly isn't good value for the consumer, $80 for an extra 10%!? To me it looks like poor marketing, either the 6870 should be more expensive ($200) or the 6950 should be cheaper, obviously as a consumer I would prefer the latter.
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