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Best PCIe Card: $400 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$420:

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 a very powerful combination when paired in CrossFire mode, and the same can be said for a couple of GeForce GTX 560 Tis in SLI. Either of these options perform a little better than a single GeForce GTX 580 or Radeon HD 5970. But since the Radeon HD 6870 is notably cheaper right now, this option takes the recommendation.

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$490: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 580 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

GeForce GTX 580
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 512
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 48
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 772 / 1544
Memory Speed MHz: 1002 (4008 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:244 W

The fastest graphics card with a single GPU, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 580 can challenge the dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970. The GeForce GTX 580 wins its share of battles against the previously undisputed king-of-the-hill. And while it's outperformed by dual-card solutions like Radeon HD 6870s in CrossFire and GeForce GTX 560s in SLI, it scores a well-deserved place on the honorable mention list.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 580 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$540:

2 x Radeon HD 6950 2 GB in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Excellent 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6950 1 GB in CrossFire
Codename: "Cayman"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2816 (2 x 1408)
Texture Units: 176 (2 x 88)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 800
Memory Speed MHz: 1250 (5000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:400 W (2 x 200 W)

Recent tests performed by our very own Thomas Soderstrom confirm that the Radeon HD 6900-series has vastly improved scaling performance in CrossFire compared to previous-generation boards. As such, a pair of these cards represents a realistic pinnacle for our recommendations. At $540, two Radeon HD 6950s will handily beat the GeForce GTX 580, and even come very close to catching the pricier Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6950 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$710: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 6990 (Check Prices)

Excellent 2560x1600 performance

Radeon HD 6990
Codename: "Cayman"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 3072 (2 x 1536)
Texture Units: 192 (2 x 96)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 830
Memory Speed MHz: 1250 (5000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:375 W

The Radeon HD 6990 was the undisputed fastest graphics card in the world for a few weeks, until the emergence of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 590. And it's not even like the Nvidia card stripped it of its title. These titans are forced to grudgingly share the title, as their performance is often too close to call a winner.

At about $700, neither of these options is cost effective, especially with a Radeon HD 6950 CrossFire setup nipping at their heels for far less dough. The Radeon HD 6990 might be overly loud, and the GeForce GTX 590 is very hard to actually find for sale right now, but both deserve an honorable mention for their prestigious position and indisputably high performance.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6990 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 590 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

GeForce GTX 590
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1024 (2 x 512)
Texture Units: 128 (2 x 64)
ROPs: 96 (2 x 48)
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 607 / 1215
Memory Speed MHz: 853 (3412 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:365 W

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 590 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

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  • 0 Hide
    chefboyeb , April 20, 2011 5:12 AM
    The HD6970s are still a great buy in my books... I'm glad i got me a pair...
  • 2 Hide
    burnley14 , April 20, 2011 5:45 AM
    It's not nearly the most exciting, but I always find the low end graphics updates the most interesting. I've never had to have the latest and greatest cards but it's interesting to see how much performance one can get for so cheap these days, and it's constantly improving with trickle-down.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 5:51 AM
    only 4 nvidia cards?
  • 3 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , April 20, 2011 6:18 AM
    so AMD cards are still better value despite people crying about drivers and stuttering and such. Just wondering if you guys at Toms have had any driver or stuttering issues?
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 7:28 AM
    Just a thought, but maybe you could add a plot graph of performance vs. price with various cards in it. I think a visual presentation would give a better understanding when comparing cards and special deals.
  • 1 Hide
    alikum , April 20, 2011 7:40 AM
    iam2thecroweso AMD cards are still better value despite people crying about drivers and stuttering and such. Just wondering if you guys at Toms have had any driver or stuttering issues?

    Well, I've also seen people crying with blue screen issues on nVidia's side. I own numerous nVidia and AMD cards whichever had the better value at point of purchase and I can say, these people who cry and whine represent only a small percentage of the market.

    Look, I'm not being bias on either side, but to say that the drivers from either company is perfect is absurd (again, not saying that you said so). Each company has its fair share of driver issues so don't let purchase be affected by drivers. More times than not, monitor calibration, games development and color profiles could be the root of issues.
  • 0 Hide
    unklg , April 20, 2011 8:28 AM
    what if a gtx460 768mb and hd5770 1024mb cost the same? which is better?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 9:01 AM
    best card for $420, article released on 4/20.. hmmm
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 9:03 AM
    ^obviously gtx460 768mb...
  • 0 Hide
    Sud099 , April 20, 2011 9:12 AM
    @unklg:o n that occasion no doubt gtx460 768mb would be the choice...
  • 1 Hide
    rainwilds , April 20, 2011 10:08 AM
    What's with the rating system? Is 'excellent' better than 'great'?
  • 0 Hide
    vaughn2k , April 20, 2011 10:08 AM
    Wow, my HD5770 is till there?
  • 0 Hide
    renz496 , April 20, 2011 10:26 AM
    lol. where did all GTX460 go? :lol: 
  • 0 Hide
    Rizlla , April 20, 2011 11:17 AM
    I'm still looking at a pair of those 6970's. So tempting.
  • 1 Hide
    ProDigit10 , April 20, 2011 12:52 PM
    I wish the graphic chips of arm powered devices could once be tested too!
    A lot of gear out there that has unknown GPU's, some of which are reasonably good for the job they perform.
  • 1 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , April 20, 2011 12:53 PM
    rizllaI'm still looking at a pair of those 6970's. So tempting.


    It was always a tie with the 6850, but all th 460s are $190 now while the 6850 is $165. Not worth a $25 price increase for te same performance
  • 1 Hide
    enzo matrix , April 20, 2011 12:55 PM
    What about the 6570? With it's overclocking potential, it is a no brainer over the 5670 for those who overclock.
  • 0 Hide
    enzo matrix , April 20, 2011 12:58 PM
    Quote:
    There's another reason to consider this model. Many folks have had luck modding this board into a fully-functional Radeon HD 6970 through a firmware update. If you can pull that off, the value of the 2 GB Radeon HD 6950 seems pretty clear.

    Not really. The 1GB version can still unlock the shaders. Then overclock to 6970 speeds and you achieve the same result.
  • 2 Hide
    colanusus , April 20, 2011 1:02 PM
    I believe it should be mentioned what is the setup and the details set for these benchmarks; i.e I currently own Q6600@3.2Ghz + 4GB 800Mhz DDR2 + GTX580 + 120GB Vertex 2 SSD; I can tell you that on 1920-1080 res it can not cope with 8xMSAA and ambient occlusion on high or other such details at max; So to me Excellent or Great means that you can play at a certain resolution with everything on MAX (including aliasing, transparency, ambient light, etc)
  • 1 Hide
    tony singh , April 20, 2011 1:22 PM
    Quote:
    I believe it should be mentioned what is the setup and the details set for these benchmarks; i.e I currently own Q6600@3.2Ghz + 4GB 800Mhz DDR2 + GTX580 + 120GB Vertex 2 SSD; I can tell you that on 1920-1080 res it can not cope with 8xMSAA and ambient occlusion on high or other such details at max; So to me Excellent or Great means that you can play at a certain resolution with everything on MAX (including aliasing, transparency, ambient light, etc)


    GTX580 with q6600 & 800Mhz DDR2 ???
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