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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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