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Best PCIe Card: $110 To $180

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: December 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$110:

Radeon HD 5770/6770 (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games, some with lowered detail

Radeon HD 5770/6770
Codename: RV840 "Juniper"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1200 (4800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:108 W

The Radeon HD 5770 (also available re-badged as the Radeon HD 6770, with the added bonus of Blu-ray 3D decode support) is an extremely attractive $110 option, offering a worthwhile upgrade beyond the similarly-priced Radeon HD 6750 and GeForce GTS 450. This card is one of our price/performance favorites. And, with Radeon HD 4870-class performance, it's an excellent starting point for the mainstream gamer.

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$130:

Radeon HD 6790 (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games, some with lowered detail

Radeon HD 6790
Codename: Barts LE
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 840
Memory Speed MHz: 1050 (4200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:150 W

AMD's Radeon HD 6790 delivers DirectX 11 support, multi-display connectivity via Eyefinity, and HD audio bitstreaming capabilities in a modestly-priced gaming card. It runs circles around the similarly-priced GeForce GTX 550 Ti, and now that the GeForce GTX 460 768 MB is missing in action we're giving the sole recommendation to AMD's solution. This would have been a shared honor previously.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6790 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For $170:

Radeon HD 6850 (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 6850
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 960
Texture Units: 48
ROPs: 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:127 W

AMD's Radeon HD 6850 proved to be a worthy adversary against the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB, and the AMD card's aggressive MSRP forced Nvidia to drop its own suggested pricing in order to stay competitive. As a result, PC gamers win with exceptional performance at prices well under $200.

Both cards offer DirectX 11 support and HD audio bitstreaming capabilities. The main differentiators are Eyefinity multi-monitor support favoring the Radeon card, while the GeForce board has access to Nvidia's 3D Vision infrastructure that includes 3D gaming and Blu-ray 3D support. It should be noted that the Radeon HD 6800 series' list of compatible stereoscopic devices is growing. However, it's nowhere near as large as Nvidia's. Only time will tell if AMD's 3D brand can gain the partner support it requires to serve as a notable feature.

At the moment, AMD's Radeon HD 6850 garners the sole recommendation, as the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB is priced too close to the more powerful GeForce GTX 560 and Radeon HD 6870.

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

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