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The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: January 2008

The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: January 2008
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Detailed graphics card specifications and reviews are great - that is, if you have the time to do the research. But at the end of the day, what a gamer needs is the best graphics card within a certain budget.

So if you don't have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don't feel confident enough in your ability to make the right decision, fear not. We at Tom's Hardware Guide have come to your aid, with a simple list of the best gaming cards available for the money.

December Review And January Updates

Since our last article, the most notable card to be released was the Geforce 8800 GTS 512 MB Compare Prices on 512 MB GeForce 8800 Video Cards . Based on the new G92 GPU in the 8800 GT, but with 128 stream processors enabled, the new GTS is a match for the older 8800 GTX. However, with street prices in the $350 range, it's a tough sell over the 8800 GT 512 MB, which offers very similar performance for less.

A new 256 MB version of the 8800 GT was also added to Nvidia's lineup to compete against the 512 MB Radeon 3850 at the ~$210 price point. The memory deficit allows the 8800 GT to perform well against the 3850 at lower resolutions, but the 3850's 512 MB can help it pull ahead at higher resolutions and texture detail levels.

Other than these card introductions, things have remained relatively stable with prices holding their ground. The biggest issue was availability of Radeon 3850/3870 and Geforce 8800 GT cards, but things are starting to settle down as we enter 2008.

The Best Gaming Graphics Cards For The Money

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list include:

  • This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don't play games, the cards in this list are more expensive than you need.
  • Prices and availability changes on a daily basis. We can't offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information, but we can list some good cards that you probably won't regret buying at the price ranges we suggest.
  • The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or retail, your mileage will most certainly vary;.
  • These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list; they might be a good deal, but that's outside the scope of what we're trying to do.

PCI-Express Interface

Best PCI-E Card For Under $100

Radeon 2600 PRO
Codename: RV630
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 128
Texture Units: 8
ROPs: 4
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 500 (1000 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The 2600 PRO is one of those cards that receives very little press, but when you stop and have a hard look at it, you might see a diamond in the rough. While we were watching the prices of high-end cards, 2600 PRO prices dropped as low as $70 at online retailers. For that low price, you're essentially getting an underclocked 2600 XT, a solid baseline gaming card. If you do light gaming, or you can't afford any better, the 2600 PRO is a good choice.

This card's biggest competitor would be the better-performing 7600 GT. The 7600 GT is a good buy at the $90 price point, but that's so close to the $100 Radeon 2600 XT and Geforce 8600 GT that I find it difficult to recommend over the newer cards, which offer excellent HD video acceleration.

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