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PCI-Express Interface

The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: March 2008
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Best PCI-E Card For Under $100: Special Mention

Radeon X1950 PRO
Codename RV570
Process 90 nm
Pixel Shaders 36
Vertex Shaders 8
Texture Units 12
ROPs 12
Memory Bus 256 bit
Core Speed MHz 575
Memory Speed MHz 690 (1380 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 9.0c / SM 3.0

I've seen the Jetway X1950 PRO on Newegg for $90: this is an incredible price for a solid card. The rest of the X1950 PROs are in the $170 range right now, so $90 it's the best deal I've seen in a very long time. It's probably not going to last for long, but it's important enough to mention - once they're gone, the best you can do is the Radeon 2600 XT or Geforce 8600 GT GDDR3 listed below.

Best PCI-E Card For Under $100: Tie

Radeon HD 2600 XT
Codename RV630
Process 65 nm
Universal Shaders 128
Texture Units 8
ROPs 4
Memory Bus 128 bit
Core Speed MHz 800
Memory Speed MHz 700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The performance of the 2600 XT is very close to that of the GeForce 8600 GT, but the 2600 XT has a performance edge when antialiasing is disabled. Although the GeForce seems to lead when antialiasing is turned on, it's not much of a real-world advantage, since neither card can effectively use 4x AA beyond 1024x768.

GeForce 8600 GT
Codename G84
Process 80 nm
Universal Shaders 32
Texture Units 16
ROPs 8
Memory Bus 128 bit
Core Speed MHz 540
Memory Speed MHz 700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The 8600 GT was a terrible buy at $150, but now that it's under the $100 price point, it is much more attractive. The 8600 GT will slightly beat the old 7600 GT and X1650 XT in raw performance in the sub-$100 price category. In addition to speed, the 8600 GT has the added bonus of being DirectX 10 compatible, as well as being a good overclocker.

NOTE: Avoid the DDR2 versions of the 8600 GT! The GDDR3 versions are the recommended cards, DDR2 equipped 8600 GTs will be notably slower.

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