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Best PCIe Card: $100 And Under

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: January 2011

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For Under $50:

Radeon HD 4650 (Check Prices)

Great 1280x1024 performance in most games, 1680x1050 with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4650
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 400 (800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1
Max TDP:
48 W

I'm resurrecting this one for budget-minded gamers, as all of the other worthwhile cards cost $65 and above (far too close to the powerful Radeon HD 5670).

You will not find a card that packs more punch than AMD's Radeon HD 4650 at the alluring $50 price point. With solid stock performance and an overclockable GPU, this card is an excellent baseline for our list of recommendations, and a wholly worthwhile upgrade if you're currently stuck using a motherboard limited to integrated graphics.

Now that we've seen Intel's Sandy Bridge-based desktop lineup, we know that the on-die HD Graphics 2000 implementation present on most desktop SKUs is barely able to beat previous-generation integrated graphics. The entry-level discrete market is fairly safe for the time being, it seems.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For $60:

Radeon HD 4670 (Check Prices)

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4670
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (2000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1
Max TDP:59 W

If you can find it for $60, the Radeon HD 4670 is a good upgrade over the 4650, its faster memory bringing performance up to Radeon HD 5570 levels (and maybe even a tad better in some cases).

These cards can be found for this price if you do some digging, but don't pay more than $65 for one because the vastly superior Radeon HD 5670 can be found for $80. If you can afford the upgrade, jump straight to the Radeon HD 5670.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For $80:

Radeon HD 5670 (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 5670
Codename: RV830
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 400
Texture Units: 20
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz:   1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:61 W

The Radeon HD 5670 is the most powerful card you can buy that doesn't require an auxiliary PCIe power cable.

This card offers DirectX 11 compatibility, along with all of the other Radeon HD 5000-series features, such as multi-display support and high-def audio bitstreaming. Folks planning to buy one for a budget triple-monitor Eyefinity setup need to pay attention, as some manufacturers don't include the DisplayPort output needed to use three monitors simultaneously.

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  • 0 Hide
    joelmartinez , January 7, 2011 4:31 AM
    Dual 6950s would be the most I would spend
  • 2 Hide
    mattmock , January 7, 2011 4:33 AM
    I would really love for the GTX 570 to drop to about $275. I am ready to upgrade from my current GTX 260 SLI set-up and I really want to double my fps for about $500 total, but it will probably be another 4-6 months before that is possible.
  • 0 Hide
    duk3 , January 7, 2011 4:47 AM
    You still have the dual 6870 and dual 470 from last month as a tie on this month's winner the dual 6870s.
  • 7 Hide
    rmmil978 , January 7, 2011 5:09 AM
    Best value for the money is obviously the Radeon 6950, unlocked to a 6970.
  • 3 Hide
    geniusreddy , January 7, 2011 5:40 AM
    I'm seeing on the Newegg that the 5750 and GTS 450 are priced almost identical...maybe ATi has already responded to the 450 dropping in price?
  • 2 Hide
    brendonmc , January 7, 2011 8:08 AM
    GTX 580 has always been in short supply...don't blame it on the Christmas rush for this. But if you can get your hands on one, it would be gaming utopia! (at a price)
    I agree with rmmil978. Get yourself a 6950 and unlock its true potential, as shown on Techpowerup. Awsome value.
    I chose the upgrade path and crossfired my old 5850 by snapping up one of the last ones available (in Oz). Hit and miss really...probably not worth the effort. I run a single 1920x1200 monitor and some games just don't benefit at all (ie NFS Hot Pursuit 2010). But getting a Vantage GPU score of over 27000 (overclocked) does make you feel good!
  • 0 Hide
    eddieroolz , January 7, 2011 8:40 AM
    Hasn't moved much, I think.
  • 3 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , January 7, 2011 9:31 AM
    I'm beginning to think the 6950 is the way to go. I just wish the prices weren't so high.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , January 7, 2011 10:43 AM
    From article: "At this time, the Radeon HD 5570 is easy to find at $130, and at that price, its hard to recommend the $120 Radeon HD 5750."
    I'm assuming the first reference should be to the HD5770?

    Nice reference, as always.
  • 0 Hide
    carver_inc , January 7, 2011 11:10 AM
    I grabbed an HD 5870 on sale for $215, which just goes to show if you dig around and have some patience, you can find some sweet deals.

    I'm loving mine.

    As always, interesting read.
  • 2 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , January 7, 2011 12:22 PM
    GTX580 or HD5970 has no chance against two 6950s in crossfire..great performance at only $600 ! :D :D 
  • 0 Hide
    jp182 , January 7, 2011 12:34 PM
    Just a heads up that Sapphire has two rebates out on most of their ATI cards right now through Amazon. I just bought a 5770 for $130 but there's $30 in rebates which appears to be a really good deal.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , January 7, 2011 12:48 PM
    Don, Don, Don. Been eating worms? "we wait with baited breath"
    (the word you wanted there is 'bated' which has an entirely different meaning to 'baited')

    That said, the 'graphics card report' is one of the best things on THD.
  • 3 Hide
    scook9 , January 7, 2011 12:59 PM
    I really like the inclusion of TDP numbers this month. Please continue doing that!
  • 1 Hide
    caamsa , January 7, 2011 2:02 PM
    Is it just me or is everyone else sick of all of those is like every single video card has a rebate.....ugggg

    BTW nice review. ;-)
  • 2 Hide
    JackNaylorPE , January 7, 2011 3:14 PM
    Huh ? A category for $360 and another for $370 ????? ... why no $350 category ? And the $370 tie is shared between a $350 card and a $370 card ?????

    The cards should be picked to fit categories, not pick the categories to make sure a card makes the list.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , January 7, 2011 3:28 PM
    Pixel13Don, Don, Don. Been eating worms? "we wait with baited breath"(the word you wanted there is 'bated' which has an entirely different meaning to 'baited')That said, the 'graphics card report' is one of the best things on THD.

    LOL, sorry about that Pixel, I should have caught that in editing. 'Baited' is a particular pet peeve of mine ;-)
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 7, 2011 3:31 PM
    I would love to see a note of the best passively cooled gfx aviable at the marketing everything month.
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 7, 2011 3:38 PM
    shudn't this be done at the end of the month?
  • 0 Hide
    tid01217 , January 7, 2011 4:05 PM
    I realize the list is aimed at gaming graphics, but it would be nice to add a section for 1 or 2 graphics cards recommended for HTPCs that handle heavy video tasks with occasional gaming.
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