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Best PCIe Card: $100 To $175

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: January 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$115:

GeForce GTS 450 (Check Prices)

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

GeForce GTS 450
Codename: GF106
Process:   40 nm
Universal Shaders: 192
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz:   783 / 1566
Memory Speed MHz: 902 (3608 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:106 W

The raw performance of this card is quite close to the older and cheaper Radeon HD 4850 and GeForce GTS 250. But these newer models do offer support for DirectX 11 and high-def audio bitstreaming over HDMI. The GeForce GTS 450's average frame rates are slightly higher than the Radeon HD 5750 as well, although the Radeon appears to perform a little better when anti-aliasing is employed (probably due to its higher memory bandwidth).

GeForce cards tend to scale better than their Radeon HD 5000-series counterparts when paired in SLI, so the GeForce GTS 450 might be the better investment if you plan to snag a second card somewhere down the line. The GeForce GTS 450 offers Blu-ray 3D playback acceleration, but the Radeon HD 5750 counters with its Eyefinity multi-monitor option.

At this time, the Radeon HD 5770 is easy to find at $130, and at that price, its hard to recommend the $120 Radeon HD 5750. The GeForce GTS 450 takes a recommendation because of its lower price. Bear in mind, though, that it'll have to maintain at least a $15 spread from the superior Radeon HD 5770 in order to keep our nod of approval.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTS 450 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$130:

Radeon HD 5770 1 GB (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5770 1 GB
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 1 GB is an extremely attractive $130 option, offering a worthwhile upgrade beyond the cheaper Radeon HD 5750 and GeForce GTS 450. This card is one of our price/performance favorites, and it's a very good starting point for the serious gamer.

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

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