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Best PCIe Card: $175 To $275

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: January 2011
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Best PCIe Card For $185: Tie

Radeon HD 6850 (Check Prices)

Great 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 for the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB, and the AMD card's aggressive price forced Nvidia to drop its own suggested prices accordingly in order to stay competitive. As a result, PC gamers win with heretofore unseen performance for less than $200.

Both cards offer DirectX 11 support and HD audio bitstreaming capabilities. The main differentiators are Eyefinity multi-monitor support for the Radeon, while the GeForce has access to the 3D Vision infrastructure that includes 3D gaming and Blu-ray 3D support. It should be noted that the Radeon HD 6800-series supports 3D gaming and Blu-ray 3D playback on commercial televisions, but there are no monitors available in North America yet. Only time will tell if AMD's 3D solution can gain the partner support it requires. Of course, the Radeons can be CrossFire'd and the GeForces can be SLI'd, so motherboard support should be taken into account.

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

GeForce GTX 460 1 GB (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 460 1 GB
Codename: GF104
Process:   40 nm
Universal Shaders: 336
Texture Units: 56
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 675 / 1350
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5

160 W

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$230:

Radeon HD 6870  (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600  in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 6870
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1120
Texture Units: 56
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 900
Memory Speed MHz: 1050 (4200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:151 W

Almost everything we've said about the Radeon HD 6850 and GeForce GTX 460 1 GB can be applied to the new Radeon HD 6870 and GeForce GTX 470. The difference right now is that the Radeon HD 6870 can be found for $230, while the GeForce GTX 470 starts at $250 with most models $260 and above. For the short term, we're going to give the Radeon HD 6870 the sole recommendation because of the $30 spread, but if prices close between the two again we'll continue to recommend both options.

We should also mention that the GeForce GTX 470 can consume nearly twice the power of the Radeon HD 6850 under load, which might be a concern for folks without a lot of power supply overhead. On the other hand, the GeForce GTX 470 probably has more available overclocking headroom than the Radeon HD 6870, since AMD's entry is clocked quite high to begin with.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6870 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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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 rebates....it 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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