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Best PCIe Card: $400 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: January 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$460:

2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2240 (2 x 1120)
Texture Units:   112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 900
Memory Speed MHz: 1100 (4200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:302 W (2 x 151 W)

Two Radeon HD 6870 cards are a very powerful combination when paired in CrossFire mode, delivering notably more graphics muscle on average than a single Radeon HD 5970 or GeForce GTX 580.

While a couple of GeForce GTX 470 cards in SLI demonstrate similar performance, power usage should be some 200-300 W less for the Radeons under load conditions. This might not be much of an issue for folks with solid power supplies, but it is something to keep in mind

More importantly, the price spread between Radeon HD 6870 and GeForce GTX 470 cards average at about $30 right now, making a dual-card GeForce solution $60 more expensive. This spread is too high when relative performance is so close, so the Radeon HD 6870 CrossFire setup takes the lone recommendation for now.

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$510: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 580 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

GeForce GTX 580
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 512
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 48
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 772 / 1544
Memory Speed MHz:   1002 (4008 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:244 W

Nvidia has come up with a card that can challenge the dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970's title as the fastest graphics card in the world. The GeForce GTX 580 wins its share of battles against the previously undisputed king-of-the-hill, and while it's outperformed by dual-card solutions like Radeon HD 6870s in CrossFire and GeForce GTX 470s in SLI, the GeForce GTX 580 scores a well-deserved place on the honorable mention list.

The Radeon HD 5970 has become so scarce that the GeForce GTX 580 takes the lone honorable mention on our list, although the supply of this Nvidia flagship is far from plentiful right now.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 580 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

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