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Best PCIe Card: $175 To $275

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: December 2010
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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

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 at the sub-$200 price point.

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

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$245: Tie

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

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.

We should also mention that the GeForce GTX 470 can use 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 overhead 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.

GeForce GTX 470 (Check Prices)

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

GeForce GTX 470
Codename: GF100
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 448
Texture Units: 56
ROPs: 40
Memory Bus: 320-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 607 / 1215
Memory Speed MHz: 837 (3348 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 470 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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