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PCI-Express Interface

The Best Gaming Graphics Cards For The Money: October 2007
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Best PCI-E Card For Under $100

Radeon X1650 GT
Codename: RV560
Process: 80nm
Pixel Shaders: 24
Vertex Shaders: 6
Texture Units: 8
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 400
Memory Speed MHz: 400 (800 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 9.0c / SM 3.0

Found for as little as $76 online, the X1650 GT is a low-cost gaming darling, with 24 pixel shaders and fast-for-the-price GDDR3 memory. At stock speeds, it should be a little faster than the 7800 GS and X1650 PRO, and overclocked it should be on par with the 7600 GT and X1650 XT. This overclockable card is a great base for a budget-gaming machine.

The worst thing about this card is that it's priced closely to competing cards. The 7600 GT can be had for as low as $90 now. Then again, if you're going to spend the extra $10 for a 7600 GT, you should consider spending another $10 for the 2600 XT. We have to make a recommendation, so the X1650 GT gets the props for this month for its low price and gaming potential.

Best PCI-E Card For ~$100

Radeon HD 2600 XT
Codename: RV630
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 128
Texture Units: 8
ROPs: 4
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 800
Memory Speed MHz: 700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The performance of the 2600 XT is very close to that of the GeForce 8600 GT, but the 2600 XT has a performance edge when antialiasing is disabled. Although the GeForce seems to have the edge when antialiasing is turned on, it's not much of a real-world advantage since neither card can effectively use 4x AA beyond 1024x768.

Since the 2600 XT is a bit cheaper than most 8600 GTs on average with prices starting at $100, we consider it the best buy in this price segment.

Best PCI-E Card For ~$120

Radeon X1950 PRO
Codename: RV570
Process: 90nm
Pixel Shaders: 36
Vertex Shaders: 8
Texture Units: 12
ROPs: 12
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 575
Memory Speed MHz: 690 (1380 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 9.0c / SM 3.0

With no high-performance DirectX 10 cards under $200 to compete against it, the relatively powerful X1950 PRO is having a heyday. Yes, the 8600 GTS is a DirectX 10 card, but it's more expensive than the X1950 PRO and isn't in the same performance league when higher resolutions are used.

The card's other competition is the 7900 GS, which is currently much more expensive when we looked at pricing for this month's recommendations. The X1950 PRO will usually beat the 7900 GS in most benchmarks at stock speeds. The card's only other competition is its X1950 GT brother, which has an identical GPU, but with slightly lower clockspeeds. It's difficult to recommend the GT when it's only about $5 cheaper.

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