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Best PCIe Card: $100 And Under

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2010
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Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For Under $50:

Radeon HD 4650 (Check Prices)

Great 1280x1024 performance in most games, 1680x1050 with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4650
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 400 (800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

I'm resurrecting this one for budget-minded gamers, as all of the other worthwhile cards cost $65 and above (far too close to the powerful Radeon HD 5670).

You will not find a card that packs more punch than AMD's Radeon HD 4650 at the alluring $50 price point. With solid stock performance and an overclockable GPU, this card is an excellent starting point for our list of recommendations, and a wholly worthwhile upgrade if you're currently stuck using a motherboard limited to integrated graphics.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For $80:

Radeon HD 5670 (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 5670
Codename: RV830
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 400
Texture Units: 20
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz:   1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

An extra $15 will buy you a vastly superior Radeon HD 4850 or GeForce GTS 250. But for the reduced price of the Radeon HD 5670, you won't have to worry about a power supply upgrade, as this card requires no auxiliary PCIe power cable.

Along with this benefit the Radeon HD 5670 offers DirectX 11 compatibility, along with all of the other Radeon HD 5000-series features, such as multi-display support and high-def audio bitstreaming. Folks planning to buy this card for a budget Eyefinity setup need to pay attention, as some manufacturers don't include the DisplayPort output needed to use three monitors simultaneously.

Best PCIe Card For ~$95: Tie

At the $100 price point, Nvidia's GeForce GTS 250 and AMD's Radeon HD 4850 hang on in an eternal battle to deliver fantastic performance to budget-oriented gamers. We don't think you can go wrong with either of these cards. As long as they're around, it'll be hard to recommend DirectX 11-class cards priced $20 or $30 higher.

With an eye to the future, your choice between these affordable products probably depends more on whether or not your motherboard is CrossFire- or SLI-compatible.

Neither the Radeon HD 4850 nor the GeForce GTS 250 offer DirectX 11 support. But then again, at this price point, how many DirectX 11-class features are you really going to be able to enable before performance starts suffering in a big way?

Radeon HD 4850 512 MB (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 4850 512 MB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 625
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (1986 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

GeForce GTS 250 512 MB (Check Prices)

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

GeForce GTS 250
Codename: G92b
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 128
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 738 / 1836
Memory Speed MHz: 1100 (2200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    iamtheking123 , November 4, 2010 5:39 AM
    stm1185The factory overclocked GTX460s are the true value champions. The $220 Evga FTW easily outpacing the 6870 in most games and providing better scaling in a dual card setup.


    Sorry, but no. The overclocked 460 might be on par with a 5850, but a 6870 is right about equivalent to a (non-existent) 5860. And since you can undoubtedly get great overclocks by yourself on the 6870, it would easily outpace the 460.

    PS - Buying factory overclocked cards is a waste of money. You spend $20-$40 more for a card that has overclocks easily reached without much effort if you did it yourself.
  • 21 Hide
    wildeast , November 4, 2010 4:16 AM
    wow, about 5 ties, great competition :) 
  • 15 Hide
    shreeharsha , November 4, 2010 5:21 AM
    My dream refreshes every month with your "Best Graphics Cards For The Money" .... but still dreaming of purchasing one. ($$$$$$)
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    rohitbaran , November 4, 2010 4:11 AM
    The list has really become crowded now. BTW, Radeon 5870 is still better value than GTX480 at their current prices. Waiting for the Cayman series, when the 5870 will finally be replaced.
  • 14 Hide
    anacandor , November 4, 2010 4:15 AM
    A quality read as usual.
  • 21 Hide
    wildeast , November 4, 2010 4:16 AM
    wow, about 5 ties, great competition :) 
  • -5 Hide
    dogman_1234 , November 4, 2010 4:24 AM
    Can't wait until AMD and nVIDIA release their new chipsets this end of the year!

    Nice. To me it is de-ja-vue, but then...AMD did release an impressive 6xxx series to tackle nVIDIA.
  • -7 Hide
    anacandor , November 4, 2010 4:24 AM
    Quote:
    So, if you missed the launch story and own a Radeon HD 5850, the 6850 isn't going to be an upgrade for you. The same goes for the 5870/6870.


    Implying that the 68xx series was even intended to replace the 58xx cards....
  • 0 Hide
    jjb8675309 , November 4, 2010 4:27 AM
    well all of this will change once 6900 series comes out as everyone already knows, we will see how the 6900 series and whatever nvidia has up their sleeves fair in the month to come before upgrading from a 5770, my gut instinct is to go with a single gtx 470 or 6870 and crossfire, however who knows what the coming months will bring and it is too early to jump on the midrange 6800 series bandwagon imo, if they do still offer great price/performance when the rest of amd and nvidias series comes out then i will make a decision at that point. Good read

    Also anyone know if the 5850 and 5870 will drop significantly? both of those cards would be great with a reduced pricetag
  • 11 Hide
    nativeson8803 , November 4, 2010 4:56 AM
    I look forward to this article every month!
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , November 4, 2010 5:07 AM
    anacandorImplying that the 68xx series was even intended to replace the 58xx cards....


    No, explaining to people who would naturally assume that a 6870>5870 that this isn't the case, so don't waste your money. ;) 
  • 15 Hide
    shreeharsha , November 4, 2010 5:21 AM
    My dream refreshes every month with your "Best Graphics Cards For The Money" .... but still dreaming of purchasing one. ($$$$$$)
  • -8 Hide
    stm1185 , November 4, 2010 5:33 AM
    The factory overclocked GTX460s are the true value champions. The $220 Evga FTW easily outpacing the 6870 in most games and providing better scaling in a dual card setup.

  • 21 Hide
    iamtheking123 , November 4, 2010 5:39 AM
    stm1185The factory overclocked GTX460s are the true value champions. The $220 Evga FTW easily outpacing the 6870 in most games and providing better scaling in a dual card setup.


    Sorry, but no. The overclocked 460 might be on par with a 5850, but a 6870 is right about equivalent to a (non-existent) 5860. And since you can undoubtedly get great overclocks by yourself on the 6870, it would easily outpace the 460.

    PS - Buying factory overclocked cards is a waste of money. You spend $20-$40 more for a card that has overclocks easily reached without much effort if you did it yourself.
  • 2 Hide
    killerchickens , November 4, 2010 5:45 AM
    Why is the HD 4850 X2 in the same tier as th 5870 and not the 5850.
  • -4 Hide
    yyk71200 , November 4, 2010 6:01 AM
    Is this just coincidence that AMD decided to name the high midrange cards 68XX while dropping ATI naming? Maybe they felt that since these are no longer ATI cards they can change the naming scheme?
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , November 4, 2010 6:15 AM
    GTX 470, let alone GTX 470 SLI was recommended? What?

    I know its price dropped to competitive levels, but when you can get the 6870, why would you want a power hungry, loud and hot (not in a good way) solution?
  • -4 Hide
    beavermml , November 4, 2010 6:26 AM
    so to me.. which are the best option.. buy a gtx460/6850 or another 4870 for xfire?
  • 11 Hide
    mitch074 , November 4, 2010 6:56 AM
    Radeon 4850: when did it come out, again? June 2008, no? That makes it the granddaddy of all current cards...

    "Who's your daddy? Why yes, I am!"
  • 3 Hide
    rutoojinn , November 4, 2010 7:14 AM
    Before the ATi 68xx series came it I was wondering why ATi wouldn't lower their prices of the 58xx series. Man the 6870 is a great card. For the entry level price it is great. 240 might be too much for some but its perfect IMO for that card. Ordering an MSI one off Amazon when I can save up for one.
  • -7 Hide
    rottingsheep , November 4, 2010 7:16 AM
    is 4870x2 on par with gtx295? i don;t think so
  • -9 Hide
    rottingsheep , November 4, 2010 7:19 AM
    5770 is very close to 4870, 2x5770 is almost the same as 1 5870 and as i recall, gtx295 is way faster than 5870.
  • -3 Hide
    Phoenixlight , November 4, 2010 7:21 AM
    Can you please stop using 1920x1200 as a screen resolution comparison point? The industry has gone with 1920x1080 so all you're doing is confusing people and making them think that they've got an inferior monitor.
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