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Best PCIe Card: $400 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2010
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Best PCIe Card For ~$450: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 480 (Check Prices)

Excellent 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 480
Codename: GF100
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 480
Texture Units: 60
ROPs: 48
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 700 / 1401
Memory Speed MHz:   924 (3696 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

While the Radeon HD 5970 maintains its title of "fastest video card in the world," Nvidia has reclaimed the honor of selling the fastest single-GPU board. This is, of course, the GeForce GTX 480, which performs notably faster than the Radeon HD 5870, on average.

Costing significantly more than a pair of GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards in SLI, it is difficult to give a nod to the GeForce GTX 480. But for buyers uncomfortable with dual-card setups, the GeForce GTX 480 is an understandably viable option, and it delivers undeniably impressive performance for a card with just one GPU.

Besides, SLI compatibility is less common than CrossFire support, so a GeForce GTX 480 might be the only way to go for many enthusiasts.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$490: Tie

Two GeForce GTX 470 cards are a potent combination when paired in SLI mode, delivering more graphics muscle on average than a single Radeon HD 5970. Now, the new Radeon HD 6870 offers a viable CrossFire alternative at a similar price.

While a couple of GeForce GTX 470 cards in SLI will demonstrate better performance than a pair of Radeon HD 6870s, 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.

2 x GeForce GTX 470 in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x GeForce GTX 470 in SLI
Codename: GF100
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 896 (2 x 448)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 80 (2 x 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.

2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

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

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$550: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5970 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

Radeon HD 5970
Codename: 2 x RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 3200 (2 x 1600)
Texture Units: 160 (2 x 80)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 725
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

3200 shader processors. There isn't much more we need to say about the brutal rendering muscle that characterizes the world's fastest graphics card, the Radeon HD 5970. With two Radeon HD 5870 GPUs onboard, the Radeon HD 5970 performs close to pair of GeForce GTX 470s on average, but our testing shows that performance slows up a little at 2560x1600 resolutions and beyond. At 1920x1200 and below though, the Radeon HD 5970 is a fine choice and will work with any motherboard unlike a pair of GeForce GTX 470 cards. But with a pair of GeForce GTX 470 or Radeon HD 6870 cards costing some $60 less, the Radeon HD 5970 is relegated to Honorable Mention status.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5970 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    wildeast , November 4, 2010 4:16 AM
    wow, about 5 ties, great competition :) 
  • 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.
  • 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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