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Best PCIe Card: $400 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$480: 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

The fastest graphics card with a single GPU, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 580 challenges AMD's former flagship, the dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970. The GeForce GTX 580 wins its share of battles against the previously undisputed king-of-the-hill. And while it's outperformed by more modern dual-card solutions like Radeon HD 6870s in CrossFire and GeForce GTX 560s in SLI, it scores a well-deserved place on the honorable mention list.

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$540:

2 x Radeon HD 6950 2 GB in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Excellent 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6950 2 GB in CrossFire
Codename: "Cayman"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2816 (2 x 1408)
Texture Units: 176 (2 x 88)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 800
Memory Speed MHz: 1250 (5000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:400 W (2 x 200 W)

Recent tests performed by our very own Thomas Soderstrom confirm that the Radeon HD 6900-series features vastly improved scaling performance in CrossFire compared to previous-generation boards. As such, a pair of these cards represents a realistic pinnacle for our recommendations. At $550, two Radeon HD 6950s handily beat the GeForce GTX 580, and even come very close to catching the pricier Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6950 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$750: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 6990 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

Radeon HD 6990
Codename: "Cayman"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 3072 (2 x 1536)
Texture Units: 192 (2 x 96)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 830
Memory Speed MHz: 1250 (5000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:375 W

The Radeon HD 6990 was the undisputed fastest graphics card in the world for a few weeks, until the emergence of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 590. But it's not like the Nvidia card dethroned it definitively. These titans are forced to grudgingly share the high-end space, as their performance is often too close to call a winner.

Unfortunately, supply on this card is dismally light right now. So, not only do we dislike its fan design and the fact that a pair of less expensive cards in CrossFire can beat it, but also the very scare availability on AMD's flagship product.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6990 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 590

Great 2560x1600 performance

GeForce GTX 590
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1024 (2 x 512)
Texture Units: 128 (2 x 64)
ROPs: 96 (2 x 48)
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 607 / 1215
Memory Speed MHz: 853 (3412 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:365 W

At about $750, the GeForce GTX 590 isn't very cost-effective either, especially with a Radeon HD 6950 CrossFire setup nipping at its heels for far less dough. And the Radeon HD 6950s effectively exhaust hot air out the back of your chassis. A GeForce GTX 590 recirculates half of it with a fan mounted in the middle of the card.

Both the Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590 are very hard to find for sale right now, but begrudgingly get honorable mentions for their prestigious positions and indisputably-high performance.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 590 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , August 12, 2011 6:45 AM
    scotty99The galaxy GTX 465 has been 129.99 for over a month now on newegg, i dont think there is a reason to buy any other card unless you play above 1080p.

    There are very few reasons to get a GTX465, and I would argue that gaming isn't one of them. A stock GTX460 1GB outperforms the GTX465 in most games while consuming significantly less power, running much cooler, and producing less noise. Even at that amazing price, for strictly gaming I would still be tempted to opt for the GTX460 or HD6850.

    However, the GTX465 is capable of outperforming the GTX460 by a pretty wide margin in certain compute workloads. So if you're folding or utilizing your GPU for some other compute intensive task, then the GTX465 is an absolute beast of a card that really can't be beat for $130.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    compton , August 12, 2011 4:34 AM
    I for one am looking forward to the next generation. Not that that's anything new, but the 40nm process cards have been around for two years now, starting with AMD. Given the advances in power consumption, I think it's reasonable to expect significantly less power use at idle and especially load. High end cards will still get hot and use healthy amounts of juice, but a midrange card like the successor to the 460 series will hopefully be a great efficiency card with righteous acoustics (I hope). Since it looks like AMD will have at least a 3 or 4 month lead, I hope they have their stuff together out of the gate.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 12, 2011 4:47 AM
    got a cheapish used gtx580. loving it. i dont see the need to upgrade for next 2 years atleast.
  • 5 Hide
    11796pcs , August 12, 2011 5:43 AM
    Is it just me or does it get annoying to decipher between the integrated, discrete, and mobile cards? It's especially bad with the AMD column, it would be nice if Tom's added two columns for Nvidia and AMD dedicated to the mobile/integrated GPUs.
  • 6 Hide
    aznshinobi , August 12, 2011 6:04 AM
    I think the 560 Ti should be a tie with 6950 1GB, especially since factory OCs cost the same as the 6950 1GB at which point the 560 Ti does beat the 6950 1GB since it equates to the 570. Just my 2 cents though.
  • 12 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , August 12, 2011 6:45 AM
    scotty99The galaxy GTX 465 has been 129.99 for over a month now on newegg, i dont think there is a reason to buy any other card unless you play above 1080p.

    There are very few reasons to get a GTX465, and I would argue that gaming isn't one of them. A stock GTX460 1GB outperforms the GTX465 in most games while consuming significantly less power, running much cooler, and producing less noise. Even at that amazing price, for strictly gaming I would still be tempted to opt for the GTX460 or HD6850.

    However, the GTX465 is capable of outperforming the GTX460 by a pretty wide margin in certain compute workloads. So if you're folding or utilizing your GPU for some other compute intensive task, then the GTX465 is an absolute beast of a card that really can't be beat for $130.
  • 2 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , August 12, 2011 7:49 AM
    GTX 560 Ti is in the same tier of 6950 ? :WTF:
  • 6 Hide
    Assmar , August 12, 2011 8:25 AM
    I don't know if I'm out of line when I ask for this but could we get the SLI/CF setups just recommended in the $270+ range thrown up in that Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart?
  • 0 Hide
    fakie , August 12, 2011 10:01 AM
    2x Sapphire Xtreme 5850 FTW!
    Although i'm crossfiring a sapphire vapor-x 5850 and an xtreme 5850 =D
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , August 12, 2011 10:10 AM
    I believe that another reason for the shortage of HD6990 and HD6970 cards is that people are using them in bitcoin mining rigs. AMD positively smokes nVidia at that compute task. I'd really like to see an article on this subject.
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , August 12, 2011 10:57 AM
    Hmmm...AMD seems to be dominating the recommendations slowly...i hope nvidia gets their act together, and AMD launches more goodies that cause nvidia to drop prices :p 
  • 7 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , August 12, 2011 11:32 AM
    scotty99The galaxy GTX 465 has been 129.99 for over a month now on newegg, i dont think there is a reason to buy any other card unless you play above 1080p.

    the 465 is a power hungry, hot, piece of crap that should have never been released, its was basically a prototype and has never been recommended.the 460 and 6850 are faster, quieter, cooler and are well worth the extra money. They are only cheap because they are trying to get rid of them to suckers like you before they have to bin them.
  • 6 Hide
    zooted , August 12, 2011 12:37 PM
    I'm just glad they didn't mention the gtx 465, now that was a bad card.
  • 2 Hide
    JamesSneed , August 12, 2011 1:09 PM
    The conspiracy about AMD releasing 7000 was boring. I think its possible AMD is going to push out the 7000 GPU's series along with Bulldozer. Since the 7000 series GPU's should be faster than current Nvidia offerings it makes total since to release along with Bulldozer since all the review sites will test them together and the charts will all show Bulldozer is better than Intel for gaming. Now that's a conspiracy theory for you.
  • -1 Hide
    hameem 1 , August 12, 2011 1:38 PM
    we want "graphic cards performers/money" chart !!
  • -4 Hide
    hameem 1 , August 12, 2011 1:42 PM
    some one do for us a chart about the graphic cards "performers for the dollar""
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