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Best PCIe Card: $300 To $400

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: September 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$320:

GeForce GTX 570 (Check Prices)

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

GeForce GTX 570
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 480
Texture Units: 60
ROPs: 40
Memory Bus: 320-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 732 / 1464
Memory Speed MHz: 950 (3800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:219 W

The GeForce GTX 570 offers unmatched performance for $320, competing with the Radeon HD 6970 at $350. In many cases, both cards perform slightly slower than GeForce GTX 460 cards in SLI and Radeon HD 6850 cards in CrossFire, but they do so without the hassles associated with a multi-card rig (such as micro-stuttering).

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 570 for more information on this card and its underlying architecture.

Honorable Mention:
2 x Radeon HD 6850 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6850 in CrossFire
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1920 (2 x 960)
Texture Units: 96 (2 x 48)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:254 W (2 x 127 W)

We already know that two Radeon HD 6850s in CrossFire are fast. However, based on our recent exploration of micro-stuttering, there's a fair chance that enthusiasts sensitive to this phenomenon might not be satisfied with the way a pair of these cards behave. If you already know this doesn't affect you, then you're in the clear.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Honorable Mention:
2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance

2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI
Codename: GF104
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 672 (2 x 336)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 675 / 1350
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5

300 W (2 x 150 W)

Two GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards in SLI or Radeon HD 6850s in CrossFire beat down a single GeForce GTX 570 or Radeon HD 6970 most of the time. While the performance potential of these solutions is very high, keep in mind is that resolutions beyond 1080p may require more than 1 GB of on-board memory for unconstrained frame rates, especially when using high levels of anti-aliasing.

Again, both this pairing and the one above get dropped to honorable mentions as a result of our findings in Micro-Stuttering And GPU Scaling In CrossFire And SLI coverage.

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$370: None

Honorable Mention:
2 x Radeon HD 6870 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

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
Max TDP:302 W (2 x 151 W)

Two Radeon HD 6870 cards are also a very powerful combination when paired in CrossFire mode. Just keep in mind that, if you plan to combine resolutions higher than 1080p with high levels of anti-aliasing, you may want to consider boards with more than 1 GB of RAM, such as a pair of Radeon HD 6950 2 GB cards.

This solution is also being demoted to honorable mention status based on Micro-Stuttering And GPU Scaling In CrossFire And SLI.

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

Honorable Mention:
2 x GeForce GTX 560 in SLI (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

2 x GeForce GTX 560 in SLI
Codename: GF114
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 672 (2 x 336)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 810 / 1620
Memory Speed MHz: 1002 (4008 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5

320 W (2 x 160 W)

The same can be said for a couple of GeForce GTX 560s in SLI, which, when combined, often outperform a single GeForce GTX 580 at a notably lower price.

The same caveat about micro-stuttering affects our willingness to wholeheartedly recommend this combination of cards.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 14, 2011 5:57 AM
    5770 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    6850 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    that makes no sense, that basically says the cards are on the same level, the 5770 does NOT give great performance at 1920, the 6850 only just cuts it at that res. Please re-structure your comments as to how well these GPU's play games, all the lower end ones are way off too, a 5570 cant play recent games well at 1680x1050, not even at 1440x900. Everything seems pretty much way off.
  • 11 Hide
    Zero_ , September 14, 2011 5:49 AM
    The GTX560Ti gets nothing. Sad, really.
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    Zero_ , September 14, 2011 5:49 AM
    The GTX560Ti gets nothing. Sad, really.
  • 23 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 14, 2011 5:57 AM
    5770 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    6850 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    that makes no sense, that basically says the cards are on the same level, the 5770 does NOT give great performance at 1920, the 6850 only just cuts it at that res. Please re-structure your comments as to how well these GPU's play games, all the lower end ones are way off too, a 5570 cant play recent games well at 1680x1050, not even at 1440x900. Everything seems pretty much way off.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 14, 2011 6:07 AM
    For $220 a GTX 560Ti should be a good bargain.
  • 5 Hide
    xcamas , September 14, 2011 6:34 AM
    I own a Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2GB, pretty good video card. It's giving me good times with crysis, even with that useless tessellation workload they put on background, i caped that out, and i really like my vid card.
  • -2 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 14, 2011 8:23 AM
    toms, did you know i can thumbs up my own message? it happens when im not logged in, then press a thumbs button, then it asks me to sign up or log in, and i log in. I can then thumbs up my own message.
  • -5 Hide
    vaughn2k , September 14, 2011 9:26 AM
    I was wondering if we can include the HD6870X2. It has a good bang for the buck against GTX580....
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 14, 2011 10:00 AM
    Hey where is the 6970 ??? It has great performance and good price for a single card.
  • 3 Hide
    Communism , September 14, 2011 10:31 AM
    Should list Memory Bandwidth if you're going to list memory bus width and memory speed.

    People looking at an article like this are really looking for memory bandwidth when looking at those two parameters.
  • 0 Hide
    DSpider , September 14, 2011 11:12 AM
    Regarding 5670/6670:
    the fastest card (at least the reference version we have from AMD) that doesn't require an auxiliary PCIe power cable. That is to say its power requirements are entirely satisfied by a second-generation PCI Express x16 slot.

    If the motherboard only has PCI Express x16 1.0 (not even 1.1) will that be a problem?
  • 8 Hide
    mobrocket , September 14, 2011 12:32 PM
    i wish there was a free category
  • -9 Hide
    pro-gamer , September 14, 2011 12:39 PM
    the famous card of the year 2011 is gtx 460
  • 0 Hide
    hyteck9 , September 14, 2011 12:44 PM
    I stubbled across a GTX590 in a retail store the other day and snagged it. It is an interesting beast. The performance is epic, and so is the heat. GPU #2 runs 8-10 degrees hotter than the already hot GPU #1. This did not change even with an open air case. I really wonder how much faster this card could get with a more dedicated cooling solution. Aren't the GPU's dialed down like 40% from thier single-card siblings?
  • 6 Hide
    killerclick , September 14, 2011 12:58 PM
    So the majority of GPUs on the market are in this list? How about being more strict? GTX 460 and 6850 can't be tied if they have the same performance and price but one uses 25% less power than the other.
  • 3 Hide
    Max_DTH , September 14, 2011 1:12 PM
    Wow, SLI and Crossfire demoted. I knew this should be the case after reading your article about micro-stuttering, but I've thought this is not going to happen. Respect Tom's Hardware, I wish all journalist were so honest.

    Maybe you could come up with some idea how to compare single and multi-card rigs? In my opinion baseline of those zig-zags we saw on charts in Micro-Stuttering And GPU Scaling In CrossFire And SLI article is good determinant of perceived frame rate, because every other frame rendered fast is just useless.
    This should be discussed among journalists. I know hardware manufacturers wouldn't like it, but we would know the real performance, not just guess how much of our cards performance (and frame rate) is eaten by micro-stuttering. We would also led to minimizing micro-stuttering not just maximizing this illusional frame rate we measure now.
  • -7 Hide
    jjb8675309 , September 14, 2011 1:53 PM
    Id take a gtx 560ti hands down over a 6950, most of the benches toms uses favor amd and beyond that I own a gtx 560ti ASUS DC2 model and it holds a 1ghz core oc, at that speeds it kills a 6950 and is on par with a 6970, for me the ti is on the same tier as the 570, 295, 6950, etc, it is ridiculous to say that you can actually see a difference between a ti and a 6950 at stock in terms of real world performance, Toms seems to be more and more biased as time goes on, and also that raw performance alone does not tell the whole story of performance in some instances where the gtx will offer better minimums, heat, and noise...
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 14, 2011 2:06 PM
    It saddens me that SLI/CF has been downgraded, but I understand why you did it and I applaud you for it. IMO, minimum frame rate is just as important a factor as average frame rate for the actual play experience. A steady 30 FPS is better than an average 60 with occasional drops to 10.
  • 3 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , September 14, 2011 2:45 PM
    jjb8675309Id take a gtx 560ti hands down over a 6950, most of the benches toms uses favor amd and beyond that I own a gtx 560ti ASUS DC2 model and it holds a 1ghz core oc, at that speeds it kills a 6950 and is on par with a 6970, for me the ti is on the same tier as the 570, 295, 6950, etc, it is ridiculous to say that you can actually see a difference between a ti and a 6950 at stock in terms of real world performance, Toms seems to be more and more biased as time goes on, and also that raw performance alone does not tell the whole story of performance in some instances where the gtx will offer better minimums, heat, and noise...


    Many HD 6950s reach 1GHz Core and they overclock a lot more on the Memory, so you're wrong.

    Also, they're right about there being a noticeable performance difference between both stock:

    http://tpucdn.com/reviews/ASUS/Mars_II/images/perfrel_1920.gif

    51/47: 8%. I think 8% is enough to call it a win overall. Oh, and the 6950 2GB is actually 1% slower than the 1GB card at 1920x1200.
  • 6 Hide
    jednx01 , September 14, 2011 3:41 PM
    AMD 6950 2gb in crossfire is definitely still my pick. Good price/performance value.... I got two of these about 6 months ago and really don't regret it at all....
  • 2 Hide
    Darkerson , September 14, 2011 4:14 PM
    I am still glad I got the XFX 1GB Radeon HD 6950 at tax time. It has played all the games I like to play admirably, and I was able to unlock the extra shaders with very little problem. I may be looking for a 2nd one, if I dont upgrade to a 7xxx series, depending on price and what the new version have to offer. Either way, Im sure Ill be happy.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , September 14, 2011 4:49 PM
    For those who do not need every setting maxed (even "medium" looks pretty good in a lot of game reviews I've seen), a HD5770 can indeed play many games at 1920x1080.
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