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Best PCIe Card: $400 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: September 2011
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Best PCIe Card For ~$470:

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 does not suffer from the issues associated with multi-card setups.

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 $740, 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
  • 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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