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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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