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Best PCIe Card: $280 to $400

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July 2010
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Best PCIe Card For ~$290:

Radeon HD 5850 (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 5850
Codename: RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,440
Texture Units: 72
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 725
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

Fortunately for value-seekers, the Radeon HD 5850 recently dropped back below the $300 price point where it belongs. Despite competition from Nvidia's GeForce GTX 470, the Radeon HD 5850 remains a superb performer for the money. It doesn't require a CrossFire-compatible motherboard, it sips power at idle, and the card sports DirectX 11 and Eyefinity capabilities. If sub-$300 price tags fit your budget, the Radeon HD 5850 is an obvious recommendation.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$310: None

Honorable Mention: 2 x Radeon HD 5770 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

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

2 x Radeon HD 5770 in CrossFire
Codename: RV840 "Juniper"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1600 (2 x 800)
Texture Units: 80 (2 x 40)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 16)
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1200 (4800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

A pair of Radeon HD 5770s in CrossFire is a very effective high-end configuration for the dollar, often besting even AMD's Radeon HD 5850 on the performance front. The extra expense required by CrossFire manifested in high-end motherboards and power supplies prevents a clean recommendation, but this setup remains a viable option.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5770 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$330: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 470 (Check Prices)

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

GeForce GTX 470
Codename: GF100
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 448
Texture Units: 56
ROPs: 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

Along with the GeForce GTX 480 flagship, the GeForce GTX 470 is one of Nvidia's next-generation DirectX 11 cards, which performs between the Radeon HD 5850 and Radeon HD 5870, on average. Quite often it seems that the 470 performs more closely to the Radeon HD 5850, but in some cases, the GTX 470 really stands out.

Because of this, it's hard to give the GeForce GTX 470 a solid recommendation compared to the cheaper Radeon HD 5850. But its solid performance, coupled with PhysX, 3D Vision, and CUDA capabilities, can certainly make the GeForce GTX 470 an attractive buy for the gamer who values its strengths. And the price seems to be dropping, which takes the card a lot closer where it needs to be. At $315, the GeForce GT 470 would take a solid recommendation, but at $330 it gets an honorable mention. It's also worth mentioning that this board represents the best performance/price in Nvidia's GF100-based lineup.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 470 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$400: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5870 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5870
Codename: RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1600
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1200 (4800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

For $100 less than the price of this card, a couple of Radeon HD 5770s (or a single Radeon HD 5850) can easily deliver exceptional performance in the games that matter today. From a raw price/performance standpoint, this makes the Radeon HD 5870 a harder sell. But that is not to say this card is underpowered: it is the fastest single-GPU Radeon option available, sporting relatively low power usage (remarkably low at idle), and the hardware prowess needed to accelerate DirectX 11-based games. For folks without a motherboard that supports CrossFire and a hefty power supply, the new Radeon HD 5870 is definitely a more-than-viable option.

For those thinking at the other end of the performance spectrum, a pair of Radeon HD 5870s in CrossFire also make this an attractive card.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5870 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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