And while it's safe to say that the best AGP card available for over $200 is the 7800 GS, it is very difficult to recommend it at a price point of over $240 because at stock clock speeds it performs similarly to the 7600 GT AGP, which costs much less.
With this in mind, if you have money to spend on an AGP card, you are much better off getting a PCI-express graphics card as well as a PCI-express motherboard for a few dollars more.
There are Intel Socket 478 and AMD Socket 740/939 PCI-express motherboards out there for those who wish to upgrade their current platform but want to keep their CPU and memory, although they can be hard to find.
The only real contemporary dead-end as far as upgrading motherboards is the AMD Socket A CPU, which has no PCI-express motherboard available... but even then it's worth a hard look at upgrading to a PCI-express system.
Gainward Geforce 7800 GS+ silent 512
Codename: G71, 90 nm technology
24 Pixel shaders, eight Vertex shaders, 24 Texture units, 16 Raster operations processors
256 bit memory bus
450 MHz core, 660 MHz DDR (1000 MHz Effective) Memory
Gainward has the distinction of making the fastest AGP card on the planet. Their '7800 GS' is actually a '7900 GT', with 24 instead of 16 pipelines, 512 MB of RAM and the best AGP frame rates money can buy.
While it's still hard to recommend an AGP card this expensive while 7900 GTs are so cheap in the PCIe arena, if you absolutely HAVE to stay with your AGP system for another year or two, and your budget is unlimited, this is what you're looking for.On the downside, we've listed it for the sole purpose of showing AGP owners that the Holy Grail of AGP exists. Like the actual Holy Grail, it is very, VERY difficult to source in North America; you will probably have to look for it overseas in Europe.
For some more help for those out there unfamiliar with relative graphics card performance, here are some charts from Tom's Hardware Guide that summarize the performance of many different graphics cards in many different gaming applications:
If the market changes or you have a differing opinion of my assessment, feel free to offer your opinions and links to online deals in the thread below. Just remember, the market will most likely change before our next monthly update, so keep your eye on prices!
Check the The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money Series Overview for more articles in this series.