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PCI-Express Interface

Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: September 2007
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Best PCI-E Card For Under $100
GeForce 7600 GS
Codename: G73
Process: 90nm
Pixel Shaders: 12
Vertex Shaders: 5
Texture Units: 12
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 400
Memory Speed MHz: 400 (800 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 9.0c / SM 3.0

With the price dropping to under $80, the 7600 GS has retaken the best sub-$100 price point. The X1650 PROs would have been good competition, but the market has been flooded with lower-performing DDR2 versions of the X1650, which edges those cards out of the race.

Best PCI-E Card For ~$115: Tie
GeForce 8600 GT
Codename: G84
Process: 80nm
Universal Shaders: 32
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 540
Memory Speed MHz: 700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

Prices of the new midrange DirectX 10 graphics cards have dropped like a rock in the past month. The 8600 GT was a terrible buy at $150, but now as it approaches the $100 price point, it's much more attractive. The 8600 GT will slightly beat the old 7600 GT and X1650 XT in raw performance in the $115 price category. In addition to speed, the 8600 GT has the added bonus of being DirectX 10 compatible, as well as being a good overclocker.

NOTE: beware of slower DDR2 versions of the 8600 GT! The GDDR3 versions are the recommended cards, while DDR2-equipped 8600 GTs will be notably slower.

Radeon HD 2600 XT
Codename: RV630
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 128
Texture Units: 8
ROPs: 4
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 800
Memory Speed MHz: 800 (1600 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The performance of the 2600 XT is very close to that of the GeForce 8600 GT, although the GeForce seems to have the edge when antialiasing is enabled.

However, the 2600 XT is a bit cheaper than most 8600 GTs on average, with prices starting at $100. With this in mind, we still consider it a viable alternative in this price segment.

NOTE: Many GDDR3 2600 XT's appear to be clocked at 700 MHz (1400 effective) instead of at the 800 MHz (1600 effective) reference speed. While this shouldn't make a huge difference in performance, it is a bit disappointing.

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