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Best PCIe Card: ~$90 To $140

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: December '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$95: Tie

GeForce 9800 GT (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

GeForce 9800 GT
Codename: G92
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 112
Texture Units: 56
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 650/1,625
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (2,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

The GeForce 9800 GT is essentially a rebadged GeForce 8800 GT, and offers the same great performance it has for years now (that sure sounds funny to say in reference to graphics cards).

With the rising price of ATI's Radeon HD 4850 giving it space to breathe, this legendary card is once again a recommended buy. But once again, we're looking forward to seeing technological progress put new, faster, and cooler products loaded down with more features in this space rather than revisiting history.

Fortunately, there's still PhysX and 3D Vision support to like about this aging board.

Radeon HD 4830 512MB (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 512MB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 640
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 575
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (1,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Just as the GeForce 9800 GT can once again be recommended due to the rising price of the Radeon HD 4850, so can the Radeon HD 4830. While availability is low, this Radeon is still a viable option under the $100 price point if you can find it. You'll discovered that it offers great performance on par with the GeForce 9800 GT, with the added benefit of DirectX 10.1 support.

Best PCIe Card For ~$110:

GeForce GTS 250 512MB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

GeForce GTS 250 512MB
Codename: G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 128
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 738/1,836
Memory Speed MHz: 1,100 (2,200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

The dissapearance of the $100 Radeon HD 4850 has not only opened up the GeForce 9800 GT and Radeon HD 4830 for recommended status, but also the GeForce GTS 250.

At $110, the 512MB version of this card offers respectable performance, and nothing else in the price range can compare to it. As fast as the Radeon HD 4850 and new Radeon HD 5750 (and notably cheaper), the GeForce GTS 250 has no real competition from the rest of the sub-$150 market at this time.

Bear in mind that going this route instead of the Radeon HD 5750 will cost you DirectX 11 support and Eyefinity. But in the context of gaming, you'll need to make other quality sacrifices long before trying to enjoy either value-add in the $110 range.

Best PCIe Card For ~$120:

GeForce GTS 250 1GB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

GeForce GTS 250 1GB
Codename: G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 128
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 738/1,836
Memory Speed MHz: 1,100 (2,200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

For $10 more than the 512MB version, an interested gamer can get the benefit of a full gigabyte of memory. At the highest resolutions and levels of anti-aliasing, this extra memory might provide a performance boost, though it's unlikely the GeForce GTS 250 is powerful enough to run at those detail levels. Still, many buyers might find the slight $10 price increase worthwhile in something like Grand Theft Auto IV.

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