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Best PCIe Card: ~$150 To $290

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: December '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$155: Tie

Radeon HD 5770 (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5770
Codename: RV840 "Juniper"
Process: 40nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1,200 (4,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

While the new Radeon HD 5770 isn't any faster than its older Radeon HD 4870 cousin (we've found that it's even slightly slower in many instances), it does have something the Radeon HD 4870 doesn't have: full DirectX 11 and Eyefinity support. Indeed, while the Radeon HD 5770 doesn't run away with any performance crowns in this category, it does look good from a longevity/value standpoint.

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

GeForce GTX 260 (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216)
Codename: GT200b
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 216
Texture Units: 72
ROPs: 28
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core Speed MHz: 576
Memory Speed MHz: 999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

Like many cards, the GeForce GTX 260 is becoming very hard to find, and may soon be end-of-life'd. In any case, it does offer advantages in titles that run better on Nvidia's GT200 architecture, and it sports some GeForce-only value-added features like PhysX compatibility and support for GeForce 3D Vision.

Once again, a little diligence is required on the part of the buyer to find out which card is best adapted for his or her favorite titles, and whether or not your motherboard supports SLI, CrossFire, or both multi-card technologies.

Best PCIe Card For ~$200:

Radeon HD 4890 (Check Prices)

Excellent 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4890
Codename: RV790
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (3,900 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

The Radeon HD 4890 is essentially an overclocked Radeon HD 4870. However, the tweaks that AMD made to the newer RV790 die result in much higher overclocking headroom. At stock speeds, this card is worth the $200. But to get the most out of it, some overclocking is in order. And now that the prices on Radeon HD 5850 cards are through the roof, there's not much between this board and ATI's next-fastest solution.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 4890 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$240:

2 x GeForce GTS 250 1GB in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most games with lowered detail

2 x GeForce GTS 250 1GB in SLI Configuration
Codename: 2 x G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 256 (2 x 128)
Texture Units: 128 (2 x 64)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 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

Two GeForce GTS 250 cards in SLI pack a punch and make a strong case for multi-card setups. With the Radeon HD 4850s going up in price and down in availability, these GeForce cards replace them as the weapon of choice for sub-$300 brute force power.

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