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Best PCIe Card: ~$400 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: December '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$410: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5870

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5870
Codename: RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1,200 (4,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

For $10 less, a couple Radeon HD 4890s will easily beat a single Radeon HD 5870 in the titles that matter today (perhaps this will change when DirectX 11 software becomes more pervasive). From a raw price/performance standpoint, this makes the Radeon HD 5870 a hard sell. But that is not to say this card is underpowered: it sports the fastest single GPU on the planet, relatively low power usage (remarkably low at idle), and DirectX 11 support. 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. Unfortunately, availability is still quite rare.

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$465: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 295 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 295
Codename: 2 x GT200b
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 480 (2 x 240)
Texture Units: 160 (2 x 80)
ROPs: 56 (2 x 28)
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 576/1242
Memory Speed MHz: 999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

Despite ATI's new Radeon HD 5970 taking its place as the fastest graphics card on the planet, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 (with SLI-on-a-board) remains an extremely powerful graphics card. Essentially two conjoined GeForce GTX 275s, the GeForce GTX 295 offers very notable gains over a single Radeon HD 5870 in the great majority of game titles, although the Radeon will use far less power doing so. The GeForce GTX 295 does have an advantage in that it it still quite easy to find and purchase. Moreover, ATI's release has forced prices on these cards down by a significant chunk.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$625: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5970

Great 2560x1600 performance

Radeon HD 5970
Codename: 2 x RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40nm
Universal Shaders: 3,200 (2 x 1,600)
Texture Units: 160 (2 x 80)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 725
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (4,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

3,200 shader processors. There isn't much more we need to say about the brutal grace of execution that characterizes the world's fastest graphics card, the Radeon HD 5970. With two Radeon HD 5870 GPUs onboard, the only things we can complain about are scant availability and an extremely high price tag. Availability should improve over time; the price not so much, but if you're in the market for this card price probably isn't an issue.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5970 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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