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Best PCIe Card: $410 And Up

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: September 2010
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Best PCIe Card For ~$450:

2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI
Codename: GF104
Process:   40 nm
Universal Shaders: 672 (2 x 336)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 675 / 1350
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5

Two GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards in SLI easily beat down a single GeForce GTX 480, as demonstrated in this article by Thomas Soderstrom. Because of this, we're recommending a pair of GeForce GTX 460s in SLI at the $450 price point, leaving Nvidia's flagship with a less-prestigious Honorable Mention.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$460: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 480 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 480
Codename: GF100
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 480
Texture Units: 60
ROPs: 48
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 700 / 1401
Memory Speed MHz:   924 (3696 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

While the Radeon HD 5970 maintains its title of "fastest video card in the world," Nvidia has reclaimed the honor of selling the fastest single-GPU board. This is, of course, the GeForce GTX 480, which performs notably faster than the Radeon HD 5870, on average.

Costing a little more than a pair of GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards in SLI, it is difficult to give a nod to the GeForce GTX 480. But for buyers uncomfortable with dual-card setups, the GeForce GTX 480 is an understandably viable option, and it delivers undeniably impressive performance for a card with just one GPU.

Besides, SLI compatibility is less common than CrossFire support, so a GeForce GTX 480 might be the only way to go for many enthusiasts.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$600:

2 x GeForce GTX 470 in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x GeForce GTX 470 in SLI
Codename: GF100
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 896 (2 x 448)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 80 (2 x 40)
Memory Bus: 320-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 607 / 1215
Memory Speed MHz: 837 (3348 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

Two GeForce GTX 470 cards are a potent combination when paired in SLI mode, delivering more graphics muscle on average than a single Radeon HD 5970 or even a pair of Radeon HD 5850 cards.

The caveat here is formidable power usage. But from a pure performance standpoint, a couple of GeForce GTX 470s makes for an undeniably sweet setup. Also, you'll need to have an SLI-capable platform to support these boards.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 470 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$650: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5970 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

Radeon HD 5970
Codename: 2 x RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 3200 (2 x 1600)
Texture Units: 160 (2 x 80)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 725
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

3200 shader processors. There isn't much more we need to say about the brutal rendering muscle 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 is the high buy-in price, but even that has come down a little now that the card has matured. Regardless, if you're in the market for this card, price probably isn't an issue.

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

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , September 20, 2010 10:36 AM
    So the GTS450 costs 20% more than the GTX260 yet its a tier lower? RIPOFF!
  • 15 Hide
    ray-ng , September 20, 2010 11:07 AM
    I occasionally see the Radeon 4870 for $99.99 on Newegg. How come it wasn't mentioned??
  • 15 Hide
    micr0be , September 20, 2010 8:15 AM
    after a year my 4870x2 is still the "best man" so to speak.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    nativeson8803 , September 20, 2010 6:16 AM
    I'm glad I purchased a GTX 460, it was a great upgrade from my 9800gtx+. I'm thinking of going SLI, but since I'm on a 775 platform (q9550 @3.5) I wonder if there would be a bottleneck there and maybe I should hold off?

    Hope to see a pricewar!
  • 7 Hide
    Opc , September 20, 2010 6:28 AM
    What is a GTS 45 ? I just love the GTX 460
  • 1 Hide
    Tamz_msc , September 20, 2010 6:29 AM
    I totally agree with the selection of cards in the 200+$ range.
  • 7 Hide
    darthvidor , September 20, 2010 6:33 AM
    nice to see nvidia competing finally with amd.
  • 5 Hide
    Reynod , September 20, 2010 6:33 AM
    Thanks Don ... nice roundup.

  • 9 Hide
    jgv115 , September 20, 2010 6:48 AM
    C'mon nvidia! Lower the GTS450 to 100 dollars!! You know you want to ;) )
  • -3 Hide
    nevertell , September 20, 2010 8:07 AM
    nativeson8803I'm glad I purchased a GTX 460, it was a great upgrade from my 9800gtx+. I'm thinking of going SLI, but since I'm on a 775 platform (q9550 @3.5) I wonder if there would be a bottleneck there and maybe I should hold off?Hope to see a pricewar!


    No. There was a test with 2 480's sli'd with both 16x/16x and 4x/4x, and there were no bandwidth bottlenecks.
  • 8 Hide
    basket687 , September 20, 2010 8:10 AM
    On newegg GTX 460 768MB is listed for $170.
  • 15 Hide
    micr0be , September 20, 2010 8:15 AM
    after a year my 4870x2 is still the "best man" so to speak.
  • 8 Hide
    Darkerson , September 20, 2010 8:54 AM
    Always love reading these best GPU / CPU articles. Keeps things in perspective! Keep up the good work!
  • 1 Hide
    RCPG , September 20, 2010 9:42 AM
    Completely agree with darkerson.

    Just a minor correction:
    Middle column, 8th row, HD HD 5670.

    And as opc said: "What is a GTS 45 ?"

    Thanks.
  • 13 Hide
    mitch074 , September 20, 2010 9:55 AM
    My goodness.

    My card is a recommendation. Again.

    Who'd a thought the HD4850 would be such a long-lasting value 2 years ago?
  • 18 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , September 20, 2010 10:36 AM
    So the GTS450 costs 20% more than the GTX260 yet its a tier lower? RIPOFF!
  • -3 Hide
    joytech22 , September 20, 2010 10:53 AM
    My GTX470 SLI setup is a recommendation woohoo!! (well not mine, but you get the idea)

    I'm glad i got them, but now i have to sacrifice the upcoming AMD Processors because pretty much nobody will be making a SLI version of AM3+ or AM4...

    There are only 2 DDR3 SLI boards that i could find from almost EVERY major manufacturer for AMD boards.. and next generation will be lucky to have one..
  • 15 Hide
    ray-ng , September 20, 2010 11:07 AM
    I occasionally see the Radeon 4870 for $99.99 on Newegg. How come it wasn't mentioned??
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 20, 2010 12:15 PM
    Nice roundup... :) 

    But, just like Gamer's cards how about a nice roundup for HTPC oriented discreet cards? Many people are building their own HTPCs or going to something readymade (those ION boxes). But mot DIYers usually hit this question while finalizing the config, which discreet card with give bang-for-buck for HTPC?

    Something on that topics would be great help, especially if done a review roundup based around video decoding/de-interlacing/post-processing and overall picture quality perspective.
  • -4 Hide
    rantoc , September 20, 2010 12:36 PM
    480 GTX SLI in 2560x1600 FTW!
  • 8 Hide
    bujinyun , September 20, 2010 12:54 PM
    ray-ngI occasionally see the Radeon 4870 for $99.99 on Newegg. How come it wasn't mentioned??


    I completely agree with you. I just bought 2 4870 1GB for just $200 on newegg. It's quite shocking that it's not on the recommendation list.
  • 1 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , September 20, 2010 1:27 PM
    Ouch 3 months in a row going against the 5850 after being here for 9 months!!
  • 0 Hide
    gxpbecker , September 20, 2010 1:38 PM
    I love these articles. Debating on getting a 460 1g or just wait for the 6xxx series to come out ... along side price drops lol.
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