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Best PCIe Card: $90 And Under

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2010
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Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For Under $55:

Radeon HD 4650 (Check Prices)

Great 1280x1024 performance in most games, 1680x1050 with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4650
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 400 (800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

It's hard to find a card that packs more punch than ATI's Radeon HD 4650 at the low $55 price point. But as the Radeon HD 5550 DDR3's price drops, we hope it will displace the venerable Radeon HD 4650 soon, because the performance is notably better.

We're holding off on that recommendation because the Radeon HD 5550 DDR3 is still a little too expensive for the performance it delivers. Nevertheless, we're starting to get a little tired of seeing the last-generation Radeon HD 4650 at the entry-point of our recommendations month after month. Here it is, once more, though.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For ~$75:

GeForce GT 240 GDDR5 (Check Prices)

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

GeForce GT 240 GDDR5
Codename: GT215
Process:   40 nm
Universal Shaders: 96
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 550
Memory Speed MHz: 850 (3400 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.0

When the GeForce GT 240 was introduced, it represented poor value for the dollar. But prices have dropped a lot since then, and the GeForce 9600 GT is quickly becoming hard to find. Yes, the $90 GeForce 9800 GT and Radeon HD 5670 are faster cards. However, it's impossible to recommend those cards at $90 when the powerful Radeon HD 4850 is still selling for $10 more.

In addition, the GeForce GT 240 is a relatively power-friendly board, and it doesn't require an auxiliary PCIe power cable. As a bonus, it's one of a handful of GeForce cards that is able to accelerate Blu-ray 3D playback.

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