Best PCIe Card For ~$60:
Good 1440x900 performance in most games
|Radeon HD 4650|
|Raster-Operation Processors (ROPs):||8|
|Core Speed MHz:||600|
|Memory Speed MHz:||500 (1,000 effective)|
|DirectX/Shader Model:||DX 10.1/SM 4.0|
The Radeon HD 4650 is a really attractive budget-gaming option that takes us past the old 1280x1024 limitation. The card is simply an underclocked Radeon HD 4670, which by now has a reputation as a very fast mainstream card with low-power requirements. Well, the HD 4650 requires even less power and offers very good gaming performance for the price.
The HD 4650 is also an exemplary choice for a home-theater PC (HTPC) because it can even accelerate HD video without breaking a sweat, and since it’s a single-slot solution, the card won’t use up too much space in your HTPC.
The 4650 has recently enjoyed a price drop and now retails for $60—at that price, this card is a fantastic gaming baseline and it'll run just about anything out there at 1280x1024.
Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For $65-$85: None
Choosing to forgo this entire price segment is bound to be a controversial decision, so some explanation is in order.
This price segment holds three excellent performers: the GeForce 9600 GSO, the Radeon HD 4670, the Radeon HD 3850, and the GeForce 9600 GT. The GeForce 9600 GT is a particularly great card now found at an $85 price point. So, why can't we recommend them?
Here is our reasoning: the Radeon HD 3850, the GeForce 9600 GSO, and the Radeon HD 4670 can be found for about $80. At this price they're an excellent deal, but for $5 more you could purchase a GeForce 9600 GT that would offer a great deal of improvement and would thus make it difficult to recommend the $80 cards.
However, recommending a GeForce 9600 GT is impossible when the Radeon HD 4830 can be found for less than $5 more.
The bottom dropping out of Radeon HD 4830 prices is unexpected and represents a huge boon for the gamer without a lot of cash. So we've chosen to recommend that buyers either save as much money as possible and go with the Radeon HD 4650 or pay the extra $30 for a serious performance boost and get the Radeon HD 4830.