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Best PCIe Card: $200 To $350

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: Feb. '09
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Best PCIe Card For $200 - $250: None

The new GeForce GTX 260 is a great card, but its price has remained in the $240 range while the Radeon HD 4870 can now be found for under $200. At a $45 spread we can no longer recommend it over the Radeon HD 4870, but Nvidia will likely drop the price to remain competitive in due time.

Best PCIe Card For ~$260:

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games, 2560x1600 in most titles with some lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 X2 1 GB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 625
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (1,986 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.0

Read Customer Reviews of Sapphire's 100260SR

In the Radeon HD 4850 CrossFire benchmarks we’ve seen so far, we’ve found that AMD has really learned to squeeze the performance out of its new cards. Two Radeon HD 4850s in CrossFire mode will beat the dual-GPU GeForce 9800 GX2—and even put the hurt on the new, more expensive GeForce GTX 285.

We're baffled that the Radeon HD 4850 X2 can now be found on Newegg for $260—and for as low as $240 with a rebate. At this price, it's cheaper than two Radeon HD 4850 cards. This is probably the best bang-for-the-buck pick in this month's recommendations and is a great card for an extremely low price.

HONORABLE MENTION: Best PCIe Card For ~$310: Tie

I'm putting in the following recommendations in case the $265 Radeon HD 4850 X2 deal doesn't last. For ~$310, a pair of GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards or a single Radeon HD 4850 X2 2 GB card will deliver about the same performance. With the price spread, you can see why I'm recommending the Radeon HD 4850 X2 1 GB so highly.

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games, 2560x1600 in most titles with some lowered detail

2 x GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI Configuration
Codename: G92
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 128 (256 in SLI)
Texture Units: 64 (128 in SLI)
ROPs: 16 (32 in SLI)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 738
Memory Speed MHz: 919 (1,836 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

Read Customer Reviews of Sparkle's SFPX98GTX+512D3H

Two GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards in an SLI configuration can be a wonderful thing and more powerful even than the strongest single-GPU card, the GeForce GTX 285. This setup will probably cost a little less than a Radeon HD 4850 X2 2 GB, but the Radeon HD 4850 X2 1 GB appears to be much cheaper right now and will offer similar performance.

However, if Radeon HD 4850 X2 1 GB prices rise or availability dries up and you already own an SLI-capable motherboard that doesn't support CrossFire, a pair of GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards will serve you very well.

Radeon HD 4850 X2 2 GB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 625
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (1,986 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.0

Read Customer Reviews of Sapphire's 100270SR

A full 2 GB of RAM (1 GB per GPU) will allow the Radeon HD 4850 X2 to stretch its legs at high resolutions with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled. In addition, the 2 GB version of the Radeon HD 4850 X2 will likely cost $20 more than two GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards, but if you've researched the benchmarks and know your favorite game title can take advantage of the extra memory, it might be well worth the money over two GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards. However, the 2 GB version of the Radeon HD 4850 X2 is likely not worth the ~$50 price increase over the 1 GB version, which we recommend buying instead if you can.

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  • 13 Hide
    xx12amanxx , February 16, 2009 6:03 AM
    Alot of performance for soo little cash have to thank AMD for that!
Other Comments
  • -7 Hide
    romulus47plus1 , February 16, 2009 5:19 AM
    Woo! Tomshardware's been sponsored by Newegg! I wonder if that's the reason why it took so long for them to come out with this month's best bang of the buck. And looks like Tom's love AGP no more.
  • 13 Hide
    xx12amanxx , February 16, 2009 6:03 AM
    Alot of performance for soo little cash have to thank AMD for that!
  • 5 Hide
    Silluete , February 16, 2009 8:37 AM
    my his radeon hd 4650 just arrive (after 2 times rma) , never see such a performance from $62 bucks card, i even can run assain creed at (almost)max setup without any hassle ^^
  • 3 Hide
    rlevitov , February 16, 2009 9:27 AM
    actually i have a 42" monitor and the 4670 doing great in most titles at 1920*1080 so who needs nore
  • 5 Hide
    romulus47plus1 , February 16, 2009 9:36 AM
    rlevitovactually i have a 42" monitor and the 4670 doing great in most titles at 1920*1080 so who needs nore


    Try running it with a Geforce 285 and see the difference ;) 
  • 6 Hide
    sstym , February 16, 2009 9:47 AM
    I fully expected to see two Radeon 4830 in crossfire configuration in the $200 price bracket. Is it an omission or did they deliberately scratch it? They were the ones praising the capabilities of such a setup.
  • -6 Hide
    Tindytim , February 16, 2009 10:20 AM
    You screwed up the GeForce 9800 GTX+ specifications on page 3.

    Apparently it's 55 nm, runs DX 10.1, and was codenamed RV770
  • 0 Hide
    ilikesoup , February 16, 2009 11:18 AM
    I just took a look at newegg, and there is only 1 ATI 4870 card under $200, also it's only a 512mb version, at least all of the 4870x2 cards are 2gb (1gb effective). Even the 4870 card they link to in the article is $229. Did we miss a big price cut that has been reversed since the article was written?
  • 4 Hide
    JeanLuc , February 16, 2009 11:31 AM
    ilikesoupI just took a look at newegg, and there is only 1 ATI 4870 card under $200, also it's only a 512mb version, at least all of the 4870x2 cards are 2gb (1gb effective).


    They said in the article prices were likely to change so the prices at the time of writing may still not be there at the time of publication.
  • 2 Hide
    JeanLuc , February 16, 2009 11:33 AM
    Also I thought the 4870X2 could address all of it's Vram and that the issue with the memory had been resolved with the updated Crossfire bridge chip.
  • 3 Hide
    JPForums , February 16, 2009 11:53 AM
    It seems Tom's disagrees with their own assessment in the graphics hierarchy (at least in one case). In the Graphics charts it seems that the GeForce 8800GTS 512Mb outperforms the Radeon HD4850 512Mb in the majority of benchmarks including the sum total at given resolutions. However, in this chart the HD4850 is considered a level above the 8800GTS. With all the sites that show the HD4850 beating the 9800GTX(+), I was inclined to disregard the charts.

    Coincidentally, I own both an HD4850 and an OCed 8800GTS 512Mb. I got the HD4850 thinking it would give me 9800GTX level performance. At 1680x1050, the 8800GTS actually gets slightly higher frames per second. At the end of the day, both cards give me the same gaming experience.

    So it seems that Tom's graphics charts were more in line with my experience (which leads me to wonder what they are using for there hierarchy chart as it disagrees in this regard). The HD4850 only pulls slightly ahead at 1920x1200 w/AA in the charts, so its only better at high resolutions with AA.
  • 3 Hide
    sublifer , February 16, 2009 12:48 PM
    sstymI fully expected to see two Radeon 4830 in crossfire configuration in the $200 price bracket. Is it an omission or did they deliberately scratch it? They were the ones praising the capabilities of such a setup.


    I also noticed it was left out... I would think that a pair of 4830's would outperform a 4870 512MB version and only lose to the 1GB version at the highest resolutions. Of course I own neither but I am curious to know if thats the case.

    What do you think Don, is a pair of 4830's worthwhile or does the GDDR3 hurt its performance enough to not be worth the mention against the 4870?
  • 0 Hide
    billiardicus , February 16, 2009 1:56 PM
    JPForumsIt seems Tom's disagrees with their own assessment in the graphics hierarchy (at least in one case). In the Graphics charts it seems that the GeForce 8800GTS 512Mb outperforms the Radeon HD4850 512Mb in the majority of benchmarks including the sum total at given resolutions. However, in this chart the HD4850 is considered a level above the 8800GTS. With all the sites that show the HD4850 beating the 9800GTX(+), I was inclined to disregard the charts.Coincidentally, I own both an HD4850 and an OCed 8800GTS 512Mb. I got the HD4850 thinking it would give me 9800GTX level performance. At 1680x1050, the 8800GTS actually gets slightly higher frames per second. At the end of the day, both cards give me the same gaming experience.So it seems that Tom's graphics charts were more in line with my experience (which leads me to wonder what they are using for there hierarchy chart as it disagrees in this regard). The HD4850 only pulls slightly ahead at 1920x1200 w/AA in the charts, so its only better at high resolutions with AA.


    Yeah, I noticed this too.
  • 5 Hide
    mmc4587 , February 16, 2009 1:58 PM
    Funny HOW NewEGG prices have increased $20 for the first 2 reccomendations...
  • 3 Hide
    Stillglade , February 16, 2009 2:03 PM
    If Tom's was shocked at seeing a 4850 X2 at $260, I wonder what they think about it being available at the egg for $225 after rebate. The 2GB version is $260 after rebate from Amazon.com - I wonder where they would fit in given the new prices. The 4850 X2 for $225 would explain the omission of a 4830 crossfire setup.
  • 2 Hide
    billiardicus , February 16, 2009 2:04 PM
    I agree that the 4850x2 1gb, and 4850x2 2gb are awesome on paper, but I won't buy either. I can only find the Saphire version of this card available, and if you check out the reviews on Newegg, 19% of the buyers give it 1 or 2 eggs(2gb version). The biggest complaint is driver issues (Saphire has to release the driver, and they're always late) and horrible customer service. THIS IS WHY THEY ARE SO CHEAP.

    I think Tom's should consider this stuff before recommending GPU's.
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , February 16, 2009 3:45 PM
    I see that many of the ATI and nVidia IGPs are on the chart, but where do the Intel Graphics Media Deccelerators fit in? Are they so low as to be in the dungeon beneath the chart?
    It doesn't matter at all for the [semi] gaming rigs most of us seem to be building, but for cheap general and/or business use, it would be nice information to have.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , February 16, 2009 3:48 PM
    Oh, and rlevitov you may have a point. I probably didn't really need that 4850 that I've got waiting to install...
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , February 16, 2009 3:58 PM
    TindytimYou screwed up the GeForce 9800 GTX+ specifications on page 3.Apparently it's 55 nm, runs DX 10.1, and was codenamed RV770


    Fixed
  • 3 Hide
    Snillet , February 16, 2009 4:41 PM
    I thought that the GTX 295 is only about 5-15% more powerful than my hot 4870X2, since that is about the same amount the GTX 260 get's beaten by the 4850 - How come the GTX 295 sits a porch above the 4870X2?

    The performance gap i even smaller after the 8.12 Hotfix.
    Guess I'm fighting over cold heatsinks...

    Additionally, I think I feel good about you leaving AGP out of the picture, as that standard's getting close to five years old.
    Five years, almost as if we were buying 130nm parts today... (2000-2001)

    Oh wait - the X58!
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