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Best PCIe Card: $350+

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: Feb. '09
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With exponentially increasing prices over $300 offering smaller and smaller performance boosts, we have a hard time recommending anything more expensive than a Radeon HD 4850 X2. While the Radeon HD 4870 X2 and the GeForce GTX 295 perform impressively in multiple-card configurations, there’s just not enough of a gain compared to a Radeon HD 4850 X2, unless you play at resolutions beyond 1920x1200.

Then again, while we often recommend against purchasing any graphics card that retails for more than $300 from a value point of view, there are those of you for whom money might not be much of an object, who can afford a 30” LCD monitor, and who require the best possible performance money can buy. For those of you, we recommend the following cards:

Best PCIe Card For ~$380:

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance in most games, 2560x1600 in most titles (some with lowered detail)

Two Radeon HD 4870s in CrossFire Configuration
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.0

Read Customer Reviews of Powercolor's AX4870 512MD5

While it has been deposed by the new GeForce GTX 295, the former king isn't quite dead—it's just a lot cheaper. With the introduction of the GeForce GTX 295, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 has taken a massive $70 price reduction.

However, since the single-GPU Radeon HD 4870 card has also taken a large price cut, we have a more attractive option: two Radeon HD 4870 cards can now be purchased for less than $400. That's right, a CrossFire single-GPU Radeon HD 4870 setup can now be had for $380. Compared to a month ago, this is an extremely powerful and compelling choice for the money.

If you don't have a CrossFire motherboard, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is also a viable purchase, but at some $50 more than a pair of Radeon HD 4870s, you'll save a lot of scratch with dual cards or you can justify putting that $50 towards a motherboard upgrade. No matter how you slice it, at $120 less than a GeForce GTX 295, the choice of two Radeon HD 4870 cards is an option that cannot be ignored.

Best PCIe Card For ~$500:

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance in most games, 2560x1600 in most titles (some with lowered detail)

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

Read Customer Reviews of BFG's BFGEGTX2951792E

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 sporting SLI-on-a-card is the most powerful single graphics card on the planet. Essentially two attached GeForce GTX 280 cards that have been merged, underclocked, and stripped of a few ROPs, the GeForce GTX 295 offers very notable gains over the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in the great majority of game titles and does so while consuming less power than AMD's flagship does, which is no small feat.

If you want the best of the best, this is the card to get. The only way to get more performance is perhaps to triple-SLI some GeForce GTX 285s or quad-CrossFire two Radeon HD 4870 X2s, but unless you have a 30" monitor, that would likely be a gratuitous waste of money.

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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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