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PCI-EXPRESS INTERFACE: $300 to $350

The Best Graphics Cards for the Money: May 08
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Best PCI-E Card For $310: Tie

2x Radeon 3870 in Crossfire Configuration
Codename: RV670
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz: 1125 (2250 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

The Radeon 3870s perform well in Crossfire configuration, and cost notably less than a dual-GPU Radeon 3870 X2 card. Performance is also comparable to a pair of 9600 GTs in SLI, with either configuration winning its share of benchmarks, depending on the game, resolution, and image quality options chosen.

2x GeForce 9600 GT 512MB in SLI configuration
Codename: G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 64
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 650
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (1800 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

Two 9600 GT cards in an SLI configuration will offer performance similar to that of a dual-GPU 9800 GX2, for a bit more than half the price. No matter how you slice it, performance is excellent at the $310 price point.

Best PCI-E Card For $350:

2x GeForce 8800 GT 512MB in SLI configuration
Codename: G92
Process: 65nm
Universal Shaders: 112
Texture Units: 56
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (1800 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

Frankly, the performance increase of two 8800 GTs over two 9600 GTs is usually not worth mentioning, but there are a handful of games where at high resolutions the 8800 GT will win by a significant percentage. If high resolution gaming with high image quality options enabled is your forte, and budget isn’t a concern, two 8800 GTs might be justifiable for you.

Spending more than $350 will provide very little extra in the way of performance. Two 8800 GTs will outperform the 9800 GTX or 9800 GX2 in the great majority of situations.

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