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Best PCIe Card: Over $400

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: June 2010
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Best PCIe Card For ~$440:

Two Radeon HD 5830 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x Radeon HD 5830 in CrossFire
Codename: RV870
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2,240 (2 x 1,120)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 16)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 800
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (4,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5

Two Radeon HD 5830 cards in CrossFire will beat out a single Radeon HD 5870, just like a dual Radeon HD 4890 setup does. But the newer Radeon HD 5830 cards offer all the DirectX 11 and Eyefinity goodies, too.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$500: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 480 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 480
Codename: GF100
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 480
Texture Units: 60
ROPs: 48
Memory Bus: 384-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 700 / 1,401
Memory Speed MHz:   924 (3,696 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

Nvidia is a competitive company. And while the Radeon HD 5970 maintains its title of fastest video card in the world, Nvidia has reclaimed the honor of selling the fastest single-GPU graphics card. This is, of course, the GeForce GTX 480, which performs notably faster than the Radeon HD 5870, on average.

It's hard to justify the $100 price premium over AMD's Radeon HD 5870, but it's pretty easy to justify a $200 savings compared to the Radeon HD 5970, so I suppose the card is positioned correctly--assuming cards continue selling at MSRP (many are going for as much as $100 more). For buyers who value the GeForce GTX 480's value-added features like PhysX, 3D Vision, and CUDA, the card is a viable buy. But raw GeForce GTX 480 game performance is often close to the $100 cheaper Radeon HD 5870, so the GeForce gets an honorable mention.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$580:

Two Radeon HD 5850 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Great 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x Radeon HD 5850 in CrossFire
Codename: RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 2,880 (2 x 1,440)
Texture Units: 144 (2 x 72)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 725
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (4,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

Two Radeon HD 5850 cards in CrossFire are a force, to be sure, with power almost equaling a single Radeon HD 5970 for $120 less, coupled with abundant availability. This configuration has become the de facto standard setup for folks who want serious power from a high-end machine.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$700: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5970 (Check Prices)

Great 2560x1600 performance

Radeon HD 5970
Codename: 2 x RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 3,200 (2 x 1,600)
Texture Units: 160 (2 x 80)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 725
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (4,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

3,200 shader processors. There isn't much more we need to say about the brutal rendering muscle that characterizes the world's fastest graphics card, the Radeon HD 5970. With two Radeon HD 5870 GPUs onboard, the only things we can complain about are scant availability and an extremely high price tag. Availability has improved over time; the price not so much. But if you're in the market for this card, price probably isn't an issue.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5970 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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