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Best PCIe Card: $100 To $150

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: October 2010
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Best PCIe Card For ~$100: Tie

Radeon HD 4850 512 MB (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 512 MB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 625
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (1986 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

The Radeon HD 4850 never seems to die. It just keeps on delivering great gaming value. At the $100 price point, Nvidia's GeForce GTS 250 and AMD's Radeon HD 4850 hang on in an eternal battle to deliver fantastic performance to budget-oriented gamers. We don't think you can go wrong with either of these cards. As long as they're around, it'll be hard to recommend DirectX 11-class cards priced $20 or $30 higher.

GeForce GTS 250 1 GB (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

GeForce GTS 250
Codename: G92b
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 128
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 738 / 1836
Memory Speed MHz: 1100 (2200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

Just as tenacious as the Radeon HD 4850, the GeForce GTS 250 hangs on at $100.

With an eye to the future, your choice between these affordable products probably depends more on whether or not your motherboard is CrossFire- or SLI-compatible.

Neither the Radeon HD 4850 nor the GeForce GTS 250 offer DirectX 11 support. But then again, at this price point, how many DirectX 11-class features are you really going to be able to enable before performance starts suffering in a big way?

Best PCIe Card For ~$130: Tie

GeForce GTS 450 (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered details

GeForce GTS 450
Codename: GF106
Process:   40 nm
Universal Shaders: 192
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz:   783 / 1566
Memory Speed MHz: 902 (3608 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

The GeForce GTS 450 launched last month with a $130 price tag, sporting DirectX 11 compatibility and support for bitstreaming that was recently exposed through the latest build of CyberLink's PowerDVD 10 playback software.

Raw performance is slightly higher than the Radeon HD 5750 competition, although the Radeon does perform a little better when anti-aliasing is employed due the its higher memory bandwidth.

GeForce cards tend to scale better than their Radeon counterparts when paired in SLI, so the GeForce GTS 450 is a good investment if you plan to snag a second card somewhere down the line. 

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTS 450 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Radeon HD 5750 1 GB (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 5750 1 GB
Codename: RV840 "Juniper"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 720
Texture Units: 36
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 700
Memory Speed MHz: 1150 (4600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

The Radeon HD 5750 can be found for as little as $125, and it provides reasonable competition for the new GeForce GTS 450. While raw performance generally trails Nvidia's board, this card's 256-bit memory interface allows it to pull slightly ahead when anti-aliasing is enabled. The Radeon is also able to provide triple-monitor support on its own.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5750 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$140:

Radeon HD 5770 1 GB (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5770 1 GB
Codename: RV840 "Juniper"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1200 (4800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

At $140, it's difficult to find solid competition for the Radeon HD 5770 1 GB, and it offers a worthwhile upgrade beyond the cheaper Radeon HD 5750 and GeForce GTS 450.

Not even the more expensive GeForce GTX 460 can cop an easy win, as Nvidia's mid-range champion bears a significantly higher price to match its superior performance. This card continues to offer impressive capability for its moderate price tag.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5770 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

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Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    Opc , October 4, 2010 6:29 AM
    I don't like the GTS 450 at all ! 10$ more get a 5770.
  • 10 Hide
    mitch074 , October 4, 2010 6:45 AM
    ...again, the 4850. This card just won't die.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    Tamz_msc , October 4, 2010 6:24 AM
    The GTS 450 still needs to drop closer to 100$ for people to take notice of it.
  • 16 Hide
    Opc , October 4, 2010 6:29 AM
    I don't like the GTS 450 at all ! 10$ more get a 5770.
  • 5 Hide
    darthvidor , October 4, 2010 6:42 AM
    Nvidia should consider a dual-GPU in one card since it has excellent SLI scaling for the 450 and 470.
  • -2 Hide
    Tamz_msc , October 4, 2010 6:44 AM
    Quote:
    1. good to see hd5850 back in the list after 470 bested it !

    2.anybody who buys a 5970 does not look at prices. so it doesn't really matter if it now has a better price/performance.

    2.why include gtx480 at all if 2x460 beat it comprehensively and comes close to a 5970?

    3.$35 price difference between 5850 and 470 justified is too much for almost same performance.

    4.a 5870 is not really good in P/P as 5850 comes almost equal to it in performance with only a little OC. maybe something else should be included at this point like 2x5770.

    GTX 480- the most powerful single GPU card out there.
    GTX 470 has better performance than the 5850 in DX 11 withe Tessellation enabled.Otherwise the performance difference is 10-12% on average.
  • 10 Hide
    mitch074 , October 4, 2010 6:45 AM
    ...again, the 4850. This card just won't die.
  • 6 Hide
    cleeve , October 4, 2010 6:51 AM
    mayankleoboy12.anybody who buys a 5970 does not look at prices. so it doesn't really matter if it now has a better price/performance.


    I disagree. It's cheap enough now that it justifies consideration based on price/performance.


    mayankleoboy12.why include gtx480 at all if 2x460 beat it comprehensively and comes close to a 5970?3.$35 price difference between 5850 and 470 justified is too much for almost same performance.


    The 480 is included as an honorable mention, check the text. And it does beat a 470 by a notable margin sometimes.

    mayankleoboy14.a 5870 is not really good in P/P as 5850 comes almost equal to it in performance with only a little OC.


    Once again, the 5870 gets an honorable mention, not a full-blown recommendation. You have to read it a little more carefully. :) 
  • 4 Hide
    dallaswits , October 4, 2010 7:06 AM
    I bought an XFX 5850, and i love it....
    It beats the pants off the 2x 9800 GTX+'s I had before. By itself...
  • 6 Hide
    dallaswits , October 4, 2010 7:08 AM
    Nice to see AMD having to defend against Nvidia. Competition breeds better products......

    Cant wait for Halflife 3 and the cards that are swimming in the deep end around that time..... (2011!!! O.o)
  • 9 Hide
    Darkerson , October 4, 2010 8:07 AM
    Already have a 5770 and its done admirably considering my demands of it. Probably gonna get another one at tax time for Crossfire. Really hoping the 6XXX series knocks it out of the park again, so they 5XXX series gets a decent price drop and AMD can stick it to Nvidia another year in a row :p 
  • 1 Hide
    rantoc , October 4, 2010 9:29 AM
    "Besides, SLI compatibility is less common than CrossFire support, so a GeForce GTX 480 might be the only way to go for many enthusiasts. "

    Seems "less" should be "more" up there. Good article!
  • 3 Hide
    RazberyBandit , October 4, 2010 9:44 AM
    I'm surprise the 4870 didn't make it into that list of $130 cards. I know their supply is limited, but it would probably spank both the GTS 450 and 5750 in most titles.
  • 0 Hide
    R6ex , October 4, 2010 10:09 AM
    How about the 480 SLI?
  • -8 Hide
    kovaxo , October 4, 2010 11:01 AM
    i just wonder , why GTX 260 not here ?!!
  • 2 Hide
    enzo matrix , October 4, 2010 11:18 AM
    kOvaxoi just wonder , why GTX 260 not here ?!!

    Because of the GTS450...
  • 2 Hide
    dallaswits , October 4, 2010 12:47 PM

    kOvaxoi just wonder , why GTX 260 not here ?!!

    Because it is being pushed out by a similarly priced 450.......
  • 1 Hide
    tom thumb , October 4, 2010 2:14 PM
    And the battle continues...

    I'm just waiting for the 5850 vapor-x to come down below $300
  • 2 Hide
    victomofreality , October 4, 2010 2:15 PM
    The 4850 is in too high a price bracket NCIX has had it on sale for $70 for 2 weeks now and I think it will stay there till they kill their stock off.
  • 2 Hide
    theoutbound , October 4, 2010 2:17 PM
    I really hope when Nvidia drops the price of the 768mb 460 it drops around $140-$150 to really push the 5770 at a similar price point. Nvidia has a real dead zone in that range they seem to be ignoring for the future. Great roundup as always Tom's. I can't wait until next month when (hopefully) we have some new cards appearing on the list.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , October 4, 2010 2:20 PM
    The crossfire performance issues, is there a place I can read more up on that?
    I'm running a 4640x1050 desktop size and have considerable performance issues. Amd gave me a hotfix driver that is supposed to fix 4870x2 performance issues, but all it did as lower my fps to about 20-30 in world of warcraft window mode (1680x1050).
    Perhaps my problem's the same one you have when testing? Or maybe not, since the cloned output devices are running on a lowcost 5000 series card that isn't crossfired with the other cards ....
  • 1 Hide
    flyinfinni , October 4, 2010 2:29 PM
    Why do you list GTS450 SLI as an honourable mention, but not the 5750 Crossfire? It scales just as well and actually is FASTER than GTS450 SLI in a number of titles.
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