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Best PCIe Card: ~$210 To $310

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2010
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Best PCIe Card For ~$210-$230: Tie

2 x Radeon HD 4850 1GB in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most games with lowered detail

2 x Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600 (2 x 800)
Texture Units: 80 (2 x 40)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 16)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 625
Memory Speed MHz: 993 (1,986 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Two Radeon HD 4850s in CrossFire continue to offer a combination of high performance and reasonably low cost, making them a good choice for a gaming enthusiast on a budget.

Two hundred dollars will get you a couple 512MB cards, while $230 should score a duo of 1GB models. You'll need a CrossFire-compatible motherboard, of course, but that's not a problem for most folks with Intel- or AMD-based platforms.

2 x GeForce GTS 250 1GB in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most games with lowered detail

2 x GeForce GTS 250 in SLI
Codename: G92
Process: 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 256 (2 x 128)
Texture Units: 128 (2 x 64)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 16)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 738 / 1,836
Memory Speed MHz: 1,100 (2,200 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

Just like the Radeon HD 4850s, two GeForce GTS 250 cards combined in SLI mode make a very powerful combination for a very reasonable price. The cards you inevitably choose will probably depend on the motherboard you own. If you're rocking an Nvidia-based platform, SLI support is likely included. X58- and most P55-based boards also support a pair of Nvidia GPUs. AMD-based chipsets do not include that functionality.

Honorable Mention:
Radeon HD 5830 (Check Prices)

Great 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most games with lowered detail

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

The new Radeon HD 5830 delivers Radeon HD 4890-class performance for $240, but includes all of the Radeon HD 5000-series value-adds to go with it.

From a pure value standpoint, a pair of CrossFired Radeon HD 4850s are much faster, and so is a single Radeon HD 5850. However, with the scant availability of the Radeon HD 4890 and disappearance of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 275 from the market, AMD's Radeon HD 5830 is the only single card left standing at this price point. For this reason, it scores an honorable mention for users who don't have the luxury of a CrossFire-capable motherboard.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5830 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$310:

Radeon HD 5850 (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 5850
Codename: RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,440
Texture Units: 72
ROPs: 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

Fortunately for value-seekers, the Radeon HD 5850 recently dropped back under the $300 price point. Despite competition from Nvidia's GeForce GTX 470, the Radeon HD 5850 remains a superb performer at its price point. It doesn't require a CrossFire-compatible motherboard, it sips power at idle, and the card sports DirectX 11 and Eyefinity capabilities. If sub-$300 price tags fit your budget, the Radeon HD 5850 is an obvious recommendation.

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

Honorable Mention: 2 x Radeon HD 5770 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

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

2 x Radeon HD 5770 in CrossFire
Codename: RV840 "Juniper"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1,600 (2 x 800)
Texture Units: 80 (2 x 40)
ROPs: 32 (2 x 16)
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1,200 (4,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

A pair of Radeon HD 5770s in CrossFire is a very effective high-end configuration for the dollar, sometimes besting even the Radeon HD 5850 on the performance front. The extra expense required by CrossFire manifested in high-end motherboards and power supplies prevents a clean recommendation, but this setup remains a viable option.

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

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