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PCIe Interface: $150 to $300

Best Video Cards For The Money: Dec '08
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Best PCIe Card For $160:

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games, some with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850
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 (1,986 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

The Radeon HD 4850 is the new people’s champion, instantly bringing yesterday’s $300 performance level down to the mainstream $160 price point. This card has a lot of potential when used on its own, and becomes a devastating force when paired with a second 4850 in a CrossFire configuration.

Best PCIe Card For $215: Tie

Good 1920x1200 performance

Radeon HD 4870 512 MB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

The Radeon HD 4870 offers the same architecture that the 4850 series does, paired with its secret weapon: brand-new GDDR5 memory. This technology provides about twice as much throughput as the GDDR3 does, so its 900 MHz clock speed is comparable to a 3,600 MHz effective memory speed. This edge allows the 4870 to up the ante and offer a very compelling level of performance for the price, even competing with the more-expensive GTX 280 in some titles.

GeForce GTX 260
Codename: GT200
Process: 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 192
Texture Units: 64
ROPs: 28
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core Speed MHz: 576
Memory Speed MHz: 999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

The GeForce GTX 260 offers a compelling level of performance now that its price has been reduced to $220, allowing it to trade blows with the Radeon HD 4870 on its own turf. This is one of those situations where a buyer really should look at which card is best for the games he or she plans to play (although you really can’t go wrong with either card).

Best PCIe Card For $265: Tie

Good 1920x1200 performance

GeForce GTX 260+
Codename: GT200
Process: 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 216
Texture Units: 72
ROPs: 28
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core Speed MHz: 576
Memory Speed MHz: 999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

We designate the new version of the GeForce GTX 260 with a “+” symbol to differentiate it from its identically-named older sibling. Even though there is no official difference between the two cards, the new GTX 260+ has some very tangible performance increases over the original version. For example, the number of shaders have been increased from 192 to 216, which are within spitting distance of the GeForce GTX 280’s 240 shaders. ROPs have been increased from 64 to 72, once again approaching the GTX 280’s 80 ROPs.

The result is a card that performs almost as well as the expensive GeForce GTX 280, for much less money, and it even beats the GTX 280 when overclocked! You must carefully search for the GeForce GTX 260+ by looking hard at the specifications, but it is certainly worth the price premium over the original GTX 260.

Radeon HD 4870 1 GB
Codename: RV770
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 800
Texture Units: 40
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

It turns out that the Radeon 4870, when equipped with a whole gigabyte of GDDR5 RAM, can up the ante to compete against the GeForce GTX 260+ in some titles. As usual when it comes to these two tough competitors, it pays to look at the benchmarks and see which title you play more, as they tend to trade blows depending on the game.

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  • 2 Hide
    dieseldre2k , December 4, 2008 4:49 AM
    just wanted to say thanks for the update for this month =)
  • 1 Hide
    kelfen , December 4, 2008 5:12 AM
    I liked the update thanks
  • 0 Hide
    tigerwraith , December 4, 2008 5:31 AM
    opps sorry didnt know there was a 4850 X2
  • -1 Hide
    randomizer , December 4, 2008 5:34 AM
    tigerwraith4850 X2 dont you mean 4870 X2?

    You're kidding right? Why would they put the same card in the $370 and $400+ categories and with a different description?

    EDIT: Nvm, I'm too slow to respond.

    If the GTX260+ is not labelled any different, then it can't be a different price to the GTX260 can it?
  • 0 Hide
    unreal104 , December 4, 2008 6:01 AM
    Mistake!! RadeonHD 3870 is 256bit
  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , December 4, 2008 6:16 AM
    Thanks for the write up.

    Since you are including on-board chipsets on your GPU hierarchy chart, it would be highly appreciated if you could provide detail as to where the Intel on-board GPUs end up on the spectrum.
  • 0 Hide
    ifko_pifko , December 4, 2008 7:21 AM
    Another mistake.... According to my knowledge HD4830 has 16 ROPs.
  • 0 Hide
    troll , December 4, 2008 11:21 AM
    Great article, thanks for the update!
  • 0 Hide
    Pei-chen , December 4, 2008 11:45 AM
    4850 X2 has higher clock compares with regular 4850?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 4, 2008 11:58 AM
    According to your own charts the 9800GTX+ beats the 4850 in nearly all tests. It has a pretty large lead in the overall FPS of all games in that category too. So using this site as a guide to purchase a 9800GTX+ (which I am very happy with) I now wonder why you say "The Radeon HD 4850 will usually best the GeForce 9800 GTX+."
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 4, 2008 12:23 PM
    http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-charts-q3-2008/Half-Life-2-Episode-2,766.html

    There's a typo, but the leading card is the 4850x2 on that chart. HL2 EP2 @ 1680x1050.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , December 4, 2008 12:37 PM
    Yes please, as Slomo requested, please add the Intel Graphics Media Deccellerator IGPs to the chart, if only to assist laptop buyers to know if they have any hope of playing games. Thanks.
  • 0 Hide
    computerninja7823 , December 4, 2008 12:57 PM
    While the Radeon HD 4830 offers the 8800/8900 GT its first competition in its price class, the card remains a strong contender and is still a viable option. bottom of page 3 typo....last i checked there was no 8900gt...
  • 0 Hide
    computerninja7823 , December 4, 2008 1:20 PM
    one quick thing. Radeon HD 4870 1GB probably is not that good unless you play at high resolutions...you might wanna opt for a 512MB versoin if you play at low resolutions.
  • -2 Hide
    cruiseoveride , December 4, 2008 2:28 PM
    I hate ties
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , December 4, 2008 2:30 PM
    Me too, so fortunately my job doesn't require that I wear one :-D.
  • -2 Hide
    malveaux , December 4, 2008 2:34 PM
    Prices falling for the GTX260 is great. I keep watching it dip below $200. At $150, I'm buying!

    Cheers,
  • 0 Hide
    Huttfuzz , December 4, 2008 2:45 PM
    As usual, very good article, i read it each month and i love it. If there is one thing i'd like to see, it's in the Graphic's Card Hierarchy Chart. I'd like to see SLI'd card against single card of the same force. For example. 8800 GT in SLI on par with a single 4870. (This is an example)
  • 0 Hide
    3lvis , December 4, 2008 3:22 PM
    supertrekieAccording to your own charts the 9800GTX+ beats the 4850 in nearly all tests. It has a pretty large lead in the overall FPS of all games in that category too. So using this site as a guide to purchase a 9800GTX+ (which I am very happy with) I now wonder why you say "The Radeon HD 4850 will usually best the GeForce 9800 GTX+."


    While the Nvidia 9800 gtx+ and the ATI 4850 have similar specs and price points, It is more expensive to run a pair of 9800gtx in SLI then a pair of 4850's in crossfire. This is due in part to the premium price of the Nforce chipset over a comparable P45 chipset. I think this is why they choose ATI over Nvidia.
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