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Best PCIe Card: $200 To $390

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$260: Radeon HD 4850 X2 2GB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most titles with some lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 X2 2 GB
Codename: 2 x 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

The Radeon HD 4850 X2 is essentially two Radeon HD 4850s in CrossFire mode on a single card, and it will beat the similarly priced GeForce GTX 280 hands-down. It will even put the hurt on the new, more expensive GeForce GTX 285.

We're still quite pleased that the Radeon HD 4850 X2 can now be found on Newegg for $260. At this price, it's the same price as two Radeon HD 4850 cards, but is more accessible in that it will work with any PCIe motherboard (rather than just those supporting CrossFire connectivity). In either case, that's a lot of performance for the admission price.

Past the point of reason:

With exponentially increasing prices over $260 offering smaller and smaller performance boosts, we have a hard time recommending anything more expensive than the Radeon HD 4850 X2. While more expensive solutions perform impressively in multiple-card configurations at ultra-high resolutions, there’s just not enough of a gain compared to the Radeon HD 4850 X2, unless you play at resolutions beyond 1920x1200.

Then again, while we often recommend against purchasing any graphics card that retails for more than $300 from a value point of view, there are those of you for whom money might not be much of an object, who can afford a 30” LCD monitor, and who require the best possible performance money can buy. For those of you, we recommend the following cards:

Best PCIe Card For ~$360: Tie

Two GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216) cards in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance in most games, 2560x1600 in most titles (some with lowered detail)

Two GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216) cards in SLI Configuration
Codename: 2 x GT200
Process: 55 / 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 432 (2 x 216)
Texture Units: 144 (2 x 72)
ROPs: 56 (2 x 28)
Memory Bus: 448-bit
Core Speed MHz: 576
Memory Speed MHz: 999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

As we noted with the single-card recommendations, two GeForce GTX 260 cards in SLI offer advantages in titles that run better with the GeForce GT200 architecture. If you have an SLI motherboard, the decision becomes a no-brainer as two GeForce GTX 260 cards are a serious force to reckon with. As with the single cards, we recommend the newer Core 216 versions due to the similar price and enhanced performance.

Two Radeon HD 4870 1GB cards in Crossfire Configuration (Check Prices)

Two Radeon HD 4870 1 GB in CrossFire Configuration
Codename: 2 x 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: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Two Radeon HD 4870 cards are a powerful combination, especially when equipped with gobs of memory. With the price of a Radeon HD 4870 X2 running over $400, we're recommending two Radeon HD 4870 cards in CrossFire to save the cash. Of course, if you don't have a CrossFire or SLI motherboard, the single-card solution Radeon HD 4870 X2 looks a lot more attractive.

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  • 1 Hide
    33696933 , April 14, 2009 6:10 AM
    Looks Good!
  • 6 Hide
    touchdowntexas13 , April 14, 2009 6:29 AM
    I really wish the gtx 285 would go down in price and make this list. i would rather have this single gpu than another gpu in sli or crossfire. Then i would sli in the future if necessary. maybe there is hope for the gtx 285 to make the value list sometime this summer especially if ati comes out with their new gpu and the 285 has a nice drop in price.

    another great article. i always enjoy this.
  • 3 Hide
    RazberyBandit , April 14, 2009 8:18 AM
    This article is always a good read.

    I must admit I'm a little disappointed to see another month with no changes in recommendations, even with two new releases thrown into the mix. There's really only one change I expect for next month, and that totally depends on whether or not the 47XX card(s) from ATI goes gold and displaces the 4830. I suppose if it's enough of a performance increase over the 4830, it could potentially take over part of or the entire ~$80 to ~$130 range of recommendations.

    I suppose we wait and see.
  • 0 Hide
    realcyberghost , April 14, 2009 8:46 AM
    I bought 2 x GTX285, I want the fastest single GPU, and that is still the GTX285, then I can always fall back to single GPU when there are problems with SLI.
    SLI and Crossfire came a long way, but there are still many situations where the performance does not add up.
    That is why I consider 2 x GTX285 a much safer and better investment then a single GTX295 or Radeon 4870x2.
  • 3 Hide
    nerrawg , April 14, 2009 8:51 AM
    Good article as always - not anything to criticize except that I was surprised that 2 4830's in CF didn't even get a mention - after all you have a GPU solution there for $180 that beats all the competition (4870 1GB and 260 GTX) by a noteworthy margin:
    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/radeon-hd4830-crossfire.html
    After mail-in-rebates its only ~$150 - thats seem pretty good bang for the buck and even if isn't a solution for everybody as you need a crossfire capable board and some good air flow, its still a great choice to consider.
  • 6 Hide
    Proximon , April 14, 2009 8:58 AM
    As our triple-posting friend brings up, there are indeed times when a single GTX 285 might be a good purchase, or even two. I felt that might need more attention as I read this. At least some people do indeed want or prefer single GPU solutions.

    Other than that, good as always.
  • 8 Hide
    realcyberghost , April 14, 2009 9:29 AM
    I am sorry about the triple posting, I got some errors and thought the post didnt got thru.
  • 1 Hide
    phoenixpavan , April 14, 2009 10:54 AM
    Good to see HD 4830 there. I waz wondering the last time y it was not in the list. Good work. Keep it coming.Very useful.
  • 2 Hide
    Pei-chen , April 14, 2009 1:22 PM
    All these cards are good and all but non can give me the experience of playing KOTOR I for the first time on a 21" Mitsubishi and crappy Radeon 8500.

    We need better games and not lame games with good graphic a la Crysis. I would gladly pay for a 275 or 4890 if KOTOR III or Modern Warfare II needs it.
  • 2 Hide
    hixbot , April 14, 2009 1:29 PM
    I personally think these monthly evaluations should be split into two categories, Multi GPU and Single GPU. HD4850X2 might be a great bargain, but some people want to know the best value (in different price ranges) for single GPU configs. Multi GPU cards suffer from microstuttering, and driver support isn't perfect in every game.
    For my personal needs, my value sweet spot is the HD4890 or GTX275.
    The HD4850 might get higher average frame rates, but what about minimum frame rates? I'll NEVER buy multi GPU until they their issues are completely solved.
  • 3 Hide
    hixbot , April 14, 2009 1:33 PM
    HD4850X2 rather. man, why no edit function?
  • 0 Hide
    esquire468 , April 14, 2009 1:37 PM
    Quote:
    The Radeon HD 4850 X2 is essentially two Radeon HD 4850s in CrossFire mode on a single card, and it will beat the similarly priced GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 and more expensive GeForce GTX 280 hands-down. It will even put the hurt on the new, more expensive GeForce GTX 285.

    We're still quite pleased that the Radeon HD 4850 X2 can now be found on Newegg for $260.


    Geforce GTX 260's have dropped in price for some time now. In fact, there are several starting at $180, $80 below your suggested price point. Saying the 4850X2 will beat the similarly priced 260 is just plain off. A more adequate comparison in price would have been the GTX 275 or Radeon 4890. Was this just a cut and paste from last month's article, and oversight?
  • 9 Hide
    Fadamor , April 14, 2009 2:13 PM
    These poor guys can't win! :)  They get criticized for recommending cards paired in Crossfire or SLI. Then get comments on how readers were disappointed that a Crossfire configuration didn't make the list.

    I have no problem if they restrict the reviews to single-card performance because multi-card setups are a graphics CONFIGURATION, not a graphics CARD. The graphics companies cheat a little by providing the dual GPU cards (the x2 cards for Radeon and the GTX295 for Nvidia, for example) and those could be evaluated as a CARD.
  • 0 Hide
    SneakySnake , April 14, 2009 2:38 PM
    What about two's 4890's in crossfire for the crown. From what I've seen at techpowerup and other sites it beats the 295
  • 2 Hide
    cleeve , April 14, 2009 2:49 PM
    Pei-chenWe need better games and not lame games with good graphic a la Crysis. I would gladly pay for a 275 or 4890 if KOTOR III


    KOTOR III is on the way... Bioware is developing the next Star Wars MMO in the KOTOR universe! Should be pretty sweet.
  • 4 Hide
    cleeve , April 14, 2009 2:51 PM
    nerrawgGood article as always - not anything to criticize except that I was surprised that 2 4830's in CF didn't even get a mention - after all you have a GPU solution there for $180 that beats all the competition (4870 1GB and 260 GTX) by a noteworthy margin: http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/v [...] sfire.htmlAfter mail-in-rebates its only ~$150 - thats seem pretty good bang for the buck and even if isn't a solution for everybody as you need a crossfire capable board and some good air flow, its still a great choice to consider.


    Two 4830's are pretty good, but a single 4870 512MB for the same price performs similarly and cheaper when you consider you don't need an Xfire motherboard and a beefier PSU. That's why two 4830's didn't make the cut... not to mention two 9800 GTs.

    [EDIT] Yeah, that Xbit article makes a pretty good case for a couple 4830s. And therefore, probably a couple 9800 GTs. It's still not a slam dunk, but I'll reconsider for next month.
  • 2 Hide
    cleeve , April 14, 2009 2:57 PM
    ProximonAs our triple-posting friend brings up, there are indeed times when a single GTX 285 might be a good purchase, or even two.


    I'd disagree, the criteria to make this list is price and performance, I don't think the price of a single GTX 285 is justified at all when the 4850 X2 beats it quite soundly.

    If there's a game that a single 285 beats a 4850 X2 at because of multi-GPU issues, it probably doesn't beat it by much. Conversely, the 4850 X2 can really take it to a 285 from what I've seen.

    Of course I haven't benched every game under the sun, so if you have evidence of a few notable exceptions to this I'd be happy to review it and coinsider it. But without seeing that eveidence I have a hard time recommending the 285.
  • 0 Hide
    JeanLuc , April 14, 2009 3:06 PM
    I agree with Cleeve, the current price point of the GTX 285 makes it perhaps the worst value for money card you can buy at the moment.

    If I wrote this article I may have included the HD 4980 in there as well (or at least given it a special mention) considering overclocking that card can result in 30% extra performance.
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