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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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