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Best PCIe Card: $50 To $110

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: June '09
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Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For ~$50: Tie

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4650 DDR3 (Check Prices)

Radeon HD 4650 DDR3
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 700 (1,400 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

We've seen some DDR3-equipped Radeon HD 4650 cards approaching the $50 price point, and this makes for a card that packs a lot more punch than its DDR2-equipped cousins do. Overclocking this card might bring it surprisingly close to Radeon HD 4670 performance, so it's an especially good value for tweakers.

Check the lowest price we could find on a Radeon HD 4650 DDR3

GeForce 9500 GT DDR3 (Check Prices)

GeForce 9500 GT DDR3
Codename: G96
Process: 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 32
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 550
Memory Speed MHz: 800 (1,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4

There are also GeForce 9500 GTs available around the $50 price point that are equipped with DDR3 memory. Just be sure to stay away from the DDR2 versions of the 9500 GT, as the slower memory affects performance negatively with this card.

Check the lowest price we could find on a GeForce 9500 GT DDR3

Best PCIe Card For ~$70: Tie

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4670 (Check Prices)

Radeon HD 4670
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (2,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

The Radeon HD 4670 is superior to slightly cheaper cards like the GeForce 9500 GT and Radeon HD 4650 because its complex architecture and fast DDR3 memory allow it to deliver remarkable performance at this low price. The Radeon HD 4670 is also notable because it's the only card in our recommended list that doesn't require an auxiliary power connector.


GeForce 9600 GSO (Check Prices)

GeForce 9600 GSO
Codename: G92
Process: 65 nm
Universal Shaders: 96
Texture Units: 48
ROPs: 12
Memory Bus: 192-bit or 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (1,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10/SM 4.0

The 9600 GSO remains competitive with the Radeon 4670 at the same price point. It uses a bit more power than the Radeon 4670, which doesn't require a PCIe power connector, but performance is right on par.

Check the lowest price we could find on a GeForce 9600 GSO

Best PCIe Card For ~$105: Radeon HD 4850 512 MB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

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 (1,986 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

With Radeon HD 4850 512 MB prices dropping to a surprising $105, this card easily takes the price/performance crown from the previous $100 card (which is snaking its way up to $119 due to availability issues), the Radeon HD 4770. With generally-better performance compared to the Radeon HD 4770 and equal performance with the more expensive GeForce GTS 250, the pressure is on Nvidia to drop prices in order to compete.

Of course, we're wondering how e-tailers feel about hacking down the prices on 4850 in response to 4770, only to see 4770 inventory levels evaporate. Ouch.

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