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Best PCIe Card: $200 To $420

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: June '09
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Best PCIe Card For ~$220: Radeon HD 4850 X2 1 GB
or Two Radeon HD 4850 512 MB cards in CrossFire mode (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 4850 X2 1 GB or 2x Radeon HD 4850 512 MB in CrossFire
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 more expensive GeForce GTX 280. It will even put the hurt on the new, more expensive GeForce GTX 285.

We're surprised that two Radeon HD 4850 512 MB cards can be purchased for as low as $210, and with the single-card Radeon HD 4850 X2 1 GB for a similar price, this recommendation covers folks with CrossFire motherboards as well as systems with a single PCIe slot. In either case, that's a lot of performance for the admission price.

Check the lowest price we could find on a Radeon HD 4850 X2


Best PCIe Card For ~$320: None

A lot of folks ask why I'm not recommending the GeForce GTX 285 for those who don't have CrossFire or SLI motherboards, so I'll address that here: the Radeon HD 4850 X2 is a single card and doesn't require a special motherboard and it provides superior performance compared to the GeForce GTX 285 for more than $100 less.

Past the point of reason:

With rapidly-increasing prices over $220 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 for the money spent, unless you play at higher resolutions than 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” 2560x1600 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 ~$340: 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-compatible motherboard, the decision becomes a no-brainer as two GeForce GTX 260 cards are a serious force with which to reckon. As with the single cards, we recommend the newer Core 216 versions, thanks to the similar price and enhanced performance.

Check the lowest price we could find on a GeForce GTX 260


Two Radeon HD 4870 cards in CrossFire configuration *** (Check Prices)

Two Radeon HD 4870 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 recommend two Radeon HD 4870 cards in CrossFire mode to save the cash. Just make sure you have a CrossFire-compatible motherboard in order to use them.


Best PCIe Card For ~$380: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 4870 X2 (Check Prices)

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

Radeon HD 4870 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: 750
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3,600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Two separate GeForce GTX 260 cards in SLI or two Radeon HD 4870 cards in CrossFire are slightly cheaper than a single Radeon HD 4870 X2, which gives those dual-card configurations the recommendation. Having said that, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is a single card and is therefore viable for those of you with a single PCIe slot on your motherboard. For this reason, the 4870 X2 gets an honorable mention.

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  • 5 Hide
    ColMirage , June 10, 2009 6:14 AM
    Oops!

    Copy paste error @ Radeon HD 4850 1 GB.
  • 0 Hide
    xg4mer , June 10, 2009 6:40 AM
    In "Mención Honorífica: Radeon HD 4870 X2, in the pic is the 4850 x2" xD

    Thx for review!
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , June 10, 2009 7:58 AM
    It is really annoying to have the "see more products" table before the previous page/article index/next page selection. Its like you are trying to trick people into clicking on them. shady.
    Also just a fyi, for best cards for $455 you state it is 2 4890's in crossfire, but your table directly underneath says 4850 X2 2 GB.
  • 1 Hide
    Proximon , June 10, 2009 8:22 AM
    Even better and clearer than before. Keep up the good work!
  • 0 Hide
    t-train , June 10, 2009 8:49 AM
    If you were able to purchase 2 4770s, which you still recommend the now cheaper 4850s? Even with 1GB per card, they still seem to lose to 2 * 4770s

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/radeon-hd4770-crossfirex.html

    Seems like you getting a bad deal paying an extra 2 * $30 for 4850s that consume more power and perform similarly.

  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , June 10, 2009 9:30 AM
    t-trainIf you were able to purchase 2 4770s, which you still recommend the now cheaper 4850s? Even with 1GB per card, they still seem to lose to 2 * 4770s http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/v [...] firex.htmlSeems like you getting a bad deal paying an extra 2 * $30 for 4850s that consume more power and perform similarly.


    Feel free to check out this one, as well: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-4770-crossfire,2288.html

    If you already bought the 4770s, then you got a great deal--probably in the neighborhood of $99 apiece. Unfortunately, they've since gone up in price to reflect current supply.

    This month's recommendations reflect the current state of the market, where you have to take into account few, if any, 4770s available for purchase and a load of 4850s that were beaten down in price as a result of the 4770s and actually *are* available. =)
  • -1 Hide
    manitoublack , June 10, 2009 9:33 AM
    I swear I've read that article before. A little copy here and a little paste there. That said when not much changes, there's not much point in changing a good article.
  • -6 Hide
    shreeharsha , June 10, 2009 10:35 AM
    Thanks for the Updates, though these prices don't tally to prices in India.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , June 10, 2009 11:17 AM
    I don't see how there can be a "tie" between 4650ddr3 and 9500gt.4650ddr3 is quite a bit faster than 95gt.
  • -4 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , June 10, 2009 11:48 AM
    So since 4850 has replaced 4770 I've got to ask - do versions of this card exist, that clock down in 2d mode like the 4770? or are all of those 'better' cards 4 times as hungry in idle mode?
  • 5 Hide
    scook9 , June 10, 2009 11:59 AM
    yay my GTX 275 SLI made the list finally. You don't have to tell me about falling 4850 prices, it's killing me because I got a pair I am selling now. Bought for 160 each, 30 MIR each, trying to sell for 85 each!

    Its a sad reason, but I am pretty much upgrading because:
    1) I can
    2) I play Crysis a lot and need more than 4850 CF
    3) I play Crysis a lot on a 24" monitor

    Have to enjoy being a kid as long as I can ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    avatar_raq , June 10, 2009 12:56 PM
    Nice article as usual. I wish I live in the states! If only you guys know the prices here..:sigh:
  • 2 Hide
    glawk , June 10, 2009 1:38 PM
    "We acknowledge that recommendations for multiple video cards, such as two Radeon cards in CrossFire mode or two GeForce cards in SLI mode, typically require a motherboard that supports CrossFire or SLI and a case with more space to install multiple graphics cards. They also require a beefier power supply compared to what a single card requires and will likely produce more heat than a single card."

    If you acknowledge it, how can you continue to recommend 2 cards when there are so many intangibles regarding total cost? Even single-card SLI solutions are not without their issues as well (microstutter, buggy performance and support in some games).
  • 0 Hide
    gwolfman , June 10, 2009 2:32 PM
    Quote:
    ...as the Radeon HD 4850's competition (the GeForce GTS 250) starts at $150 for both the 512 MB and 1 GB versions, oddly enough.
    Really? I just bought a GTS 250 for someone else and it was only $129. No rebate required.
  • 6 Hide
    gwolfman , June 10, 2009 2:40 PM
    Thanks for adding the alternating colors on the hierarchy charts again! Makes it so much easier to read. :D 
  • -3 Hide
    duckmanx88 , June 10, 2009 2:53 PM
    whenever people criticize TH, I just think about how great the video card articles are, and how wrong the critics are. can someone tell me which GeForce cards have an HDMI on them?
  • 2 Hide
    frozenlead , June 10, 2009 3:24 PM
    duckmanx88can someone tell me which GeForce cards have an HDMI on them?

    All of them. Even if they don't have the port, DVI is the same as HDMI, and you can purchase (and most of the time they come with the card) an adapter between the two interfaces.

    Nice article. Over time you've seemed to manage to accommodate everyone - fanboys, single pci-e's, and duals. I think these are written well and well thought out.
  • 1 Hide
    frozenlead , June 10, 2009 3:25 PM
    frozenlead DVI is the same as HDMI

    Well, DVI lacks audio. But they're electrically compatible, both digital and such. Hopefully you know what I mean.
  • 3 Hide
    Kill@dor , June 10, 2009 3:38 PM
    Can't complain, i still have my 8800GT and its working flawlessly. The only thing i hate about it is the fan...very inadequate cooling. Raising the fan speed makes it loud, but i'm used to it now. It plays everything from Cysis, GTA4, Assassins Creed and tons more perfectly ^_^
  • 2 Hide
    geofelt , June 10, 2009 3:44 PM
    This list is about price/performance tiers. To that end, you neel to include ALL the costs. The sli/cf solutions initially look good because they do not include all the costs. I would suggest that those entries be adjusted by the extra costs associated with dual cards:
    1)PSU upgrade $30.
    2)mobo with dual pci-e slots/sli license. $20.
    3)increased case cooling $20.
    ------total about $70.
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