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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November '09

Best PCIe Card: ~$80 To $130

Best PCIe Card For ~$80:

GeForce 9600 GT (Check Prices)

Good 1680x1050 performance in most games

GeForce 9600 GT
Codename:G94
Process:65nm
Universal Shaders:64
Texture Units:32
ROPs:16
Memory Bus:256-bit
Core Speed MHz:650
Memory Speed MHz:900 (1,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model:DX 10/SM 4.0

The GeForce 9600 GT is a great performer, thanks, in part, to its high-end 256-bit memory interface and speedy DDR3 memory. It's a great choice on an $80 budget, even if the architecture on which it centers is showing its age. Certainly, this card's continued presence here is a testament to Nvidia's engineering work dating back almost two years ago.

Best PCIe Card For ~$100:

Radeon HD 4850 512MB (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4850 512MB
Codename:RV770
Process:55nm
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 surprisingly low $100, this card takes the price/performance crown. Nvidia's GeForce GTS 250 can now be found for only $10 more than the Radeon HD 4850. However, the powerful Radeon HD 4870 is priced too closely at $125 for the GeForce to be a recommended buy.

If you're considering this graphics card, buy it while you still can. Availability is waning, and these products won't be around much longer now that the Radeon HD 5750 has arrived. On the other hand, bear in mind that the Radeon HD 5750 supports DirectX 11, Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio, and three monitor outputs. Its value might very well be better if gaming isn't your only concern.

Best PCIe Card For ~$125:

Radeon HD 4870 512MB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4870 512MB
Codename:RV770
Process:55nm
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 4.1

This is the sweet spot, folks. If someone told us the Radeon HD 4870 would be marked down to $125 four months ago, we'd have laughed in their face. Well, who is laughing now? Gamers are, with this very powerful card and its fast GDDR5 memory available at bargain-basement prices.

The parade won't last forever, though. The Radeon HD 4870 is clearly being groomed for extinction to make way for the new Radeon HD 5770. So, if you're interested, get them while you still can.

  • wintermint
    Ahh the article finally came out :D
    Reply
  • dirtmountain
    The 2 monthly articles by Mr. Woligroski (Best Graphic Cards for the Money and Best Gaming CPUs for the Money) are some of the best and most informative articles here at THW and should be required reading for anyone posting questions about a new gaming build or an gaming upgrade.
    Reply
  • Onyx2291
    Finally another! Was wondering when it'd come out. November is a good month to take a look at this.
    Reply
  • liquidsnake718
    A year and a half ago when I upgraded my 8800gt to a 9800gtx+ that card was considered one of the best and most efficient at a pricing/preformance standpoint. Now that card or any of its counterparts are nowhere to be seen..... Good job Ati for putting out the dismal 4850.....
    Reply
  • noob2222
    would also be noteworthy to mention that the 58xx cards can be xfired for even better futureproofing. Honorable mention at 5850 290, recommended at $580 imo since its considerably faster than the 295 for $120 extra.
    Reply
  • avatar_raq
    It makes sense to put the 5800 cards as honorable mentions, after all they are extremely hard to find online..I'm waiting to see their performance in DX11 games, probably I'll wait for the 2Gb version of 5870.
    Reply
  • Isn't the 8600M GT a mobile variant?
    Reply
  • To Nivdia.

    ATI
    .....
    .......
    .........
    ...........
    .............
    ..
    ..

    Merry Xmas from ATI, 2009
    Reply
  • coonday
    Honorable mentions are lame.
    Reply
  • eddieroolz
    Thanks for the great article as usual! This time around it was more fun to read than the other times for some reason.

    I also caught one typo in the hiearchy chart: HD 485?
    Reply