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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November '09

Best PCIe Card: ~$140 To $200

Best PCIe Card For ~$155: Three-Way Tie

Radeon HD 4870 1GB (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4870 1GB
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

For $30 more than the 512MB version, you can have the 1GB Radeon HD 4870. For about $15 dollars less than the GeForce GTX 260, the Radeon card offers a little more RAM and comparable performance. While it has a great price/performance ratio, the Radeon HD 4870 1GB is lacking the advanced DirectX 11 capabilities of the new Radeon HD 5770.

GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216) (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216)
Codename:GT200b
Process:55nm
Universal Shaders:216
Texture Units:72
ROPs:28
Memory Bus:448-bit
Core Speed MHz:576
Memory Speed MHz:999 (1,998 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model:DX 10/SM 4.0

While these cards might not sport a full 1GB of RAM, they do offer advantages in titles that run better on the GeForce GT200 architecture, and they offer some GeForce-only added value features like PhysX compatibility and support for GeForce 3D Vision. Once again, a little diligence is required on the part of the buyer to find out which card is the best adapted for his or her favorite titles, and whether or not the motherboard supports SLI, CrossFire, or both multi-card technologies.

Radeon HD 5770 (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5770
Codename:Juniper
Process:40nm
Universal Shaders:800
Texture Units:40
ROPs:16
Memory Bus:128-bit
Core Speed MHz:850
Memory Speed MHz:1,200 (4,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model:DX 11/SM 5.0

While the new Radeon HD 5770 isn't any faster than its older Radeon HD 4870 cousin ( we've found that it's even slightly slower in many instances), it does have something the Radeon HD 4870 doesn't have: full DirectX 11 support. Indeed, while the Radeon HD 5770 doesn't run away with any performance crowns in this category, it does look good from a longevity/value standpoint.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5770 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$190:

Radeon HD 4890 (Check Prices)

Good 1920x1200 performance in most games

Radeon HD 4890
Codename:RV790
Process:55nm
Universal Shaders:800
Texture Units:40
ROPs:16
Memory Bus:256-bit
Core Speed MHz:850
Memory Speed MHz:993 (3,900 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model:DX 10.1/SM 4.1

The Radeon HD 4890 is essentially an overclocked Radeon HD 4870. However the tweaks that AMD made to the newer RV790 die result in much higher overclocking headroom. At stock speeds, this card is worth the $190. But to get the most out of it, some overclocking is in order.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 4890 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

  • 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