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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November '09

Best PCIe Card: ~$300 To $350

Best PCIe Card For ~$310: Three-Way Tie

At approximately the same price, all three of these options retain the same advantages of their single-card counterparts: two Radeon HD 4870's offer the best price/performance ratio in CrossFire, two GeForce GTX 260's offer SLI compatibility, PhysX, and GeForce 3D Vision support, and two Radeon HD 5770's offer DirectX 11, Eyefinity, and high-def audio bitstreaming to CrossFire-compatible motherboard users. A good case can be made for any of these options, and none of them are a poor choice. Just pick your poison.

2 x Radeon HD 4870 1GB in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, good 2560x1600 performance in most titles

Radeon HD 4870 1GB
Codename:2 x RV770
Process:55nm
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

As we all know by now, these aren't the most fully-featured boards any more. However, when your bottom line is all about frame rate, there remains serious value in ATI's Radeon HD 4870 cards. We don't expect these to remain available for long, since ATI's current focus is on its new Radeon HD 5000-series boards. So, if you're interested, now's likely the time to jump.

2 x GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216) in SLI (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, good 2560x1600 performance in most titles

GeForce GTX 260 (Core 216)
Codename:2 x GT200
Process:55nm
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

Nvidia doesn't have a DirectX 11-class architecture yet, but the caveat above applies here as well. If you're going to sink $300+ into DirectX 10 hardware, do so knowing that there are competing DirectX 11 boards available in the same price range. They won't offer the same level of performance as two GeForce GTX 260s in SLI; that's the trade-off for more modern functionality, though.

2 x Radeon HD 5770 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, good 2560x1600 performance in most titles

Radeon HD 5770
Codename:2 x Juniper
Process:40nm
Universal Shaders:1,600 (2 x 800)
Texture Units:80 (2 x 40)
ROPs:32 (2 x 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

Though the 5770s are somewhat pricey compared to last-generation's technology, the added benefit of DirectX 11, triple display outputs, and the ability to bitstream high-definition audio content from Blu-ray movies contribute significant value to ATI's newest mainstream graphics cards.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5770 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