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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November '09

Best PCIe Card: ~$360 And Up

Best PCIe Card For ~$380:

Two Radeon HD 4890 cards in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

2 x Radeon HD 4890 in CrossFire Configuration
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:850
Memory Speed MHz:975 (3,900 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model:DX 10.1/SM 4.1

Two Radeon HD 4890 cards should, on average, perform on par or better than a single GeForce GTX 295. Plus, the Radeons cost less. If you have a CrossFire-compatible motherboard and want some serious performance at high resolutions, this route is the way to go.

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

Best PCIe Card For ~$390: None

Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5870 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5870
Codename:Cypress
Process:40nm
Universal Shaders:1,600
Texture Units:80
ROPs:32
Memory Bus:256-bit
Core Speed MHz:850
Memory Speed MHz:1,200 (4,800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model:DX 11/SM 5.0

For $10 less, a couple Radeon HD 4890's will easily beat a single Radeon HD 5870. From a raw price/performance standpoint, this makes the Radeon HD 5870 a hard sell. But that is not to say this card is underpowered: it sports the fastest single GPU on the planet, relatively low power usage (remarkably low at idle), and DirectX 11 support. For folks without a motherboard that supports CrossFire and a hefty power supply, the new Radeon HD 5870 is definitely a more-than-viable option.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5870 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$465: None

Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 295 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 295
Codename:2 x GT200b
Process:55nm
Universal Shaders:480 (2 x 240)
Texture Units:160 (2 x 80)
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

Despite ATI's new Radeon HD 5800-series, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 (with SLI-on-a-board) is the most powerful single graphics card on the planet. Essentially two conjoined GeForce GTX 275s, the GeForce GTX 295 offers very notable gains over the Radeon HD 5870 in the great majority of game titles, although the Radeon will use far less power doing so.

To get more performance than what Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 brings to the table, you'd have to look at more expensive solutions costing over $500, say a couple of Radeon HD 5850s in CrossFire. But unless you have a 30" monitor, that would be a gratuitous waste of cash considering the small performance gains you'd get for spending a whole lot more money.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 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