The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: February 2008

Best PCI-E Card For ~$120: Tie

Radeon X1950 PRO
Codename: RV570
Process: 90nm
Pixel Shaders: 36
Vertex Shaders: 8
Texture Units: 12
ROPs: 12
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 575
Memory Speed MHz: 690 (1380 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 9.0c / SM 3.0

The X1950 PRO is still holding on as a great $120 gaming card. The card's main competition in this price range is the 8600 GTS, which doesn't have the brute strength the X1950 PRO offers, but has a more advanced architecture that sports advantages in specific gaming situations.

GeForce 8600 GTS
Codename: G84
Process: 80nm
Universal Shaders: 32
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 675
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (2000 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10 / SM 4.0

On release, the 8600 GTS was grossly overpriced compared to the X1950 PRO, but now with both as low $120, the 8600 GTS looks much more attractive. While the X1950 PRO has better raw specifications than the X1950 - especially its 256 bit memory interface - the 8600 GTS has strong shaders that can perform very well in certain titles. If you're buying a card at this price point, it's worth looking at the benchmarks to see which performs better with your favorite games.

Best PCI-E Card For ~$170

Radeon 3850 256 MB
Codename: RV670
Process: 55nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 670
Memory Speed MHz: 833 (1666 effective)
DirectX / Shader Model DX 10.1 / SM 4.0

The Radeon 3850 brings us something we've been begging for ever since the DirectX 10 cards were introduced: a sub-$200 card with performance comparable to the high-end products. The Radeon 3850 delivers Geforce 8800 GTS 320mb performance for $100+ less.

If you're looking to get the best possible performance for the dollar, this card hits the sweet spot.

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