The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: February 2008

Best PCI-E Card For ~$120: Tie

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Radeon X1950 PRO
Pixel Shaders:36
Vertex Shaders:8
Texture Units:12
Memory Bus:256-bit
Core Speed MHz:575
Memory Speed MHz:690 (1380 effective)
DirectX / Shader ModelDX 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.

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GeForce 8600 GTS
Universal Shaders:32
Texture Units:16
Memory Bus:128-bit
Core Speed MHz:675
Memory Speed MHz:1000 (2000 effective)
DirectX / Shader ModelDX 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

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Radeon 3850 256 MB
Universal Shaders:320
Texture Units:16
Memory Bus:256-bit
Core Speed MHz:670
Memory Speed MHz:833 (1666 effective)
DirectX / Shader ModelDX 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.