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The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: March 2008

PCI-Express Interface

Best PCI-E Card For Under $100: Special Mention

Radeon X1950 PRO
Process90 nm
Pixel Shaders36
Vertex Shaders8
Texture Units12
Memory Bus256 bit
Core Speed MHz575
Memory Speed MHz690 (1380 effective)
DirectX / Shader ModelDX 9.0c / SM 3.0

I've seen the Jetway X1950 PRO on Newegg for $90: this is an incredible price for a solid card. The rest of the X1950 PROs are in the $170 range right now, so $90 it's the best deal I've seen in a very long time. It's probably not going to last for long, but it's important enough to mention - once they're gone, the best you can do is the Radeon 2600 XT or Geforce 8600 GT GDDR3 listed below.

Best PCI-E Card For Under $100: Tie

Radeon HD 2600 XT
Process65 nm
Universal Shaders128
Texture Units8
Memory Bus128 bit
Core Speed MHz800
Memory Speed MHz700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader ModelDX 10 / SM 4.0

The performance of the 2600 XT is very close to that of the GeForce 8600 GT, but the 2600 XT has a performance edge when antialiasing is disabled. Although the GeForce seems to lead when antialiasing is turned on, it's not much of a real-world advantage, since neither card can effectively use 4x AA beyond 1024x768.

GeForce 8600 GT
Process80 nm
Universal Shaders32
Texture Units16
Memory Bus128 bit
Core Speed MHz540
Memory Speed MHz700 (1400 effective)
DirectX / Shader ModelDX 10 / SM 4.0

The 8600 GT was a terrible buy at $150, but now that it's under the $100 price point, it is much more attractive. The 8600 GT will slightly beat the old 7600 GT and X1650 XT in raw performance in the sub-$100 price category. In addition to speed, the 8600 GT has the added bonus of being DirectX 10 compatible, as well as being a good overclocker.

NOTE: Avoid the DDR2 versions of the 8600 GT! The GDDR3 versions are the recommended cards, DDR2 equipped 8600 GTs will be notably slower.

  • i have ati 9550 and im gonna buy the agp 8x 3850 512mb radeon, i was trying to figure out how many fps i will get with the change of these cards iv got my pc overclock at 3.000 mhz i got 800 fsb i got 1.5gig ram 3200 and got that overclock from 400mhz to 440mhz and i use a ram releaseso ram never runs out, at the moment i got the 9550 ati over clocked from 250 core too 420 and memory from 200 to 230,
  • Goatlips
    Cheers Woli.

    I should be able to see a massive improvement for just £45 if I replace my original GeForce FX 5500 (256MB) with a 8600 GT 512MB or 8600 GTS 256MB...But which is best, a 512MB GT or a 256MB GTS?

    Anything else I'd need to improve for under £50? Anything else I need to know?