Sapphire and PowerColor have the best-performing graphics cards, but who has the best performance-value? We averaged the price of all four cards, then divided the actual price by the class average to put each card on a percent scale.
Based solely on a comparison of price to performance, Asus wins. Yet, unlike PowerColor, Asus does not include a free game certificate with its card. If you don't already own Call of Duty and that bundled item is important to you, then the balance shifts toward PowerColor's offering. Likewise, Sapphire is the only company to include a free HDMI cable with its card. So if the card is going into a home theater environment and you're missing HDMI connectivity, Sapphire's inclusion is more meaningful. Both Sapphire and PowerColor provide marginally better performance than Asus, and the packaged bonus features for both Sapphire and PowerColor come at a mere $10 price premium compared to Asus.
So, which card would we chose? This tester would probably pick the Asus EAH6850 DirectCU Overclock Edition for its low noise. But then again this tester already has HDMI cables and more game licenses than he can ever use.
If this was a System Builder Marathon, I’d probably go with two Sapphire Toxic 6850 cards for their externally-vented design. Pushing graphics heat out of the case would allow a more aggressive CPU overclock, and the CPU is a big bottleneck in multiple-GPU configurations.
If I were building for someone else, I would probably choose the PowerColor PCS+ AX6850 for its high speed, moderately-low noise, and free game. That special someone would probably value the extra software worth anywhere from thirty to fifty dollars online. Now, where did I put that Christmas list?