Best Graphics Cards For The Money: February '10

Best PCIe Card: ~$260 To $300

Best PCIe Card For ~$290:

Radeon HD 5850 (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most titles

Radeon HD 5850
Codename: RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40nm
Universal Shaders: 1,440
Texture Units: 72
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 725
Memory Speed MHz: 1,000 (4,000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

With availability issues seemingly in the past, ATI's Radeon HD 5850 can now be found at the $290 price point it was originally intended to dominate, and thats exactly what it does. This card offers fantastic performance, it doesn't need a CrossFire-compatible motherboard, it sips power at idle, and it sports DirectX 11 and Eyefinity capabilities. If $300 fits your budget, you can't do better than this.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$400:

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 RV790
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, and will definitely beat out a single Radeon HD 5870. Plus, these Radeons cost less than either option. 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.

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  • Blimey!

    AMD are pwning this month!
  • And the 9600GT which has had probably somekind of record in broken units sold made it into the chart, how ironic.
  • Where do Crossfired 5770's land in performance I wonder? Equal or greater than a 5850?
  • Come on when are are going to start adding dual and tri sli and crossfire comparisons?
  • @Peltz, that's not what ironic means...

    Nvidia really need to get their new range out, this is ridiculous. Here's me with a dodge 780i board that refuses to recognise AMD cards, how frustrating!!
  • For ~$400, wouldn't two 5770's not only perform better than two 4890's (as per graphics card charts for 3dmark)? They would also cost less as two 5770's can be had for less than $350 and i can only guess that they would consume considerably less power than two 4890's which could probably save you money by going with a smaller power supply. Not to mention the system would be considerably quieter and have DX11 along with 6 monitor support...

    Enlighten me
  • Or is the ~400 supposed to be ~300, in which case there is a point. Altough i think the low availability of 4890's and the high availability of 5770's should be taken into account.
  • The mobile parts are in this months hierarchy ;)
  • It would be really nice to see this chart with a few of the cards in dual configurations, i don't think tri (fire/sli) should be on because it would make the chart to complicated... Maybe create an extra column with the dual configurations.... Just a thought...
  • this chart really could do with adding in a column for the best low profile cards
  • Do you seriously think toms readers (especially this section) are interested in "low profile cards"...... Maybe the HTPC people but i doubt they even care as these days anything will run an HD movie...... But I do agree with you with one thing a lot more needs to be added to these charts as currently they are quite limited.
  • In the absence of similarly good sites for non-gamers (please show me I'm wrong), some of us are interested in low power and multi-head hi-resolution graphics without needing the rendering speed. Advice anyone?
  • Good review. Would be lost without this info :)
  • I did not mean it to sound as if TOMS is not for non-gamers, not at all... I can hear you know what you talking about so obviously you would have a card in mind and then compare it on a chart like this so i see what u mean...I do get your point as i said previously for all intensive purposes the "chart is quite limited"... I would also love to see the Quadro & FirePro cards on the list but it simply wouldn't work as there is no real way of comparing those cards to the cards currently on the chart so a new chart needs to be made... Similarly the low profile cards will need to be compared to these cards and TOMS will most likely do that with the same benchmarks used for the current chart (Which i presume is mostly gaming benchmarks) which requires rendering speed - so the chart would show false performance values for the purposes you stated... Thus a new chart needs to be made for those types of cards as well...
  • HD5850 is a bang for the buck. But the 5870 isn't.
    Although its great, its like 1/3, 1/2 more expensive for only 200 extra shader processors and higher clocks?
    I'm still a fan of it anyway, because those shader processors do make a difference. But for THAT price? :s
  • I just got a Medion PC with a discrete Nvidia GT330 ( Maybe this card should be included in the comparison.

    Anyways - thanks a lot for a great gfx card overview.
  • I don't believe the GT330 is available to consumers though...
  • i do think you should mention that the gt9600 needs an an extra power connection and the gt240 does not. so for this price point of view people with an older system and not a lot of juice are better of with the gt240.
  • It looks like the HD 5830 is real (, at £170 it looks great!

    sorry if the link breaks any rules ;) ...
  • I think the put the 9600GT out of pity. Even with the GT240 is oblitarated by the new HD5670 (power consumption, eyefinity support, etc).