Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best PCIe Card: $275 To $400

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: February 2011
By

Best PCIe Card For ~$275: Tie

Radeon HD 6950 (Check Prices)

Excellent 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 6950
Codename: "Cayman"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1408
Texture Units: 88
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 800
Memory Speed MHz: 1250 (5000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:200 W

The new Radeon HD 6950 offers similar performance to AMD's previous-generation single-GPU flagship, the Radeon HD 5870, but at $275 (1 GB cards can be found for around $260). A pair of these cards in CrossFire can be very compelling. And, as we've stated before, some folks have been able to mod the 2 GB version of this board into fully-functional Radeon HD 6970s with a BIOS update.

Having said that, the Radeon HD 5870 remains available, and prices have dropped to match. In many cases, the older card and its wider VLIW5 architecture demonstrate a performance advantage over the new model. It certainly remains a viable alternative.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6950 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Radeon HD 5870 (Check Prices)

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

Radeon HD 5870 1 GB
Codename: RV870 "Cypress"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1600
Texture Units: 80
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 850
Memory Speed MHz: 1200 (4800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:
188 W

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5870 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$360: None

Honorable Mention:

GeForce GTX 570 (Check Prices)

Excellent 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

GeForce GTX 570
Codename: GF110
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 480
Texture Units: 60
ROPs: 48
Memory Bus: 320-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 732 / 1464
Memory Speed MHz: 950 (3800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:219 W

The new GeForce GTX 570 and Radeon HD 6970 took this price segment by storm, offering unmatched performance in the $360 range. In many cases, they perform similarly to a pair of GeForce GTX 460 cards in SLI or Radeon HD 6850 cards in CrossFire. But they do so without the hassles associated with a multi-card rig.

The CrossFire- and SLI-based solutions take our recommendation for maximizing price-to-performance value, but the following cards get an honorable mention for offering excellent single-card performance.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 570 for more information on this card and its underlying architecture.

Honorable Mention:

Radeon HD 6970 (Check Prices)

Excellent 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

Radeon HD 6970
Codename: "Cayman"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1536
Texture Units: 96
ROPs: 32
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 880
Memory Speed MHz: 1375 (5500 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:250 W

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6970 for more information on this card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$370: Tie

Two GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards in SLI can beat down a single GeForce GTX 480 (and by extension, the new GeForce GTX 570 and Radeon HD 6970), as demonstrated in this article by Thomas Soderstrom. We also know that the Radeon HD 6850 scales well in CrossFire mode, offering strong competition for a couple of GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards.

2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance

2 x GeForce GTX 460 1 GB in SLI
Codename: GF104
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 672 (2 x 336)
Texture Units: 112 (2 x 56)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core/Shader Speed MHz: 675 / 1350
Memory Speed MHz: 900 (3600 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5
Max TDP:320 W (2 x 160 W)

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

2 x Radeon HD 6850 in CrossFire (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance

2 x Radeon HD 6850 in CrossFire
Codename: RV970 "Barts"
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 1920 (2 x 960)
Texture Units: 96 (2 x 48)
ROPs: 64 (2 x 32)
Memory Bus: 256-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz: 1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0
Max TDP:254 W (2 x 127 W)

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 6850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

React To This Article