Things have been quiet on the GPU front for a while now, but there has definitely been activity on the pricing front. With the economy in the toilet, spending on hardware and games has declined; AMD and NVIDIA are fighting for your purchase. Prices are fairly compressed between $100 and $200, and spending just a little more can get you a whole lot of bang. We'll start on the low end and move up as we go. 

We use price and availability at newegg.com as an indicator of the broader market in order to simplify our data and give more clear recommendations.


Sub $100 Cards

At the lower end of the spectrum, the Radeon HD 4670 can be had for less than $70 USD (down to $50 if you don't mind the rebate hassle). This is a solid card and a good way to go for people who want a well rounded card. It's not the best performer out there, but it offers a good performance boost over built in graphics hardware and leads cheaper add-in cards as well.

ATI Radeon HD 4670
Apollo 256MB $65
ASUS 512MB $68
HIS 512MB $70
Sapphire 512MB $70
Gigabyte 512MB $70


The Radeon HD 4830 has been pushed down in price slightly due to the appearance of the Radeon HD 4770. This puts it in competition with the GeForce 9600 GT, which can't quite match the former's performance. This gives the edge to the 4830 which is quite a step up from the Radeon 4670 if you can afford the extra $20 or so dollars.


ATI Radeon HD 4830
Apollo $83
Sapphire
$90
MSI $90
HIS $93
XFX $105



Sub $125 Cards

It seems like every time we look at the Radeon HD 4850, AMD has raised the bar once again. Performance of this part exceeds that of the Radeon HD 4770 which is still stuck, at best, at the same price it was at launch. Which happens to be the price to which the 4850 has finally fallen. Most 4770 hardware on newegg.com is actually more expensive than the 4850. And after rebate, the 4850 can even be had for as low as $90. That's simply amazing for the price.


ATI Radeon HD 4850
Sapphire $100
XFX $110
MSI $110
PowerColor $110
HIS $115


The GeForce GTS 250 512MB (aka the 9800 GTX+) typically costs more (though the Galaxy card can be had for the price of a 4770), and is definitely not as good a deal. The 1GB card does have its advantages, but it's price is also much higher.


Sub $145 Cards

While it seems to be declining in availability, the Radeon 4870 512MB drops in at between $125 and $150. At the low end, this is a great deal that competes incredibly well with the previous segment, but the availability of of these parts make it a deal not long for this earth. Certainly, at the low end, it is a much better deal than the GeForce GTS 250 1GB that falls in this range as well (though solidly at $140 with one card hitting $125 only after MIR). Even at the same price, the 4870 512MB is absolutely the way to go. As we've typically recommended, though, if you can spend the extra money, the 1GB option provides more well-rounded performance.


ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
PowerColor $125
HIS
$140
Sapphire $150



Sub $180 Cards

The Radeon HD 4870 1GB and the GeForce GTX 260 core 216 are the first set of cards we come to that were and have been direct competitors in terms of price and performance throughout their life cycles. Since the introduction of the core 216, driver development differences and aggressive pricing, this battle has been a matter of preference for quite a while now. It seems both AMD and NVIDIA are content to keep it that way. The Radeon HD 4870 1GB can have a bit of a price edge, but some of those NVIDIA cards might also have a bit of an overclock that balances it.


ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
XFX $150
PowerColor $155
HIS $160
MSI $165
Sapphire $170



NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 core 216
MSI $165
Sparkle $170
Zotac $175
PNY $180
BFG $180



Sub $250 Cards

The Radeon HD 4890 and the GeForce GTX 275 are both relatively new parts. The 4890 seems to have fallen in price across the board more rapidly than the GTX 275 and can generally be had for a better price (though there is one GTX 275 model that can be had for the same price as the 4890). If we look at mail in rebate, then the 4890 can have up to a $20 advantage and at $180 is a great deal and definitely worth it if you can afford that extra bit of cash beyond the previous segment (sounds like a trend doesn't it). At these prices, the 4890 is the way to go, especially if you don't have a 2560x1600 monitor. 


ATI Radeon HD 4890
PowerColor $200
XFX $200
HIS $200
MSI $200
Sapphire $200


We should add that for those who like single card dual GPU cards, the Sapphire 4850 X2 2GB is definitely interesting. We tend to prefer single GPU cards as they have more predictable performance characteristics, but this is not a bad price for entry into the multiGPU market. Sapphire has been and still is the only manufacturer to offer a 4850 X2 part. 


ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2
Sapphire $220



$300+ Cards

In this arena, AMD has run out of single GPU parts. NVIDIA has one left with the GTX 285, but with the >$100 price premium over the Radeon HD 4890, there are certainly diminishing returns here. While the Radeon HD 4870 X2 also offers an advantage over the GTX 285, there's another rather large price jump, but if you're going to spend the money then you get more for the jump from the GTX 285 to the 4870 X2 than from the 4890 to the GTX 285 as well.


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
Sparkle $315
PNY $315
Gigabyte $330
MSI $330
XFX $330



ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2
XFX $380
Sapphire $380
PowerColor $430
VisionTek $480


Way out in the stratosphere is the GeForce GTX 295. Solidly at $530, this one is definitively not a great deal. You pay a high premium for having these two GPUs in a single card, and picking up two GTX 275 cards will be both cheaper and faster. And if you really want to do that, two Radeon HD 4890 cards would be our recommendation there for less money.


Final Words

That's the update from field. It's only been a short time since some of these parts debuted and the market is already compressed like it hasn't been in quite a while. For those who can afford it, buying a video card today will get you a lot for your money.

In any case, there are two standouts today: the Radeon HD 4850 and the Radeon HD 4890. These two are really terrific values.

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  • Dudler - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    My GOD! I guess this is the first time EVER ATi Gfxcards has had the leading edge in EVERY price segment. Be sure to take screens/save this article for future reference to bang for buck value. :)

    The only objection I have to the list is the 4850X2/GTX285 issue. These cards have the exact same performance, but the 4850X2 is cheaper, so the 285 shouldn't be there at all, it really competes with the 4870X2. While 48701GB /GTX260c216 is virtually equal performance, the 48701GB will perform better in 2560x1600.

    For more interesting reading on value, try the "Crisis managment" articles over at XBitLabs:
    [url=http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/rad...">http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/.../radeon-...]4770 CF[/url]
    [url=http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/rad...">http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/rad...]4830 CF[/url]
    [url=http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/rad...">http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/rad...]4670 CF[/url]

    @Jackattak
    What part did you not understand? The fact that 4890 and GTX275 has the exact same performance and that 4890 is cheaper and more easily oc'd?
    It is as in the saying:
    "The idiot and his money...."
    Because you sure have to be one to buy nVidia today.

    Thx ATi, your this generations(2008-2009) champ :)
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    The justification for not promoting the 4850 X2 or even 4870 X2 cards over single GPU solutions is that multi-GPU is still not something everyone wants in their box. There are still scaling and compatibility hitches especially with ATI and especially when new games/drivers are released.

    Most people shouldn't see big problems from this, but it is an issue. For now, I prefer to treat multi-GPU and single-GPU as not competing in exactly the same space in every instance because I believe they don't. As multi-GPU gets better and as time goes on this will change, but for now I think that there is a case to be made for the single-GPU over the multi-GPU single card that is outside of price and general performance.
    Reply
  • Xzylvador - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    In these times where power-efficiency and eco-friendliness concerns more and more people, why is there no mention of this in any recommendation? For example, while there's no argument that 2 GTX275's are cheaper to buy than GTX295, if I remember correctly, 2 GTX275's will drain over 100Watts more than a single GTX295. I'm not going to do the math here, but even if not considering environmental inpact, chances are that during the card's lifetime, you'll pay more in electricity than you saved buying the "cheaper" option. Reply
  • Roland00 - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    Using data from toms hardware.
    275 SLI at stock 275 speeds
    405 load, 205 idle

    275 SLI at the slower 295 speeds
    358 load, 194 idle

    295
    314 load, 184 idle

    So assuming you game 4 hours a day, every day of the year, the rest of the time your computer is at idle; and power costs your 14 cents for kill o watt hour. You will spend 40 dollars and 16 more for the 275 sli rig during a year (18.60 during gaming, 21.46 during idle)

    If you downclock the 275 to 295 speeds (so we are doing a much closer speed comparison since the 275 sli is faster) you will spend 19.21 more for the sli rig during a year(8.99 during gaming, 10.22 during idle)

    Now if someone can afford $500 dollars for graphic cards; they will not keep the cards for longer than 2 years. Thus the power savings really won't save you much if any money. (Especially if this customer is power conscious and would waste the time doing the calculations, he would turn off the computer when he isn't using it or use sleep mode thus less idle numbers as well as the possibility of downlclocking the gpu.)
    Reply
  • OCguy - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    AT? Loves AMD? Well spit on chest and sell me a midget.... Reply
  • Roland00 - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    I just want to point out there are some deals to be found out their in addition to the typical mir fair. I just recieved today an xfx 4890 which cost me 171 shipped at ewiz. It also included a free oem version of hawx. Reply
  • Anvildk - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    What always annoy me with these reviews is point of view. You can not really consider graphics power without taking the cpu into account.

    I would love to see testing results with different cpu and different graphics cards.

    Benchmarks are always based on a high end I7 core setup to provide the best test results and ensure it is not limited in any way.
    I for one would love to know how graphics cards perform depending on cpu.
    It might appear daunting to test every cpu with every graphics design but it could probably provide some insight.
    Most people look at these benchmarks and purchase with that in mind.
    Few people consider that their cpu might actually be a bottleneck and their new shiny 250$ graphics card can not perform to that effect unless it is in said high end i7 core system.
    Reply
  • Judguh - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    You have a CPU Bench for comparisons on CPU's... why not create one for graphics cards?

    I'm just wondering... I know it's a lot of work to even do a bunch of benchmarks for the processors but then to go back and create a new database for graphics... a lot of work, but an idea none-the-less!! :)
    Reply
  • EglsFly - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    Anybody bench compare these two cards? At only $20 difference, I would like to know which is the better of the two. Reply
  • Roland00 - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    He doesn't really need to bench those two cards against each other for he has already benched the 4850 cf as well as the 4890. Taken from Anandtech Multi GPU article and the 4890/GTX 275 article (different articles but they use the same hardware and the same drivers with the exception of the 4890 using a beta since the real ati drivers weren't out yet at the time of the article.) These are the 512mb versions of the 4850

    Resolution is 1920x1200 for all the info I give (you shouldn't be using cf if you have 1680x1050)

    Crysis Warhead
    4890-31.7
    4850CF-32.7

    Farcry2
    4890-42.1
    4850CF-45.6

    Fallout3
    4890-58.1
    4850CF-58.1

    Call of Duty World at War
    4890-66.5
    4850CF-77.9

    Age of Conan
    4890-38.7
    4850CF-56.3

    Left4Dead
    4890-83.9
    4850CF-96.1

    RaceDriver Grid
    4890-97.4
    4850CF-92.5

    So with the exception of Age of Conan, Call of Duty WaW, Left4Dead, and Race Driver Grid all other titles are within 3 frames of each other. Call of Duty and Left4Dead don't really count for both cards are above 60fps for the average fps. In RaceDriver Grid the 4890 is actually faster, but once again doesn't matter for both cards are above 60fps.
    Reply

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