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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  • SiliconDoc - Tuesday, July 14, 2009 - link

    Yes I have bought their products, and have at least half a dozen here right now.
    But since you asked and I'm here again, let me tell you what just happened with the latest red card install.
    The system is a barton 3000+ on a GA700N pro 2 rev. 2 (that's a pc3200 with 8xagp, 1.5 sil raid, quad giga ite raid, and 4 ide channels for up to 10 harddrives ON BOARD). I was putting it together as a gift for a friend, as another programmer friend gave me his in an silver all matched w/drives case, so I got the old one out and put it together.
    So in goes the formerly $160.00 red rooster 1950GT agp, which as I recall was a nightmare trying to get a decent picture and framerate out of Witcher - turn on the lighting and everything goes WHITISH overblown- and no driver could solve it.
    So anyway, XP32 in and the red rooster site AMD/ATI has a 9.3 or an 8.xx driver recommended - and I have the original CD as well -
    Well, to make a long story short it was a NIGHTMARE - the dang thing just could NOT complete a 3dmark2001se - crash, crash crash right after NEO in the hallway...
    Finally I just gave up and slapped in the 512 meg 7600gs so my friend would have a little less power but at least the computer wouldn't be rebooting and blowing him out of games.
    Yes, the agp "hotfix" was tried, Omega 3880 drivers and various other things. Oh well, sometimes ati just cannot get it right.
    I do KNOW I had it working at some point, with Omega drivers, ati tools, and an older XP (not bloated with all the latest hotfixes) but that was under driver 7.2 I believe - a bit long in the tooth now.
    So there you have it - another ati nightmare I just went through.
    The nvidia card just "went right in" without issue, no dorking around, no problems.
    Yeah, so there's another not often mentioned ati PROBLEM - the AGP card slot, now it gets a "hotfix" - that doesn't work correctly.
    Another friend got the 3850 AGP for his one favorite game a number of months ago - and wound up sending it back, it wouldn't work right -
    Yet another was SCREAMING about the 4670 he got - how screwed up it was - he either sent it back or threw it away, and got an Asus 9800gt Ultimate (128 shaders, overlocked to the wind, and 120 bucks 4-6 months ago). They're ALL GONE and have been- snapped up.
    Another - 2900HD sapphire (256bit 320 shader) - was stuck for years at 500/503 in a dell 2.8 HT 915G board. It ONLY WORKED WITH THE ORIGINAL DRIVER CD. Nothing from AMD/ATI could even make it run.
    Then it was in a 570i SLI board, and after endless manipulations it finally cranked out 3D core and mem speed - and happily (for another friend) it turned out to be an amazing overclocker - that person was still using it last week before he cooked a board overclocking everything to the wind. We still don't know if red rooster survived.
    No, I've had more red cards than you've ever seen, that's for sure, and worked on more than you can count.
    Here's the other side - 64M nvidia mx400 agp - this was about 3 months ago, on another system, don't remember the board, booted her up and heard a pop and the screen went dead - I knew it was the videocard, it was run 24/7 for years - so that person had to buy something new. So yes, sometimes nvidia's croak, but that was a long time coming.
    Oh, the 7600gs completed 3Dmark2001se - no crashing, same board, same xp install, same 3dmark archive, just ran right through it no hassles - admittedly the score is lower than the 1950gt would get if it could complete the test. LOL
    Have a nice day.
    Reply
  • papapapapapapapababy - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    yep, ati drivers@ccc are just terrible, and yep i really DONT GET why people hate nvidia for re-using his great g92 core, and what about ATI? no hate? why? Basically they do the same, yes with small improvements, etc but look > 4730,4770,4830,4850,4870,4890 and x2

    RV770 AND THIS IS WHY THE 4770 IS THE BEST CARD TO GET! thanks ati, ill take the GDDR5 memory, 40nm process, low temps, crazy GPU clock rate, low power envelope, mind blowing filtrate and all this performance that exceeds all your previous solutions, you can have your puny cores missing back!!!
    Reply
  • joeysfb - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    "Basically they do the same, yes with small improvements, etc but look > 4730,4770,4830,4850,4870,4890 and x2 "

    are known as RV770(2008), this generation.

    G80(2006)->G92(2007)->GTX250(2009) = same generation. (no change) Not necessary bad just that we expect Nvidia to innovate. I putting my dollar to the one that give more competition and innovate so that i receive better value for my money.... Nvidia is not doing that recently...

    I have bought 5 generations of their cards from Riva TNT, Riva TNT2, Geforce 3, Geforce 6, Geforce 8. Will be getting their dx 11 card unless ATI provide me with more value yet again...
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    Well can't blame you for snatching the 4770, the few that were out, I'd just love to hear derek complain about it being a near paper launch, but boy is it silent on that front.
    I saw one on the egg for 119.99, just one, a powercolor, then it was gone. Was 3 there yesterday listed all sold out with the grey tab showing.
    None at tiger.
    The 4830 was a nice deal at like 79 bucks at first, but yeah the 4770 DDR5 is amost a 4870- might as well be.
    Can't blame ya nice grab, I just don't get the not available thing, ati may have realized they screwed their 4890 completely.
    It's all quiet- all the red roosters don't say a word - we're all supposd to pretend it's available - and that really pisses me off.
    BIAS again.
    Anyway have fun with it, hope you get a match for it soon enough then have some real nice xfire numbers.
    Yeah the big price thing of Derek and not a WORD, 4770 just not listed or mentioned. TOTALLY BIASED.
    Then the x9800x left out.
    I was at another site with the 4470 xfire rave going on in their GTX275 review yesterday (they jsut HAD to add that 4770 x 2 line in to make red look good even though they had a separate whole raving review for it) , and I pulled their 9800GTX SLI numbers from their month or so ago review and put the links in because at the HIGHEST rezzes with the candy turned all the way up - the 4770 x2 pulled a 68.0 framerate and the 9800GTX/250GTS whatever sli did 66.4 - and I just HAD to tell the boneheads.
    ---
    Have fun.
    Reply
  • joeysfb - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    You called us bonehead and yet to spent so much energy on us. When I buy a graphic, I read like 10 to 20 reviews to get a general free on what's what. I am well aware of Reviewer's bias and pay sites.

    I also visit new eggs for buyer's purchase experience before i put my money down on the card be it whatever brand... I am not going to take a single person opinion and commits my money.

    I have to eyeing on the 4870 since launch and only pick it up recently at a heavily discounted price, $130. The reason why i don't pick Nvidia this time is that Nvidia PR or marketing has screw up. I work in the serve tech sector and can see the no. of defective gmpu they have created for our student. Nvidia did not make good on that, they promise to fix the defective gmpu but end up a fan speed fix.... unacceptable....

    They use their influence to request ubisoft to remove dx10.1 support of AC just because it runs better and therefore make them look bad.

    There so many bad rep lately for Nvidia that i am beginning to think they did it deliberately to lower their stock price. Whatever...their scheme i hope it crush and burn!!! just like their Notebook gmpu...
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    Ahh, once again the raging red rooster spews out, finally, his IMMENSE HATRED toward nvidia.
    Like I said, it is not I whom is the raging fanboy. The only thing I've ever said about ati is driver issues and they're losing money, only to point both out to the red raging roosters with their gigantic endless set of chips on their shoulders.
    I have zero dislike for nvidia or ati.
    I like both of them, and why shouldn't I ?
    It's YOU PEOPLE that have gigantic emotional problems and some deeply buried set of chips on your shoulders, that I and everyone else doesn't know about, until you finally DUMP all over the board - open up as it were, and then it's finally clear to me WHY you have argued and called me this or that or said utterly crazy, biased, ridiculous things, and denied so many others.
    Well, I'm sorry for your gigantic HATRED of nvidia.
    Would you like to tell us al how nvidia reps SHOULD act, like so many others before you ? LOL
    ROFLMAO-
    Thanks for coming clean. I do appeciate it - at least there is a reason for your problem, you claim.
    Whatever, there are more where that came from on both sides.
    I hope you enjoy ripping off ati and bankrupting them, or stealing everyone else's tax dollars to keep her afloat. LOL (I recall you felt that was a "buzz killer" when I mentioned it easrlier - hahahaa )
    See, sometimes if you're looking you can find a big fat hatred chip for any entity - goes both ways. Hahaaa
    I'm just not like that.
    Glad you're sticking up "for the children" (BWAHAHAAH!)and "their laptops" but I hope to Dear God ! you aren't teaching, because that would be real abuse, too.
    Have a nice lack of ambient occlusion, PhysX, gaming profiles, and forced dual - not to mention forced aa and af. Other stuff too, but whose counting.
    What you want for that 8800Gt?
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    Sorry, I think I shouldn't have asked you on the 8800GT here, I think that's supposed to be the forum or something. My apologies. Reply
  • joeysfb - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    For the record... I am using ATI 4870 512Mb. No problem with driver what so ever.... In other words, i am completely happy with my purchase period...
    Reply
  • bill3 - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    But the 4890 is the deal right now. Watching hot deals forums I have seen consistent deal for 4890's for 160-170 after rebate the last few weeks. Even one with two rebates for 135. Free shipping no tax on these deals usually.

    In contrast it's competitor the 275 I dont see those deals on. The 275 seems stuck in the solid 240 range for a brand name.

    I think this is where AMD's smaller die is paying off.

    Not only that but I may be wrong, but I seems to be noticing a trend on some newer games where the 4890's superior shader power is paying off. For example although the game's a mess, 4890 leads all single GPU cards including the 285 in ARMA 2. I suspect going forward the 4890 may improve relative to other cards in the benchmarks. Making it often even faster than a 285.

    Oh and I forgot to mention a rumor I read a while back the AMD is going to cut prices soon to make way for the 5800's. Supposedly the 4890 is to drop to 199 MSRP. Considering the street prices we see on it when the MSRP is 249 (I think?) if that's true street prices and after rebate deals could drop to absurdly low on the 4890 if that happens.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    I have to say the 4850 512MB is the absolute best purchase for those gaming using 17 & 19" displays (you know, the display you spent several hundred dollars on a few years ago and see no need to replace just because bigger ones are cheaper now). At 1280x1024, you can turn pretty much every setting on hi/ultra/max (whatever the game in question calls it) and still get great frame rates (and I'm talking games like Crysis Warhead).

    Two weeks ago my son bought a sapphire 4850 from newegg for $103 including tax and shipping, and there was a $15 rebate on top of that (being a teenager he completely ignored what I told him about submitting the rebate and did it wrong, so he won't get it, but the rest of you are smarter than that). He is universally pleased with it and had money left over to buy Prototype.

    $100 ($85ar) for what is in effect a high-end card just can't be beat (it's high-end considering the display being used.. paying twice as much really won't gain anything other than meaningless fps, a point it took me two weeks it impress upon him)
    Reply

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