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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  • johnsonx - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    wow, the same card is down to $85 w/promo code ($92 w california tax), and there's still a $10 rebate. how can you pass that up? Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    Yeah, how one can pass it up is the gtx260 overlcocked by MSI for $145 after rebate.
    More ram and better all around, period.
    Or get any 9800 core, better all around as well.
    There are games the ATI cards CAN'T play - not just because of the screwey drivers, but because they don't have PHysX - so they crawl.
    Then, their cores are smoking hot and will electromigrate - more returns - more stress on their board components, louder fans, bloated software... the list goes on and on.
    Watch out for the "monthly drivers" or you'll break some of your games.
    I can pass it up - really easily.
    Reply
  • joeysfb - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    Can't Play a game because ATI card don't have PHysX....
    hahahaHAHAHAH!!!....

    Its a running joke now, imagine 2 years from now...No one will remember it exist!!
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    http://www.nvidia.com/object/physx_new.html">http://www.nvidia.com/object/physx_new.html
    ..
    Total environmental destructon is going big.
    The water and particle control is getting big.
    -
    I predict the SOFT squishy physx which adds another never before seen in games dimension is going to go big soon - so many gamers are going to want to "squeeze" that hottie in their game or watch her bounce in her feudal garb or college tee. We're talking whole bodies with ultra smooth edges and soft flesh - as well as furniture and in game objects (food, spandex, plastic trash cans, etc. )having a real rubbery and elastic look and action to them.
    Going away ?
    BWHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    Roflmao !
    " In conjunction with the release of the GeForce Power Pack, NVIDIA has also released new WHQL-certified drivers that enable PhysX acceleration for all GeForce 8, 9, and GTX 200 Series GPUs. This new driver also adds support for PhysX-accelerated features in the commercially available Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 game.
    By installing these drivers, GeForce owners can immediately experience much higher levels of interactivity, special effects, and realism on their PC. In addition, GeForce owners will love being able to run PhysX-accelerated applications faster on their GeForce GPU than on competitive GPUs. For example, in the PhysX-enabled levels of Unreal Tournament 3, the GeForce 9800 GTX+ runs 180% faster than on the AMD Radeon HD 4850. "
    --- Tue, 12 Aug 2008
    http://www.i4u.com/article19659.html">http://www.i4u.com/article19659.html
    180% FASTER than the 4850 with the " 2 years old technology " nvidia g92 core ! ROFLMAO
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    Is that another hope for you joey ? Are you suddenly Cleo again, all for your red rooster rage bias ?
    I saw Anand ADMIT he LOVED PhysX in Mirror's Edge, and it's only getting better as games become more and more complex. The SOFT PhysX is SPECTACULAR - and gives new meaning to "squeeze and squish" in games, and it's coming.
    Let's not forget the new driver releasing ambient occlusion to the overwhelming majority of the masses (THAT HAVE AN NVIDIA CARD, not an ati card).
    The truth is - ati may be a card that is forgotten in two years, they are still bleeding a bilion loss with barely a billion in sales, and without a cash infusion in the billions, they are going DOWN to bankruptcy. It's amazing they've lasted this long. While you cost ati a LOSS by buying any of their cards, you cheer that PhysX won't be remembered ?
    ROFLMAO !
    hahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
    Gawd !
    Nvidia has made a profit all those quarters and years of ati billion dollars in the red losing $,$$$,$$$,$$$.$$
    Tsk tsk Cleo !
    The rooster card's bottom line is D E A D.
    Reply
  • joeysfb - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    PhysX will inevitable share the same fate as Creative EAX 5... too high tech that no one bothers.... Will any game developer use PhysX to modify the game play experience, even if they do.. those are the title best be avoided.

    No single GPU card can run demanding games like Crysis/Warhead in full details... I don't see how there will be any free GPU cycle to render PhysX in a meaningful way.

    So, at present its just a marketing gimmicks for Nvidia that will not change just like Creative X-Fi sound card.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    There already are free cpu cycles to render PhysX, even on hacked down 9600 nvidias.
    I don't know, maybe if you actually did jump from your 8800, you ought to use all that extra money you saved on your 4870 was it - and get that PhysX card into a system - heck just the other review you claimed you still had the 8800GT, so you just jumped -
    You won't be playing PhysX games, want to sell yer 8800GT ? How much ? I have a buyer for it.
    I see 6 PhysX games there > http://www.nvidia.com/object/physx_new.html">http://www.nvidia.com/object/physx_new.html
    There's 100 more at the older link.
    http://developer.nvidia.com/object/physx_good_comp...">http://developer.nvidia.com/object/physx_good_comp...
    Game Title Developer Platform(s)
    2 Days to Vegas Steel Monkeys PC
    Adrenalin 2: Rush Hour Gaijin Entertainment PC
    Age of Empires III Distineer Studios Macintosh
    Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs Distineer Studios Macintosh
    Alpha Prime Black Element Software PC
    Auto Assault Net Devil PC
    Backbreaker Natural Motion TBA
    B.A.S.E. Jumping Digital Dimension Development PC
    Bet on Soldier: Blackout Saigon Kylotonn Entertainment PC
    Bet on Soldier: Blood of Sahara Kylotonn Entertainment PC
    Bet on Soldier: Blood Sport Kylotonn Entertainment PC
    Captain Blood Akella PC, XBox 360
    Cellfactor: Combat Training Artifical Studios, Immersion Games PC
    Cellfactor: Revolution Artifical Studios, Immersion Games PC
    City of Villains Cryptic Studios PC
    Crazy Machines II FAKT Software PC
    Cryostasis Action Forms PC
    Desert Diner Tarsier Studios PC
    Dragonshard Atari PC
    Dusk 12 Orion PC
    Empire Above All IceHill PC
    Empire Earth III Mad Dog Software PC
    Entropia Universe MindArk PC
    Fallen Earth Icarus Studios PC
    Fury Auran Games PC
    Gears Of War Epic Games XBox 360
    Gluk'Oza: Action GFI Russia PC
    GooBall Ambrosia software Macintosh
    Gothic 3 Piranha Bytes PC
    Gunship Apocalypse FAKT Software PC
    Heavy Rain Quantic Dream PC
    Hero's Jorney Simutronics PC
    Hour of Victory nFusion Interactive XBox 360
    Hunt, The Orion PC
    Huxley Webzen, Inc PC, XBox 360
    Infernal Metropolis Software PC
    Inhabited island: Prisoner of Power Orion PC
    Joint Task Force Most Wanted Entertainment PC
    Kuma\WAR Kuma Reality Games PC
    Magic ball 3 Alawar Entertaiment PC
    Mass Effect BioWare XBox 360
    Medal of Honor: Airborne EA Los Angeles PC, XBox 360
    Metro 2033 4A Games PC
    Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire BEC Playstation 3
    Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia Artificial Studios PC, XBox 360
    Monster Truck Maniax Legendo Entertainment PC
    Myst Online: URU Live Cyan Worlds PC
    Open Fire BlueTorch Studios PC
    Paragraph 78 Gaijin Entertainment PC
    Pirates of the Burning Sea Flying Lab Software PC
    PT Boats: Knights of the Sea Akella PC
    Rail Simulator Kuju Entertainment Ltd PC
    Red Steel Ubisoft Paris Wii
    Rise Of Nations: Rise Of Legends Big Huge Games PC
    Roboblitz Naked Sky Entertainment PC, XBox 360
    Sacred 2 ASCARON Entertainment PC
    Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened Frogwares Game Development Studio PC
    Showdown: Scorpion B-COOL Interactive PC
    Silverfall Monte Cristo PC
    Sovereign Symphony Ceidot Game Studios PC
    Sonic and the Secret Rings SEGA Wii
    Speedball 2 Kylotonn Entertainment PC
    Stalin Subway, The Orion PC
    Stoked Rider: Alaska Alien Bongfish Interactive Entertainment PC
    Switchball Atomic Elbow PC
    Tension Ice-pick Lodge PC
    Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter GRIN PC, XBox 360
    Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 GRIN, Ubisoft Paris PC, XBox 360
    Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas Ubisoft Montreal PC, XBox 360, Playstation 3
    Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent (multiplayer) Ubisoft Shanghai PC, XBox 360
    Tortuga: Two Treasures Ascaron Entertainment PC
    Two Worlds Reality Pump PC
    Ultra Tubes Eipix PC
    Unreal Tournament 3 Epic Games PC, XBox 360, Playstation 3
    Warfare GFI Russia PC
    Warmonger: Operation Downtown Destruction Net Devil PC
    W.E.L.L. Online Sibilant Interactive PC
    Winterheart's Guild Zelian Games PC, XBox 360
    -----------------------
    I guess yer now SOL on all those.
    LOL
    roflmao
    Reply
  • joeysfb - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    These are pre-Nvidia PhysX titles, care to post the ones developed in 2009. Intel's Havok has x10 the amount of pre-Nvidia PhysX titles why don't you post that...

    Havok is clearly are better choice as its supported by both ATI and Nvidia. I really appreciate its CPU's Physic rendering characteristic, I still have plenty of free CPU cycle leave.. GPU cycles i prefer to keep it for my 24" monitor 3D rendering of 1920X1200.

    Nvidia PhysX is illogical. Using my precious gpu cycle to render things like snow flake...but the game craw at 15 fps....

    I hope all developers see the light and give up the idea of using Nvidia PhysX!! USE HAVOK instead!!!
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    That would be your needy ati card that can't handle PhysX, not an Nvidia that handles PhysX and the games well - and Havok. More for your money with Nvidia. Ambient Occlusion, too.
    So, if you're still hurting with your new ati card, I guess you didn't buy a good enough card.
    Some games you just can't play with an ATI card. CAN'T PLAY at a crawl.
    LOL
    It is true. Sorry for your AND ati's loss.
    Reply

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