Video Card Buyer's Guide - Spring 2009by Derek Wilson on March 30, 2009 6:00 PM EST
- Posted in
For our ~$100 price point (plus or minus a bit) we are going to strongly recommend that people wait for about a month. This price point will be shaken up a bit in about that time and we really aren't comfortable recommending anyone purchase something in this market until sometime in early May. This may or may not further compress the sub $100 market, but there really isn't much more room down there, so we don't expect much change except at right around $100.
~$100 Recommendation: IT'S A TRAP!!! (wait about a month)
It just so happens that this price point is also the highest volume price point. Certainly neither AMD nor NVIDIA will be happy that we recommend waiting, but this is all about the consumer. If you are going to spend about $100 on a video card, just try really hard to wait a little bit longer.
From $130 to $150 we are looking at the a tightly contested price point. At the lower end of the spectrum, the Radeon 4850 gets our nod, while at the higher end the 1GB GTS 250 does perform slightly better in our tests (we do not recommend the 512MB variant though). Whether that slight difference in performance is worth the $20 difference in price really has to be up to the end user, but you get a much bigger bump by jumping up out of the price range to the ATI Radeon 4870 512MB at $165 (which is why we don't recommend the GTS 250 1GB at this point).
$130-$150 Recommendation: ATI Radeon HD 4850
|ATI Radeon HD 4850|
This next bit is a little more tricky. Between $165 and $180 there exist the 4870 512MB and 4870 1GB. These cards perform nearly the same at lower resolutions, so for gamers with 1680x1050 and lower resolution monitors, we would recommend the 512MB variant with the caveat that some games are becoming memory hogs. The 1GB might be slightly more future proof, but it's really hard to say whether or not that will last beyond when you'd want to upgrade both either way when talking about 1680x1050 and lower.
$165 (At 1680x1050 and Below) Recommendation: ATI Radeon HD 4870
|ATI Radeon HD 4870|
At resolutions above 1680x1050, the 1GB 4870 and the GTX 260 core 216 are both viable options that come in at $180. So save $20 at average to lower resolutions or make a choice based on the games you play (or preference for a hardware designer) at higher resolutions. NVIDIA and AMD really do trade blows depending on the games we choose to test, so if you want the best performance at this price point, you'll have to pick the games in which performance matters most to you.
$180 Recommendation: End User Preference (4870 1GB or GTX 260 core 216)