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
PowerColor $129.99
Diamond $159.99
XFX $169.99

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
ASUS $164.99
HIS $169.99

 

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)

Index $200 - $400+ Recommendations
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  • triclops41 - Sunday, April 05, 2009 - link

    I think it should be mentioned that the 4670 doesn't require external power, therefore it can be used on pretty much any computer because you only need a very baseline power supply and a PCI-E slot.

    the 4670 is comparable to the 9600gt in power, but surpasses it in quietness, efficiency and flexibility of implementation.

    My secondary PC is a basic dual core dell with a 4670, and it runs any game at 720p full settings without a hitch. Didn't even have to swap out the crappy Dell stock PSU.
    Reply
  • DBissett - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    So you eyes find what appear to be the BOLD section headings, and then it takes a minute to figure out that the relevant text is ABOVE what appears to be the BOLD heading and not below it. So now you're scanning backwards to read what you want in the review. WHY? Get a better editor on these articles. Eyes don't need this kind of exercise. Reply
  • KhadgarTWN - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    4870 could perform better then GTX 285 in what circumstance?
    let alone in the REAL GAMING review GTX 285 sit on par with 4870X2 with about 2/3 of power consumption. (OCP)
    And how about GTX 260?
    And how about the situation when SLI/CF failed?
    And how about the PSU?

    The only one silly site "cite" about 4870 may catch up GTX 285 is this one....

    Anandtech's recommandation is more and more like a reversed one.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Let's see....

    Age of Conan: 4870X2 kills 285 @ 1680X1050, 1920X1200, 2560X1600

    Call of Duty World at War: 4870X2 destroys 285 @ 1680X1050, 1920X1200, >10fps @ 2560X1600

    Crysis Warhead: Close on the low end resolutions but 4870X2 >15% faster at 2560X1600

    Fallout 3: Close on low end resolutions but 4870X2 14% faster at 2560X1600

    I got bored after 4 straight benchmarks in the 285 review showing the 4870X2 was better. Me thinks you need to go back and check your facts....
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Didn't say 4870x2, but 4870. I'd assume that was a response to the second paragraph on the last page: "Yes, the GTX 285 does offer the highest performance of a single GPU solution in many cases. But the fact that the 4870 costs just a little more than half as much, and in some cases performs higher, leaves a sour taste in our mouths." Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    I was refuting his comment that "in real-world" it is similar to the X2, which it in no way is. reviews now have so much ambiguity in what they decide is [hard] they fail to have much actual scientific comparisons. I used to use them as another source for reviews but after the past couple fiasco's (C2D launch, last 3 or so major gpu launches), I believe they are (and very smartly so) pandering to the flamewars so they can generate ad revenue instead of actual good reviews (I was banned after that comment over there).

    As for Anand's comment it holds water:

    "Yes, the GTX 285 does offer the highest performance of a single GPU solution in many cases. But the fact that the 4870 costs just a little more than half as much, and in some cases performs higher, leaves a sour taste in our mouths."

    Just with another quick look at the 285 article here's what I can see:

    -Age of Conan: 4870 1gig beats GTX 285 at all resolutions

    -Fallout 3: At 1680X1050 and 1920X1200 4870 1gig beats GTX 285

    -G.R.I.D.: At 1680X1050 and 1920X1200 4870 1gig beats GTX 285

    If you just browsed the original review and looked at the bar graphs which only showed the highest resolution (which IMO is not the proper one to show since we are talking single GPU setups where at most people are running 24" displays, I actually think I posted a comment in regards to that choice since many people don't look at the detailed data), you would come away with the 4870 1gig only beating the GTX 285 in Age of Conan. Once you see that unless you are running a 30" display they pretty much split the games selected in 1/2 at 22-24" display resolutions, I think Anand's comment is actually going easy on the GTX 285.

    If I was to write that sentence it would be much more painfully truthful, "Yes, the GTX 285 does offer the highest performance of a single GPU solution in 4 out of 7 cases at 22-24" display resolutions. But the fact that the 4870 costs just a little more than half as much, and in 3 out of 7 cases performs better, leaves a sour taste in our mouths."

    Disclaimer: I own a 4870 512meg, but could care less "defending" it against an Nvidia product. I only care about performance/$, and more importantly factual data.
    Reply
  • san1s - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    rofl
    grid? age of conan?
    ati biased games, all of them
    if a gtx 260 beats a 4870x2 in the nvidia biased dead space, would "it leave a sour taste in our mouths?"
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Cherry pick all you want, and claim bias as well, the simple fact stands that when you look at the data the 4870 at practical resolutions for its price range/target audience does quite well against the GTX 285 (that would be 24" and smaller displays). BTW, you forgot about Fallout3 or is that also an ATI-biased game?

    If you feel the games are biased take it up with Anandtech, I'm simply going over the data to refute the baseless claims.
    Reply
  • san1s - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    "feel the games are biased"
    I don't feel the games are biased, the ARE biased toward ati cards
    in a real life scenario, the games you play aren't half nvidia favoring half ati like the selection on anandtech reviews
    looking at the top games, the overwhelming majority are "the way its meant to be played""
    if you want to go for "practical resolutions" and "target audience" then when don't you support testing with the target games that people that pc gamers play?
    "does quite well against the GTX 285"
    the cards are not int he same league, different price points
    performance does not increase at the same rate as price
    for example, you can buy a $100k porsche 911 turbo, or you can step it up to a $200k gallardo
    do you get a 200% increase in performance? no
    same thing with graphics cards, and just about anything else you buy

    Reply