The People's Performers: $100 - $130 Graphics Cards

Just over the magic $100 mark is a playground for the senses. At low to moderate resolutions (1024x768 to 1680x1050) gamers using this class of hardware are all but guaranteed to be able to play with all the effects and high image quality options enabled. Antialiasing will still be hit or miss, but generally this segment provides the option to either play at the higher resolutions the hardware is capable of without AA or play at lower resolutions with some AA enabled. As antialiasing is a subjective feature in many ways (the level at which the performance tradeoff becomes useful and the degree to which antialiasing improves image quality at specific pixel sizes are really tough to generalize). The flexibility available at this price point is definitely desirable to those who like to tinker.

It is possible to get up to HDTV resolutions, but sometimes this requires a quality reduction and it isn't likely that antialiasing will be an option on modern games at resolutions over 1680x1050. Half resolutions on HDTVs or 30" monitors (for those who need high res 2D and still want a little gaming performance) scale well on digital panels and this price point should get you up to 1280x800 with some level of AA in a good many games and high quality settings.

This price point may get overlooked sometimes, as three digit numbers can be a deal breaker for some and those willing to spend a little more could be more attracted to the better performance of slightly more expensive cards. This space also gets a little blurry because of the availability of so many different NVIDIA products that have been renamed and/or overclocked. The 8800 GT/9800 GT and 9600 GT can run into each other with factory overclocks. Thus this market is a bit more blurry than some of the others. The only AMD competition at this price point is the Radeon HD 4830.

Our Recommendation? The Radeon HD 4830 (Image From

And the Radeon HD 4830 happens to be our general recommendation here. We do have to qualify that though. the Radeon HD 4830 can usually be had for about $110, but so can the 9800 GT, and it may be possible to snag an overclocked version for the same price. While the Radeon HD 4830 does well against the competition at stock speeds, this is the first place where you really have to balance overclocking and price. It is also worth it to try and find specific games you like benchmarked online and choose based on that information as well. The reason we've gone with the Radeon HD 4830 here is because you know what you are getting and it tends to do better than the competition at stock speeds and comparable price.

That and the fact that newegg has a major deal right now with mail in rebate allowing a card with performance greater than a stock 9800 GT to compete in terms of price with a 9600 GT/GSO: 85 freaking USD. Shipped for under $95 is a terrific deal.

Recommendation: ATI Radeon HD 4830

Newegg ZipZoomFly TigerDirect
PowerColor Radeon HD 4830
HIS Radeon HD 4830
Sapphire Radeon HD 4830 ASUS Radeon HD 4830
$115 $110 $109
Index Let's Get Ridiculous: $130 - $180 Graphics Cards
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  • JonnyDough - Sunday, December 21, 2008 - link

    I'm a bit confused about the budget cards for an HTPC, although this article did help me a bit. It's something I've been looking into. I have a projection t.v. with HDMI that runs 1080P. With the desire for multi-channel hi-def sound figured in, I would assume I should go for an AMD 4670 or a 4830 card. But I also want to make sure it's producing good hi-def picture too. If it won't give me the same quality as a Blu-Ray player I don't want to bother with it. Right now I'm using an HD-DVD player for upscaling my movies, and I have a chassis, Windows XP MCE, and some older systems for an HTPC. All that's left is the right card and a Blu-Ray drive/software.

    This card will likely be paired up with an old Athlon X2 running at 2.0ghz or a single core Pentium4 2.2ghz.

    If I can get away with an even cheaper card, let me know. I'd like to do some light gaming on it (TF2, etc @ LAN parties) but the gaming is a distance second in importance to watching movies.

    What's the cheapest reasonable solution for a good movie experience when pairing a card with an old processor, 2GBs of RAM, and a huge tv? Sound isn't really an issue, as I have an X-Fi that can do the job - although I'd prefer to keep that with my gaming system.
  • marc1000 - Monday, December 22, 2008 - link

    your card would be the 4670 or maybe even the 4550 if gaming is not important. but sound is a issue, for sure. because you can not play blu-ray content without a "secure channel" for the audio. of course, you can always use the lower-quality sound channels, but I remember reading something about the hi-quality sound on blu-ray discs and special software and hardware needs. browse some articles here at anandtech and you will find the answer. BUT if your display is 24hz then the only options are the 9500gt or 9600gso.
  • teohhanhui - Saturday, December 20, 2008 - link

    It points to the 4830...
  • Noobnugget - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    Nothing like be horribly inaccurate by quoting mail in rebates(which you may not even get back) as the actual price you pay. When will people learn..?
  • JonnyDough - Sunday, December 21, 2008 - link

    Seconded. I made the same statement on Tom's Hardware I think (or else it was here) for using rebates as a buying decision factor. Don't purchase MIR items unless you're ready to pay full price for what you're buying. Rebates are a way to steal money from consumers. Nothing more than a cheap gimmick to rob you.
  • BLaber - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link


  • JonnyDough - Sunday, December 21, 2008 - link

    From everything I've read I have to agree. Unless you're doing memory specific work or games that require more memory bandwidth, there's no reason to upgrade from a Core2Duo or Core2Quad to i7 yet. Maybe with the next tick or tock (I don't keep track of which is which) then it will be more worth upgrading. Wait for i7 to be seasoned a bit (new proc revisions) before bothering with a change from a Core2 system. Not many modern games really make good use of multiple cores yet anyway. I'm looking forward to GPUs made on smaller dies and Windows 7. PC gaming may make a come back. But these $300 GPU's that create massive amounts of heat and run up my electric bill, and a lack of solid SSD support for XP and Vista make me want to wait a year or two to upgrade my PC from my old socket 939 Athlon X2 systems.
  • kevinkreiser - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    any opinions on the best single slot gpu? i'm looking to make a small computer that can do graphics intensive work, but i'm limited to using up only 1 slot). maybe i could water cool a dual slot to make it a single slot? no idea. suggestions welcome. thanks.
  • SiliconDoc - Tuesday, December 30, 2008 - link

    How about an EVGA 9800GT">

    How about this one with a free full game">

    Single slot superclocked core">

  • marc1000 - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    that would be the radeon 4830, because it runs cooler than the 4850 and these are the only high-end single-slot gpus today... or you could stick with older hardware.

    anyway, who will be REALLY jealous is the people overseas and below the equatorial line... i live in Brazil and we have no such price wars here. the cards stay with the initial price for their lifetime... i mean, a 4670 that was 130USD when it debuted, still cost 130USD today over here... and the 4830 that launched later have a "premium tag" because the 4670 costs 130USD... so the sellers charge the 4830 for 150USD... and these prices will not fall. that is really something to be jeaulous about. (PS: of course our currency is not dollars, i'm converting the values here)

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