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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  • falcon8204 - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    this is the same deal iirc as the thanksgiving blowout sale.
    asus 4850 for 149.99 - 30 MIR = 129.99 with free shipping to boot. i just ordered one so you guys lookin for one better hurry before they sell out :">

  • Eidorian - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    SAPPHIRE 100265L Radeon HD 4830 512MB comes down to $99 with free shipping today with the promo code EMCBCBKDB. Add on the $10 mail in rebate for $89.
  • crimson117 - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    The newegg link to "PowerColor Radeon HD 4850" actually leads to the $85 POWERCOLOR AX4830 product page.
  • Kroneborge - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    Of course one thing to think about too, is the option to upgrade later. It seems like if I get a 260, and then in a couple of month have some extra cash it's real easy to go SLI. If I get a 4870 there is no guaruntee that the crossfire bugs will have been worked out.

    And I think for a lot of us, it's easier to upgrade in stages like that.
  • 7Enigma - Friday, December 19, 2008 - link

    I don't agree. Unless you are the atypical gamer that upgrades video cards every 6 months single card solutions at the height of $/performance curve have always made more sense. Not to mention drivers have just not been there to see the great 1.5-2X performance increase we want out of doubling the card. The dual-gpu on the same board are much more beneficial since it's seen as a single card, but these are obviously at the high end.

    Now that AMD is competetive again especially. Back when the 8800 series came out you could have benefitted from SLI since there were basically no new parts for the better portion of 2 years. In this cycle, however, going with a 9600GT-260, holding out for 1-1 1/2 years then upgrading to a new single card will likely be a better move.
  • vshah - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    It would be awesome if you guys could include some comparisons with older cards. I'm still rocking a 6800gt, and wondering how the newer cards compare.
  • derek85 - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    For performance comparison of old vs new cards, you can check out the GPU chart on Toms Hardware.
  • Rippar - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    The 9800GTX+ SLI looks good considering the combo deals on newegg for it.
    Antec P182/9800GTX+ combo = $244
    EVGA 750i FTW/9800GTX+ combo = $285
    Then again, that case and motherboard have combos with the GTX260 as well.
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    we chose not to look at any combo deals because that just made everything start to get too complex. we wanted to make it as general as possible too, and talking about only the price of a single card give people an idea of deals to be had for people looking to upgrade their existing single dual or triple slot mobos as well as people looking to build an entire system from the ground up.

    We might not have the absolute best deals you can find anywhere listed here, but some of these deals are really good and they weren't that hard to find. It should work as a starting point for people though. Especially if a combo deal will work for you.
  • Rippar - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    I know, I know. I'm just letting the people who read the commentrs know that there are some RIDICULOUS deals on video cards right now.

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