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Gaming & Multimedia - What is the Best Video Card?

written by: Jordan Salvi•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/29/2009

Many gamers get swamped with the huge selection of high-end video cards on the market. It doesn't help that the naming schemes used by card manufacturers make little sense. So what if you want the all out best video card available?

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    Introduction

    First of all, depending on the definition, there can be more than one "best video card". The traditional definition is the best card that can fit into a single PCI-express slot in your computer. Additionally however it can refer to the best video card setup, and includes multi-card configurations like SLI or Crossfire. These technologies allow you to add more than one video card and let them supplement each other to greatly improve performance. The downside to these types of setups is that not all games support multiple video cards, and sometimes the performance isn't that much improved over a single card. This article will actually feature three different cards, all the best in their class.

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    Single Card, Single GPU

    GeForce GTX 285 1GB

    Earlier this year, Nvidia released the GTX 285, an improved version of the older GTX 280. It is based on the g200b core, and features higher clock speeds than the GTX 280. At stock speeds, this card can take any other stock single GPU card currently on the market. If you want the absolute best video card, without the hassles of going with multiple GPUs, the GTX 285 is your card. It currently retails around $320.

    Complete Specs:

    Core: G200b

    Manufacturing Process: 55nm

    Stream Processors: 240

    Memory: 1 or 2 gigabytes GDDR3

    Memory Interface: 512-bit

    Core Clock: 648MHz

    Memory Clock: 1476MHz

    Price: $320

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    Single Card, Multi-GPU

    GeForce GTX 295

    The Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 is a monster of a card. It boasts two GPUs sandwiched on two boards, using internal SLI to connect them together. Because the connection is internal you don't need a SLI capable motherboard, and it only takes up a single PCI-express slot (though it will block access to the adjacent slot as well). The GTX 295 was released by Nvidia in late 2008 to combat AMD's Radeon HD 4870x2 which was the most powerful card at that time, and in comparisons became the clear winner in most games. Being the top performing single card available, the GTX 295 has a price tag to match it's performance: it currently retails around $530.

    Complete Specs:

    Core: 2x G200b

    Manufacturing Process: 55nm

    Stream Processors: 480 (2x 240)

    Memory: 1792MB (2x 896MB) GDDR3

    Memory Interface: 2x 448-bit

    Core Clock: 576MHz

    Memory Clock: 1998MHz

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    Multi-Card

    GeForce GTX 285 Tri-SLI

    What could be better than one GTX 285? Three of them, working together. If you're lucky enough to have an SLI-capable motherboard with three PCI-express slots, this setup is unparalleled. It even outperforms two of the GTX 295s in most games. If you want the all out best graphics setup available, with no concern for price, this is for you.

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    Honorable Mentions

    AMD has a few cards that come precariously close to Nvidia's in performance, and in certain situations can actually surpass them. Sapphire's HD 4890 Vapor-X for example can best the GTX 285 in many games, especially in high resolutions. We didn't include it on this list because it's an overclocked card, and the overclocked GTX 285s beat the HD 4890s in turn. Alternatively, if you have a quad-crossfire motherboard, you could go for a Quad-HD 4890 setup, which may or may not best the GTX 285 Tri-SLI.