The 2009 holiday season should be an excellent time to purchase a new video card. ATI's new Radeon 5000 series cards are now out, providing a great high-end offering. However, there are also some older high-end video cards which still provide great performance and are now available at low prices.
New Cards, New Games
The 2009 holiday season has, or will see, the release of numerous games, such as Dragon Age, Left for Dead 2, and Modern Warfare 2. New games, however, are not much fun without the hardware to run them. New releases from ATI means this holiday season is a great time to purchase a new high-end video card for yourself or your favorite PC gamer, and the three listed here are the best.
ATI Radeon 4890
Although ATI has already launched the Radeon 5000 series products, the Radeon 4000 series video cards remain strong performers. The ATI Radeon HD4890 is the fastest single-GPU card of the series. This translates into performance which is not quite up to par with the new Radeon 5850, but more than fast enough to run almost any game with maxed-out details on a 22 inch monitor.
Granted, purchasing the Radeon HD4890 does require the forfeiture of certain features such as DirectX 11 support and support for supersampling. However, the Radeon HD4890 now limbos under the $200 dollar mark, which makes it hard to beat in performance for the price.
ATI Radeon 5870
There is no doubt about it - ATI's new Radeon 5870 is one beast of a card. It packs about twice the performance of a single Radeon 4870 into a card which is almost exactly the same size. This makes it the most powerful single-GPU card at the time of this writing, and it isn't far from beating Nvidia's multi-GPU cards. If its performance you want, the Radeon 5870 is the one to buy.
And it gets better. Like all Radeon 5000 series cards, the 5870 fully supports DirectX 11. It also supports Eyefinity and supersampling - more importantly, it actually has the power to make use of both. This gives the Radeon 5870 the edge against other high-performance video cards. You'll pay for it, though, as the Radeon HD5870 is currently going for as much as $400 dollars. It is worth every penny, but the price can still be daunting.
Nvidia Geforce GTX260 SLI
There is no doubt that Nvidia is currently getting its hat handed to it by ATI, which has managed to put out its new GPU well in advance of Nvidia's next GPU. That does not mean, however, that Nvidia is out of the race.
By itself, the GTX260 is a great card, but no longer one which can be called "high-performance". Paired together, however, the GTX260 is extremely fast, challenging Nvidia's much more expensive multi-GPU cards and even the Radeon 5870. The Radeon 5870 does offer attractive features not available on the GTX260 SLI, but the GTX260 is much less expensive. Two GTX260s can be purchased for under $350 dollars. That makes it a performance bargain.
Of course, you'll need to own a motherboard with two PCI Express slots and a good PSU, but if you have those bases covered using the GTX260 in SLI is a very good idea.