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Best PC Gaming Desktop Video Cards - Spring 2011

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Apr 15 2011 - The end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 have been very busy in the graphics card department. AMD launched the 6900 Series with the 6950 and 6970, which both performed well for the price. But records were shattered in March with AMD's release of the 6990, a dual-GPU video card that packs a punch in peformance. NVIDIA then countered that release with its very own dual-GPU GTX 590, a card that is nearly as fast but can be loud and hot. With all of these new cards added to the mix, a revised list of the top desktop video cards for PC gaming is in order, and this 2011 edition is packed with high-end cards.

1. Best Overall - AMD Radeon HD 6990

AMD Radeon HD 6990 Graphics Card
Image Courtesy AMD

Right now, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 is the fastest video card on the market. It edges out the NVIDIA GTX 590 (which is still impressive enough to be the runner up) due to the 6990's quieter and cooler disposition, as well as the dual BIOS settings. Gameplay is ultra smooth even at the highest settings. Due to the card's feature-rich hardware, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 is geared toward high-end gaming with a price tag just under $700.

2. Runner-Up - NVIDIA Ge Force GTX 590

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590
Image Courtesy NVIDIA

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 is ranked second best thanks to advanced tessellation. This dual-GPU card is made for intense gaming. Although the card has a tendency to run hot and can be loud, it is still exceptionally fast and offers a level of gameplay single-GPU cards struggle to deliver.

3. Best Single GPU - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 Graphics Card
Image Courtesy NVIDIA

Searching for a high-end video card that is great for gaming but isn't $700? The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 is an excellent choice with an above average texture fill rate and 1.5GB of GDDR5 video memory. The GTX 580 also is gaining a more competitive edge thanks to sale prices and rebates due to the release of the GeForce GTX 590.

4. Best for CrossFireX - AMD Radeon HD 6970

AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video Card
Image Courtesy AMD

The AMD HD 6970 is a great graphics card for setting up a CrossFireX solution. Each GPU is fast, but the price point isn't nearly as high as that of the dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990. Gamers running two HD 6970s will find frame rates to be significantly above average in intensive games. And with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory per card, this setup is exceptionally smooth.

5. Best for SLI - NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti Video Card
Image Courtesy NVIDIA

If you're looking to run two or more video cards in your desktop, a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards will do the trick. Although a single GTX 580 offers similar performance, the dual GTX 560 Ti setup is a great two-step solution (meaning you purchase one card first and then the second). This is especially beneficial for consumers on a budget. Be sure to have enough motherboard slots available, though, as each GTX 560 Ti takes up two slots.

6. Best Budget-Friendly Video Card - AMD Radeon 6870

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Graphics Card
Image Courtesy AMD

With the release of so many high-end graphics cards in late 2010 and early 2011, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 has carved out a niche in the midrange category. The AMD Radeon HD 6870 can be found for under $225, which is budget-friendly in the high performance category. The HD 6870 also works well in a CrossFireX setup, as each card can be purchased separately as budget allows.

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