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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.