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It may be fair to say Zotac is overcharging a little for the GeForce GTX 650 Ti 2GB AMP! Edition. The card trails the Radeon HD 7850 1GB more often than not, and while our 7850 1GB carries the same $179.99 price tag, other 7850 1GB models priced as low as $164.99 are available right now.

Recommending the Radeon 7850 1GB over the GTX 650 Ti 2GB would be pretty sensible... if it weren't for the issues we encountered in Skyrim. Considering the 7850 2GB exhibited no problems, it's likely the 7850 1GB's smaller frame buffer is proving to be a handicap in that game. And the severity of the hitching we detected (even when re-testing) makes it hard to shrug off this particular problem.

Ultimately, I don't think the GTX 650 Ti 2GB AMP! Edition is worth the $180 price tag, and I don't think the 7850 1GB is a good substitute for it, either. If you're looking for the best deal in this price range, my advice would be to set aside a little extra cash and spring for either a GeForce GTX 660 or a Radeon HD 7850 2GB. You'll get guaranteed higher performance without memory bottlenecks at 1080p, and you'll be able to drive a larger monitor with a higher resolution if you need.

Now, what if your budget is pulling you closer to the $150 mark? There will surely be one-gig GTX 650 Ti variants with similar or slightly lower clocks than the Zotac card we tested, and they may be available for well under $180. Odds are they'll perform similarly in most situations—Skyrim at "Ultra" settings with high-res textures excepted. When considering such cards, then, your choice is going to be between them, cheaper 7850 1GB offerings from AMD, and hot-clocked versions of the Radeon HD 7770, like the $155 Black Edition model we tested.

We can disqualify the 7770 right off the bat, because we know it's the slowest of the bunch. The 7850 1GB can deliver better overall performance than even a GTX 650 Ti 1GB with higher-than-reference clock speeds, but that performance edge will come at the cost of higher power consumption—and potentially higher noise levels, as well. The GTX 650 Ti should be slightly slower, but cooler-running, quieter, and easier to squeeze into a cramped build.

Then there's the fact that some GTX 650 Ti cards, including the Zotac model we tested, ship with a free copy of Assassin's Creed III. That can upset the value equation quite a bit, provided you're planning on purchasing the game anyway. A $165 Radeon plus a copy of ACIII will set you back around $225, after all, which is quite a bit more than even the Zotac card's $180 asking price. That said, AMD has a bundled game deal of its own. Some Radeon HD 7850 1GB models come with a free copy of Sleeping Dogs, which is only a couple of months old and sells for $49.99 on Steam right now. In the end, gamers with particularly tight budgets may care less about performance and more about which game they can get for free.TR

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