Availability check: The last generation

After yesterday's availability check, we concluded that the drought of new AMD Radeon HD 5850 and 5870 graphics cards had ended (or at least, we were enjoying a nice rain shower). Today, we decided to tackle another question: how has the arrival of the new DirectX 11 cards affected the previous generation? Are old favorites still widely available at their former prices, or have things changed?

We looked at four cards that essentially defined the $150-250 space before the new 5000-series Radeons showed up: the Radeon HD 4870, GeForce GTX 260 reloaded, Radeon HD 4890, and GeForce GTX 275.

To probe availability and pricing, we searched for cards at Newegg, TigerDirect, and ZipZoomFly in the United States, because those are the three computer hardware e-tailers with the most reviews on both our price search engine and ResellerRatings.com. North of the border, we looked at NCIX. The cards we found are listed below with available models highlighted in green. All prices are in U.S. dollars except for NCIX's, which are in Canadian dollars. We didn't factor mail-in rebates into our prices. Like last time, we excluded Buy.com and used medians instead of averages to get an idea of typical pricing.

Let's look first at the Radeon HD 4870...

  Price Price (CA)
Model Newegg TigerDirect ZipZoomFly NCIX.com
Diamond 4870PE51GDS       $207.99
Gigabyte GV-R487D5-1GD     $175.99 $194.99
HIS H487FM1GH     $155.99  
HIS H487FN1GP $159.99      
HIS H487Q1GH $174.99   $172.99  
MSI R4870-MD1G       $172.18
NCIX AMD-ATI-RADEON-4870-1GB       $224.99
Sapphire 100267L       $199.99
Sapphire 100283VXL     $184.99  
VisionTek 900286       $184.99
XFX HD-487A-ZWFC $154.99   $156.99 $164.99
Median $159.99 N/A $172.99 $194.99
Overall median $166.49  

...and the GeForce GTX 260 reloaded:

  Price Price (CA)
Model Newegg TigerDirect ZipZoomFly NCIX.com
Asus ENGTX260 GL+/2DI/896M     $189.99 $230.28
Asus ENGTX260/HTDI/896M $194.99     $209.99
BFG BFGEGTX260MC896OC2DE $194.99   $195.99  
BFG BFGEGTX260MC896OCBE $184.99   $199.99  
BFG BFGEGTX260MC896OCDE     $180.99  
BFG BFGEGTX260MC896OCXDE $209.99   $210.99  
ECS NBGTX260-896MX-F $169.99      
EVGA 017-P3-1165-AR       $297.00
EVGA 896-P3-1255-AR $214.99   $205.99 $239.99
EVGA 896-P3-1257-A1     $253.99  
EVGA 896-P3-1257-AR $224.99   $215.99 $249.99
EVGA 896-P3-1258-AR       $270.13
EVGA 896-P3-1260-TR     $209.99  
EVGA 896-P3-1264-AR       $357.50
EVGA 896-P3-1266-AR     $369.99  
EVGA 896-P3-1268-AR       $381.74
Galaxy 26XIF9HM1QUH $189.99      
Galaxy 26XIF9HM3BUV $209.99      
Galaxy G458-0260   $209.99    
Gigabyte GV-N26-896H-B     $354.99  
Gigabyte GV-N26OC-896I       $199.99
Gigabyte GV-N26SO-896I       $219.99
MSI N260GTX-T2D896-OCv3 $199.99     $192.70
NCIX NV-GTX260-216-896MB       $244.99
Palit NE3X262SFHD94 $182.99     $194.99
PNY VCGGTX260CXPB       $213.22
Sparkle SXX260896D3S-VP     $169.99  
XFX GX260NADBF     $189.99  
XFX GX260NADFF       $279.99
XFX GX260XADJC     $194.99 $209.99
XFX GX260XAWFC     $199.99  
Zotac ZT-X26E3KE-FSP $179.99      
Median $194.99 $209.99 $199.99 $235.14
Overall median $199.99  

These two cards were in a virtual deadlock last summer, with the 4870 1GB sometimes available for less than $150, the GTX 260 not much higher, and both delivering roughly the same level of performance. Today, the situation isn't quite the same. The supply of 4870s looks to be drying up—we only found a handful listed and just four in stock in the U.S.—and prices have climbed overall. AMD would rather you buy one of the new Radeon HD 5770s, presumably.

On the Nvidia side, median prices have risen to a relatively hefty $200, but we still see a decent number of cards in stock. These listings mix stock and "factory overclocked" cards, but strangely, the most expensive offerings aren't always the highest-clocked. For instance, the Asus GTX 260 that sells for $195 at Newegg runs at the default speeds, while the $170 ECS card doesn't.

What about the two $200-250 contenders? Here's a peek at the availability landscape for the Radeon HD 4890...

  Price Price (CA)
Model Newegg TigerDirect ZipZoomFly NCIX.com
Asus EAH4890/HTDI/1GD5       $242.99
Diamond 4890PE51G     $208.99 $249.99
Diamond 4890PE51GXOC     $218.99  
Gigabyte GV-R489UD-1GD $204.99   $199.99  
HIS H489FN1G     $239.99  
HIS H489FN1GH     $212.99  
MSI R4890 Cyclone     $202.99 $229.99
MSI R4890 Cyclone OC     $159.99  
MSI R4890-T2D1G-OC     $202.99  
NCIX AMD-ATI-RADEON-4890-1GB       $254.99
PowerColor AX4890 1GBD5       $219.99
PowerColor AX4890 1GBD5-PH       $234.99
PowerColor AX4890 1GBD5-PPH       $284.99
Sapphire 100269-2GVXL       $284.99
Sapphire 100269HDMI $184.99   $198.99  
Sapphire 100269VXL $214.99   $184.99  
Sapphire 100269VXLE $194.99 $199.99   $239.99
Sapphire 11150-04-20R       $279.99
Sapphire 11150-05-21R       $289.99
Sapphire 11150-11-20R       $234.99
Sapphire 11150-40-21R       $284.99
VisionTek 784090025487 $209.99      
VisionTek 900278   $249.99   $329.99
VisionTek 900285   $214.99 $199.99 $259.99
XFX HD-489X-ZSFC $189.99 $193.99 $194.99 $214.99
Median $199.99 $207.49 $201.49 $252.49
Overall median $201.49  

...and the GeForce GTX 275:

  Price Price (CA)
Model Newegg TigerDirect ZipZoomFly NCIX.com
Asus ENGTX275/2DI/896MD3     $249.99 $287.28
BFG BFGEGTX275896OC2E $249.99   $237.99  
BFG BFGEGTX275896OCE     $229.99  
BFG BFGEGTX275896OCXE     $259.99  
ECS NBGTX275-896MX-F $249.99   $219.99  
EVGA 012-P3-1178-TR   $349.99 $354.99 $389.99
EVGA 017-P3-1175-AR $299.99   $309.99 $334.99
EVGA 017-P3-1176-AR       $346.06
EVGA 896-P3-1170-AR $259.99   $252.99 $271.99
EVGA 896-P3-1171-AR $269.99   $269.99 $299.99
EVGA 896-P3-1173-AR       $322.53
Gigabyte GV-N275SO-18I $319.99      
Gigabyte GV-N275UD-896I $244.99   $242.99  
MSI N275GTX $309.99      
MSI N275GTX Twin Frozr OC       $255.32
MXI N275GTX Lightning       $342.99
PNY VCGGTX275XPB       $284.89
XFX GX275XADQC       $349.99
XFX GX275XAHFF     $219.99  
Zotac ZT-275E3KB-FSP $249.99     $254.99
Median $259.99 $349.99 $249.99 $311.26
Overall median $259.99  

The tables turn here. Nvidia's GTX 275 cards look marked up and relatively hard to come by—almost to the same degree as the 4870—while the Radeon HD 4890 is sitting steady at $200 with seemingly plentiful supply. Considering the GTX 275 and the 4890 were about neck-and-neck when we tested them, and some card vendors offer GTX 260s clocked similarly or higher than the GTX 275, we can almost write the GTX 275 off entirely.

That leaves us with two real survivors in this price range: the GeForce GTX 260 and the Radeon HD 4890. Both of those offer better performance than the new Radeon HD 5770 in DirectX 10 titles, but both also cost a little more and draw more power under load. The 4890 should have a performance edge over even "factory-overclocked" GTX 260s, although on the flip side, we weren't too impressed with the noise levels of its cooler.

If you're looking to snag a graphics card in this price range before Christmas, the 4890 looks like the best deal in terms of performance per dollar, then. However, folks who don't need quite that much performance would do well to look at the Radeon HD 5770, and those with an extra $100 might want to consider the Radeon HD 5850.

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