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The Best Gaming Graphics cards for the Money: April 2008

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April 7, 2008 1:11:04 PM

Detailed graphics card specifications and reviews are great - that is, if you have the time to do the research. But at the end of the day, what a gamer needs is the best graphics card within a certain budget.

http://www.tomshardware.com/2008/04/07/the_best_gaming_graphics_cards_for_the_money/index.html
April 7, 2008 1:41:10 PM

Don't they mean 9800GX2 rather than 9600GX2. I realize it's probably a type but that article I'm sure got proofread so what's the deal.
April 7, 2008 1:41:20 PM

wow

anyone get the hint of bias??? i mean cmon im seeing alot of nvidia cards and what 2 ati???

3870s in crossfire is superior to 9600gts in sli

on the 3dmark ORB site the 9600gt max is 20513

the 3870s around 25000-29000

i dont mind the other results...but that one kinda ticked me off

and im talking pci-e agp doesnt really matter imo
Related resources
April 7, 2008 2:06:08 PM

buzzlightbeer said:
wow

anyone get the hint of bias??? i mean cmon im seeing alot of nvidia cards and what 2 ati???

3870s in crossfire is superior to 9600gts in sli

on the 3dmark ORB site the 9600gt max is 20513

the 3870s around 25000-29000

i dont mind the other results...but that one kinda ticked me off

and im talking pci-e agp doesnt really matter imo


And the 3870s in Crossfire is more expensive in Crossfire.
I think the article need more proofing.
He was not clear in his statements.

In the article, he said that the 3870s in SLI do offer unmatched performance in the $360 price point.
But since it's under the heading of the $300 Card, that get's interpreted at the 9600s.
However, it can't be the 9600s since they would be $300 SLI'd.

When reading the article, don't just line up "Winners" for different price points.
The article is not meant to really declare winners.

It's useful for people shopping at price points.
They then read the comments about cards in that price point.
Then they shop for deals.

They usually note for a few more you could do this or that.

Unfortuntely, there is alot to be subjective about in the article, but it's not a intense review.
Its guidelines.
April 7, 2008 2:09:38 PM

I've said this for the last 3 months.

THE FAN ON THE 8800GTS IS AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE 8800GT.

This article is supposed to be a quick resource for people not wanting to do all the research to find the best card. Is one sentence about the fan really that difficult to include?
April 7, 2008 2:12:16 PM

I think the results show the truth, not bias. AMD just needs to lower their prices again to compete. The 3870x2 would be the best card out there for $250. But the card is $300 and for $300 the 9600GT in SLI beats it. I hope AMD's 4xxx series cards can perform on the level and hopefully force Nivida to stop holding back.
April 7, 2008 2:16:12 PM

Why didn't the 9800 GTX make it on the comparison chart?
April 7, 2008 2:31:46 PM

dkory22 said:
Why didn't the 9800 GTX make it on the comparison chart?


I'm guessing because the money on a single GTX could better spent on a SLI configuration.
April 7, 2008 2:48:02 PM

boonality said:
Don't they mean 9800GX2 rather than 9600GX2. I realize it's probably a type but that article I'm sure got proofread so what's the deal.


Yes, I noticed that as well.

It's listed that way on the hierchy chart too.
April 7, 2008 3:17:10 PM

I think alot of sites had it as a 9600 instead of 9800... you can still find the name interchangeable on google searches.

@ "bias" comment: IMO, these 'best for' articles have always been a quick gloss-over on what a given price point can get you, and where to best spend it. Nothing more, but very valuable for n00bs and tech-savy alike. With that, there have been months that are dominated by ati, and others by Nv. Sometimes they are 50/50. It is a volatile market, at any given time one fanboi can find "bias" on the whole market against their object of affection. That is life, get over it.
April 7, 2008 3:21:08 PM

zeuseason said:
I'm guessing because the money on a single GTX could better spent on a SLI configuration.


But that is not always an option.

In general Boards can do SLI or CF but not both.
Many boards only have a single fast PCI-E port, so neither CF nor SLI will be an option.

They need to cover all three bases.
It would not be uncommon for somebody looking to upgrade their GPU that they don't want to upgrade their mobo.
April 7, 2008 3:35:34 PM

^lol

all bases ARE covered... If a point says "get sli here" then you do that... what that means is that if you want to spend x$, what they have at that point is the only thing worth spending that money on. If you can't do the sli, then your price/performance goes out the window and you are better off going to the price point above or below that one if you can. You will be better using your money and not blowing it on an underperforming/overpriced option.

seems pretty obvious to me...
April 7, 2008 3:49:05 PM

zenmaster said:

It would not be uncommon for somebody looking to upgrade their GPU that they don't want to upgrade their mobo.


Then the GX2 is STILL a bad price/performance investment compared to a single GTS 512. Just because it's faster doesn't mean it's a good buy.

I'm making recommendations here based on price/performance, and the GX2 is overpriced plain and simple.



April 7, 2008 3:56:03 PM

buzzlightbeer said:
wow
anyone get the hint of bias??? i mean cmon im seeing alot of nvidia cards and what 2 ati???
3870s in crossfire is superior to 9600gts in sli
on the 3dmark ORB site the 9600gt max is 20513
the 3870s around 25000-29000
i dont mind the other results...but that one kinda ticked me off


Bias? please. Some months the list is filled with Ati cards.

The Radeon 3870 is overpriced compared to the 9600 GT, end of story. Especially since the 9600 GT pretty much always has the advantage over the 3870 once AA is enabled.

As for 3dMarks - dude, 3dMarks don't figure in to my recommendations. Game performance for the dollar is what matters.
April 7, 2008 4:58:52 PM

What's up with the 8800 GT recommendation? Why not go with 8800 GTS G92 512MB? I guess I should go do the price research, but I thought these were DAMN close in price.
April 7, 2008 5:01:04 PM

prodystopian said:
I've said this for the last 3 months.

THE FAN ON THE 8800GTS IS AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE 8800GT.

This article is supposed to be a quick resource for people not wanting to do all the research to find the best card. Is one sentence about the fan really that difficult to include?

I agree wholeheartedly. The cooler on the 8800GT is a disgrace, coming from someone who has owned one for about 4 months. Loud, obnoxious, dumping heat into the case, and borderline inadequate to cool my factory overclocked card. Dual slot FTW!

And yes, the references to the "9600GX2" should be edited...seriously.
April 7, 2008 5:45:17 PM

After reading reviews on video cards here, namely, ATI's 1950XT and Nvidia's 8800GT. I am convinced our friends here at Tom's are hard of hearing...
April 7, 2008 5:49:39 PM

prodystopian said:

THE FAN ON THE 8800GTS IS AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE 8800GT.

This article is supposed to be a quick resource for people not wanting to do all the research to find the best card. Is one sentence about the fan really that difficult to include?


This bears repeating, furthermore including the price/performance differences almost completely negate the 8800GT as the right choice when you are considering either of those two options. The G92 GTS is a clear winner across the board.
April 7, 2008 5:58:55 PM

Strange the 9800GTX was not mentioned as a single card configuration.
April 7, 2008 6:04:10 PM

Unless you get an 8800GT with a nice dual-slot cooler, then you've saved $50 vs. a card thats only marginally better. Granted, the selection of GTs with those coolers is pretty limited, but to utterly dismiss the GT is foolhardy at best.
April 7, 2008 6:38:44 PM

In the comparison Chart, I recommend The Mobility 2600, Mobility 2600xt, as well as the g8600gt/ 8700gt be moved up one tier. I have a laptop with a 2600 (standard version), and it performs just slightly below what my x1900 AIW is capable of producing at stock at xt speeds(4400 3dmark06, with a comparatively lame processor). It is pretty well known that the 2600 is the competitor to the 8600gt, so they should be at the same level by that virtue.
April 7, 2008 7:02:39 PM

zenmaster said:
And the 3870s in Crossfire is more expensive in Crossfire.
I think the article need more proofing.
He was not clear in his statements.


lolwut
April 7, 2008 7:24:27 PM

cleeve said:
Then the GX2 is STILL a bad price/performance investment compared to a single GTS 512. Just because it's faster doesn't mean it's a good buy.

I'm making recommendations here based on price/performance, and the GX2 is overpriced plain and simple.


I was not stating it's a good deal.

I was just commenting that somebody was thinking one card was not included because it's inferior to a dual card setup. In some cases that makes sense. In cases where SLI is not an option, it would not.

I agree that the GX2 is overpriced at the moment.
April 7, 2008 7:49:30 PM

prodystopian said:
I've said this for the last 3 months.

THE FAN ON THE 8800GTS IS AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE 8800GT.

This article is supposed to be a quick resource for people not wanting to do all the research to find the best card. Is one sentence about the fan really that difficult to include?


lol, for the 3rd time, this point CANNOT BE STRESSED ENOUGH.

Oh, and by the way, this remains the best monthly card update feature I've run across...I certainly can't blame Tom's for assuming folks will do some research on cooling before they update/ build their rig.
April 7, 2008 7:59:20 PM

what about 34xx?
April 7, 2008 8:12:11 PM

biased lol......... HAHAHHAHAH

why do u think its biased. there are more nvidia cards, because they are better, they provide more bang for the buck.

and 3dmark is nothing. real benchies baby
April 7, 2008 8:43:41 PM

bf2gameplaya said:
This bears repeating, furthermore including the price/performance differences almost completely negate the 8800GT as the right choice when you are considering either of those two options. The G92 GTS is a clear winner across the board.



So all the fans on all the models of 8800GT's are loud? I find that hard to believe................
April 7, 2008 8:52:43 PM

That's like saying the first batch of 3870s overheated due to crappy FAN BIOS... oh wait that did happen.


Perhaps you need to get a new equivalent card.
April 7, 2008 9:01:13 PM

scyle said:
Strange the 9800GTX was not mentioned as a single card configuration.


9800 GTX wasn't available when I wrote it up for this month.


And as for the loud 8800 GT fan:

SORRY!

My bad, I keep forgetting to add that in for you silenceophiles. I'll put in a note in next month's article about it, or you all have permission to have me drawn & quartered... :D 
April 7, 2008 9:03:49 PM

zenmaster said:
I was not stating it's a good deal.

I was just commenting that somebody was thinking one card was not included because it's inferior to a dual card setup. In some cases that makes sense. In cases where SLI is not an option, it would not.

I agree that the GX2 is overpriced at the moment.



I hear you Zen, just explaining where I was coming from.

Peace out!
April 7, 2008 9:17:22 PM

You're a good man, Charlie Brown cleeve.
April 8, 2008 12:06:04 AM

Not to be too critical but since the 8800GS can also be had for under $100 after a MIR wouldn't that mean it'd be the best card for under and around $100? I'm not saying that it's the cats pajamas but it's a pretty darn good card for the money and it sure is faster than the 8600GTS and 2600XT. Super cheap cards aren't supposed to be super great, but for the money it packs quite the punch.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814150275
April 8, 2008 12:36:37 AM

Rebates and sales dont count. This is based on there average retail price.
April 8, 2008 1:54:22 AM

T8RR8R said:
Not to be too critical but since the 8800GS can also be had for under $100 after a MIR wouldn't that mean it'd be the best card for under and around $100?


Sure would!

Couldn't find it for that price a few weeks ago when i wrote the article though. :) 

And yes, rebates don't count. Sales do though, if you can buy it for the price, then that's the price it is... but rebates are a pain in the arse, and I've head too many horror stories to take them into account.
April 8, 2008 1:57:59 AM

Yeah, mail in rebates aren't something I ever count onm, so good point.

Anyway idea when the GPU charts will be updated?
April 8, 2008 2:17:33 AM

I honestly can say that this all needs to be taken with a grain of salt... the "best for the money" isn't exactly lined up to be the greatest article due to perspective (meaning what you want out of a card/system). and i have a few reasons to back this up.

first off, the system. not the best in the world... but great for the price right now.

gigabyte ga-m57sli-s4 motherboard, 570 chipset, bout 90 bucks
2 gigs gskill ram, about 30-45 depending on sale
amd x2 5000+ black edition (2.6ghz), 80-90 bucks and oc-able to 3.2
ati, gigabyte hd 3870, gddr3 zaleman cooler, nwn2 packaged, and all the connectors i would expect.
samsung hd of some sort or another.
arctic cooling freezer pro 64.

It's good hardware, especially for the price.
I've run tests/demo's on everything and oc'd and tweaked and what not, but before i did any of that... I did what any good gamer does... I installed every game i could get my filthy paws on. And after reading benchmarks for several months, figuring out the best card to fit my build budget... i picked this one... and for some reason, I'm hitting higher fps at same settings than most of them posted on web sites? Could it be drivers? could it be different versions of any given game? I dunno, but honestly... i'm killing every game i touch.... I hit Crysis demo, at 30-50 fps and never dropped below 25 at 1280x1024, no AA, and EVERYTHING turned up to max. From what i've seen online, this is above average... and i keep increasing the rez to see how it does.
I also get better results in oblivion than on the toms vga charts... so like i said, grain of salt... and after getting this amd proc and seeing what intel can do... i must say, i'm really impressed with amd's main stream lineup. it really is just great. And after buying ati and starting to whip their drivers back up to par... i'm not dissatisfied one bit. (save for the lack of linux drivers thus far... but nvidia doesn't have next gen drivers either... so either way i'd be screwed)
anyway, happy buying... i'm off now

PS: newegg seems to no longer cary the gigabyte hd 3870 with zaleman cooler. I suggest the -B version, 10-20 more expensive and only found on other sites such as zipzoomfly.com... i really did like the ultra durable design... and the ultra low price. most places sell it for 300 or more (retards) anyway. enjoy.
April 8, 2008 2:24:12 AM

No offense but I doubt you. 25 FPS at 1280x1024 doesn't seem all that great to me. Maybe you should post some pics with FRAPS and post some links of these reviews that you're looking at. I just highly doubt you're zooming along as fast as you say you are with that system.
April 8, 2008 4:26:15 AM

nachowarrior said:

amd x2 5000+ black edition
ati, gigabyte hd 3870,
...
I hit Crysis demo, at 30-50 fps and never dropped below 25 at 1280x1024, no AA, and EVERYTHING turned up to max.

I agree. This statement is HIGHLY suspect.
April 8, 2008 6:03:40 AM

I strongly disagree......the statement is perfectly reasonable.

The system quoted is perfectly capable at maintaining an average of 30fps.
a b U Graphics card
April 8, 2008 6:58:43 AM

What about the recent price drops for the 8800gtx? I realize they prolly weren't available for this article, but the "king" that all recent cards are compared to has to be a compelling option in the 300 dollar price range.

As in the best card for $650- 2 8800gtx's in sli!
Or just a single GTX for $330.

I'm reminded of an article I read today (CPU magazine) in which an overclocked 8800gt was beat in every benchmark they ran against a stock 8800gtx. Not by much, but still faster..
April 8, 2008 12:43:16 PM

buzznut said:
I'm reminded of an article I read today (CPU magazine) in which an overclocked 8800gt was beat in every benchmark they ran against a stock 8800gtx. Not by much, but still faster..

Shouldn't it be?

That is a good point about the 8800GTX; the prices have finally come down :bounce: 
April 8, 2008 2:05:43 PM

never dropped below 25 at 1280x1024, no AA, and EVERYTHING turned up to max

Highlighted are the reasons I have trouble believing the post.
April 8, 2008 2:05:55 PM

cleeve said:
9800 GTX wasn't available when I wrote it up for this month.


And as for the loud 8800 GT fan:

SORRY!

My bad, I keep forgetting to add that in for you silenceophiles. I'll put in a note in next month's article about it, or you all have permission to have me drawn & quartered... :D 


I wouldn't draw and quarter you. Just strap you down with 8800GT fans at full tilt whirring around your head for days :sol: 

Thanks for the update as always Cleeve.
April 8, 2008 3:27:52 PM

nachowarrior said:
I honestly can say that this all needs to be taken with a grain of salt.


Let me get this straight:

You haven't tested a cheaper 9600 GT in your system... but you're saying that the article needs to be taken with a grain of salt because you like the way your 3870 performs?

There is a pretty huge flaw in your logic here, dude. Nobody is saying the 3870 performs poorly: but I am sure as hell suggesting in the article that, yes, the 9600 GT is cheaper and faster with AA applied. Without AA applied it's pretty damn close.

So you're saying the 9600 GT isn't a better buy because you think people should spend more on a 3870 for similar performance... worse, with AA applied?

I'm sorry, but I think your post is what needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Test/compare a cheaper 9600 GT in your system with Crysis and then you're words will have some weight; otherwise all you're doing is justifying your purchase, not recommending the best you can get for the dollar.


And for the record, a Q6700 oc'd to 3.6 GHz paired with an OC'd 8800 GTX managed to pull 33.54 fps in the Crysis CPU_benchmark 1280x1024... on HIGH detail, not VERY HIGH. VERY HIGH detail would have kicked the FPS down at least 5 - 10 fps on this rig.

There is no way in hell an Athlon64/3870 combo is pulling 30fps average at Very High detail, 1280x1024. This rig is twice as powerful as that.

Maybe it's getting an average 30 fps if the character is standing around, there's no AI players anywhere, and they're watching a rock? How is this system being benchmarked to get this number? Did you use a timedemo, or FRAPS? Or are you guesstimating?
a c 130 U Graphics card
April 8, 2008 9:18:33 PM

.
a c 130 U Graphics card
April 8, 2008 9:28:49 PM

mactronix said:
.


@ Cleeve
Wow i don't envy you your job it just keeps snowballing. Pretty soon you are gonna need to include onboard chipsets with various additional cards, Tri SLI and Hybrid Crossfire/CrossfireX solutions.
I hope you are going to get additional resources as it would be a pity to see "The Best Gaming Graphics cards for the Money " feature suffer due to the increased work load.
I for one appreciate the work that goes into supplying us with this quick reference guide and would rather it went to every two months if need be to keep the quality and depth of the article.
Thanks again
Mactronix
April 8, 2008 9:41:18 PM

mactronix said:
@ Cleeve
Wow i don't envy you your job it just keeps snowballing. Pretty soon you are gonna need to include onboard chipsets with various additional cards, Tri SLI and Hybrid Crossfire/CrossfireX solutions.


Heheh. Yeah, the future is looking pretty complicated, isn't it?

Hopefully the R700/G100 will be so good, nobody will need to bother with SLI/Crossfire anymore... :D 
April 8, 2008 10:28:26 PM

dkory22 said:
Why didn't the 9800 GTX make it on the comparison chart?


Well the cynics amongst us would say that just isn't worth inputting in any category for the best Gfx cards for the money :lol: 

More realistically it's much more likely that as it was only released on the 1st it just missed being placed in this months list, which is why it doesn't feature in the comparison table.
April 9, 2008 1:07:10 AM

cleeve said:
Let me get this straight:

You haven't tested a cheaper 9600 GT in your system... but you're saying that the article needs to be taken with a grain of salt because you like the way your 3870 performs?

There is a pretty huge flaw in your logic here, dude. Nobody is saying the 3870 performs poorly: but I am sure as hell suggesting in the article that, yes, the 9600 GT is cheaper and faster with AA applied. Without AA applied it's pretty damn close.

So you're saying the 9600 GT isn't a better buy because you think people should spend more on a 3870 for similar performance... worse, with AA applied?

I'm sorry, but I think your post is what needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Test/compare a cheaper 9600 GT in your system with Crysis and then you're words will have some weight; otherwise all you're doing is justifying your purchase, not recommending the best you can get for the dollar.


And for the record, a Q6700 oc'd to 3.6 GHz paired with an OC'd 8800 GTX managed to pull 33.54 fps in the Crysis CPU_benchmark 1280x1024... on HIGH detail, not VERY HIGH. VERY HIGH detail would have kicked the FPS down at least 5 - 10 fps on this rig.

There is no way in hell an Athlon64/3870 combo is pulling 30fps average at Very High detail, 1280x1024. This rig is twice as powerful as that.

Maybe it's getting an average 30 fps if the character is standing around, there's no AI players anywhere, and they're watching a rock? How is this system being benchmarked to get this number? Did you use a timedemo, or FRAPS? Or are you guesstimating?


Well I'm not sure which is better buy. What I do know is 3870 is a stronger card than 9600gt in the shader performance and usually perform faster in non-AA situations. They both perform very similarly that you won't notice it for everyday use. I really think lot of these hardware sites are blowing 9600gt as some godly card out of proportion. It's really the weakest card out of the group when you consider raw performance. It is in more line with 3850 than a 3870. Lot of these cards are priced accordingly and have strengths and weaknesses for each card when they cut things like shader, rop, and memory bus, etc.
!