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.
So if you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to make the right decision, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming cards offered for the money.
August Review and September Updates:
As the new GPUs from AMD and Nvidia flood the market, previous generation cards keep getting cheaper and cheaper. The amount of very powerful graphics cards at the $100 price point is staggering: The Radeon HD 3850, GeForce 8800 GS, 9800 GSO, GeForce 9600 GT, and GeForce 8800 GT 512MB can all be had in the neighborhood of this very low price.
In August, the Radeon HD 4870 X2—AMD’s dual-4870s-on-a-card—arrived in force, becoming the highest-performing single graphics card in the world. At a $550 price tag however, it’s too hard on the budget to easily recommend when two separate 4870 cards can be purchased for slightly less and used in a CrossFire configuration. Having said that, it is notable that AMD has the championship title in its ring again.
Nvidia hasn’t been resting on its laurels, however, and has introduced stronger competition for the Radeon HD 4870 by lowering prices on both the GeForce GTX 260 and GeForce 9800 GX2 to a similar level. This has really softened the Radeon HD 4870’s thunder and it now shares the $270 recommendation with these two excellent high-performing cards.
As far as rumors go, it is speculated that AMD will be releasing the 4600 series in the near future as a mid-range line that offers technical specifications similar to the powerful 3800 series, but with a throttled-back 128-bit memory interface (compared to the 3800-series’ 256-bit memory interface). This would make a great mid-range product, but the problem is with all of the inexpensive, high-performing cards at the $100 price point, the 4600 series will need to be available at about $80 to offer desirable price/performance. We’ll see what happens.
Some Notes About Our Recommendations
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list include:
- This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, the cards in this list are more expensive than what you really need;
- Prices and availability changes on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing info, but we can list some good cards that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest;
- The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or retail, your mileage will most certainly vary;
- These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list; they might be a good deal, but it’s out of the scope of what we’re trying to do.