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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: February '10
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What about this other card that’s not on the list? How do I know if it’s a good deal or not?

This will happen. In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen, because inventory levels and prices change quickly. So how do you know if that card you’ve got your eye on is a good buy in its price range?

Here are two resources to help you judge if a card is a good buy or not. The first is the graphics card hierarchy chart, which groups graphics cards with similar overall performance levels into tiers. The top tier contains the highest-performing cards available and performance decreases as you go down the tiers from there.

You can use this hierarchy to compare the pricing between two cards, to see which one is a better deal, and also to determine if an upgrade is worthwhile. I don’t recommend upgrading your graphics card unless the replacement card is at least three tiers higher. Otherwise, the upgrade is somewhat parallel and you may not notice a worthwhile difference in performance.

At the request of readers, I have added mobile graphics and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to make it clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphics solutions. While the discrete video cards in the chart are placed in tiers based on a lot of information, many of the mobile and integrated devices in the chart are guesstimates based on their specifications. At worst, I don’t think they’re more than one tier away from their actual performance, but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphics chipsets.

Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart
GeForceRadeonIntel

Discrete: HD 5970
Discrete: GTX 295Discrete: HD 4870 X2, HD 5870
Discrete: GTX 280, GTX 285 Discrete: HD 4850 X2, HD 5850
Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 260, GTX 275 Discrete: HD 4870, HD 4890, HD 5770
Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+,
GTS 250
Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850, HD 5750
Discrete: 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MB
Go (mobile): 280M
Discrete: HD 4770

Discrete: 8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT
Go (mobile): 260M (112)
Discrete: HD 4830, HD 5670
Discrete: 8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT, GT 240 (GDDR5) Discrete: HD 2900 XT, HD 3870
Discrete: 8800 GS, 9600 GSO, GT 240 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): 260M (96)
Discrete: HD 3850 512 MB, HD 4670
Mobility: 3870

Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB, GT 220
Go (mobile): 8800M
Discrete: HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB
Mobility: 3850

Discrete: 7950 GX2 Discrete: X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (DDR3)
Discrete: 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 GT Discrete: X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT
Discrete: 7800 GT, 7900 GS, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT (GDDR3)
Go (mobile): 7950 GTX
Discrete: X1800 XL, X1950 GT, HD 4650 (DDR2)
Mobility X1800 XT

Discrete: 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, 8600 GT (GDDR3), 9500 GT (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7800 GTX, 7900 GTX
Discrete: X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, HD 2600 XT, HD 3650 (DDR3), HD 3670,
Mobility: X1900, 3670

Discrete: 6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), 8600 GT (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7800, Go 7900 GS
Discrete: X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, HD 2600 PRO, HD 3650 (DDR2),
Mobility: X800 XT, HD 2600 XT, 3650

Discrete: 6800 GS (AGP)
Go (mobile): 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT
Discrete: X800 GTO 256 MB, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT
Mobility: HD 2600

Discrete: 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, 8600M GS
Go (mobile): 6800, 7700
Discrete: X800, X800 GTO 128 MB, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO
Mobility: X1800

Discrete: 6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT (DDR2), 8500 GT, 9400 GT
Go (mobile): 7600 (128-bit)
Discrete: 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT, HD 4350, HD 4550
Mobility: X800, 3470
Integrated: HD 3300

Discrete: FX 5900, FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5950 Ultra, 6600 (128-bit)
Go (mobile): 6800 (128-bit)
Integrated: 9300, 9400
Discrete: 9700, 9700 PRO, 9800, 9800 PRO, X700, X1300 PRO, X1550, HD 2400 PRO
Mobility: X1450, X1600, X1700, 2400 XT, X2500, 3450
Integrated: HD 3200, HD 4200

Discrete: FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT
Go (mobile): 6600, Go 7600 (64-bit)
Discrete: 9500 PRO, 9600 XT, 9800 PRO (128-bit), X600 XT, X1050 (128-bit)
Mobility: 9800, X700, X1350, X1400, X2300, HD 2400

Discrete: 4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200, 8300, 8400 G, G 210, G 310 Discrete: 9600 PRO, 9800 LE, X600 PRO, HD 2300
Mobility: 9700 (128-bit), X600, X1300
Integrated: Xpress 1250

Discrete: 4 Ti4200, 4 Ti4400, 4 Ti4800 SE, FX 5600 Ultra, FX 5700, 6600 (64-bit), 7300 GS, 8400M GS, 9300M G, 9300M GS Discrete: 9500, 9550, 9600, X300, X1050 (64-bit)
Mobility: 9600

Discrete: 3 Ti500, FX 5200 Ultra, FX 5600, FX 5700 LE, 6200 TC, 6600 LE, 7200 GS, 7300 LE
Go (mobile): 5700, 8200M, 9200M GS, 9100
Integrated: 8200, 8300
Discrete: 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO, 9600 LE, X300 SE, X1150
Mobility 9700 (64-bit)
GMA X4500
Discrete: 3, 3 Ti200, FX 5200 (128-bit), FX 5500,
Go (mobile): 5600, 6200, 6400, 7200, 7300, 7400 (64-bit)
Discrete: 9000, 9200, 9250
Mobility: 9600 (64-bit), X300

Discrete: FX 5200 (64 bit)
Go (mobile): 7200, 7400 (32-bit)
Integrated: 6100, 6150
Discrete: 9200 SE
Integrated: Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
GMA X3000, X3100, X3500
Discrete: 2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 Discrete: 7500 GMA 3000, 3100
Discrete: 256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 Discrete: SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200 GMA 500, 900, 950
Discrete: Nvidia TNT Discrete: Rage 128 Intel 740

Summary

There you have it folks; the best cards for the money this month. Now all that’s left to do is to find and purchase them.

Don’t worry too much about which brand you choose, because all of the cards out there are close to Nvidia’s and ATI’s reference designs. Just pay attention to price, warranty, and the manufacturer’s reputation for honoring the warranty if something goes wrong.

Also remember that the stores don’t follow this list. Things will change over the course of the month and you’ll probably have to adapt your buying strategy to deal with fluctuating prices. Good luck!

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Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    jennyh , February 10, 2010 9:25 AM
    Strange thing, it's been months now but I never seem to get tired of seeing Radeons dominating this list.

  • 16 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2010 1:24 PM
    sacreHmm, would be nice if you threw in some nVidias too, considering not all people enjoy ATI for their own personal reasons.


    I'm not going to recommend cards with poor price/performance ratios just because of brand preferences.
  • 14 Hide
    JeanLuc , February 10, 2010 9:40 AM
    OMG! Check out the Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart at the end Intel's best GPU is the same as a Geforce 3 ti500 lol.
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    falchard , February 10, 2010 5:13 AM
    Amazing, a nVidia card actually made the list.

    Whats the best IGP?
  • 0 Hide
    p1n3apqlexpr3ss , February 10, 2010 5:17 AM
    Radeons 3300 on the 790GX chipset.. cant see intels thg on the clarkdales though
  • -5 Hide
    barmaley , February 10, 2010 5:38 AM
    How come there is no Radeon 5xxx mobility on the chart? I already saw a laptop for sale with 5870 onboard...
  • 4 Hide
    shrapnel_indie , February 10, 2010 5:39 AM
    Nice to get a rough pic of mobility types in the hierarchy list.
  • -5 Hide
    notty22 , February 10, 2010 6:21 AM
    If the low end Radeons get unusable paper features mentioned as positives over and over again like eyefinity and dx 11 (too underpowered to use) why not mention Physx and Cuda cores for Nvidia cards.
  • 2 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , February 10, 2010 6:36 AM
    you should point out if the 4650 your recommending is the DDR2 or DDR3 version
  • -4 Hide
    darthvidor , February 10, 2010 6:55 AM
    forgot the "none" for Best PCIe Card For ~$400:
  • 0 Hide
    Ramar , February 10, 2010 7:08 AM
    There's a 9600GT on Newegg for 69.99 at the moment.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814141108
  • 9 Hide
    JeanLuc , February 10, 2010 7:24 AM
    It's amazing just how the fortunes of battle can turn, just two years ago ATI were the ones getting pounded when Nvidia launched the 8000 series and had ATI's number in just about every segment and now it's Nvidia who can't see to catch a break.
  • 4 Hide
    masterjaw , February 10, 2010 7:58 AM
    There's seemingly no abrupt changes since last month (except for the comeback of 4850). You guys should also consider updating the hierarchy charts to reflect the latest mobile GPUs in the market. (That should include the latest ones from ATI, Nvidia, and although it is hard to mention, Intel too)
  • 7 Hide
    stridervm , February 10, 2010 8:20 AM
    @notty22

    Sadly, the nVidia features you speak of aren't available in the lower end of their video card segment. While it is still available on the low end card of ATI.

    If you lower resolution and visual settings, eyeinfinity and DX11 can be done in low end ATI cards, sadly the same cannot be said of PhsyX and/or CUDA.
  • -7 Hide
    killerclick , February 10, 2010 8:34 AM
    Instead of having that hierarchy chart at the end, how about putting in a bit more effort and positioning every card on a plot chart according to its performance?
  • -5 Hide
    brendonmc , February 10, 2010 9:05 AM
    Good update and nice to see the 5850 earn a place in the lineup.
    Unfortunately AMD seem to have botched their latest hotfix to Catalyst 10.1 drivers (or maybe their hardware). It supposedly solves the problem of the dreaded grey screen of death, which does rear its ugly head on rare occasions.
    After installing it however, Dirt 2 became choppy and almost unplayable unless, even after the video settings were reduced.
    I don't know about you but I'll choose the occasional grey screen with smooth framerates over such a drastic slash in performance any day!
  • 16 Hide
    jennyh , February 10, 2010 9:25 AM
    Strange thing, it's been months now but I never seem to get tired of seeing Radeons dominating this list.

  • 14 Hide
    JeanLuc , February 10, 2010 9:40 AM
    OMG! Check out the Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart at the end Intel's best GPU is the same as a Geforce 3 ti500 lol.
  • -5 Hide
    shubham1401 , February 10, 2010 9:50 AM
    Eagerly waiting for Newer Nvidia cards!!

    This article will be much more interesting to read then!!
  • 1 Hide
    micky_lund , February 10, 2010 9:59 AM
    ahh...ATI wins again....hope nVidia gets their act together tho, so i can XFire my 5770s without spending too much more
  • -3 Hide
    fausto , February 10, 2010 10:12 AM
    I'M STARTING TO HATE THESE THINGS.

    Some of us don't have the 2 slots nor care about 2 card solutions. can you bring the focus back to single card price ranges and solutions?
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