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What About A Card That's Not On The List?

Best Video Cards For The Money: August '08
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This will happen! In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen because both stock 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. The first is the graphics card hierarchy chart, which groups cards with similar overall performance 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 and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to make it clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphic solutions. While the discrete video chipsets on the chart are placed in their tiers based on a lot of information, many of the laptop chipset positions on the chart are guesstimates based on their specifications. At worst, I don’t think they’re more than a tier away from their actual performance, but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphics chipsets.

GRAPHICS CARD HEIRARCHY CHART
GeForce Radeon
GTX 280
9800 GX2, GTX 260 4870
8800 GTX, 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+ 3870 X2, 4850
8800 GT 512MB, 8800 GTS 512MB
8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT HD 2900 XT, 3870
8800 GS, 9600 GSO 3850 512MB
8800 GT 256MB, 8800 GTS 320MB HD 2900 PRO, 3850 256MB
7950 GX2 X1950 XTX
7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 GT X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT
7800 GT, 7900 GS, Go 7950 GTX, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT GDDR3 X1800 XL, X1950 GT, Mobility X1800 XT
6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, Go 7800 GTX, Go 7900 GTX, 8600 GT, 9500 GT DDR2 X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, Mobility X1900, HD 2600 XT, 3650 (DDR3), 3670
6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), Go 7800, Go 7900 GS, 8700M GT X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, Mobility X800 XT, HD 2600 PRO, Mobility HD 2600 XT, 3650 (DDR2)
6800 GS (AGP), Go 6800 Ultra, Go 7600 GT, 8600M GT X800 GTO 256mb, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT, Mobility HD 2600
6800, Go 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, Go 7700, 8600M GS X800, X800 GTO 128mb, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO, Mobility X1800
6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT DDR2, Go 7600 (128-bit), 8500 GT 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, Mobility X800, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT
FX 5900, FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5950 Ultra, 6600 (128-bit), Go 6800 (128-bit) 9700, 9700 PRO, 9800, 9800 PRO, X700, X1300 PRO, Mobility X1450, X1550, Mobility X1600, Mobility X1700, HD 2400 PRO, Mobility HD 2400 XT, Mobility X2500, HD 3200
FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT, Go 6600, Go 7600 (64-bit), Go 8600M GS 9500 PRO, 9600 XT, Mobility 9800, 9800 PRO (128-bit), X600 XT, Mobility X700, X1050 (128-bit), Mobility X1350, Mobility X1400, Mobility X2300, Mobility HD 2400
4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200, 8400 GS 9600 PRO, Mobility 9700 (128-bit), 9800 LE, X600 PRO, Mobility X600, Mobility X1300, Xpress 1250, Mobility HD 2300
4 Ti4200, 4 Ti4400, 4 Ti4800 SE, FX 5600 Ultra, FX 5700, 6600 (64-bit), 7300 GS, 8400M GS 9500, 9550, 9600, Mobility 9600, X300, X1050 (64-bit)
3 Ti500, FX 5200 Ultra, FX 5600, FX 5700 LE, Go 5700, 6200 TC, 6600 LE, 7200 GS, 7300 LE 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO, 9600 LE, Mobility 9700 (64-bit), X300 SE, X1150
3, 3 Ti200, FX 5200 (128-bit), FX 5500, Go 5600, Go 6200, Go 6400, Go 7200, Go 7300, Go 7400 (64-bit) 9000, 9200, 9250, Mobility 9600 (64-bit), Mobility X300
FX 5200 (64 bit), 6100, 6150, Go 7200, Go 7400 (32-bit) 9200 SE, Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 7500
256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200
Nvidia TNT ATI Rage 128

Summary

There you have it folks: the best cards for the money this month. Now all that’s left is to find and purchase them, and we leave that part up to you. The best prices will almost certainly be found online, but sometimes large retail outlets might surprise you with a good sale.

Don’t worry too much about which brand you choose, because all of the cards out there stick pretty close to the reference designs by Nvidia and AMD. 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 cope with fluctuating prices. Good luck!

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  • -1 Hide
    middeneast , August 5, 2008 8:18 AM
    The 2x 9800gtx's specs are wrong :)  Accidentally took the same specs as the 4850 in crossfire.

    Not that it matters a lot, but hey :D 
  • 0 Hide
    pulasky , August 5, 2008 8:29 AM
    Quote:
    Be forewarned that it’s been reported that the official AMD drivers don’t work with the AGP version of this card, but that the modified Omega drivers work fine.

    Serious look here http://support.ati.com/ics/support/KBList.asp?folderID=10551
  • 0 Hide
    aleluja , August 5, 2008 8:55 AM
    I wish i could get HD4850 for only 175$.
    It costs 230$ where i live :D  And that is the cheapest Gigabyte model.
    And HD4870 costs 340$.
  • 1 Hide
    otheos , August 5, 2008 9:09 AM
    I think you need to revise the texts on the AGP cards. Both for drivers (as noted above) and a few more clues regarding the performance.
  • 2 Hide
    Transsive , August 5, 2008 9:51 AM
    Would someone fix the table on the last page of this article.
  • -1 Hide
    gridener , August 5, 2008 10:00 AM
    I guess you forgot to mention the 9800GT. Its out for purchase and you can get one for around 140$-160$.
  • 1 Hide
    modtech , August 5, 2008 10:13 AM
    4850 costs $250 here and at that price it's still worth it.
  • 0 Hide
    kitsilencer , August 5, 2008 10:28 AM
    First time in a LONG time that ATI is dominating Tom's recommend list. Good to see.
  • 0 Hide
    tntom , August 5, 2008 1:03 PM
    There is something wrong with the table on the last page
  • 7 Hide
    Ignotus , August 5, 2008 1:05 PM
    THe 9800GT is mentioned... it's the 8800GT. :-D
  • 0 Hide
    hixbot , August 5, 2008 1:13 PM
    Can they take the time to write new paragraphs? Even just to slightly change the wording so we can see that the authors actually give a #$%5.
    Official drivers now work for AGP ATI cards. Get with it.
  • 0 Hide
    nottheking , August 5, 2008 1:19 PM
    Good to see another update; the list needed one. Though there are some comments I have to make... As well, of course, as my slight disappointment that it appears that while still a pinned thread, it appears that the thread in the Graphics & Displays forum is no longer quite connected with the list itself.
  • 0 Hide
    origosis , August 5, 2008 1:20 PM
    hixbotCan they take the time to write new paragraphs? Even just to slightly change the wording so we can see that the authors actually give a #$%5.Official drivers now work for AGP ATI cards. Get with it.

    Alot of Work Goes into Testing the cards ALOT! and besides this is a monthly article that most people will simply flip through to thier price point see what card they need then run to Newegg. So extra work on the article may fall on deaf ears.

    I agree I like to hears each persons opinion on each card, but even I just like to skim this article each month.
  • 0 Hide
    hardwarekid9756 , August 5, 2008 2:12 PM
    It's very pleasant to see Radeon finally get some Face time on the BVCftM charts. It's been a GeForce world for so long, and even if I have dabbled in the dark side, it's always a pleasant relief to see my champion back on the board.
  • 0 Hide
    ahslan , August 5, 2008 2:14 PM
    great work guys! Keep it up!
  • 2 Hide
    gwolfman , August 5, 2008 2:15 PM
    I still think Tom's should recommend single board graphics cards at the higher end even though some crossfire/SLI configurations are better. Some people don't want SLI/CF configurations, power requirements, and some can't run it due to their chipset or limited PCIe slots.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , August 5, 2008 2:31 PM
    gwolfmanI still think Tom's should recommend single board graphics cards at the higher end even though some crossfire/SLI configurations are better. Some people don't want SLI/CF configurations, power requirements, and some can't run it due to their chipset or limited PCIe slots.


    I did. The 4870 is in there... that's the best performing single card for the money. The 260 and 280 are overpriced by my reckoning.

    If they lower the price, or the 4870 X2 comes in at a reasonable price, those will be put on the list too.
  • 1 Hide
    gwolfman , August 5, 2008 2:54 PM
    Even if the 280 is overpriced, isn't it still faster than the 4870? It's still good to see the 4870 in there and I'm sure the x2 will make it in somewhere.
  • 2 Hide
    spaztic7 , August 5, 2008 3:25 PM
    I think this review is much, much better than the July. Good stuff and thanks for the disclaimers at the beginning!!!

    Keep up the good work!
  • 0 Hide
    vladsinger , August 5, 2008 3:34 PM
    Ahem - the tables on the last two pages don't seem to be rendering.
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