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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Video Cards For The Money: Nov '08
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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?

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 graphics 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 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 one tier away from their actual performance, but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphic chipsets.

GRAPHICS CARD HIERARCHY CHART
GeForce Radeon
4870 X2
GTX 280
9800 GX2, GTX 260 4870
8800 GTX, 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+ 3870 X2, 4850
8800 GT 512MB, 8800 GTS 512MB, 9800 GT 4830
8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT HD 2900 XT, 3870
8800 GS, 9600 GSO 3850 512MB, 4670
8800 GT 256MB, 8800 GTS 320MB, GO 8800M HD 2900 PRO, 3850 256MB, 4650
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 (GDDR3), 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, 8600 GT (DDR2) 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, 8700M 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, 9400 GT 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, Mobility X800, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT, HD 3300, HD 4350, HD 4550
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 deal with fluctuating prices. Good luck!

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  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 6:59 AM
    Good write up. Thanks for the chart, helps to pick between ATI and nVidia on price points :) 
  • 1 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:03 AM
    BTW, first 4850x2 card on Newegg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102809&Tpk=4850
  • -2 Hide
    cobra420 , November 10, 2008 7:09 AM
    the 4850x2 belongs in the spot between the 4870 and 4870x2 ? lol
  • 3 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:19 AM
    Not quite sure on that though. At $430, the price is a little high for it though as a crossfire of 2x 4850s would only run about $320. I would rather invest that extra $100 in a better motherboard.
  • -6 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 7:21 AM
    "It doesn’t need an external power cable, which for some upgraders is a really important feature."

    Actually I was wondering how important that really is. My best friend lives a long way from me, so to avoid having to carry heavy computers with serveral terabytes of harddrives etc I built a lightweight pc with a brisbane, a zalman 9700, 3 raptors and a dvdrw drive in a lanfire (3kg) chassis. It's power by a puny xilenz (or spelled another way) 450W psu. When my friend visits he just plugs in his 8800gtx and plays. We power it via two converters from molex to the 6pin plugs - and it runs just fine when I got to his place and use my hd4870 in it - so I'm actually wondering if it's that big a deal if the psu is adequate or not. For longterm use it may be, but in the 4 months I've had the system, we haven't see any problems with it. So even without pcie power on the psu you can get a decent lan gamer it would appear.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , November 10, 2008 7:26 AM
    This "big bang 2" driver was total rubbish, only thing it did was cause my first BSOD for this year in Vistax64.

    Noticed no improvement during the three minutes I played on it prior to bsod either..
  • 3 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:34 AM
    neiroatopelcc"It doesn’t need an external power cable, which for some upgraders is a really important feature."Actually I was wondering how important that really is. My best friend lives a long way from me, so to avoid having to carry heavy computers with serveral terabytes of harddrives etc I built a lightweight pc with a brisbane, a zalman 9700, 3 raptors and a dvdrw drive in a lanfire (3kg) chassis. It's power by a puny xilenz (or spelled another way) 450W psu. When my friend visits he just plugs in his 8800gtx and plays. We power it via two converters from molex to the 6pin plugs - and it runs just fine when I got to his place and use my hd4870 in it - so I'm actually wondering if it's that big a deal if the psu is adequate or not. For longterm use it may be, but in the 4 months I've had the system, we haven't see any problems with it. So even without pcie power on the psu you can get a decent lan gamer it would appear.


    Using less power means saving $$$ in the form of lower electric bills. Also, that card would be great for any individual looking to build a machine with low power consumption without sacrificing too much performance(on-board chipsets are horrid for gaming).
  • -3 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 7:39 AM
    asdasd555999This "big bang 2" driver was total rubbish, only thing it did was cause my first BSOD for this year in Vistax64.Noticed no improvement during the three minutes I played on it prior to bsod either..

    Then be glad you ain't got an ati card! while my vista64 doesn't generate bsod, it does frequently crash the display driver (and successfully recover it) when I'm running media player classic on the secondary monitor while playing world of warcraft on the primary one in window mode. (both with 8.9 and 8.10)

    @Slomo4sho : Ye sure it's useful for that, but that's not what I was talking about. The article does seem to assume the card will be used for gaming, and most gaming systems are not built to be cost effective on the power bill ; or at least I don't know of anyone who cared for efficiency when building a gaming pc. My point was, that it doesn't seem to matter if the psu has pcie connectivity or not in order to use a card requiring it.
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 7:51 AM
    "The Radeon 4350 joins the list not because it’s a great gaming card, but because it can be found for only $40"

    The article indicates that they are aware the 4350 is not the top contender for a gaming PC. But anyone with a budget system and a 17" inch screen would find it worthwhile over on-board graphics. I am actually thinking about using the 4350 in a build for my parents :) 
  • -3 Hide
    vochtige , November 10, 2008 7:55 AM
    Now at $100, the Radeon HD 3870 is an easy recommendation, lying between the GeForce 8800 GT and the new Radeon HD 4670. It is still a force to be reckoned with at 1600x1200, and even at 1920x1200.

    isn't 4670 the wrong number you meant? because who want to pay $100 for a card that performs like a $dollar gpu?

    like always a good article
  • -8 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 7:57 AM
    Slomo4shO"The Radeon 4350 joins the list not because it’s a great gaming card, but because it can be found for only $40"The article indicates that they are aware the 4350 is not the top contender for a gaming PC. But anyone with a budget system and a 17" inch screen would find it worthwhile over on-board graphics. I am actually thinking about using the 4350 in a build for my parents

    Hey kid don't take it out of context! the card you're quoting isn't the one they point out the feature of no extra pcie on. That card is infact futher down the page, and being passed on as a decent cheap gaming card - which it probably is.
  • 2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 8:06 AM
    neiroatopelccHey kid don't take it out of context! the card you're quoting isn't the one they point out the feature of no extra pcie on. That card is infact futher down the page, and being passed on as a decent cheap gaming card - which it probably is.


    First off, there is no need for name calling as I am probably older than you are. Secondly, the quote is not out of context. The quote is the introduction to the write-up on the
  • 0 Hide
    stridervm , November 10, 2008 8:22 AM
    On page 3 :

    Even though the Radeon HD 4830 offers the 8800/8900 GT its first competition in its price class, the card remains a strong contender, and is still a viable option.

    8900GT?
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 8:24 AM
    Slomo4shOFirst off, there is no need for name calling as I am probably older than you are. Secondly, the quote is not out of context. The quote is the introduction to the write-up on the


    grr seems half of my post got cut off somehow...

    As I was saying, the quote is the introduction to the write-up
  • 1 Hide
    Doltron , November 10, 2008 9:02 AM
    Hmm 260+ but not 4870 1GB? The Asus card can be had for $270. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121277
  • 0 Hide
    Marvelous Marv , November 10, 2008 9:44 AM
    sapphire made a custom Radeon HD 4850 X2 2gb.
  • -8 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 10, 2008 9:46 AM
    Slomo4shOgrr seems half of my post got cut off somehow...As I was saying, the quote is the introduction to the write-up

    Fine that is what you interpret it as, but I do not.
    In the intro it sais it's for gamers, not for home cinema systems.
    And as for kid, fine you may not be one, but you're still either taking it out of context, or not understanding it even remotely the way I think it's meant.
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 10:13 AM
    neiroatopelccor not understanding it even remotely the way I think it's meant.


    Either your perception is right or I am wrong. Either way, the 4350 and 4670 are both low power consumption cards and both can be considered for gaming on budget systems on which a individual plans on playing low resolution.
  • -3 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 10, 2008 10:36 AM
    Read what I quoted in bold and underlined. What you perceive to be true may not be true for another individual. Each individual has their own interpretation of reality.

    Either way, its almost 5 AM, I am going to bed :p 
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