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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August '09
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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 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 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: GTX 295



Discrete: HD 4870 X2
Discrete: GTX 280, GTX 285 Discrete: HD 4850 X2
Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 260, GTX 275 Discrete: HD 4870, HD 4890
Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+,
GTS 250
Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850
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
Discrete: 8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT Discrete: HD 2900 XT, HD 3870
Discrete: 8800 GS, 9600 GSO
Go (mobile): 260M (96)
Discrete: HD 3850 512 MB, HD 4670
Mobility: 3870

Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB
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), 8600M GT, 8700M GT
Go (mobile): 6800 Ultra, 7600 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 3300, HD 4350, HD 4550
Mobility: X800, 3470

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 GS 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
  • 14 Hide
    KT_WASP , August 24, 2009 1:50 PM
    HD 4870.. best buy, hands down. But, that said, I would wait if you were buying, at least until the next gen DX11 cards come out.


    OT... Toms.. Please, oh please, get rid of that God forsaken Gate.com ad. That thing is the most annoying ad I have yet to come across on this site, it drops down into every article and page I'm trying to read.. gets old real quick.
  • 12 Hide
    frozenlead , August 24, 2009 6:46 AM
    Bunch of old cards bumped down to lower price brackets.

    Bring on the new cards, ATI & Nvidia!
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    frozenlead , August 24, 2009 6:46 AM
    Bunch of old cards bumped down to lower price brackets.

    Bring on the new cards, ATI & Nvidia!
  • 1 Hide
    MiamiU , August 24, 2009 7:29 AM
    the review states the HD 4870 X2 has exceptional 1920x1200 but 2 HD 4890's in crossfire only have good 1920x1200?? if this is true why would anyone pay more for less?
  • 6 Hide
    masterjaw , August 24, 2009 7:36 AM
    Nothing new. Almost the same as the previous article last month. I hope it would differ next month with the intro of dx11 cards.
  • -3 Hide
    Windaria , August 24, 2009 8:08 AM
    For me, AMD's discontinuing Linux support for cards as recent as 1 year old as being "antiquated" has caused me to lose all respect for them. After all, you can't just upgrade a laptop card, if you could, I would. But since not, I'm sorry, I have lost all confidence in them. After all, you could buy a card from them now, and have them cease support for it in a mere year. They screwed us once, what is supposed to make me believe they may not do it again, with my x1700?
  • 7 Hide
    bucifer , August 24, 2009 9:05 AM
    WindariaFor me, AMD's discontinuing Linux support for cards as recent as 1 year old as being "antiquated" has caused me to lose all respect for them. After all, you can't just upgrade a laptop card, if you could, I would. But since not, I'm sorry, I have lost all confidence in them. After all, you could buy a card from them now, and have them cease support for it in a mere year. They screwed us once, what is supposed to make me believe they may not do it again, with my x1700?


    LoL, you sir are an idiot! You don't need the latest drivers for your card to work! Even if they would support your card they won't bring any performance gains after a year. Drivers are generally focused to fix and improve performance on new models with no effect on the old ones.
    So stop crying like a baby and use the drivers that worked best for you. Be informed next time you start to state such childish whines and stay on topic!

    About the article, indeed pretty much the same thing as last month with some price drops. It has been stated on Tom's that ATI would launch its new generation on Sept 11th. No mention of that in the article?
  • -3 Hide
    barmaley , August 24, 2009 10:32 AM
    Anyone knows when Nvidia is going to announce their cards to counter ATI's launch in near future?
  • 5 Hide
    haplo602 , August 24, 2009 11:37 AM
    buciferLoL, you sir are an idiot! You don't need the latest drivers for your card to work! Even if they would support your card they won't bring any performance gains after a year. Drivers are generally focused to fix and improve performance on new models with no effect on the old ones. So stop crying like a baby and use the drivers that worked best for you. Be informed next time you start to state such childish whines and stay on topic! About the article, indeed pretty much the same thing as last month with some price drops. It has been stated on Tom's that ATI would launch its new generation on Sept 11th. No mention of that in the article?


    way to shoot yourself in the foot ... using old ati linux drivers means you are stuck with old linux kernels and old X versions. the OSS drivers do realy not provide enough 3D support to be viable for other than X compositing.

    next time try to learn a bit about linux before commenting ...
  • 14 Hide
    KT_WASP , August 24, 2009 1:50 PM
    HD 4870.. best buy, hands down. But, that said, I would wait if you were buying, at least until the next gen DX11 cards come out.


    OT... Toms.. Please, oh please, get rid of that God forsaken Gate.com ad. That thing is the most annoying ad I have yet to come across on this site, it drops down into every article and page I'm trying to read.. gets old real quick.
  • -2 Hide
    doomtomb , August 24, 2009 1:54 PM
    I can't believe the prices some of these cards have dropped to. 4870 1GB for $150?? Was $300 not too long ago.

    We've been waiting for new cards from Nvidia and ATI for ages......
  • 4 Hide
    RazberyBandit , August 24, 2009 2:29 PM
    KT_WaspHD 4870.. best buy, hands down. But, that said, I would wait if you were buying, at least until the next gen DX11 cards come out.OT... Toms.. Please, oh please, get rid of that God forsaken Gate.com ad. That thing is the most annoying ad I have yet to come across on this site, it drops down into every article and page I'm trying to read.. gets old real quick.


    Firefox + Adblock Plus add-on would solve your problem.

    Having recently purchased 3 video cards for different systems (4670, 4850, and 4890), I didn't truly need this article to tell me they were the "bang-for-buck" cards in their price bracket, but it's a great resource none the less. For me, the list at the end of the article is the true gem within it.
  • 3 Hide
    thearm , August 24, 2009 2:41 PM
    buciferLoL, you sir are an idiot! You don't need the latest drivers for your card to work! Even if they would support your card they won't bring any performance gains after a year. Drivers are generally focused to fix and improve performance on new models with no effect on the old ones. So stop crying like a baby and use the drivers that worked best for you. Be informed next time you start to state such childish whines and stay on topic!About the article, indeed pretty much the same thing as last month with some price drops. It has been stated on Tom's that ATI would launch its new generation on Sept 11th. No mention of that in the article?


    YOU sir, are an idiot for calling someone an idiot. Your ingnorant for your way of thinking. Most of the time, a new version of a driver is specifically released to address flaws in new games. There are many many reasons to upgrade your video card driver to the latest version and that is just one of them.
  • 8 Hide
    esquire468 , August 24, 2009 2:54 PM
    KT_WaspOT... Toms.. Please, oh please, get rid of that God forsaken Gate.com ad. That thing is the most annoying ad I have yet to come across on this site, it drops down into every article and page I'm trying to read.. gets old real quick.


    +1

    Please get rid of that crap.
  • 1 Hide
    meatwad53186 , August 24, 2009 3:01 PM
    @ Don Woligroski, author of the article:

    I feel that the wording in these articles needs to be defined, and/or redone. First of all, what do you mean when you say that a single HD 4850 gets good performance on 1920X1200 in most games? From looking at the benchmarks, I was looking for good 1920x1200 performance, so I bought an HD 4890 and would not have even considered a 4850. Also why does it say that two HD 4870 1GB cards in Crossfire gives exceptional 1920x1200 performance, and two HD 4890's in Crossfire only offer good performance at 1920x1200?
  • 1 Hide
    saint19 , August 24, 2009 3:22 PM
    Always the same conclusion...with the same words...exactly the same words...
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , August 24, 2009 3:48 PM
    For the $50 bracket, wouldn't the 9600GSO be a better choice than 4650?
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121320
    $40 after MIR.
  • 2 Hide
    cleeve , August 24, 2009 3:52 PM
    miamiuthe review states the HD 4870 X2 has exceptional 1920x1200 but 2 HD 4890's in crossfire only have good 1920x1200?? if this is true why would anyone pay more for less?


    Thanks, fixed!

    Remember, those resolution recommendations are general guidelines, not perfect rules that apply to every game out there.
    I put them in so that folks with a 1280x1024 monitor would know that it was a waste to go and buy an ubercard like a 4870 X2 or GTX 295.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , August 24, 2009 3:53 PM
    Shadow703793For the $50 bracket, wouldn't the 9600GSO be a better choice than 4650?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6814121320$40 after MIR.


    Absolutely! From the article:

    "Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t base our decisions on always-changing pricing information, but we can list some good cards that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest, along with real-time prices from our PriceGrabber engine, for your reference."
  • 1 Hide
    doomtomb , August 24, 2009 4:28 PM
    KT_WaspHD 4870.. best buy, hands down. But, that said, I would wait if you were buying, at least until the next gen DX11 cards come out.OT... Toms.. Please, oh please, get rid of that God forsaken Gate.com ad. That thing is the most annoying ad I have yet to come across on this site, it drops down into every article and page I'm trying to read.. gets old real quick.

    That thing is annoying as hell.
  • 3 Hide
    caamsa , August 24, 2009 4:56 PM
    In your "Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart" you should add crossfire and SLI configurations it would make for a nice quick reference.
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