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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 pick the right card, 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 sees the introduction of AMD's 785G chipset and its integrated Radeon HD 4200 IGP, but our high hopes for it were dashed when we learned that it's really no more powerful than the integrated Radeon HD 3200 IGP that preceded it. Unfortunately, we'll have to be patient and wait even longer for an integrated graphics processor good enough to game at 1280x1024.
Aside from this, the only hard news on the graphics front has been a continued price war in front of next-generation GPUs, with AMD's high-end Radeon cards at prices that keep on surprising us; we're still surprised that AMD's former flagship Radeon HD 4870 is available for $130. With it's sister card, the Radeon HD 4850, widely available at $100, AMD has really sewn up the $100-$150 sweet spot in the market with some powerful hadware.
Of course, at $165, Nvidia fights back against the 1 GB Radeon HD 4870 with its GeForce GTX 260, and at $200 it answers the Radeon HD 4890 with its impressive GeForce GTX 275. But between $100 and $130, AMD's Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 512MB undercut Nvidia's GeForce GTS 250 and GTX 260.
That's the news, folks. Not much, I know. We're all waiting patiently for the next-gen stuff to arrive, rumored to be later this year, and we might even see a refresh or two. I'll be sure to brief you once the information gets a little more concrete.
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list: