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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: March 2010
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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, HD 5830
Mobility: HD 5870

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250 Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850, HD 5750
Mobility: HD 4850, HD 5850

Discrete: 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MB
Go (mobile): GTX 280M, GTX 285M
Discrete: HD 4770
Mobility: HD 4860

Discrete: 8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT
Go (mobile): 9800M GTX, GTX 260M (112), GTS 360M (GDDR5)
Discrete: HD 4830, HD 5670
Mobility: HD 5770, HD 5750

Discrete: 8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT, GT 240 (GDDR5)
Go (mobile): 9800M GTS, GTX 160M
Discrete: HD 2900 XT, HD 3870

Discrete: 8800 GS, 9600 GSO, GT 240 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): GTX 260M (96), GTS 150M, GTS 360M (DDR3)
Discrete: HD 3850 512 MB, HD 4670, HD 5570
Mobility: HD 3870, HD 5730, HD 5650

Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB, GT 220
Go (mobile): 8800M
Discrete: HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB
Mobility: HD 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, HD 4650, HD 5165

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, HD 5145, HD 5470 (GDDR5), HD 5450, 

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, HD 5550
Mobility: X800, 3470, HD 5470 (DDR3), HD 5430
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
  • 12 Hide
    haplo602 , March 8, 2010 6:18 AM
    barmaleyBla, bla, bla, bla ...Next month's "Best Graphics Cards for the Money" is what everyone anxiously awaits due to the upcoming releases from Nvidia! So right now, not much to see expect for unfortunate price increases...


    do you honestly expect any change in performance for money ? nevidia might take the performance crown back, but the price will be not be reasonable. they would have to deliver a very very VERY good product for that ...

    next month we are back to the same chart just with nvidia mentioned as the highest performing for a ridiculous amount of money ...
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    haplo602 , March 8, 2010 6:18 AM
    barmaleyBla, bla, bla, bla ...Next month's "Best Graphics Cards for the Money" is what everyone anxiously awaits due to the upcoming releases from Nvidia! So right now, not much to see expect for unfortunate price increases...


    do you honestly expect any change in performance for money ? nevidia might take the performance crown back, but the price will be not be reasonable. they would have to deliver a very very VERY good product for that ...

    next month we are back to the same chart just with nvidia mentioned as the highest performing for a ridiculous amount of money ...
  • -2 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , March 8, 2010 6:36 AM
    The 5850 is considered the same as the 4850X2? For some reason I thought it was slightly better at most benchmarks....

    Also the GTX275 is supposed to be better at benches, temperatures, and clocks than the GTX280... is this just a model hierarchy chart or a chart based on preformance? Can you also tie these gpu for the money charts with their respective OVERALL preformance charts you used to post based on the average score of ALL your tests. Maybe an updated test with ONE system configuration with all these cards... or would that be asking too much? Maybe yearly?
  • 3 Hide
    Dekasav , March 8, 2010 6:50 AM
    The GPU charts are overall performance, not price/performance, and they're not perfectly accurate all the time. Even things in the same tier can have some significant performance differences (the HD 5850 is a bit faster than the HD 4850X2, however, they are on the same tier as they are still very close).

    And I do believe the GTX 275 is only faster than the GTX 280 if the first is overclocked, so on a solely performance-based chart, it's equal/behind.
  • 3 Hide
    blackjellognomes , March 8, 2010 8:16 AM
    haplo602do you honestly expect any change in performance for money ? nevidia might take the performance crown back, but the price will be not be reasonable. they would have to deliver a very very VERY good product for that ...next month we are back to the same chart just with nvidia mentioned as the highest performing for a ridiculous amount of money ...

    The arrival of Nvidia's Fermi cards has the potential to push ATI to lower the prices of its lineup. While this may not have been what barmaley intended to say, Nvidia's upcoming releases will definitely have an impact on next month's article. To me, this one looked a lot like the last one.
  • 2 Hide
    JeanLuc , March 8, 2010 8:28 AM
    Just one Nvidia card made into that list, it must be a good time to working for ATI at the moment as you know your trashing your competition at all prices points and there's nothing they can do about it. Nvidia's design makes their products expensive to manufacture thus they can't afford to continually discount down to a competitive price point.
  • 8 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , March 8, 2010 8:34 AM
    JeanLucJust one Nvidia card made into that list, it must be a good time to working for ATI at the moment as you know your trashing your competition at all prices points and there's nothing they can do about it. Nvidia's design makes their products expensive to manufacture thus they can't afford to continually discount down to a competitive price point.


    True, but I think many people who buy hardware don't read articles like this. I'm still meeting people who think 'pentium' and 'geforce' are the only products to consider, simply because these terms were once associated with top of the line performance.
    So I'm sure there'll still be a lot of people buying nvidia g92 based boards simlpy because they don't know how much they could save if they'd pick an ati based product.
  • 6 Hide
    shreeharsha , March 8, 2010 8:54 AM
    In India, still Nvidia is sought after most. 80% of people only know intel & Nvidia. Here there is no shortage or price increment of ATi products.
    Since we don't have any AGP cards now in the list, you can just use "Best Card For" instead of "Best PCIe Card For" heading.
  • 2 Hide
    shubham1401 , March 8, 2010 8:55 AM
    HD5770 at that price point impresses me...

    But we really need some competition from nVidia otherwise prices will keep disappointing us
  • -1 Hide
    kossmalta , March 8, 2010 9:00 AM
    Don't you worry about that now. There are enough of us geeks to compensate. Hell if you see the stats in here and lets say anandtech or sth there must be quite A LOT of people 'knowing how much you can save with aMDti'.
    I bet my money that nVidia will feel the rush pretty soon. 2010 is going to be interesting - 100+ Hz tvs, 3D Vision technologies at home, 3D movies, DX11 tailor made games... and all that on the mass scale.
    If nVidia doesn't join the party the stand to lose more than they could have imagined. That's why I am guessing they are trying to deliver a chip they could redesign easily to meet all these specs, while still trying to make a stand at the mobile front.
  • -6 Hide
    kossmalta , March 8, 2010 9:09 AM
    Also by the end of the year I am assuming there will be a few more 'sacred' questions of the wise man asked here:
    -"Will it play Crysis 2? With Tessellation? With 3D/yet another frame dies/? 1080p/33+fps min!!!"
    ...and my 5870 will be just short of that.... always the same story... :) 
  • -1 Hide
    Dkz , March 8, 2010 9:34 AM
    Lets hope nvidia does not take too much longer to deliver a good quality product for the money. So we can see some of this prices going down, because just now, i don't understand how they can be charging more for a 5770 than a 4870, when we all know it's a bit slower, yeye dx11 it's a blast wii huu... but just now there are only a few games with it, and by the end of the year there wont be many more, and a 5770 will be cheaper and still slower than the 4870 and people will be looking to change it by a year or so. It's like a waste of cash on something you wont even get the chance of using it. "dude check out my car! my new ride yo! although I can't drive till' next year! damn!"
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , March 8, 2010 9:38 AM
    ATI have it covered FTW !!! Come on Nvidia amaze us again :) 
  • -4 Hide
    anamaniac , March 8, 2010 9:59 AM
    I'm considering switching back to Nvida with the GF100 release. =(
    I traded a guy $50 and my 4870 for his fresh out of the box 5770. I then had to pay $145 for the DP to DVI adaptor, because Sapphire is the only vendor that sells them in Canada (at a ridiculous price), and using Eyefinity itself is a pain in the ass. How about simply letting me use dual 5770's for eyefinity? 2GB 5770's should have been released immediately with a 256bit memory bus (128bit memory bus is what I'm convinced is crippling the card, and running 6144x1152 with 8xAA/16xAF on 1GB is impossible in many modern games).
    DX11 has been useless so far. The only DX11 game worth noticing is AvP, and it's so buggy we're forced to run it in DX9 mode.
    AMD, step up your game, there's things that matter more than just a piece of silicon on a PCB.

    Also, before AMD/Nvidia keep spouting their triple monitor crap, how about we get games with a proper FOV so the sides aren't warped? I've been playing L4D and I find the warping unbearable. There are too many games that are still Vert- instead of Hort+ (such as unreal engine games) which make triple monitor useless, making me wish I spent my money on a 30" 2560x1600 monitor instead.
    Whatever ever happened to those bezeless monitors Samsung promised us? The only bezeless monitors that exist are out of reach for the common consumer who doesn't make a 7 digit salary...

    While we may be getting better GPU's constantly, I'm starting to fail to see the reason why...
    I should have bought a car instead and kept on using my Pentium D with 1GB and OEM Nvidia 256MB 7500LE on a 17". =(
  • -3 Hide
    tapher , March 8, 2010 10:20 AM
    I wish I could understand why the price to performance ratio has increased rather than decreased over time recently; it's also true of RAM prices. Is this a signal of the decline of western civilization?
  • -6 Hide
    deadlockedworld , March 8, 2010 12:29 PM
    This article would be much better if you rewrote it instead of just editing it each month.

    Why is there an "under 90" category when you list an $80 card at the top of it? A 9800GT would be the best $89 card...

    The entire low end section is weak.. you move in $30 increments when cards in this range increase exponentially in value for every $10 spent.
  • -1 Hide
    Reynod , March 8, 2010 12:48 PM
    Cheers Don.
  • 3 Hide
    caamsa , March 8, 2010 12:59 PM
    I picked up a 5750 HIS 1gb for $65.00 off craigslist. Sweet!
  • -4 Hide
    bustapr , March 8, 2010 2:18 PM
    Let the Prie drops begin. Thsi month fermi is released, and most certainly at a High Budget. The HD5xxx series will have new prices and Ill just stay here at home drueling because I still wont be able to aford any.:) 
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