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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July 2011
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Since the last time we updated this column, Nvidia released its GeForce GTX 560 and AMD launched the Llano APU. We've also seen a couple of notable price moves, which alter our recommendations compared to what you saw two months ago.

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 is a resource to help you judge if a card is a good buy or not. The graphics card hierarchy chart 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 590Discrete: HD 6990
Discrete: GTX 580Discrete: HD 5970
Discrete: GTX 295, GTX 480, GTX 570
Discrete: HD 4870 X2, 6970

Discrete: GTX 470, GTX 560 Ti Discrete: HD 4850 X2, 5870, 6950

Discrete: GTX 560 Discrete: HD 5850, 6870
Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 285, GTX 460 1GB, GTX 465 Discrete: HD 6850

Discrete: GTX 260, GTX 275, GTX 280, GTX 460 768 MB, GTX 460 SE, GTX 550 Ti
Discrete: HD 4870, HD 5770, HD 4890, HD 5830, HD 6770,  HD 6790
Mobility: HD 5870

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250, GTS 450 Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850, HD 5750, HD 6750
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, HD 6670
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, HD 5570 (GDDR5), HD 6570 (GDDR5)

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 (DDR3), HD 6570 (DDR3)
Mobility: HD 3870, HD 5730, HD 5650

Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB, GT 440 GDDR5
Go (mobile): 8800M
Discrete: HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB, 5550 (GDDR5)
Mobility: HD 3850

Discrete: 7950 GX2, GT 440 DDR3
Discrete: X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (DDR3), 5550 (DDR3)
Discrete: 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX, GT 430 Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 G, GT 220 (DDR3) Discrete: X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT, HD 5550 (DDR2)

Discrete: 7800 GT, 7900 GS, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT (GDDR3), GT 220 (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7950 GTX
Discrete: X1800 XL, X1950 GT, HD 4650 (DDR2), HD 6450
Mobility X1800 XT, HD 4650, HD 5165

Discrete: 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, 8600 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), GT 520
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 5450
Mobility: X800, 3470, HD 5470 (DDR3), HD 5430
Intel HD Graphics 3000
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 3300, HD 4200, HD 4250, HD 4290 

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
Intel HD Graphics (Core i5-6x1), 2000
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
Intel HD Graphics (Core i3 5x0, Core i5-6x0)
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
Intel HD Graphics (Pentium G)
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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  • -7 Hide
    Anonymous , July 5, 2011 4:38 AM
    why no Llano?
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , July 5, 2011 4:43 AM
    Ok, you've got to tell me who has been having success unlocking the 1gb Radeon 5950s and what models!
  • 2 Hide
    abswindows7 , July 5, 2011 5:07 AM
    No Ti -_-""
  • -9 Hide
    Anonymous , July 5, 2011 5:38 AM
    good test, but
    Title is wrong. It's June 2011 not July 2011
  • 9 Hide
    ChiefTexas_82 , July 5, 2011 6:12 AM
    quirkywhy no Llano?


    Best Graphics *CARDS* for the money. Llano is a APU, not GPU.
  • 0 Hide
    alhanelem , July 5, 2011 6:15 AM
    cant wait for new gfx cards to come out, im hoping some of them will come out by 2011 Q4
  • 0 Hide
    ChiefTexas_82 , July 5, 2011 6:24 AM
    ChiefTexas_82Best Graphics *CARDS* for the money. Llano is a APU, not GPU.
    Ok, read to last page. Perhaps the list is older than Llano. Llano just came out.
  • 9 Hide
    undead_assault , July 5, 2011 6:43 AM
    Hello Tom, please update the Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart with new GPUs for laptops too. HD 6000 series for laptops are already out.
  • 1 Hide
    carlhenry , July 5, 2011 6:46 AM
    the chart is a bit confusing unless you read the details. was confused if you were recommending the 560 or 560 Ti. anyway, thanks for this :D 
  • -1 Hide
    jshcastle , July 5, 2011 7:02 AM
    i might suggest adding, at least in an honorable mention, the radeon HD 5830. when there is a proper stock of them, you can get it on newegg for 110$ or the supercharged sapphire edition for 130$. these card perform superbly, only slightly lower than the 5850.
  • -7 Hide
    rohitbaran , July 5, 2011 7:19 AM
    Radeon 6970 and GTX 570 are at the same price. At least on Newegg, you can get a Radeon 6970 for $319 (after rebate). So, I think that it shouldn't be considered a $350 card. Several of GTX 570 are also selling in the $350 range, but Toms mentions it as a $325 card.
  • 3 Hide
    randomkid , July 5, 2011 7:30 AM
    @Tom's, it will help readers who aspire for eyefinity or surround vision if the performance for resolution ~5760x1080 is included. Anyway, the trend is now towards multidisplay gaming...
  • 0 Hide
    vaughn2k , July 5, 2011 7:45 AM
    "why no Llano?"

    Llano is an APU and not a discrete graphics.
    My HD5770 is still in the list!
  • -3 Hide
    izmanq , July 5, 2011 7:55 AM
    AMD Fusion APUs still not updated into the Tom's Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart :( 
    Llano still new perhaps, but Brazos has been around almost 6 months :|
  • 1 Hide
    boletus , July 5, 2011 8:37 AM
    Naturally we will want to see how the new Llano and Brazos solutions compare, even if they are not "Graphics Cards". Finally, something a little exciting for people that don't have a lot of dough.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , July 5, 2011 11:01 AM
    "Best Graphics *CARDS* for the money. Llano is a APU, not GPU"
    But intel hd graphic are there in the final page. Please update the last page with LLano
  • 1 Hide
    torque79 , July 5, 2011 1:57 PM
    Many comments regarding Llano are not clearly defining what you are asking for. I believe you want Llano to be showing up in the graphics hierarchy chart (last page of the article only). In the entire rest of the article these have no place, because as mentioned on the first page none of these can perform as well as a low cost discrete card, and this article is for gaming cards. ONLY on the graphics hierarchy chart could these be included, and I guess for those considering an HTPC or a laptop which will hopefully soon have these APU's it could be useful.
  • 1 Hide
    DSpider , July 5, 2011 5:23 PM
    Where would the Geforce 7025 (or 7050) be positioned in the hierarchy chart ?

    I mean, you already have Intel graphics (which are basically integrated) in there.
  • 0 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , July 5, 2011 5:43 PM
    rohitbaranRadeon 6970 and GTX 570 are at the same price. At least on Newegg, you can get a Radeon 6970 for $319 (after rebate). So, I think that it shouldn't be considered a $350 card. Several of GTX 570 are also selling in the $350 range, but Toms mentions it as a $325 card.

    ...At least on Newegg, you can get a GTX570 for $290 after rebate. But Tom's doesn't count mail in rebates. I've never really understood your logic, it's never really seemed... impartial. There are several HD6970's selling in the $380+ range yet Tom's mentions it as a $350 card.
    Does this mean Tom's should've increased the list price of the HD6970 based on these few higher priced models?

    Of course there's overlap in the pricing of overclocked GTX570's and stock HD6970's, that usually happens when you have two cards positioned so close to each other in performance. But overall there is a $20 - $30 price discrepancy between the GTX570 and HD6970.
  • 0 Hide
    clonazepam , July 5, 2011 7:01 PM
    So when I score a 2nd gtx 570 for $330, that puts me at under $700 total, no rebates... i can live with that ;-)

    Edit: Im gonna say two words most people here will hate and for good reason, "Best Buy" has the reference model PNY gtx 570 for $330. I have one and will get another. In most cases the 800mhz core / 2100mhz mem overclock works wonderfully but so far only when running 3dMarkVantage and Crysis 2 dx11 I have to bump the clocks down to 750mhz core. I'm never recommend Best Buy but if you are like me and happen to have a substantial amount of BB credit, it could be an option.
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