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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2011
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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 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: HD 4850 X2, 5870, 6950

Discrete: GTX 470, GTX 560 Ti 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, 6790
Mobility: HD 5870

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250, GTS 450 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, 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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  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 9, 2011 4:20 AM
    It would be cool to add price range on the Graphics Hierarchy chart. Otherwise, I love these articles!
  • 4 Hide
    volks1470 , May 9, 2011 4:35 AM
    wow, AMD dominated those charts. Bravo to the 6000 series. Pretty impressive considering that they were only a revision of the 5000 series.

    Can't wait to get a 7000 series card!!
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 9, 2011 5:05 AM
    Hard to understand why sapphire 5850 extreme @ $150 isnt listed. That's a faster card than 6850 @ $175
  • 0 Hide
    dapneym , May 9, 2011 5:24 AM
    I may have overlooked it, but I don't believe I saw any mention of using two 6970s in CrossFire. Surely that would be better than a 6990 (quite a bit cheaper as well actually). Even just as an honourable mention that would be better.
  • 1 Hide
    Fokissed , May 9, 2011 6:04 AM
    mayankleoboy1why would anyone go for 2x6870? just get 2x6850 and set them at 6870 clocks. also, there are much more custom cards for the 6850 with better cooling/noise.

    The HD6870 has ~17% more SPs. The HD6870 will still perform ~17% faster at the same clocks.
  • -5 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , May 9, 2011 6:40 AM
    I hate to say it, but Tom's Hardware can be incredibly biased or simply misinformed at times. For example, starting at $100, you can pick up the Radeon HD 5750, a card that's faster than the 6670. At $150, the undisputed winner is the GeForce GTX 460 768MB. It handily beats the Radeon HD 6790 by 12% at 1680x1050, the target resolution. At $200, the Radeon HD 6870 simply makes no sense. For $30 more you can pick up a GTX 560 Ti, a card that beats it at 1920x1200 by 18%. Recommendations of the Radeon HD 6950 make no sense. Both the 1GB and 2GB versions are only slightly faster. The 1GB version is faster by wait for it... 1%... at 1920x1200. The 2GB version is an amazing 2% faster and costs $20 more for the cheap, non-reference models that won't unlock shaders and will end up being slower due to over-clocking less. The ones you want, the reference ones, cost $45 more. Unlocking the shaders gives you an amazing 3% performance boost, and when both are over-clocked/unlocked (in the case of the 6950), they end up with the same performance since the 560 OCs a bit better. Wonderful. Also, I don't understand the incessant bashing here on the Radeon HD 6990. From the looks of it, it has sold more than the GTX 590 and for a good reason: it's faster at 2560x1600, and doesn't blow up when you over-volt it. It's also an over-clocking monster, reaching 1GHz on the core and matching GTX 580 SLI. If you don't want the noise, you can just buy a water block with the money you saved from not getting a GTX 580 SLI.

    Tom's Hardware, I am disappoint.
  • 4 Hide
    alikum , May 9, 2011 7:33 AM
    appleblowsdonkeyballsI hate to say it, but Tom's Hardware can be incredibly biased or simply misinformed at times. For example, starting at $100, you can pick up the Radeon HD 5750, a card that's faster than the 6670. At $150, the undisputed winner is the GeForce GTX 460 768MB. It handily beats the Radeon HD 6790 by 12% at 1680x1050, the target resolution. At $200, the Radeon HD 6870 simply makes no sense. For $30 more you can pick up a GTX 560 Ti, a card that beats it at 1920x1200 by 18%. Recommendations of the Radeon HD 6950 make no sense. Both the 1GB and 2GB versions are only slightly faster. The 1GB version is faster by wait for it... 1%... at 1920x1200. The 2GB version is an amazing 2% faster and costs $20 more for the cheap, non-reference models that won't unlock shaders and will end up being slower due to over-clocking less. The ones you want, the reference ones, cost $45 more. Unlocking the shaders gives you an amazing 3% performance boost, and when both are over-clocked/unlocked (in the case of the 6950), they end up with the same performance since the 560 OCs a bit better. Wonderful. Also, I don't understand the incessant bashing here on the Radeon HD 6990. From the looks of it, it has sold more than the GTX 590 and for a good reason: it's faster at 2560x1600, and doesn't blow up when you over-volt it. It's also an over-clocking monster, reaching 1GHz on the core and matching GTX 580 SLI. If you don't want the noise, you can just buy a water block with the money you saved from not getting a GTX 580 SLI.Tom's Hardware, I am disappoint.

    Are you forgetting that they DO NOT write and publish the article on the same day they get their prices?
  • 0 Hide
    Assmar , May 9, 2011 7:36 AM
    dapneymI may have overlooked it, but I don't believe I saw any mention of using two 6970s in CrossFire. Surely that would be better than a 6990 (quite a bit cheaper as well actually). Even just as an honourable mention that would be better.

    I second that motion.
  • -2 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , May 9, 2011 8:11 AM
    assmarI second that motion.


    Except for the fact that what you're saying is COMPLETELY irrelevant because the prices of the cards I have mentioned have been so for more than a month now. The GTX 460 768MB has been $150 for around 2 months now, the Radeon HD 5750 has been $100 for almost a month now, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti has been at $230 for more than a month now, the Radeon HD 6950 2GB reference was earlier at $250 and now at $275,and the Radeon HD 6870 has been $200 for about two months. Yeah, nice try.
  • 0 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , May 9, 2011 8:12 AM
    Crap. This thing doesn't even quote people right. Comment directed at alikum.
  • 0 Hide
    roymustang , May 9, 2011 8:26 AM
    At least they mentioned the Sapphire 5850 Xtreme in the updates this time, but then they failed to put it in their price-point recommendations. Truly sad. I guess Tom's thinks that a 6950 2GB is better than two 5850 Xtremes in CrossFireX since they list it as their ~$275 recommendation.
  • 0 Hide
    alikum , May 9, 2011 8:34 AM
    appleblowsdonkeyballsExcept for the fact that what you're saying is COMPLETELY irrelevant because the prices of the cards I have mentioned have been so for more than a month now. The GTX 460 768MB has been $150 for around 2 months now, the Radeon HD 5750 has been $100 for almost a month now, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti has been at $230 for more than a month now, the Radeon HD 6950 2GB reference was earlier at $250 and now at $275,and the Radeon HD 6870 has been $200 for about two months. Yeah, nice try.

    Well then I guess you're looking prices very different from their sources. As much as you'd like to dispute with regards to your own price / performance, Don's recommendations are perfectly valid.

    Since you place a lot of emphasis on GTX460 768MB and the GTX560Ti, then let's debate on these 2 ranges. And since I believe we live in 2 very different countries, let's stick to prices mentioned in this article. Don did mention about the GTX460 760MB and the 6790 for their price range but did not recommend either. Firstly, GTX460 is old and the 6790 is too close to the 6850 to be worth your money. Secondly, with an additional 20 bucks, you get something better, the 6850.

    As for your emphasis on 560Ti, just for another 10bucks, you get 6950 1GB that performs better. Where did you get your numbers from? 1%?

    Lastly, I do second your point about 6990
  • 2 Hide
    alikum , May 9, 2011 8:36 AM
    roymustangAt least they mentioned the Sapphire 5850 Xtreme in the updates this time, but then they failed to put it in their price-point recommendations. Truly sad. I guess Tom's thinks that a 6950 2GB is better than two 5850 Xtremes in CrossFireX since they list it as their ~$275 recommendation.

    I don't think they'd put in custom cards into recommendation. Things will get very messy. That's why even the XFX 6870 black edition is not taken into account/
  • -2 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , May 9, 2011 9:15 AM
    alikumWell then I guess you're looking prices very different from their sources. As much as you'd like to dispute with regards to your own price / performance, Don's recommendations are perfectly valid. Since you place a lot of emphasis on GTX460 768MB and the GTX560Ti, then let's debate on these 2 ranges. And since I believe we live in 2 very different countries, let's stick to prices mentioned in this article. Don did mention about the GTX460 760MB and the 6790 for their price range but did not recommend either. Firstly, GTX460 is old and the 6790 is too close to the 6850 to be worth your money. Secondly, with an additional 20 bucks, you get something better, the 6850.As for your emphasis on 560Ti, just for another 10bucks, you get 6950 1GB that performs better. Where did you get your numbers from? 1%? Lastly, I do second your point about 6990


    No, I'm looking at the actual prices you can find today and have been able to for at least a month now. His recommendations are not valid.

    One, the GTX 460 768MB is 12% faster than the Radeon HD 6790 at 1680x1050. It should be recommended and the 6790 should be relegated to simply not being mentioned. Link

    Two, the Radeon HD 6850 is only 3% faster at the aforementioned resolution, but pulls out ahead at 1920x1200, widening the gap to 10%. At 1680x1050, it's not worth it. At 1920x1200, it is.

    Third, the Radeon HD 6950 1GB is 1% faster than the GeForce GTX 560 Ti at 1920x1200. For $10 more, that's not worth it. The 560 over-clocks more, too. Link
  • 1 Hide
    alikum , May 9, 2011 9:35 AM
    appleblowsdonkeyballsNo, I'm looking at the actual prices you can find today and have been able to for at least a month now. His recommendations are not valid.One, the GTX 460 768MB is 12% faster than the Radeon HD 6790 at 1680x1050. It should be recommended and the 6790 should be relegated to simply not being mentioned. LinkTwo, the Radeon HD 6850 is only 3% faster at the aforementioned resolution, but pulls out ahead at 1920x1200, widening the gap to 10%. At 1680x1050, it's not worth it. At 1920x1200, it is.Third, the Radeon HD 6950 1GB is 1% faster than the GeForce GTX 560 Ti at 1920x1200. For $10 more, that's not worth it. The 560 over-clocks more, too. Link

    Point 1 & 2, no need link for that. I mentioned about 6790 being too close to 6850 to be worth your money too. Sure GTX460 768MB has its price performance at its level, but think about it again. With an additional ~$20, you get so much more performance with the HD6850.

    Point 3 well, based on Tom's chart, it's not exactly 1% faster. Perhaps around 3 - 4%. Again, overclocking is based on personal preference. If we were to place overclockability into considerations, then the entire article would be useless. Let's compare stock clocks for the time being.
    3 - 4% performance increase for another 10bucks? Don't know about you, but it's a done deal for me.
  • -1 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , May 9, 2011 9:45 AM
    alikumPoint 1 & 2, no need link for that. I mentioned about 6790 being too close to 6850 to be worth your money too. Sure GTX460 768MB has its price performance at its level, but think about it again. With an additional ~$20, you get so much more performance with the HD6850.Point 3 well, based on Tom's chart, it's not exactly 1% faster. Perhaps around 3 - 4%. Again, overclocking is based on personal preference. If we were to place overclockability into considerations, then the entire article would be useless. Let's compare stock clocks for the time being.3 - 4% performance increase for another 10bucks? Don't know about you, but it's a done deal for me.


    *sigh* I don't even know where to start. It looks like you're blind.

    Again, you don't get "a lot" more performance from the Radeon HD 6850 in comparison to the GeForce GTX 460 768MB. It's 3% faster at 1680x1050 and 10% faster at 1920x1200. Again, if you game at 1680x1050, it's not worth it. At 1920x1200/1080, it is.

    Tom's Hardware is using outdated drivers that do not count towards recent performance. Now it's a 1% gap. If you think 1% makes it worth $10 more, be my guest. Don't get jealous when we both OC and I'm almost 10% faster, though. I didn't use over-clocked settings for any of my comparisons. I merely mentioned the fact it over-clocks more as a benefit.

    It seems as if you're hell bent on not wanting to accept you're wrong.
  • 4 Hide
    alikum , May 9, 2011 9:51 AM
    appleblowsdonkeyballs*sigh* I don't even know where to start. It looks like you're blind.Again, you don't get "a lot" more performance from the Radeon HD 6850 in comparison to the GeForce GTX 460 768MB. It's 3% faster at 1680x1050 and 10% faster at 1920x1200. Again, if you game at 1680x1050, it's not worth it. At 1920x1200/1080, it is.Tom's Hardware is using outdated drivers that do not count towards recent performance. Now it's a 1% gap. If you think 1% makes it worth $10 more, be my guest. Don't get jealous when we both OC and I'm almost 10% faster, though. I didn't use over-clocked settings for any of my comparisons. I merely mentioned the fact it over-clocks more as a benefit.It seems as if you're hell bent on not wanting to accept you're wrong.

    Hell bent? I was only stating things from my own perspective. To me, 10% is good enough to justify the buy over the GTX460 768MB.

    And you can overclock all you want. But do remember, not everyone overclocks. Like me, I can't afford to do so because my country's ambient temp is just too high to allow me to do that. Again, perhaps you're right regarding drivers closing out the gap. I was only stating facts I found from Toms charts. So to call me hell bent? Meh
  • 0 Hide
    mactronix , May 9, 2011 10:20 AM
    Funny that, there were no comments earlier and now my comment isnt even listed ? just shows how good you guys are :( 
  • 0 Hide
    nickchalk , May 9, 2011 10:50 AM
    in greece one can find saphires 5850 extreme for 129€
    a pair gives performace better than HD6970 or GTX570 and costs ~100€ less
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 9, 2011 11:37 AM
    i could not agree with you more appleblowsdonkeyballs, THW has really gone down hill for reviews and recommendations.
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