Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April 2011
By

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
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)

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)
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!

Display all 95 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 0 Hide
    chefboyeb , April 20, 2011 5:12 AM
    The HD6970s are still a great buy in my books... I'm glad i got me a pair...
  • 2 Hide
    burnley14 , April 20, 2011 5:45 AM
    It's not nearly the most exciting, but I always find the low end graphics updates the most interesting. I've never had to have the latest and greatest cards but it's interesting to see how much performance one can get for so cheap these days, and it's constantly improving with trickle-down.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 5:51 AM
    only 4 nvidia cards?
  • 3 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , April 20, 2011 6:18 AM
    so AMD cards are still better value despite people crying about drivers and stuttering and such. Just wondering if you guys at Toms have had any driver or stuttering issues?
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 7:28 AM
    Just a thought, but maybe you could add a plot graph of performance vs. price with various cards in it. I think a visual presentation would give a better understanding when comparing cards and special deals.
  • 1 Hide
    alikum , April 20, 2011 7:40 AM
    iam2thecroweso AMD cards are still better value despite people crying about drivers and stuttering and such. Just wondering if you guys at Toms have had any driver or stuttering issues?

    Well, I've also seen people crying with blue screen issues on nVidia's side. I own numerous nVidia and AMD cards whichever had the better value at point of purchase and I can say, these people who cry and whine represent only a small percentage of the market.

    Look, I'm not being bias on either side, but to say that the drivers from either company is perfect is absurd (again, not saying that you said so). Each company has its fair share of driver issues so don't let purchase be affected by drivers. More times than not, monitor calibration, games development and color profiles could be the root of issues.
  • 0 Hide
    unklg , April 20, 2011 8:28 AM
    what if a gtx460 768mb and hd5770 1024mb cost the same? which is better?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 9:01 AM
    best card for $420, article released on 4/20.. hmmm
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 20, 2011 9:03 AM
    ^obviously gtx460 768mb...
  • 0 Hide
    Sud099 , April 20, 2011 9:12 AM
    @unklg:o n that occasion no doubt gtx460 768mb would be the choice...
  • 1 Hide
    rainwilds , April 20, 2011 10:08 AM
    What's with the rating system? Is 'excellent' better than 'great'?
  • 0 Hide
    vaughn2k , April 20, 2011 10:08 AM
    Wow, my HD5770 is till there?
  • 0 Hide
    renz496 , April 20, 2011 10:26 AM
    lol. where did all GTX460 go? :lol: 
  • 0 Hide
    Rizlla , April 20, 2011 11:17 AM
    I'm still looking at a pair of those 6970's. So tempting.
  • 1 Hide
    ProDigit10 , April 20, 2011 12:52 PM
    I wish the graphic chips of arm powered devices could once be tested too!
    A lot of gear out there that has unknown GPU's, some of which are reasonably good for the job they perform.
  • 1 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , April 20, 2011 12:53 PM
    rizllaI'm still looking at a pair of those 6970's. So tempting.


    It was always a tie with the 6850, but all th 460s are $190 now while the 6850 is $165. Not worth a $25 price increase for te same performance
  • 1 Hide
    enzo matrix , April 20, 2011 12:55 PM
    What about the 6570? With it's overclocking potential, it is a no brainer over the 5670 for those who overclock.
  • 0 Hide
    enzo matrix , April 20, 2011 12:58 PM
    Quote:
    There's another reason to consider this model. Many folks have had luck modding this board into a fully-functional Radeon HD 6970 through a firmware update. If you can pull that off, the value of the 2 GB Radeon HD 6950 seems pretty clear.

    Not really. The 1GB version can still unlock the shaders. Then overclock to 6970 speeds and you achieve the same result.
  • 2 Hide
    colanusus , April 20, 2011 1:02 PM
    I believe it should be mentioned what is the setup and the details set for these benchmarks; i.e I currently own Q6600@3.2Ghz + 4GB 800Mhz DDR2 + GTX580 + 120GB Vertex 2 SSD; I can tell you that on 1920-1080 res it can not cope with 8xMSAA and ambient occlusion on high or other such details at max; So to me Excellent or Great means that you can play at a certain resolution with everything on MAX (including aliasing, transparency, ambient light, etc)
  • 1 Hide
    tony singh , April 20, 2011 1:22 PM
    Quote:
    I believe it should be mentioned what is the setup and the details set for these benchmarks; i.e I currently own Q6600@3.2Ghz + 4GB 800Mhz DDR2 + GTX580 + 120GB Vertex 2 SSD; I can tell you that on 1920-1080 res it can not cope with 8xMSAA and ambient occlusion on high or other such details at max; So to me Excellent or Great means that you can play at a certain resolution with everything on MAX (including aliasing, transparency, ambient light, etc)


    GTX580 with q6600 & 800Mhz DDR2 ???
Display more comments