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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2011

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
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
Go (mobile): 580M
Discrete: HD 5850, 6870
Mobility: 6990M

Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 285, GTX 460 1GB, GTX 465 Discrete: HD 6850
Mobility: 6900M

Discrete: GTX 260, GTX 275, GTX 280, GTX 460 768 MB, GTX 460 SE, GTX 550 Ti
Go (mobile): 570M
Discrete: HD 4870, HD 5770, HD 4890, HD 5830, HD 6770,  HD 6790
Mobility: HD 5870, 6800M

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250, GTS 450
Go (mobile): 560M
Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850, HD 5750, HD 6750
Mobility: HD 4850, HD 5850

Discrete: 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MB, GT 545 (GDDR5)
Go (mobile): GTX 280M, GTX 285M, 555M (GDDR5)
Discrete: HD 4770
Mobility: HD 4860

Discrete: 8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT, GT 545 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): 9800M GTX, GTX 260M (112), GTS 360M (GDDR5), 555M (DDR3)
Discrete: HD 4830, HD 5670, HD 6670
Mobility: HD 5770, HD 5750, 6600M/6700M (GDDR5)

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)
Mobility: 6500M (GDDR5), 6600M/6700M (DDR3)

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, 6500M (DDR3)

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, GT 530
Go (mobile): 550M
Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 G, GT 220 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): 525M, 540M
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, 6400M
Integrated: 6620G, 6550D

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
Integrated: 6520G, 6530D

Discrete: 6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), 8600 GT (DDR2), GT 520
Go (mobile): 7800, Go 7900 GS, 520M, 520MX
Discrete: X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, HD 2600 PRO, HD 3650 (DDR2),
Mobility: X800 XT, HD 2600 XT, 3650
Integrated: 6410D, 6480G

Discrete: 6800 GS (AGP)
Go (mobile): 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT, 410M
Discrete: X800 GTO 256 MB, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT
Mobility: HD 2600
Integrated: 6370D, 6380G

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, 6300M
Integrated: HD 6310, HD 6320
Integrated: 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, HD 6250, HD 6290 

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
Integrated: 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
Go (mobile): 315M
Discrete: 9600 PRO, 9800 LE, X600 PRO, HD 2300
Mobility: 9700 (128-bit), X600, X1300
Integrated: Xpress 1250
Integrated: 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
Integrated: 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)
Integrated: 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, 7025, 7050
Discrete: 9200 SE
Integrated: Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
Integrated: GMA X3000, X3100, X3500
Discrete: 2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 Discrete: 7500 Integrated: GMA 3000, 3100
Discrete: 256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 Discrete: SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200 Integrated: GMA 500, 900, 950
Discrete: Nvidia TNT Discrete: Rage 128 Discrete: Intel 740


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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  • 1 Hide
    alhanelem , November 9, 2011 4:32 AM
    my bday is pretty soon but i might get a new pc instead of a new gfx
  • 5 Hide
    Onikage , November 9, 2011 5:00 AM
    the logical step would be to wait, just 2-3 months, and then getting those 7000s 28nm sweetness....
    in my case its going to be operation "HIGH-JUMP" from the old 4000s (4870 1gb) to HD7950 !!!
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , November 9, 2011 6:23 AM
    Onikagethe logical step would be to wait, just 2-3 months, and to get those 7000s 28nm my case its going to be operation "HIGH-JUMP" from the old 4000s (48701gb) to HD7950 !!!

    yeah...i'm waiting till Feb, so i hope they're out by then. Will be moving from a 9600GT to a GTX 560 price equivalent, if it's out.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , November 9, 2011 6:55 AM
    I'll just hold on to my dual 5770s until this 7XXX series comes out. and then I'll wait 6 more months for the price to drop, and then I'll get them.
  • 4 Hide
    vaughn2k , November 9, 2011 7:19 AM
    HD5770, still there, 11 straight monhts!
  • 0 Hide
    tacoslave , November 9, 2011 7:57 AM
    im waiting for ivy bridge so i can get a whole knew settup since dudozer was a fail and get something high end again. Already bought 3 monitors and my phenom ii 940 and 6850 cant keep up its gonna be a good year next year.
  • 0 Hide
    JustPlainJef , November 9, 2011 8:38 AM
    I was hoping to get a new card in the spring. Good to know that something won't tempt me in the wintertime, as I just can't afford it...

    As for other news on the video card front, unfortunately, we don't have our finders crossed for new graphics architectures in the last couple months of the year.

    Oops. :bounce: 
  • 0 Hide
    DSpider , November 9, 2011 8:56 AM
    I thought the mainstream/low-end cards were expected to launch in late Q4 2011, while the high end cards would launch in Q1 2012:,13408.html

    The mainstream VLIW-4 architecture (28/32 nm) could still come in time for the holidays. I have my eye on a HD 7670. At 60 W it will draw power straight from the PCIe slot (75 W). But not before benchies... First I wanna know if it's worth picking over 5750/6750 or even a 5770/6770, performance-wise.
  • 5 Hide
    ewood , November 9, 2011 10:42 AM
    greghomeThat just means the HD7ks are being manufactured as we speak....i hope......

    i like your reasoning. i didnt see the 69xx series as enough of an upgrade over my 5870 to justify upgrading but maybe 7xxx series will change that
  • 0 Hide
    cappster , November 9, 2011 10:49 AM
    I am looking forward to the 7XXX series as that should mean a price drop on the 6XXX series. And that equals pairing up my 6870 with a twin!
  • 0 Hide
    chovav , November 9, 2011 10:56 AM
    "In addition, some users have unlocked shader cores artificially disabled by AMD through a firmware update, transforming this board into an underclocked 1 GB version of AMD's Radeon HD 6970"

    I thought it was only possible to do this with (certain) 2GB boards? as much as I know the 1GB board is completely different than the 6970..... I never saw anybody who successfully unlocked a 1GB 6950.
  • 3 Hide
    Uni-duni-te , November 9, 2011 11:06 AM
    chovavI thought it was only possible to do this with (certain) 2GB boards? as much as I know the 1GB board is completely different than the 6970..... I never saw anybody who successfully unlocked a 1GB 6950.

    There are severall people that were able to successfully unlock the shaders on the 1Gb boards. Just look at the techpowerup forums.
  • 0 Hide
    pwnorbpwnd , November 9, 2011 12:23 PM
    I'll keep my 6850 by my side, maybe get another in CF and sell them both for a 7000 series when they are out. :) 
  • 2 Hide
    fomoz , November 9, 2011 12:49 PM
    Since you're including them in the choices, it would be cool if you included Crossfire and SLI options in the hierarchy. For example, GTX 590 ~ 2x GTX 570.
  • 3 Hide
    Rogue77777 , November 9, 2011 2:04 PM
    I'm always looking at the Hierarchy chart, so I can compare the performance of the upper tier card, but they never go pass the HD4800 series in CF. I'm using 2 HD5870's and would like to know where they stand performance wise when compared to the GTX 580 & HD 6970 series cards.
    So can you please start adding the upper tier SLI & CF cards in your performance chart?
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , November 9, 2011 4:55 PM
    I want to see xcrossfire 3-ways added to list.
  • 2 Hide
    Teslarifle , November 9, 2011 5:11 PM
    For some reason I can't find a single 6950 comes with a decent blower/vapor chamber style cooler that pushes the air out the back. How hard would it be for XFX to take the cooler they use on the 6970 and throw it on the 6950? Instead we get these fans that blow hot air off the heatsink right back into your case. Until the 6950's start coming with better coolers I'm going to hold off buying two.
  • 0 Hide
    Teslarifle , November 9, 2011 5:13 PM
    By the way PNY has the GTX 580 on sale for $450
  • 0 Hide
    mikeangs2004 , November 9, 2011 5:58 PM
    By the way PNY has the GTX 580 on sale for $450

    By the way the HD 5970 was on sale for $350. I can also get a used one for less than that price.
  • 2 Hide
    Teslarifle , November 9, 2011 6:12 PM
    mikeangs2004By the way the HD 5970 was on sale for $350. I can also get a used one for less than that price.

    That's like saying you can buy a used car for less than the price of the same one new. Kinda stating the obvious.
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