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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2011

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2011
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In this month's update, we discuss several price adjustments that impact our recommendations. We also look into the crystal ball and suggest that there may not be another graphics launch in 2011 as a result of several different factors.

Detailed graphics card specifications and reviews are great—that is, if you have the time to do the research. But at the end of the day, what a gamer needs is the best graphics card within a certain budget.

So, if you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right card, then fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming cards offered for the money.

November Updates:

The news this month centers on price adjustments. While none of the changes are game-changing, they do alter our recommendations to some degree. For example, the average price on AMD Radeon HD 6790, 6850, and 6870 graphics cards is up about ten dollars per board. This enables a tie between the Radeon HD 6870 and the GeForce GTX 560. The Radeon HD 5570 also went up a few bucks, and is now priced too close to the superior Radeon HD 5670 to keep its recommendation. On the other hand, the Radeon HD 6950 2 GB is a few dollars cheaper. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560 Ti is down a bit as well, and now shares a recommendation with the Radeon HD 6950 1 GB.

On a side note, for buyers interested in a great deal on a budget gaming card, we noticed that PNY's GeForce GT 240 GDDR5 is on sale for $40 at Newegg with free shipping. This card isn't quite as powerful as the $70 Radeon HD 5670. At $40, it's a steal, though.

It also looks like AMD's Radeon HD 5750/5770 cards are being phased out in favor of the Radeon HD 6750/6770. Since the 6700 series is essentially equivalent to the 5700 series with added Blu-ray 3D support and comparable pricing, the 5700 series won't be missed. Just don't mistake the 6700 cards for upgrades.

As for other news on the video card front, unfortunately, we don't have our fingers crossed for new graphics architectures in the last couple months of the year. There are a few reasons for this, but three stand out most prominently. First, the current generation of cards is more than capable of handling today's most demanding games (especially with companies like id delivering low-spec console ports like Rage). It's a good thing developers like Dice can still demonstrate the PC's place in gaming with titles like Battlefield 3 (see Battlefield 3 Performance: 30+ Graphics Cards, Benchmarked if you missed it two weeks ago). Second, with no major update to DirectX being discussed, there's no new API to drive interest in new graphics hardware. Third, next-gen products like AMD's Radeon HD 7000 series and Nvidia's Kepler are still subject to manufacturing kinks in TSMC's 28 nm node, and it looks like it will take some time to get the bugs out of that process. At this point we wouldn't be surprised to see some new products manufactured using 40 nm lithography, and we've heard rumors to support that. There's nothing concrete to report yet, though, and, for the first time in a long time, it looks as if we won't have any major announcements to take us through the end of the year.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:

  • This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the cards on this list are more expensive than what you really need. We've added a reference page at the end of the column covering integrated graphics processors, which is likely more apropos.
  • The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that recommendations for multiple video cards, such as two Radeon cards in CrossFire mode or two GeForce cards in SLI, typically require a motherboard that supports CrossFire or SLI and a chassis with more space to install multiple graphics cards. They also require a beefier power supply compared to what a single card needs, and will almost certainly produce more heat than a single card. Keep these factors in mind when making your purchasing decision. In most cases, if we have recommended a multiple-card solution, we try to recommend a single-card honorable mention at a comparable price point for those who find multi-card setups undesirable.
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t base our decisions on always-changing pricing information, but we can list some good cards that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest, along with real-time prices from our PriceGrabber engine, for your reference.
  • The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
  • These are new card prices. No used or open-box cards are in the list; they might represent a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
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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 sweetness....in 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...

    Quote:
    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: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/amd-HD-7900-XDR2-Rambus-Memory,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
    Quote:
    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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