November brings AMD's 8GB Radeon R9 290X, though the graphics card market's recent price changes have caused a bigger impact. Read how the disruptive GeForce GTX 970 and 980 continue to change the landscape in this month's update.
Detailed graphics card specifications and reviews are great, assuming you have the time to do the research. But at the end of the day, a gamer needs to know what the best graphics card is for their money. 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've compiled a simple list of the best gaming cards offered in any given price range.
While there are no new GPUs to introduce this month, some of AMD's partners kept things interesting by doubling the amount of GDDR5 on the Radeon R9 290X from 4 to 8 GB. This provides a small but measurable performance improvement at high resolutions (4K, for example), but accomplishes very little aside from that. You'll find these new models between $430 and $500 on Newegg, which is significantly more expensive than the standard 4GB Radeon R9 290X options selling in the $350 range. Eight gigabytes of graphics memory might interest gamers blessed with triple-monitor Eyefinity or Ultra HD setups, while the rest of us won't be able to put the additional RAM to good use. For more info, check out Sapphire's Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB: The More, The Merrier?
We may have reached a lull where graphics card introductions are concerned, but that's not to say the space has been uneventful. The market is still adjusting to the new GeForce GTX 970 and 980, which remain at their disruptive introductory $330 and $550 price points. The Radeon R9 290X, 290, 285 and 270X are each down $20 to $350, $270, $230 and $165, respectively. None of this changes our recommendations since last month, but it does make some of these cards a better deal than they were before. The Radeon R9 270 dropped $30 to $160, but it remains unattractive next to the $165 Radeon R9 270X.
GeForce prices have also shifted. Most notably, the dual-GPU GeForce GTX Titan Z is available for $1500 instead of its original ill-chosen $3000 MSRP, though we still wouldn't call it a good deal compared to the similarly-performing Radeon R9 295X2 at $1000. The GeForce GTX 760, 750 Ti and 620 are all $10 cheaper at $210, $130 and $45, respectively. Unfortunately, the discontinued GeForce GTX 780, 780 Ti and 770 become more expensive as the remaining stock depletes. Last month, the 780 Ti was our top recommendation at $440. But now it's $580, and we wouldn't choose it over the $550 GeForce GTX 980.
Keep in mind that the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 are in such high demand that many of the lower-priced models are often sold out, although we can still find them at their MSRPs as this goes live. Nevertheless, if you're thinking of picking one up for the season, consider grabbing it now in case there's a holiday drought.
As far as upcoming products, the Internet is buzzing with rumors of an upcoming GM200-based GeForce GTX Titan II with 12 GB of RAM, and a Fiji-based Radeon R9 390X with unholy memory bandwidth. Unfortunately, we have no solid leads to confirm on either product.
In other graphics-related news, Nvidia added Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) support for older GPUs in its newest driver. This is a nice bonus for owners of Kepler- and Fermi-based cards, as DSR was previously limited to the Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 970 and 980. Aside from this, our own Igor Wallossek posted an interesting analysis of The Math Behind GPU Power Consumption And PSUs. You can also learn to discern some GPU facts from fiction in Filippo L. Scognamiglio Pasini's The Myths Of Graphics Card Performance: Debunked, Part 2. Finally, we reviewed Sapphire's ITX Compact R9 285: Good Things In Small Packages, in addition to our Aorus X7 Pro Notebook Review: GeForce GTX 970M Gets Slim In SLI.
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, 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 for home, office, and basic multimedia usage models.
- Be sure to check out our new performance per dollar comparison page, where you can overlay the benchmark data we’ve generated with pricing, giving you a better idea where your ideal choice falls on the value curve. The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance.
- 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/SLI and possibly a chassis with plenty of space to install multiple graphics cards. These setups also usually call for a beefier power supply than 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 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 almost certainly vary.
- These are new card prices. No used or open-box cards are in the list. While these offers might represent a good deal, it’s simply outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
- Best Graphics Cards for the Money, November Updates
- Best Entry-Level Graphics Cards: $130 and Under
- Best Mid-Range Graphics Cards: $140 to $200
- Best Enthusiast Graphics Cards: $200 to $300
- Best High-End Graphics Cards: $300 to $800
- Best Extreme Graphics Cards: Over $800 and Multi-Card Configurations
- Graphics Card Performance Hierarchy Chart
- Conclusion: Performance Per Dollar