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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April 2014

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April 2014
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This month's update covers a number of drops in mid- and high-end Radeon prices, in some cases bringing these products back to competitive levels. In addition, we have a new low-budget recommendation. And there's always AMD's new dual-Hawaii-based board.

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.

April Updates:

It may have recently been April Fool's Day, but the market trend pushing prices of mid-range and high-end Radeon cards down to last year's levels is completely legitimate. I'm not sure if it's because the difficulty of cryptocurrency mining is becoming such that burning power isn't as profitable as it once was, or if AMD managed to increase supply to keep up. Either way, it's great to see the Radeon R9 270, 280, and 290 families positioned more competitively once again. Specifically, the $185 Radeon R9 270, $470 Radeon R9 290, and $590 Radeon R9 290X at least look good enough to warrant approval in this month's list of recommendations.

Largely because of outrageous prices on AMD's boards, GeForce cards were doing really well in the high-end space. For the first time in a while, though, we're giving a solid recommendation to an entry-level offering from Nvidia. You can find its GeForce GT 640 for $80 (sometimes a little less), and it improves on the Radeon R7 240's performance just enough to claim our coveted endorsement for gamers getting in the door at 1280x720. Just don't pay more than $80; the $100 Radeon R7 250X (also known as the Radeon HD 7770) is much more capable.

In the last month, we saw EVGA and Palit announce plans for a 6 GB GeForce GTX 780 and 780 Ti, further eroding any reason to buy the $1100 GeForce GTX Titan Black (at least for gamers). Call that good news for us, though. You'll be able to get comparable 3D performance for (presumably) less than 75% of the price.

Speaking of ultra-high-end hardware, AMD just took the wraps off of a dual-Hawaii, dual-GPU board that we reviewed in Radeon R9 295X2 8 GB Review: Project Hydra Gets Liquid Cooling. The company plans to ask $1500, and says the 295X2 will show up later in April. That's quite a bit more expensive than a pair of Radeon R9 290Xes in CrossFire, but closed-loop liquid cooling does help keep two big, hot GPUs run efficiently. You won't find this card on our chart for April; we want to see if AMD can hit its price and availability targets first. 

Here are the other graphics card news and reviews that went up over the last month, in case you need to catch up:

Partner Cards: 10 Radeon R9 270 And 270X Boards, Reviewed
Thief Patch Enables TrueAudio And Mantle: First Benchmarks
Palit Joins the Fray With 6 GB GeForce GTX 780 Graphics Card
AMD Announces Beefy W9100 Workstation Graphics Card
EVGA Announces 6 GB GeForce GTX 780 Graphics Cards
Build Your Own: Single-Slot GeForce GTX 750 Ti

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 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 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.
Display 1182 Comments.
  • 24 Hide
    ufo_warviper , December 13, 2012 9:44 PM
    Hey Don!
    Thanks for the December update! You're "For the money" guides are a staple hardware read for me every month! Keep up the good work!

    First of all, i would like to note that the comments to the November 20th article are showing up on the December article instead of the December ones...

    OF OTHER NOTES:
    1....
    I suggest adding Honorable mentions for Triinity APUs in the low end market. If someone already has a Radeon 7660D on their APU, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to buy a 7670 DDR3. They would be much better served by saving up for a $100 card or waiting for the prices of 7750 cards to fall. Trinity (and to some extent )Ivy Bridge HD 4000), are truly kissing the heels of the low end discrete market, and are vastly superior than virtually all of the crap floating around the ~$50 price point on Newegg. Although detail settings and resolutions will most definitely have to be lowered somewhat, sticking with these on-die APU solutions are compelling for Casual gamers that can't afford more than a $50 card.

    In the near future it will be increasingly difficult to ignore discussing APUs as they continue to get better and better. I can't wait to see how well Haswell holds up.
    2....
    The Radeon 7990 doesn't seem to show up on the Hierarchy chart nor mentioned in the $375 and up section. I can only find 2 Powercolor variants, but they are both in stock. For some reason, i can only find a modest amount of press coverage on Radeon 7990 overall.
  • 21 Hide
    beninchi , December 13, 2012 10:31 PM
    The reason there is little coverage of the 7990 is because there "officially" is no 7990. Because AMD has yet to spec one, hardware vendors have taken upon themselves to mash two 7970s and call it a 7990. It exists, but is not very official from AMD's point of view.
  • 7 Hide
    beninchi , December 13, 2012 10:32 PM
    And big kudos for adding the Trinity 7660D to the chart!
  • -2 Hide
    wdmfiber , December 14, 2012 12:24 AM
    @ufo_warviper if you really appreciate Don's review you should re-read it; as he wrote a paragraph about the 7990, or the lack there-of (beninichi summed up).

    And there is no honor in running intergrated graphics/APU's at this point. Hense no honourable mention... ;) 

    As for Haswell. As an enthusiast I'd love for the i7-2700K/3770K successor to have weak integrated graphics. Weaker than HD3000, have a TDP of ~110 watts and use fluxless solder in it's construction! Sadly though, I know that's unlikely to happen.
  • 60 Hide
    DEY123 , December 14, 2012 1:00 AM
    I am confused on how the 560 SE is a tie with the 7770. The 7770 is $10 cheaper, uses less power and is rated one level higher in Tom's Hierarchy of Cards. Seems like it should be the 7770 as the sole suggestion at the price point.
  • -3 Hide
    hytecgowthaman , December 14, 2012 2:22 AM
    Thanks for helping to buyers. also give very very low cost gpus for bussiness systems.
  • 0 Hide
    army_ant7 , December 14, 2012 3:27 AM
    Quote:
    I am confused on how the 560 SE is a tie with the 7770. The 7770 is $10 cheaper, uses less power and is rated one level higher in Tom's Hierarchy of Cards. Seems like it should be the 7770 as the sole suggestion at the price point.
    I have given that some thought. It could be for the sake of being fair and providing options from both sides/companies as much as possible. Also, it could be because some games run better using Nvidia cards and they also have PhysX, CUDA, etc. support for whomever may value them. :) 

    Take note of how, in the Best Gaming CPU series, the AMD FX-4170 is also tied with the Intel Core i3-3220 even though the latter is superior in terms of power consumption and possibly plain (gaming) performance. :) 


    On a side note, aw... Even the comments posted after this Dec. update were wiped out. :( 

  • -1 Hide
    mikenygmail , December 14, 2012 11:06 AM
    AMD Trinity APU's need to be added to the chart, above intel integrated graphics.
  • 2 Hide
    mikenygmail , December 14, 2012 12:15 PM
    beninchiAnd big kudos for adding the Trinity 7660D to the chart!


    Thanks for adding it toms. It was added as "Integrated: HD 7660D" which will not be enough information for people to properly recognize and consider it.

    It needs to be identified as "HD 7660D - A10 5800K APU." This name change would be appreciated.
  • -4 Hide
    mikenygmail , December 14, 2012 12:18 PM
    mikenygmailAMD Trinity APU's need to be added to the chart, above intel integrated graphics.


    Good, I see that "Integrated: HD 7660D" was added 4 tiers above Intel's best integrated, but it needs to be listed as "HD 7660D - A10 5800K APU" so that people can properly recognize and consider it. The change would be appreciated TH.
  • 16 Hide
    cleeve , December 14, 2012 11:47 PM
    mikenygmailPlease fix the Hierarchy Chart.APU's are not "Radeon" products, so a new column is needed, entitled "AMD."Then in the appropriate tier, list each AMD APU in the same format as this example: "HD 7660D - A10 5800K APU."


    Nothing to fix.
    APUs are, indeed, assigned Radeon-branded graphics chipsets.

    Similarly, Intel graphics is listed by the graphics chipset, not the CPU that carries it.
  • 3 Hide
    army_ant7 , December 15, 2012 1:14 AM
    Aw... What did I do to get thumbed down? :lol: 

    Don, is what I said above really the reason you still recommended the GTX 560 SE? Some people are wondering.
  • -6 Hide
    mikenygmail , December 15, 2012 1:18 AM
    Actually, Intel graphics are in fact listed by the CPU, for 3 of the top 5, for example:
    "Integrated: Intel HD Graphics (Core i5-6x1), 2000"
    That's a direct quote from the Hierarchy Chart.

    The name intel appears twice, both in the column name and for each intel product.

    The name AMD does not appear at all, there's no AMD column and no AMD product is labeled AMD!
    For example, "Integrated: HD 7560D" does not contain the proper information. It should be listed as "AMD HD 7660D (A10 5800K APU)" for it to be in the same format as the intel listings.
    The name APU (and AMD) does not appear at all, not anywhere in the entire Hierarchy Chart!
  • 1 Hide
    army_ant7 , December 15, 2012 1:21 AM
    Quote:
    Plenty to fix, actually.
    Nothing similar about it, and Intel CPU's are listed - 3 of the top 5 on the chart.

    Intel's column products are listed in great detail, for example:
    "Integrated: Intel HD Graphics (Core i3 5x0, Core i5-6x0)"
    So the name intel is listed TWICE, in the column title and in each and every single product name.

    AMD's column, oh wait there is no AMD column...
    Radeon's column products are listed as such:
    "Integrated: HD 7660D" - with no mention of "AMD" or "APU" ever, at all!
    The name AMD is listed NEVER, ZERO, not in any column title and not for any AMD product.
    "APU" is listed NEVER, ZERO, not in any column title and not for any AMD product.
    Come on, this is ridiculous...

    I really appreciate the charts, but this needs to be fixed.
    Well actually...

    Maybe Intel's name is listed to differentiate its HD's from the Radeon HD's? You know, because AMD's Radeon HD's are really iconic and people might confuse Intel's HD graphics for them in the chart. Plus, Intel doesn't really give a name like "GeForce" or "Radeon" to its graphics so... :) 

    The "D" or "G" after the APU graphics' names are there to denote that they are APU graphics. (Some of) Intel's GPU's are technically what APU's are as well I think. Should they be denoted as well as such? :) 
  • 0 Hide
    army_ant7 , December 15, 2012 1:27 AM
    Quote:
    Actually, Intel graphics are in fact listed by the CPU, for 3 of the top 5, for example:
    "Integrated: Intel HD Graphics (Core i5-6x1), 2000"
    That's a direct quote from the Hierarchy Chart.

    The name intel appears twice, both in the column name and for each intel product.

    The name AMD does not appear at all, there's no AMD column and no AMD product is labeled AMD!
    For example, "Integrated: HD 7560D" does not contain the proper information. It should be listed as "AMD HD 7660D (A10 5800K APU)" for it to be in the same format as the intel listings.
    The name APU (and AMD) does not appear at all, not anywhere in the entire Hierarchy Chart!
    Oh, so that's what you meant. The reason they do that I assume is because Intel names some of it's GPU's the same even though they vary in specs between processors. AMD on the other hand has specific models for different spec'ed IGP's. :)  I'd say what they did was only right. :) 

  • 3 Hide
    eisley , December 15, 2012 8:59 AM
    Hi! I'm new! Happy to be here!
    I posted in the 5 year old review of the Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTS 512 MB video card. I hope I get some advice of you guys! I was about to post that here too, but didn't want to re-post, may not be good.

    But my basic questions were: How come a 5 year old video card is only 9 tiers down below the more recent and super powerful 7970 GHz Ed.? (From this Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart) And also it is 8 tiers above the pretty cool Intel HD Graphics 4000?

    Does that mean its specs and 512 MB are enough to work with media and play nicely most nowadays games? (at medium-high settings?) I know that does not only depend on the video card, but that chart suggest that.

    Please read the rest here:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-8800-gts-512-mb,1743.html

    Thank you very much!

    - L.
  • 7 Hide
    randomizer , December 15, 2012 10:48 AM
    Quote:
    Come on, this is ridiculous...


    I'll say. You could complain about the choice of cards. You could complain about the analysis of each product. You could even go as low as complaining about grammar. Instead, you chose to complain that AMD is not listed in the column headers of a table.

    You, sir, are the most petty person I've run into all day.
  • 3 Hide
    army_ant7 , December 15, 2012 2:53 PM
    Quote:
    Hi! I'm new! Happy to be here!
    I posted in the 5 year old review of the Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTS 512 MB video card. I hope I get some advice of you guys! I was about to post that here too, but didn't want to re-post, may not be good.

    But my basic questions were: How come a 5 year old video card is only 9 tiers down below the more recent and super powerful 7970 GHz Ed.? (From this Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart) And also it is 8 tiers above the pretty cool Intel HD Graphics 4000?

    Does that mean its specs and 512 MB are enough to work with media and play nicely most nowadays games? (at medium-high settings?) I know that does not only depend on the video card, but that chart suggest that.

    Please read the rest here:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-8800-gts-512-mb,1743.html

    Thank you very much!

    - L.
    Hello there! :)  Welcome to Tom's Hardware and I hope you stick around and participate inn the forums. :D 

    I'll have a shot at your inquiry, though if I'm wrong, I bet someone else could correct me. :) 

    IMO, the chart is very general and "rough." As I know, the performance of some of the cards listed are pretty much approximations/educated guesses. Not all of them have been tested under the same benchmarks so there's no perfect comparison.

    Also, you may very well be aware of how older generation cards don't support some technologies like DirectX 11 for one. I don't think this chart really takes that into account. As for the RAM amount, you may already know this but I'll say it anyway, as I know, how much RAM needed is highly dependent on the resolution and anti-aliasing levels you use, aside from a lot of other things like the game itself.

    So anyway, since this chart is very general in nature (and possibly could use updates with older cards, though that's too much to ask for I would say) you'd have to take other factors into consideration like those I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

    BTW, 9/8 tiers are pretty substantial in terms of a performance difference I think. Also, each tier might not represent that equal of differences in performance, though I'm not totally sure. I wouldn't know if the 8800 GTS is misplaced on the chart, but if it isn't then it looks like it was quite the performer during its time. A good performing card's merit could carry over through multiple generations past its own. :) 

    I hope I helped, but feel free to say if not... :p 
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