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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: October 2014

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: October 2014

We talk about the new GeForce GTX 970 and 980 in this months update, and see how these disruptive products have changed the price landscape. We also talkn about the GeForce GTX 970M, 980M, and discuss rumors of upcoming products.

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.

October Updates:

We are impressed with Nvidia's "second-generation" Maxwell architecture, not just because of its impressive pixel-pushing prowess and low power usage, but because the company launched its desktop flagship at a price point low enough to disrupt the market. The GeForce GTX 980 boasts 2048 CUDA cores, 128 texture units, 64 ROPs, 1750 MHz GDDR5 RAM on an aggregate 256-bit memory interface, and a 165W TDP. Its performance is on par with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti, despite a significantly lower $550 MSRP. The other model is the 145W GeForce GTX 970, which hosts 1664 CUDA cores and 104 texture units, but features the same ROP count and memory bandwidth as Nvidia's 980. This results in Radeon R9 290X-class performance with a $330 price tag.

At $330, the impressive GeForce GTX 970 scores an easy recommendation. You might think the GeForce GTX 980 would be a no-brainer, too, but with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti being phased out and heavily discounted in the $440 range, the 980's appeal is diminished for now. For as long as it lasts, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti takes our top recommendation as a tremendous value.

Of course, there's more to Nvidia's new GM204 graphics processor than just raw performance; there are a lot of new features, too. You can read up on them in Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 And 980 Review: Maximum Maxwell.

I mentioned that the GeForce GTX 970 and 980's price points are disruptive. They certainly shaken up the graphics card market this month. Radeon pricing is down quite a bit in order to remain competitive. The R9 290X fell $130 to $370, the R9 290 shed $100 to $290, the R9 280X slipped $20 to $260, the R9 280 is down $15 to $205, and the R9 270X goes for a scant $160. Only the Radeon R9 290, 280 and 270X retain recommendations at their new price points though, due to tough competition.

Of course, Nvidia made its own adjustments. The discontinued GeForce GTX 780 Ti, 780 and 770 can be found at $440, $310 and $270, respectively, as inventory clears out to make way for the 970 and 980. At those prices, I'm only recommending the GTX 780 Ti. If you're interested in that card, buy it while it lasts. Nvdia's GeForce GTX 660 dropped $20 to $160, but it's not recommended against AMD's more powerful Radeon R9 270X. Finally, the efficient GeForce GTX 750 Ti is now $140 instead of $150, making it an even more interesting option for enthusiasts with low-end power supplies.

Nvidia also introduced GM204 in its mobile GeForce GTX 970M and 980M. The latter is essentially a desktop GeForce GTX 970 with one SMM disabled and a slightly lower GPU clock rate, representing a new high water mark in mobile graphics performance. The GeForce GTX 970M is significantly less capable though, with two fewer SMMs compared to the 980M and a crippled render back-end sporting 48 ROPs and a 196-bit memory interface. Despite this, the 970M is still quite a bit faster than the GeForce GTX 880M preceding it. For more information and specifications, check out Maxwell Goes Mobile: First GeForce GTX 970M Benchmarks.

Aside from new products, we tested VisionTek's liquid-cooled CryoVenom R9 295X2, a single-slot card with optional open-loop liquid cooling that does an effective job of keeping AMD's dual-GPU beast frosty compared to the reference model and its closed-loop liquid cooler. For more, read VisionTek CryoVenom R9 295X2: Two GPUs In One Slot. It's also interesting to note that Nvidia is Now Selling Original GTX SLI Bridges. These bridges match the style of the reference cooler on the company's high-end offerings like the new GeForce GTX 980.

On a final note, the Internet is running rampant with rumors of an upcoming mid-range GeForce GTX 960 and a high-end Radeon R9 295X. Neither Nvidia nor AMD will confirm the existence of these cards. But if the rumors are credible, we expect to see more information about them in the next month or two.

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.
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  • 1 Hide
    boytitan2 , October 17, 2014 12:29 AM
    You can get a 760 for 180 bucks with a rebate and it is not listed. And the 750 ti can be found for 125 with or with out a rebate by multiple vendors. These prices have been around for the 3 weeks I have been shopping for a new rig come on Toms.
  • 6 Hide
    jdwii , October 17, 2014 1:19 AM
    People don't care about rebates
  • 7 Hide
    Memnarchon , October 17, 2014 2:24 AM
    What's going on with the hierarchy chart?

    You have the GTX970 below GTX780ti and the GTX980 in the same level with GTX780ti, while the real performance at page 8 clearly shows GTX970 on par with GTX780ti and GTX980 one level (at least) ahead.

    Your own benchmark results are not on par with your hierarchy chart. Isn't the hierarchy chart based on Tom's Hardware benchmarks?
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , October 17, 2014 4:15 AM
    Not everybody can get rebates either; I'm not sure if it's a Stateside thing but I don't generally see them over here in the UK.
  • 1 Hide
    Nuckles_56 , October 17, 2014 4:34 AM
    Things certainly changed a bit since last months chart...
  • 4 Hide
    InvalidError , October 17, 2014 4:37 AM
    You can get a 760 for 180 bucks with a rebate and it is not listed.

    Only regular retail prices are considered for the chart so you are not going to see those included until the retail price drop to integrate the discounts.
  • 8 Hide
    Onus , October 17, 2014 5:21 AM
    I see some awkward tweaks have been made to the chart. For example, a GTX760 should be at least a tier higher than the HD7870 (like it was a couple months ago), but now they're on the same tier. If driver changes have made that much difference, I believe they should be called out in the article.
    Little nuances like that are what clearly illustrate that as useful as the chart is, it is not a be-all/end-all. Consider it a substantial data point, but don't forget to consider others, such as benchmarks of the specific games you want to play.
  • 0 Hide
    filippi , October 17, 2014 6:14 AM
    Typo: GeForce GTX 970 - Inroduced.
  • 5 Hide
    giemer , October 17, 2014 6:32 AM
    Can we get an update on the available integrated graphics ratings?
    It seems like it hasn't been updated in years (HD 4000 was Q2 '12).

    At least their inclusion into the hierarchy chart as a base of comparison.
  • 1 Hide
    aje21 , October 17, 2014 6:49 AM
    Please, scale the price like you have the performance so the highest prices is at the same point as the highest performance (the 100% line).
  • -3 Hide
    marooner , October 17, 2014 7:18 AM
    I don't think that the R9 295X2 deserves a recommendation anymore. 2 GTX 970s or even 980s in SLI cost less, perform better, and even score better in the noise and heat department.
  • 2 Hide
    Pavel Pokidaylo , October 17, 2014 7:32 AM
    The 295X2 is recommended because it's a single board ideal for small rigs.

    The reference 780 ti clocks are low compared to the 900 series cards. The gap in performance between the 980 and 780 ti is probably at stock. I know you can overclock the 900 series to over 1400 and what not but if you compare the out of box overclocks on, for example, the MSI 780 ti gaming and MSI 970 Gaming, you will see the 780 ti pulls ahead by quite a bit and in fact produces the same performance as an MSI 980 gaming. Don't take my word for it, here are the benchmarks...

    MSI 980 Gaming -

    Asus Strix 970 -

    MSI 780 Ti Gaming-
  • 2 Hide
    anthony8989 , October 17, 2014 8:02 AM
    GTX 580 is up with the GTX 670 and the 760 is with the 660 Ti???
  • -4 Hide
    jwl3 , October 17, 2014 8:17 AM
    Why are Nvidia cards so much more expensive than AMD? I freaking hate AMD cards and their schit drivers. They dropped support of my Crossfired 4850's even though they still run lots of games well. Only reason I had to upgrade was because it wouldn't run Thief or NBA 2k15.

    I was forced to buy a Radeon 280 and guess what? I spent 2 hours trying to get the damned card to accept the newest Catalyst drivers - install kept crashing. What the F is wrong with AMD and their drivers?
  • 0 Hide
    xenol , October 17, 2014 8:18 AM
    You can get a 760 for 180 bucks with a rebate and it is not listed. And the 750 ti can be found for 125 with or with out a rebate by multiple vendors. These prices have been around for the 3 weeks I have been shopping for a new rig come on Toms.

    Including rebates isn't a good idea because...

    • You still have to pay full price up front.
    • The time window for rebate maybe ending by the time this goes up
    • You don't get cash anymore. Most rebates are giving out gift cards (those pre-paid Visa ones or something).
    • You won't get the rebate in a timely manner anyway.
    • Rebates require you to snip off the UPC code. If something goes wrong with that part, you can't return it if you've already submitted the rebate and returns require the UPC code.

  • Rebates are like letting a friend borrow money, you just have to accept you may never get it back.

    Why are Nvidia cards so much more expensive than AMD?

    With high quality comes a price. Or so I'm led to believe. Even with people complaining about AMD's drivers (with a few in the camp who say they've never had a problem), I still question their hardware engineering sometimes.
  • -4 Hide
    Swede69 , October 17, 2014 8:59 AM
    My 770GTX Superclocked ACX Sli will steamroll any of these single cards......and I paid nothing for them!!! The best graphic cards, free ones!!
  • -1 Hide
    chaosmassive , October 17, 2014 9:39 AM
    its seems alot confusion here in hierarchy chart..

    to keep the hierarchy list short and neat
    its good idea to cut the table from bottom up to at least DX 10 capable card
    because its not making any sense to keep such ancient card in the list
    and there is no way to play nowadays games...
  • -1 Hide
    Sakkura , October 17, 2014 10:01 AM
    You can get a 760 for 180 bucks with a rebate and it is not listed. And the 750 ti can be found for 125 with or with out a rebate by multiple vendors. These prices have been around for the 3 weeks I have been shopping for a new rig come on Toms.

    Yeah well you can get a more powerful R9 280 for 170 bucks, so the GTX 760 is just not a good buy at the moment.
  • 2 Hide
    kulmnar , October 17, 2014 10:20 AM
    Mail-in rebates are the biggest joke in the industry. I've never gotten any money back from mail-in rebates and I don't bother with them. The only rebates that are worth anything are instant rebates that result in an instant price reduction when checking out. Other than that, rebates may as well not exist.
  • -4 Hide
    elbert , October 17, 2014 10:40 AM
    I suggest taking the R9 290 off the list. I'm an AMD guy and I would opt for the GTX970 before purchasing anything in the $200 range. The R9 290 needs to be below $260 else its not worth buying.
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