Only a few weeks remain before Computex 2015 kicks off in Taipei, Taiwan. Is the gaming graphics card market poised to heat up? Based on the past month of silence from both AMD and Nvidia, it'd be fair to bet that both companies have imminent plans.
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.
With one month to go before Computex 2015, both AMD and Nvidia are keeping their powder dry. Neither GPU vendor had much to talk about in April, and we’re not expecting any excitement in May, either.
Presumably, enthusiasts are similarly sitting on their upgrade budgets, waiting to see what surfaces in stormy Taipei. And we don’t blame you. New high-end hardware typically compels more competitive pricing, putting pressure on existing components. Then again, we’ve also seen the run-up to a major graphics launch accompanied by cuts intended to move inventory before it’s rendered less valuable. So, how has the market changed since the last time we summarized our graphics card recommendations?
To start, availability of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan X isn’t much better. The company’s own geforce.com site has the lowest price ($1000), but now stock isn't expected until May 14th. Ouch. At least there is a handful of cards on Amazon if you’re willing to pay a slight premium on this already-expensive flagship. Or maybe you’d be better off exercising a little patience. There may be something on the horizon better suited to gamers with cash to spend.
GeForce GTX 980s certainly aren’t any cheaper. If anything they cost slightly more. The GTX 970 is still mostly a $330 board, though discounts and rebates push certain models down closer to $310, pulling even with the least-expensive Radeon R9 290X cards. As with last month, it’s difficult for us to declare one offering better than the other. Their strengths and weaknesses are already well-known, and the face-off between two well-matched contenders often becomes a passion play (yes, even when one uses significantly more power). Choose a favorite based on your requirements and allegiances.
Last month, the Radeon R9 280X took a recommendation for its $240-$250 price tag, which fell closer to $230 after rebates. Now you can find the 280X for $230, and rebates nudge at least one model nearer to $200. Availability looks to be waning (not surprising given Tahiti’s age). But scoring a deal today gets you playable performance at 2560x1440.
The value looks even better considering Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 hasn’t budged; it continues flirting with last month’s price point. Meanwhile, the slightly slower Radeon R9 280 can be found a bit cheaper. Plus, it’s being discounted to the tune of $170 with rebates. We’re adding that board as an honorable mention.
The GeForce GTX 750 Ti marches on as a predominantly $150 card. Nvidia appears to be playing the rebate game though, knocking anywhere from $10 to $30 off its price. If you’re willing to fill out the paperwork, we like the 750 Ti at $120 to $130. With that said, we recently tapped AMD’s Radeon R9 270 for its superior performance. Our recommendation carries forward in May, since several 270s also include $20 mail-in rebates to rival the best GeForce deal.
Certain models of the Radeon R7 260X are down $10 or more, landing them around $110 (or in one case, $90 after a big mail-in rebate). That compares favorably to the slower and more expensive GeForce GTX 750. As a result, AMD keeps its recommendation.
The short of it is this: nothing happened in the last month to trigger landscape-changing movement. So, our recommendations mostly carry over unmolested. Count on next month’s update to include more exclamatory analysis.
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.