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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July 2014

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July 2014
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This month, we fill in the blanks on Nvidia's re-branded budget-oriented graphics card line-up, including multiple versions of the GeForce GT 730 and 740. We also lay out the price changes that happened (both good and bad) over the past month.

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.

July Updates:

In the last month, a couple of new cards were introduced by Nvidia: the GeForce GT 730 and GeForce GT 740. There are a surprising number of permutations available, all of them re-badged versions of existing hardware. Nvidia is taking a lot of liberties with its nomenclature, so the explanation gets a little complex.

The GeForce GT 740 centers on the same GK107 GPU we know from the GeForce GTX 640 and 650. The quickest version is the GeForce GT 740 GDDR5, which is roughly equivalent to a GeForce GTX 650 with a slightly lower 993 MHz core clock rate. In turn, the GeForce GT 740 DDR3 is basically a re-badged GeForce GT 640, also with a lower 993 MHz core clock.

There are three variants of the GeForce GT 730: a GDDR5/64-bit card, a DDR3/64-bit card, and a DDR3/128-bit card. Both of the 64-bit boards are powered by Nvidia's GK208 GPU, which has similar stats as GK107, but half the ROPs. The DDR3/128-bit card employs a GF108 GPU (the same one used on GeForce GT 630).

But enough with the alphabet soup. Let's just use a chart, organized from fastest to slowest:

Confusing though this exercise may be, the bottom line is that the GeForce GT 740 GDDR5 and GeForce GT 730 64-bit GDDR5 may interest entry-level gamers, while the other three won't. The GeForce GT 740 GDDR5 should be a little slower than AMD's Radeon R7 250X for the same price, so we'll skip over that one.

The GeForce GT 730 GDDR5 64-bit, on the other hand, is a lot more interesting at $76. Despite its narrow 64-bit interface, GDDR5 memory technology facilitates more memory bandwidth than a GeForce GT 640 with DDR3 on a 128-bit connection. We don't have one in the lab yet, but it should be quite a bit faster than the Radeon R7 240. Thus, the GeForce GT 730 64-bit GDDR5 becomes our new entry-level gaming recommendation. We haven't seen a serious sub-$100 contender from Nvidia in a while, so we're glad to see the company taking gamers on a budget seriously.

A word of warning for folks who are interested in this card: we've seen at least one manufacturer introduce an unofficial GDDR5-equipped version of the 128-bit GeForce GT 730. While the potential memory bandwidth sounds attractive, the card also uses a GF108 GPU with 96 CUDA cores (the 64-bit cards host GK208 GPUs with 384 CUDA cores). In other words, the 64-bit card is preferable. Pay close attention to specs when you're placing your order.

Despite that flurry of activity in Nvidia's low-end line-up, prices are fairly stable. The only adjustment to note is the GeForce GTX 660, which dropped $5 to $185. That's still too expensive compared to AMD's $150 Radeon R7 265, though.

AMD's products demonstrate more volatility, as we've come to expect. The average Radeon R9 290X is $30 more expensive, landing at $530. The Radeon R9 280X increases $20 to $300. And the Radeon R9 270X goes up $10 to $200. While we naturally dislike changes that drive prices higher, none of the movement affects our recommendation list. However, the Radeon R9 280X price hike does give Nvidia's GeForce GTX 760 room to reclaim a tie with AMD's Radeon R9 280 at $250.

We also noted that, despite a slow start, the Radeon R7 265 is much more widely available. The Radeon R7 260 is not, though (there are only two models on Newegg as of this writing). This doesn't surprise us, given the slim margin between AMD's $120 Radeon R7 260X and $100 Radeon R7 250X.

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.
Display 46 Comments.
  • 5 Hide
    adamovera , July 8, 2014 11:29 PM
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2170289/graphics-cards-money-january-2012.html
  • 12 Hide
    heero yuy , July 9, 2014 1:33 AM
    Quote:
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2170289/graphics-cards-money-january-2012.html



    oh at last the comments section is new and I can read actual new comments instead of ones from 10 years ago
  • -4 Hide
    emad_ramlawi , July 9, 2014 2:02 AM
    I dont see any reason in recommending the GeForce GT 730 64-bit GDDR5
    i understand you need to fit a price point, but its shame if some user bought it by your recommendation, and if he only added 30 more, he will have world of change (HD 7770), i reckon its just better to force users to spend more, and saying the truth, i dont believe there is person capable of shelling 70$ and cant shell 100$, also this way we help enhance future games, cause all the rigs will have good GPUs

  • 1 Hide
    IRONBATMAN , July 9, 2014 3:19 AM
    As usual, AMD beats Nvidia in terms of price per performance. But of course, easch card's counterpart of the opposite company is always better in its own enhanced game.

    For instance, AMD cards would run better in tomb Raider than in the Batman Arkham series.

    I assume that the article in implementing that the GTX 760 beats the R9 280. If so, I disagree. Recently, AMD cards from XFX dropped in price. My friend got a R9 280 for $260, while the GTX 760 stays in the $250 price range. $10 more for more power and VRAM. Of course the R9 280 beats the GTX 760 both in performance and price.
  • 6 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , July 9, 2014 4:27 AM
    Nvidia is still putting out cards based on Fermi. Wow.
  • 0 Hide
    helper800 , July 9, 2014 7:32 AM
    This article is just plan incorrect with the 280, 280x, 290, and 290x prices...

    280 sapphire 220$: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202099&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-na-_-na-_-na&cm_sp=&AID=10446076&PID=3938566&SID=

    280x XFX 270$: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814150678&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-na-_-na-_-na&cm_sp=&AID=10446076&PID=3938566&SID=

    290 XFX 400$: http://www.ncixus.com/products/?usaffiliateid=1000031504&sku=93750&vpn=R9-290A-EDFD&manufacture=XFX&promoid=1060

    290x XFX 520$: http://www.ncixus.com/products/?usaffiliateid=1000031504&sku=93753&vpn=R9-290X-EDFD&manufacture=XFX&promoid=1060

    Not to mention all these cards have Non-reference coolers and all of them come with 10$+ rebates for cheaper than what was stated on this article without the rebates.


    [Answer by article author:]

    There will ALWAYS be options cheaper than the price we list. We list a low average price, not the lowest possible sale you can find. That would be futile, because sales come and go on a daily basis. That's not the point of this article.

    As we state clearly on the first page:

    "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."

    Obviously its good practice to find the best sale price possible. But we're dealing in generalities here, not specifics, which would be impossible unless we were re-writing this article on a daily basis.

    Hope that helps you understand where we are at,

    - Don Woligroski
  • 0 Hide
    CastleClashCheats , July 9, 2014 8:15 AM
    Oh i read this article ! Thanks !
  • 6 Hide
    CaptainTom , July 9, 2014 8:35 AM
    Why in the world is the 780 Ti even an honorable mention?! It is like 7% faster than a 290X while offering less VRAM. That is not worth $200!!!!!
  • -3 Hide
    geofelt , July 9, 2014 8:46 AM
    Looking at the hierarchy chart, I see lots of competing cards in the same performance tier at similar prices. For example, the R9-270X at $195 is recommended. On the same tier, the GTX660@$170 and GTX660ti@$190 are not.
    Similarly, The R9-280X @$310 is recommended, while the GTX770@$310 is not.
    Are there other factors involved such as quality?

    As a suggestion, perhaps the hierarchy list could be reformatted to include the best price at the time of each card.
  • -2 Hide
    gallovfc , July 9, 2014 8:59 AM
    You guys at TomsHardware need another monthly section named "Best CPU and GPU combos fot he money" where, as you might have guessed helps us choose what gpu goes better with each CPU, explaining bottlenecks. Would be a quick article to edit after the first one is done.
  • 4 Hide
    Jak Atackka , July 9, 2014 9:05 AM
    Quote:
    I dont see any reason in recommending the GeForce GT 730 64-bit GDDR5
    i understand you need to fit a price point, but its shame if some user bought it by your recommendation, and if he only added 30 more, he will have world of change (HD 7770), i reckon its just better to force users to spend more, and saying the truth, i dont believe there is person capable of shelling 70$ and cant shell 100$, also this way we help enhance future games, cause all the rigs will have good GPUs



    You've obviously never been in their shoes. They're called budget gamers for a reason - they have a very specific budget. The whole point of these different recommendations is to cover people with various budgets, some more flexible than others. Believe me, if they could afford to shell out the extra $30 to get a better GPU they would.

    If we're going to force people to use a certain level GPU, why not just use a console? If you want hardware standardization, go get an Xbox One or PS4. That's not what the PC platform stands for, nor what it'll ever stand for.
  • -3 Hide
    hass34 , July 9, 2014 9:22 AM
    I just bought a sapphire tri x r9 290 for $359 .. I don't know where these guys get their prices from
  • 0 Hide
    deedubbadoo , July 9, 2014 9:50 AM
    So at the expense of sounding like an idiot. I'm looking at building a little steambox for the living room. I'll be using a Intel G3220 CPU and 4GB RAM to start with. I'm looking for a card around $80-$90. I'm torn between the HD7770/250X and the R7 260. All three can be had on Newegg for around that price point. What would be my best bet?
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , July 9, 2014 10:26 AM
    Quote:
    So at the expense of sounding like an idiot. I'm looking at building a little steambox for the living room. I'll be using a Intel G3220 CPU and 4GB RAM to start with. I'm looking for a card around $80-$90. I'm torn between the HD7770/250X and the R7 260. All three can be had on Newegg for around that price point. What would be my best bet?


    Assuming the same price, the 260 is the best.

    Definitely worth a few dollars more for a 260X is you can afford it though. :) 

  • 0 Hide
    MANOFKRYPTONAK , July 9, 2014 10:35 AM
    Prices are really coming down, my 680 2gb is still holding its own 2 years later :) . But if prices keep dropping so much, I am going to have to get something better :D !
  • 1 Hide
    Rambler101 , July 9, 2014 3:48 PM
    Sold my Titan two months back while it had good value after purchasing it around the release date and bought a 2nd hand 290x with a EK waterblock... The prices of 290x/290 are just too good to pass up, especially 2nd hand non miners... Performance is nearly the same depending on the game and was nice to pocket $300... I really enjoy reading this article every month to keep up with current changes, thx Don
  • 0 Hide
    The_Icon , July 9, 2014 4:38 PM
    Really Really hope Nvidia works price competitiveness with their next cards, I am really happy with my Sapphire Trix R9 290 overclocked absolutely no issues with drivers whatsoever as people like to complain. However, it is almost a norm for me to change things around every upgrade, so if Nvidia is more price competitive, I will definitely get their card next time.
  • 2 Hide
    Mike Friesen , July 9, 2014 5:07 PM
    Hey tom's hardware: It would be nice (if oversimplifying the problem) if there was a direct price/performance bar beside each gpu on the performance per dollar graph.
    (I realize the cost of the build greatly influences performance per dollar, but I'd still like to see it there. Maybe even include a $500 and/or $700 "surrounding build cost" to go with the price/perf?)

    On the other hand, maybe these graphs would be too big...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 10, 2014 6:47 PM
    Is there a way to bookmark this article into my account here?
  • 0 Hide
    Minhazul Islam , July 11, 2014 5:46 AM
    hmm good post.
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