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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2014

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2014
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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.

November Updates:

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.
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  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , November 13, 2014 11:43 PM
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-2337996/graphics-cards-money-october-2014.html
  • 3 Hide
    nikolajj , November 14, 2014 12:03 AM
    I feel stupid to want a gtx 980 and not "just" a gtx 970... it is a lot of money for little extra power. I MUST be stupid :p 
  • 0 Hide
    Blackaddler , November 14, 2014 1:08 AM
    Just as a suggestion, it would be helpful to add the mid range NVIDIA cards (GTX 760, 770, 780, 780Ti) so that it is easier to compare the performance in that price range.
  • 7 Hide
    jkteddy77 , November 14, 2014 1:15 AM
    AMD is losing in Temperature, Power Comsumption, Performance, and only winning by price just barely. I have a 290, but I'd personally get a 970 right now if I didn't.
    AMD better release the 300 series by January 2015, or they will lose even more money than they already are.
    Beat out by Intel and Nvidia now, They'll lose their last legs if they wait 7 months again just like they waited to combat the 780 with the 290/290x.
  • 0 Hide
    SessouXFX , November 14, 2014 2:05 AM
    I've yet to understand the reasoning behind Nvidia cards rising in price at EOL status. Can somebody elaborate why a GPU that's currently outdated, increases in price as the supply dwindles, is a legitimate way to do business?
  • 1 Hide
    envy14tpe , November 14, 2014 2:09 AM
    Gotta love competition. AMD was killing it with the 280x and 290, then whamm the 970 and 980 come out and blow everything out of the water, including the 780ti. GPUs are finally becoming 1440p affordable.
  • 1 Hide
    hardcore_player , November 14, 2014 2:17 AM
    i have a 2way gtx 980 sli setup and i am highly impressed by performance per watt that the gtx 980 delivers. its absolutely a beast of a card ....unfortunately not all 3d software supports sli ....unreal engine 4 only supports one .
  • 3 Hide
    nthreem , November 14, 2014 6:02 AM
    Quote:
    I've yet to understand the reasoning behind Nvidia cards rising in price at EOL status. Can somebody elaborate why a GPU that's currently outdated, increases in price as the supply dwindles, is a legitimate way to do business?


    Have you ever heard of supply and demand? It happens everywhere for the price determination of goods. As long as the demand for venerable cards such as the GTX 780 TI remain unchanged, the price will increase as the supply decreases.
  • 1 Hide
    GodOf_War , November 14, 2014 6:04 AM
    You know, I ended up picking up a Sapphire Vapor-X for $270. I ended up getting 4 games with it, and while I know its not as great as the GTX 970, I'm not looking to do to 1440p gaming. 1080p is fine for me, and this card does everything I ask it to. I needed an update (My old HD 6950 was really showing its age...) And for what I paid, you can't beat it.
  • 0 Hide
    SessouXFX , November 14, 2014 6:04 AM
    nthreem...

    Supply and demand for a card that no longer has a production run doesn't support the idea that their price should rise. There's more than likely to be a shortage than a simple slow down of supply being added. Which means, the card's value is soon to end at that point.
  • 0 Hide
    GodOf_War , November 14, 2014 6:06 AM
    And yes, the 290. I know right now you can get the 280x for that price.
  • 0 Hide
    Kwuarter , November 14, 2014 6:13 AM
    This article helps cause I needed to figure out which GTX to get without breaking the bank so I can play Minecraft in HD
  • 2 Hide
    jdon , November 14, 2014 6:44 AM
    @SessouXFX

    The bump in demand is created by people who already have the card seeing their last chance to SLI.
  • 1 Hide
    nthreem , November 14, 2014 7:27 AM
    Quote:
    nthreem...

    Supply and demand for a card that no longer has a production run doesn't support the idea that their price should rise. There's more than likely to be a shortage than a simple slow down of supply being added. Which means, the card's value is soon to end at that point.


    I believe you understand the supply portion, which is EOL of the card, so supply is dwindling. But I believe you're missing the point that somebody else captured: people still want to buy these older cards. As long as people demand the card, the price will increase up to some equilibrium point.
  • 0 Hide
    Tzn , November 14, 2014 7:45 AM
    Gtx 750 ti is the best card on the market, a lot of reasons to be if you know how things go.
  • 0 Hide
    jackt , November 14, 2014 8:09 AM
    Seriously, i dont know what NVIDIA is waiting to make a medium performace card ?!?!?!?!? like a gtx760 or gtx 960
  • 1 Hide
    jkteddy77 , November 14, 2014 8:17 AM
    Quote:
    Seriously, i dont know what NVIDIA is waiting to make a medium performace card ?!?!?!?!? like a gtx760 or gtx 960


    Honestly they are gonna, and it was slated to be released early december, but they pushed the 960 back because so many people were already buying the more expensive 970/980.

    They didn't release it cause their current product was selling too well... AMD is in deep now...
  • 0 Hide
    obababoy , November 14, 2014 8:37 AM
    I am generally on a price/performance side when it comes to picking a Video Card. At the time I picked up a sapphire R9 290 vapor-x for $400 because I didnt want a 780 w/3gb vram card from Nvidia. Now with the new 970 and 980 they made the price drop significant!

    I do find it interesting that people think the power consumption has that much of an effect on overall cost of ownership. 60w even 100w difference (ONLY WHILE GAMING) is going to take a long time to balance out price wise if the AMD is cheaper up front. Thermals on the other hand is irrelevant for me with this card and my case but I could see being more important for others. Anyone agree?

    In the end if all was equal cost wise i'd prefer AMD because of the lack of "proprietary" features that Nvidia holds so near and dear. Either way I am MUCH happier spending these amounts of moneysss on video cards rather than $700+ like last year! Cheers and happy gaming
  • 2 Hide
    RedJaron , November 14, 2014 9:54 AM
    Quote:
    I do find it interesting that people think the power consumption has that much of an effect on overall cost of ownership. 60w even 100w difference (ONLY WHILE GAMING) is going to take a long time to balance out price wise if the AMD is cheaper up front. Thermals on the other hand is irrelevant for me with this card and my case but I could see being more important for others. Anyone agree?

    A few different factors here.

    First, power costs vary a LOT in different countries. In the USA, yeah it doesn't matter a whole lot. In other countries where electrical bills are much higher, saving 30W or more can slowly add up, especially over months or years. This gets compounded when talking about multi-GPU setups and compute farms.

    Second, look at market segment. Power requirements don't mean a lot to the extreme computing crowd. But the mainstream and general enthusiast crowd have to take their existing PSU into consideration when upgrading. Not everyone has a 500W Seasonic unit that can handle any single GPU. You know you can throw a 750 Ti into just about anything, and a 260X should be fairly safe in a lot of systems too, but a 270X may be completely out of the question.

    Third, power consumption usually means heat, and heat usually means more fan noise. Not all cooling solutions are created equal, so someone looking for a powerful but quiet PC may err on the lower power consumption side. And you don't need to be a tree hugger to want to save a few watts here and there either.
  • 0 Hide
    skit75 , November 14, 2014 10:11 AM
    I still would have liked for the Price Vs. Performance chart to have included the GTX 700 series cards even if they have been declared EOL. There are plenty of them still out there that can be purchased as New and would fit right in the middle of the chart making them a relevant choice for shoppers in November 2014.
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