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.
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.
- Best Graphics Cards For The Money, April Updates
- Best Entry-Level Graphics Cards: $120 And Under
- Best Mid-Range Graphics Cards: $120 To $200
- Best Enthusiast Graphics Cards: $210 To $450
- Best High-End Graphics Cards: $500 To $800
- Best Extreme Graphics Cards: Over $800, And Multi-Card Configurations
- Graphics Card Performance Hierarchy Chart
- Conclusion: Performance Per Dollar