The graphics card market has seen the release of five new products since our last monthly update: The Radeon R9 290, Radeon R7 270, Radeon R7 250, Radeon R7 240, and GeForce GTX 780 Ti. Read about these new models in this month's article!
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.
Five new graphics cards were introduced since our last monthly update. Perhaps the most significant in AMD's line-up is the Radeon R9 290, which features a cut-down Hawaii GPU with 2560 shader cores, 160 texture units, 64 ROPs and a 512-bit memory interface. Although it loses four Compute Units, the processor is still almost as fast as AMD's flagship Radeon R9 290X and Nvidia's GeForce GTX Titan. But it costs a lot less, too. You can read more about that card in AMD Radeon R9 290 Review: Fast And $400, But Is It Consistent?
Speaking of consistency, our very own Chris Angelini and Igor Wallossek got to the bottom of this issue in The Cause Of And Fix For Radeon R9 290X And 290 Inconsistency. The good news is that AMD addressed the more glaring issues with a driver update. The bad news is that the new software increases fan speed, making both cards louder and more power-hungry.
Next, we were introduced to the Radeon R9 270, which is essentially a 270X with a 925 MHz core clock and lower power ceiling. The Radeon R9 270 fits Radeon HD 7870 performance into a 150 W envelope, making it the fastest card in our lab with a single six-pin auxiliary power connector. You can read more about it in AMD Radeon R9 270 Review: Replacing The Radeon HD 7800s.
The last two AMD cards are its Radeon R7 240 and 250. Both are based on the Oland GPU, previously seen in the OEM Radeon HD 8670. Sporting 384 shader cores, 24 texture units, eight ROPs, and a 128-bit memory interface with DDR3 or GDDR5 RAM, the $90 Radeon R7 250 looks a lot like the older Radeon HD 7730, which, in turn, is in the same league as its Radeon HD 6670. The Radeon R7 240 is naturally slower still. It employs 320 shader cores, 20 texture units, and eight ROPs with DDR3 graphics memory on a 128-bit aggregate interface. We haven't benchmarked either of those lower-end offerings yet.
Nvidia worked in a launch of its own. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti is the company's only desktop graphics card with an uncut GK110 GPU, boasting 2880 CUDA cores, 240 texture units, and 48 ROPs (read more about it in Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti Review: GK110, Fully Unlocked). It leverages very fast 1750 MHz GDDR5 RAM on a 384-bit memory interface. For now, it's the fastest single-GPU board you can buy, stealing that title away from AMD's Radeon R9 290X. Of course, we're still waiting for third-party Hawaii-based cards to ameliorate the shortcomings of AMD's reference design. This could change the top-end. If you can't wait and still want the very best, expect to find GeForce GTX 780 Ti selling for $700. That's significantly less than a slower GeForce GTX Titan, though you lose half of the on-board memory; 780 Ti only includes 3 GB of GDDR5. Moreover, Titan maintains its FP64 compute performance, while the 780 Ti's GPU only musters a 1/24 double-precision rate.
From a value perspective, the Radeon R9 290 is a much better deal. But the GeForce GTX 780 Ti's raw performance cannot be denied. It also does its job quietly, while existing R9 290s really howl under load.
The market is naturally adjusting to all of the new models. Radeon HD 7990 prices are all over the map, from $600 to $1185. There are only four Radeon HD 7850 1 GB cards left on Newegg right now, and stock seems to change daily. More than likely, old Radeon HD models will all be replaced by rebranded R7 and R9 boards in the very near future.
Of course, existing Nvidia offerings should be around for a while. The company recently responded to AMD's actions with major price adjustments. Its GeForce GTX 780 dropped $150 to $500, a move that we like, but still leaves the card a little pricey compared to $400 Radeon R9 290s. The GeForce GTX 770 is down $65 to $330, appropriately close to the $300 Radeon R9 280X. Unfortunately, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660 went up $10 to $190, putting it north of the slightly faster Radeon R7 270.
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, November Updates
- Best Entry-Level Graphics Cards: $110 And Under
- Best Mid-Range Graphics Cards: $110 To $190
- Best Enthusiast Graphics Cards: $200 To $300
- Best High-End Graphics Cards: $300 To $490
- Best Extreme Graphics Cards: $500 And Up, And Multi-Card Configurations
- Graphics Card Performance Hierarchy Chart
- Conclusion: Performance Per Dollar