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Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: April 08

What About This Other Card That’s Not On The List?
How Do I Know If It’s A Good Deal?

This will happen! In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen, because both stock levels and prices change quickly. So how do you know if that card you’ve got your eye on is a good buy in its price range?

Here are two resources to help you judge if a card is a good buy. The first is the graphics card hierarchy chart, which groups graphics cards with similar overall performance into "tiers." The top tier contains the highest performing cards available, and performance decreases as you go down the tiers from there.

You can use this hierarchy to compare the pricing between two cards, to see which one is a better deal and also to determine if an upgrade is worthwhile. I don’t recommend upgrading your graphics card unless the replacement card is at least three tiers higher. Otherwise, the upgrade is somewhat parallel and you may not notice a worthwhile difference in performance.

At the request of readers, I have added mobile and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to make it clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphic solutions. While the discrete video chipsets on the chart are based on a lot of information, many of the laptop chipset positions on the chart are guesstimates based on their specifications. At worst, I don’t think they’re more than a tier away from their actual performance but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphic chipsets.

GeForce Radeon
9800 GX2
8800 GTX, 8800 Ultra 3870 X2
8800 GT 512 MB, 8800 GTS 512 MB
8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT HD 2900 XT, 3870
8800 GS 3850 512 MB
8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB HD 2900 PRO, 3850 256 MB
7950 GX2 X1950 XTX
7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 GT X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT
7800 GT, 7900 GS, Go 7950 GTX, 8600 GTS X1800 XL, X1950 GT, Mobility X1800 XT
6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, Go 7800 GTX, Go 7900 GTX, 8600 GT X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, Mobility X1900, HD 2600 XT, 3650 (DDR3), 3670
6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), Go 7800, Go 7900 GS, 8700M GT X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, Mobility X800 XT, HD 2600 PRO, Mobility HD 2600 XT, 3650 (DDR2)
6800 GS (AGP), Go 6800 Ultra, Go 7600 GT, 8600M GT X800 GTO 256mb, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT, Mobility HD 2600
6800, Go 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, Go 7700, 8600M GS X800, X800 GTO 128mb, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO, Mobility X1800
6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT DDR2, Go 7600 (128-bit), 8500 GT 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, Mobility X800, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT
FX 5900, FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5950 Ultra, 6600 (128-bit), Go 6800 (128-bit) 9700, 9700 PRO, 9800, 9800 PRO, X700, X1300 PRO, Mobility X1450, X1550, Mobility X1600, Mobility X1700, HD 2400 PRO, Mobility HD 2400 XT, Mobility X2500
FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT, Go 6600, Go 7600 (64-bit), Go 8600M GS 9500 PRO, 9600 XT, Mobility 9800, 9800 PRO (128-bit), X600 XT, Mobility X700, X1050 (128-bit), Mobility X1350, Mobility X1400, Mobility X2300, Mobility HD 2400
4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200, 8400 GS 9600 PRO, Mobility 9700 (128-bit), 9800 LE, X600 PRO, Mobility X600, Mobility X1300, Xpress 1250, Mobility HD 2300
4 Ti4200, 4 Ti4400, 4 Ti4800 SE, FX 5600 Ultra, FX 5700, 6600 (64-bit), 7300 GS, 8400M GS 9500, 9550, 9600, Mobility 9600, X300, X1050 (64-bit)
3 Ti500, FX 5200 Ultra, FX 5600, FX 5700 LE, Go 5700, 6200 TC, 6600 LE, 7200 GS, 7300 LE 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO, 9600 LE, Mobility 9700 (64-bit), X300 SE, X1150
3, 3 Ti200, FX 5200 (128-bit), FX 5500, Go 5600, Go 6200, Go 6400, Go 7200, Go 7300, Go 7400 (64-bit) 9000, 9200, 9250, Mobility 9600 (64-bit), Mobility X300
FX 5200 (64 bit), 6100, 6150, Go 7200, Go 7400 (32-bit) 9200 SE, Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 7500
256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200
Nvidia TNT Ati Rage 128

There you have it folks: the best cards for the money this month. Now all that’s left is to find and purchase them, and we leave that part up to you. The best prices will almost certainly be found online, but sometimes large retail outlets might surprise you with a good sale.

Don’t worry too much about which brand you choose, because all of the cards out there closely follow Nvidia and ATI’s reference designs. Just pay attention to price, warranty and the manufacturer’s reputation for honoring the warranty if something goes wrong.

Also remember that the stores don’t follow this list. Things will change over the course of the month, and you’ll probably have to adapt your buying strategy to fluctuating prices. Good luck!

(Compare Prices on Top Graphics Cards)

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  • 0 Hide
    Katreat , April 16, 2008 5:59 PM
    I would personally like to see the higher end video card rankings include not just SLI options. First, if you are upgrading an existing single card system an SLI option is not an option. Second, if you are building new or dont have an SLI MB then that best for $300 option is more like best for $400 because in most cases you will pay $100 more to just set up SLI. It requires a bigger PSU than a single card system would need and most newer SLI MBs, like the 780i series, are more expensive than the single card alternative, like a P35. IMO going to SLI is not the best option for many people. Nothing wrong with including it in the review for those with a SLI capable MB but it should not replace what is the best card in that price range.
  • 0 Hide
    robertito , April 16, 2008 6:19 PM
    I can't SLI on my Mobo and don't plan to get a SLI mobo any time soon. IMO single card solutions are always better as some games don't support SLI and sometimes the improvement over the single card is only a few FPS.
  • 0 Hide
    crazy032 , April 17, 2008 6:10 AM
    Also agreed, I don't plan on spending what extra cash I do have on a second video card.
  • 0 Hide
    Katreat , April 17, 2008 6:28 AM
    Your final table is really messed up. you have ATI and Nvida cards mixed up. Also you are missing relatively new cards like the 8800 GTS 320 which is a great buy used right now as people upgrade.

    Also, in reference to my earlier post, could you treat SLI like you do AGP with a seperate list? Recomending SLI to people who dont already have an SLI MB is not helpful at all.
  • 0 Hide
    switch495 , May 5, 2008 2:12 AM
    I'd also like to see single slot suggestions for the high end... and a comparison on how they stack up the SLI.
  • 0 Hide
    r1948 , May 10, 2008 10:32 AM

    A submission for the under $100 card: Powercolor AX3650 1gb ddr2 128 bit $64.99 after $20 rebate. Only $130 for 2 gb in crossfire.

  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 18, 2008 7:26 AM
    This chart is for gaming cards. I would like to see same charts but then for video-editing users, dtp-users, allround-users.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 25, 2008 5:09 PM
    Hrmmmm.... SLI and Vista still not working correctly? Ive heard from all my gamer buddies this is true, and I just switched (I love vista, i hated till i tried it). Anyways Im on a 512 Geforce 8800GT loving graphics and was thinking about buying another 8800GT for the SLI...but apparently SLI doesnt work with Vista (something about Nvidia drivers and Vista)... Is this true or is that Mac antivista propaganda?
  • 0 Hide
    salem80 , February 5, 2009 2:37 PM
    that's old news nows , before the amazing HD 4000 series come out .
    i have HD 4650 (bought it for 72$ now in newwegg cost 40$ )
    and it's beat GF9500GT in everything .
  • 0 Hide
    utkarsh_03 , December 22, 2009 2:46 AM
    8800 gt for pcie1.0a board. does it work on good speed