Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

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

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July '08
By

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 placed 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.

GRAPHICS CARD HEIRARCHY CHART
GeForce Radeon
GTX 280
9800 GX2, GTX 260 HD 4870
8800 GTX, 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+ HD 3870 X2, HD 4850
8800 GT 512MB, 8800 GTS 512MB
8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT HD 2900 XT, 3870
8800 GS, 9600 GSO 3850 512MB
8800 GT 256MB, 8800 GTS 320MB HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256MB
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, HD 3200
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

Summary

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 stick pretty close to the reference designs by Nvidia and ATI. 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!

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 109 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    morfinx , July 7, 2008 8:08 AM
    Airborne11bBiased much? This was posted today, and newegg has had the GTX 260 for $300 for a while now.best bang for your buck right now is neck and neck with either Nvidia 260 or the ATI 4870.

    Looks like the cheapest GTX 260 in stock at NewEgg now is $330. It's 6% more expensive and on average 6% slower. I think the choice is pretty clear here.
Other Comments
  • -7 Hide
    djcoolmasterx , July 7, 2008 8:00 AM
    Not everyone can have sli/crossfire graphics cards, maybe spliting the catagories would be more usefull to those who don't wish to buy a new motherboard - defeating the entire point of a value list.
  • 16 Hide
    morfinx , July 7, 2008 8:08 AM
    Airborne11bBiased much? This was posted today, and newegg has had the GTX 260 for $300 for a while now.best bang for your buck right now is neck and neck with either Nvidia 260 or the ATI 4870.

    Looks like the cheapest GTX 260 in stock at NewEgg now is $330. It's 6% more expensive and on average 6% slower. I think the choice is pretty clear here.
  • 3 Hide
    wrazor , July 7, 2008 8:15 AM
    Clearly it would be stupid if ati didnt make 4850X2 this time :o  I mean for 450$ it would be a steal. BTW I heard on other websites, 4870X2 is 20% faster than 2 4870s in crossfire. Well if 4850X2 could show similar benifits, it would rock @ 400$ price point. BTW, how much do you think is a fair price for 4870X2 and 4850X2.
  • 6 Hide
    randomizer , July 7, 2008 9:14 AM
    Airborne11bThe 260 sells for 299, and the 4870 sells for 299. When you calculate in the Step up program from eVGA, the best bang for your buck in my opinion is the 260 from eVGA. Untill Radeon brands start offering a simular program, Nvidia will be the only way to go.

    Unfotunately not everyone lives in the US.
  • 2 Hide
    chechnyan , July 7, 2008 9:32 AM
    i liked this sentence
    and becomes a devastating force when paired with a second 4850 in a Crossfire configuration.
  • 1 Hide
    stridervm , July 7, 2008 9:52 AM
    I agree with randomizer. Believe it or not, 8600GTS here still costs about $120, which is the same price as the Radeon 3850 here. And.... I thought the 4870 was generally faster than the GTX260?
  • 1 Hide
    Noya , July 7, 2008 10:39 AM
    Why does Tom's not go with "street pricing" in these...suggestions? Is this just to try to screw the noobs who visit this site into buying old/overpriced hardware? I mean come'on, this is an ENTHUSIAST site = best value for the dollar (or bleeding edge price is no object for the rich few).

    For instance, with a small rebate, Newegg has: a 256mb 8800GT for $77, 8800GT 512mb for $120, HD 4850's for $145-165 w/promo code and rebate, 9800GTX for $175.

    And here's one that's even more pathetic and that I never thought I'd see, BestBuy beating the Egg on the upper-mid-range 4870 ($299 free shipping vs $310 + $9 shipping)...pathetic NewEgg.
  • 0 Hide
    morairtym , July 7, 2008 10:39 AM
    Yea i agree the 4850 are priced at 200 but you can get them for less then 160 why even talk about a GeForce 8800 GT 512MB @ 160 when its a bad choice from the start.
  • 2 Hide
    morairtym , July 7, 2008 10:43 AM
    The GeForce 8800 GT 512MB is a $120 Card and its 256mb friend is a 100 card but hey that's for people who are running at low res and don't have the money to spend on a decent card.
  • 5 Hide
    romulus47plus1 , July 7, 2008 10:48 AM
    Ah.. so many nVidia fanboys trolling around...
  • 4 Hide
    Fragille , July 7, 2008 10:57 AM
    I wonder if some of the peoples that make comment even bother to read the 1st page...
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , July 7, 2008 11:01 AM
    This is really funny. I swear Americans think they live in the only country in the world. :lol: 
  • 6 Hide
    Malovane , July 7, 2008 11:29 AM
    We do. Everything else is just future states.
  • 5 Hide
    cynewulf , July 7, 2008 11:44 AM
    There do appear to be quite a lot of Nvidia zealots sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and going 'La la la la! I can't hear you! This is not happening!'
  • -4 Hide
    cynewulf , July 7, 2008 11:50 AM
    MalovaneWe do. Everything else is just future states.

    Is this some sort of misplaced post-Independence Day zeal?
    You do know that the only reason you won is because you teamed up with the *French*?
  • 3 Hide
    randomizer , July 7, 2008 11:52 AM
    MalovaneWe do. Everything else is just future states.

    That's commendable. You acknowledged the existance of another world. Maybe one that doesn't have Newegg and MIRs even? :o 
  • 1 Hide
    NinjaRigger , July 7, 2008 12:01 PM
    ^haha, agreed.
Display more comments