Detailed graphics card specifications and reviews are great - that is, if you have the time to do the research. But at the end of the day, what a gamer needs is the best graphics card within a certain budget.
So if you don't have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don't feel confident enough in your ability to make the right decision, fear not. We at Tom's Hardware Guide have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming cards offered for the money.
September Review And October Updates
While there weren't any fanfare-filled product launches in September, ATI and their partners have managed to bring many interesting derivatives of existing products to market in September.
First of all, the Radeon 2900 PRO has been quietly released. Nvidia finally has some tough competition in the ~$280 price segment, and the real surprise is that this card is much more powerful than we expected. While the 2900 PRO was rumored to be a cut-down version of the 2900 XT with a 256-bit memory interface, the actual product has a full 512-bit memory interface and 512 MB of RAM. The only difference between the 2900 XT and PRO are clock speeds: 740 MHz core / 825 MHz memory for the XT and 600 MHz core / 800 MHz memory for the PRO. The only downside to this product is that it is rumored to be available in very limited quantities. But while its supply lasts, the card is a shoe in for the ~$280 price segment Compare Prices on Top Video Cards.
Secondly, a new derivative of the Radeon X1650 XT is now available, called the Radeon X1650 GT. There are two things that make this card really interesting: first, it's based on the 24-shader X1650 XT core, instead of the 12-shader X1650 PRO core. This might be the first time a Radeon GT is faster than a Radeon PRO with the same numerical designation. The second and more important reason this card is interesting is because of its price: the X1650 PRO can be bought for as low as $75! While its clockspeeds are lower than those of its XT cousin, it looks like they're still putting the GDDR3 on these budget cards, which probably means they're very overclockable. These are probably speed-binned X1650 XT cores that they're trying to dump on the market to make room for the 2600 XT. But while they're around, I'm going to recommend these X1650 GTs as the best sub-$100 card.
Thirdly, for the first time, owners of AGP systems can buy a DirectX 10 graphics card! The Radeon 2400 PRO and 2600 PRO have been released for the AGP bus. Now, as far as gaming performance goes, these cards don't have a lot to offer as the existing Radeon X1950 PRO and X1950 XT will beat them pretty easily. However, if the high-definition video drivers work for these cards, old AGP systems can be used for HD-DVD and Blu-ray video playback by taking the load off the CPU. For some of you with old AGP boxes lying around, this might be welcome news.
Other than these cards, the news is in the pricing. Prices have shifted a lot last month, so have a careful look at the list if you plan to buy within your budget.
The Best Gaming Graphics Cards For The Money
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list include:
- This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don't play games, the cards in this list are probably over priced for your needs.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can't offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing info, but we can list some good cards that you probably won't regret buying at the price ranges we suggest;
- The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or retail, your mileage will most certainly vary;
- These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list; these options might be a good deal, but they are beyond the scope of what we're trying to do.