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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: November 2010
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What about this other card that’s not on the list? How do I know if it’s a good deal or not?

This will happen. In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen, because inventory 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 is a resource to help you judge if a card is a good buy or not. The graphics card hierarchy chart groups graphics cards with similar overall performance levels 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 graphics and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to make it clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphics solutions. While the discrete video cards in the chart are placed in tiers based on a lot of information, many of the mobile and integrated devices in the chart are guesstimates based on their specifications. At worst, I don’t think they’re more than one tier away from their actual performance, but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphics chipsets.

Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart
GeForceRadeonIntel
Discrete: GTX 580Discrete: HD 5970
Discrete: GTX 295, GTX 480Discrete: HD 4870 X2

Discrete: HD 4850 X2, HD 5870
Discrete: GTX 470 Discrete: HD 5850, 6870
Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 285, GTX 460 1GB, GTX 465 Discrete: 6850

Discrete: GTX 260, GTX 275, GTX 280, GTX 460 768 MB Discrete: HD 4870, HD 5770, HD 4890, HD 5830
Mobility: HD 5870

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250, GTS 450 Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850, HD 5750
Mobility: HD 4850, HD 5850

Discrete: 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MB
Go (mobile): GTX 280M, GTX 285M
Discrete: HD 4770
Mobility: HD 4860

Discrete: 8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT
Go (mobile): 9800M GTX, GTX 260M (112), GTS 360M (GDDR5)
Discrete: HD 4830, HD 5670
Mobility: HD 5770, HD 5750

Discrete: 8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT, GT 240 (GDDR5)
Go (mobile): 9800M GTS, GTX 160M
Discrete: HD 2900 XT, HD 3870, HD 5570 (GDDR5)

Discrete: 8800 GS, 9600 GSO, GT 240 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): GTX 260M (96), GTS 150M, GTS 360M (DDR3)
Discrete: HD 3850 512 MB, HD 4670, HD 5570 (DDR3)
Mobility: HD 3870, HD 5730, HD 5650

Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB
Go (mobile): 8800M
Discrete: HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB, 5550 (GDDR5)
Mobility: HD 3850

Discrete: 7950 GX2 Discrete: X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (DDR3), 5550 (DDR3)
Discrete: 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX, GT 430 Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 G, GT 220 (DDR3) Discrete: X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT, HD 5550 (DDR2)

Discrete: 7800 GT, 7900 GS, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT (GDDR3), GT 220 (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7950 GTX
Discrete: X1800 XL, X1950 GT, HD 4650 (DDR2)
Mobility X1800 XT, HD 4650, HD 5165

Discrete: 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, 8600 GS, 8600 GT (GDDR3), 9500 GT (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7800 GTX, 7900 GTX
Discrete: X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, HD 2600 XT, HD 3650 (DDR3), HD 3670
Mobility: X1900, 3670

Discrete: 6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), 8600 GT (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7800, Go 7900 GS
Discrete: X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, HD 2600 PRO, HD 3650 (DDR2),
Mobility: X800 XT, HD 2600 XT, 3650

Discrete: 6800 GS (AGP)
Go (mobile): 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT
Discrete: X800 GTO 256 MB, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT
Mobility: HD 2600

Discrete: 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, 8600M GS
Go (mobile): 6800, 7700
Discrete: X800, X800 GTO 128 MB, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO
Mobility: X1800, HD 5145, HD 5470 (GDDR5), HD 5450, 

Discrete: 6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT (DDR2), 8500 GT, 9400 GT
Go (mobile): 7600 (128-bit)
Discrete: 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT, HD 4350, HD 4550, HD 5450
Mobility: X800, 3470, HD 5470 (DDR3), HD 5430
Integrated: HD 3300, HD 4290

Discrete: FX 5900, FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5950 Ultra, 6600 (128-bit)
Go (mobile): 6800 (128-bit)
Integrated: 9300, 9400
Discrete: 9700, 9700 PRO, 9800, 9800 PRO, X700, X1300 PRO, X1550, HD 2400 PRO
Mobility: X1450, X1600, X1700, 2400 XT, X2500, 3450
Integrated: HD 3200, HD 4200, HD 4250

Discrete: FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT
Go (mobile): 6600, Go 7600 (64-bit)
Discrete: 9500 PRO, 9600 XT, 9800 PRO (128-bit), X600 XT, X1050 (128-bit)
Mobility: 9800, X700, X1350, X1400, X2300, HD 2400
Intel HD Graphics (Core i5-6x1)
Discrete: 4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200, 8300, 8400 G, G 210, G 310 Discrete: 9600 PRO, 9800 LE, X600 PRO, HD 2300
Mobility: 9700 (128-bit), X600, X1300
Integrated: Xpress 1250
Intel HD Graphics (Core i3 5x0, Core i5-6x0)
Discrete: 4 Ti4200, 4 Ti4400, 4 Ti4800 SE, FX 5600 Ultra, FX 5700, 6600 (64-bit), 7300 GS, 8400M GS, 9300M G, 9300M GS Discrete: 9500, 9550, 9600, X300, X1050 (64-bit)
Mobility: 9600
Intel HD Graphics (Pentium G)
Discrete: 3 Ti500, FX 5200 Ultra, FX 5600, FX 5700 LE, 6200 TC, 6600 LE, 7200 GS, 7300 LE
Go (mobile): 5700, 8200M, 9200M GS, 9100
Integrated: 8200, 8300
Discrete: 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO, 9600 LE, X300 SE, X1150
Mobility 9700 (64-bit)
GMA X4500
Discrete: 3, 3 Ti200, FX 5200 (128-bit), FX 5500,
Go (mobile): 5600, 6200, 6400, 7200, 7300, 7400 (64-bit)
Discrete: 9000, 9200, 9250
Mobility: 9600 (64-bit), X300

Discrete: FX 5200 (64 bit)
Go (mobile): 7200, 7400 (32-bit)
Integrated: 6100, 6150
Discrete: 9200 SE
Integrated: Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
GMA X3000, X3100, X3500
Discrete: 2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 Discrete: 7500 GMA 3000, 3100
Discrete: 256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 Discrete: SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200 GMA 500, 900, 950
Discrete: Nvidia TNT Discrete: Rage 128 Intel 740

Summary

There you have it folks; the best cards for the money this month. Now all that’s left to do is to find and purchase them.

Don’t worry too much about which brand you choose, because all of the cards out there are close to Nvidia’s 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 deal with fluctuating prices. Good luck!

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    iamtheking123 , November 4, 2010 5:39 AM
    stm1185The factory overclocked GTX460s are the true value champions. The $220 Evga FTW easily outpacing the 6870 in most games and providing better scaling in a dual card setup.


    Sorry, but no. The overclocked 460 might be on par with a 5850, but a 6870 is right about equivalent to a (non-existent) 5860. And since you can undoubtedly get great overclocks by yourself on the 6870, it would easily outpace the 460.

    PS - Buying factory overclocked cards is a waste of money. You spend $20-$40 more for a card that has overclocks easily reached without much effort if you did it yourself.
  • 21 Hide
    wildeast , November 4, 2010 4:16 AM
    wow, about 5 ties, great competition :) 
  • 15 Hide
    shreeharsha , November 4, 2010 5:21 AM
    My dream refreshes every month with your "Best Graphics Cards For The Money" .... but still dreaming of purchasing one. ($$$$$$)
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    rohitbaran , November 4, 2010 4:11 AM
    The list has really become crowded now. BTW, Radeon 5870 is still better value than GTX480 at their current prices. Waiting for the Cayman series, when the 5870 will finally be replaced.
  • 14 Hide
    anacandor , November 4, 2010 4:15 AM
    A quality read as usual.
  • 21 Hide
    wildeast , November 4, 2010 4:16 AM
    wow, about 5 ties, great competition :) 
  • -5 Hide
    dogman_1234 , November 4, 2010 4:24 AM
    Can't wait until AMD and nVIDIA release their new chipsets this end of the year!

    Nice. To me it is de-ja-vue, but then...AMD did release an impressive 6xxx series to tackle nVIDIA.
  • -7 Hide
    anacandor , November 4, 2010 4:24 AM
    Quote:
    So, if you missed the launch story and own a Radeon HD 5850, the 6850 isn't going to be an upgrade for you. The same goes for the 5870/6870.


    Implying that the 68xx series was even intended to replace the 58xx cards....
  • 0 Hide
    jjb8675309 , November 4, 2010 4:27 AM
    well all of this will change once 6900 series comes out as everyone already knows, we will see how the 6900 series and whatever nvidia has up their sleeves fair in the month to come before upgrading from a 5770, my gut instinct is to go with a single gtx 470 or 6870 and crossfire, however who knows what the coming months will bring and it is too early to jump on the midrange 6800 series bandwagon imo, if they do still offer great price/performance when the rest of amd and nvidias series comes out then i will make a decision at that point. Good read

    Also anyone know if the 5850 and 5870 will drop significantly? both of those cards would be great with a reduced pricetag
  • 11 Hide
    nativeson8803 , November 4, 2010 4:56 AM
    I look forward to this article every month!
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , November 4, 2010 5:07 AM
    anacandorImplying that the 68xx series was even intended to replace the 58xx cards....


    No, explaining to people who would naturally assume that a 6870>5870 that this isn't the case, so don't waste your money. ;) 
  • 15 Hide
    shreeharsha , November 4, 2010 5:21 AM
    My dream refreshes every month with your "Best Graphics Cards For The Money" .... but still dreaming of purchasing one. ($$$$$$)
  • -8 Hide
    stm1185 , November 4, 2010 5:33 AM
    The factory overclocked GTX460s are the true value champions. The $220 Evga FTW easily outpacing the 6870 in most games and providing better scaling in a dual card setup.

  • 21 Hide
    iamtheking123 , November 4, 2010 5:39 AM
    stm1185The factory overclocked GTX460s are the true value champions. The $220 Evga FTW easily outpacing the 6870 in most games and providing better scaling in a dual card setup.


    Sorry, but no. The overclocked 460 might be on par with a 5850, but a 6870 is right about equivalent to a (non-existent) 5860. And since you can undoubtedly get great overclocks by yourself on the 6870, it would easily outpace the 460.

    PS - Buying factory overclocked cards is a waste of money. You spend $20-$40 more for a card that has overclocks easily reached without much effort if you did it yourself.
  • 2 Hide
    killerchickens , November 4, 2010 5:45 AM
    Why is the HD 4850 X2 in the same tier as th 5870 and not the 5850.
  • -4 Hide
    yyk71200 , November 4, 2010 6:01 AM
    Is this just coincidence that AMD decided to name the high midrange cards 68XX while dropping ATI naming? Maybe they felt that since these are no longer ATI cards they can change the naming scheme?
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , November 4, 2010 6:15 AM
    GTX 470, let alone GTX 470 SLI was recommended? What?

    I know its price dropped to competitive levels, but when you can get the 6870, why would you want a power hungry, loud and hot (not in a good way) solution?
  • -4 Hide
    beavermml , November 4, 2010 6:26 AM
    so to me.. which are the best option.. buy a gtx460/6850 or another 4870 for xfire?
  • 11 Hide
    mitch074 , November 4, 2010 6:56 AM
    Radeon 4850: when did it come out, again? June 2008, no? That makes it the granddaddy of all current cards...

    "Who's your daddy? Why yes, I am!"
  • 3 Hide
    rutoojinn , November 4, 2010 7:14 AM
    Before the ATi 68xx series came it I was wondering why ATi wouldn't lower their prices of the 58xx series. Man the 6870 is a great card. For the entry level price it is great. 240 might be too much for some but its perfect IMO for that card. Ordering an MSI one off Amazon when I can save up for one.
  • -7 Hide
    rottingsheep , November 4, 2010 7:16 AM
    is 4870x2 on par with gtx295? i don;t think so
  • -9 Hide
    rottingsheep , November 4, 2010 7:19 AM
    5770 is very close to 4870, 2x5770 is almost the same as 1 5870 and as i recall, gtx295 is way faster than 5870.
  • -3 Hide
    Phoenixlight , November 4, 2010 7:21 AM
    Can you please stop using 1920x1200 as a screen resolution comparison point? The industry has gone with 1920x1080 so all you're doing is confusing people and making them think that they've got an inferior monitor.
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