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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2011
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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 590Discrete: HD 6990
Discrete: GTX 580Discrete: HD 5970
Discrete: GTX 295, GTX 480, GTX 570
Discrete: HD 4870 X2, 6970

Discrete: GTX 470, GTX 560 Ti Discrete: HD 4850 X2, 5870, 6950

Discrete: GTX 560
Go (mobile): 580M
Discrete: HD 5850, 6870
Mobility: 6990M

Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 285, GTX 460 1GB, GTX 465 Discrete: HD 6850
Mobility: 6900M

Discrete: GTX 260, GTX 275, GTX 280, GTX 460 768 MB, GTX 460 SE, GTX 550 Ti
Go (mobile): 570M
Discrete: HD 4870, HD 5770, HD 4890, HD 5830, HD 6770,  HD 6790
Mobility: HD 5870, 6800M

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250, GTS 450
Go (mobile): 560M
Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850, HD 5750, HD 6750
Mobility: HD 4850, HD 5850

Discrete: 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MB, GT 545 (GDDR5)
Go (mobile): GTX 280M, GTX 285M, 555M (GDDR5)
Discrete: HD 4770
Mobility: HD 4860

Discrete: 8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT, GT 545 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): 9800M GTX, GTX 260M (112), GTS 360M (GDDR5), 555M (DDR3)
Discrete: HD 4830, HD 5670, HD 6670
Mobility: HD 5770, HD 5750, 6600M/6700M (GDDR5)

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), HD 6570 (GDDR5)
Mobility: 6500M (GDDR5), 6600M/6700M (DDR3)

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), HD 6570 (DDR3)
Mobility: HD 3870, HD 5730, HD 5650, 6500M (DDR3)

Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB, GT 440 GDDR5
Go (mobile): 8800M
Discrete: HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB, 5550 (GDDR5)
Mobility: HD 3850

Discrete: 7950 GX2, GT 440 DDR3
Discrete: X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (DDR3), 5550 (DDR3)
Discrete: 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX, GT 430, GT 530
Go (mobile): 550M
Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 G, GT 220 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): 525M, 540M
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), HD 6450
Mobility: X1800 XT, HD 4650, HD 5165, 6400M
Integrated: 6620G, 6550D

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
Integrated: 6520G, 6530D

Discrete: 6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), 8600 GT (DDR2), GT 520
Go (mobile): 7800, Go 7900 GS, 520M, 520MX
Discrete: X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, HD 2600 PRO, HD 3650 (DDR2),
Mobility: X800 XT, HD 2600 XT, 3650
Integrated: 6410D, 6480G

Discrete: 6800 GS (AGP)
Go (mobile): 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT, 410M
Discrete: X800 GTO 256 MB, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT
Mobility: HD 2600
Integrated: 6370D, 6380G

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, 6300M
Integrated: HD 6310, HD 6320
Integrated: Intel HD Graphics 3000
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 3300, HD 4200, HD 4250, HD 4290, HD 6250, HD 6290 

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
Integrated: Intel HD Graphics (Core i5-6x1), 2000
Discrete: 4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200, 8300, 8400 G, G 210, G 310
Go (mobile): 315M
Discrete: 9600 PRO, 9800 LE, X600 PRO, HD 2300
Mobility: 9700 (128-bit), X600, X1300
Integrated: Xpress 1250
Integrated: 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
Integrated: 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)
Integrated: 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, 7025, 7050
Discrete: 9200 SE
Integrated: Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
Integrated: GMA X3000, X3100, X3500
Discrete: 2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 Discrete: 7500 Integrated: GMA 3000, 3100
Discrete: 256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 Discrete: SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200 Integrated: GMA 500, 900, 950
Discrete: Nvidia TNT Discrete: Rage 128 Discrete: 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
  • 12 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , August 12, 2011 6:45 AM
    scotty99The galaxy GTX 465 has been 129.99 for over a month now on newegg, i dont think there is a reason to buy any other card unless you play above 1080p.

    There are very few reasons to get a GTX465, and I would argue that gaming isn't one of them. A stock GTX460 1GB outperforms the GTX465 in most games while consuming significantly less power, running much cooler, and producing less noise. Even at that amazing price, for strictly gaming I would still be tempted to opt for the GTX460 or HD6850.

    However, the GTX465 is capable of outperforming the GTX460 by a pretty wide margin in certain compute workloads. So if you're folding or utilizing your GPU for some other compute intensive task, then the GTX465 is an absolute beast of a card that really can't be beat for $130.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    compton , August 12, 2011 4:34 AM
    I for one am looking forward to the next generation. Not that that's anything new, but the 40nm process cards have been around for two years now, starting with AMD. Given the advances in power consumption, I think it's reasonable to expect significantly less power use at idle and especially load. High end cards will still get hot and use healthy amounts of juice, but a midrange card like the successor to the 460 series will hopefully be a great efficiency card with righteous acoustics (I hope). Since it looks like AMD will have at least a 3 or 4 month lead, I hope they have their stuff together out of the gate.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 12, 2011 4:47 AM
    got a cheapish used gtx580. loving it. i dont see the need to upgrade for next 2 years atleast.
  • 5 Hide
    11796pcs , August 12, 2011 5:43 AM
    Is it just me or does it get annoying to decipher between the integrated, discrete, and mobile cards? It's especially bad with the AMD column, it would be nice if Tom's added two columns for Nvidia and AMD dedicated to the mobile/integrated GPUs.
  • 6 Hide
    aznshinobi , August 12, 2011 6:04 AM
    I think the 560 Ti should be a tie with 6950 1GB, especially since factory OCs cost the same as the 6950 1GB at which point the 560 Ti does beat the 6950 1GB since it equates to the 570. Just my 2 cents though.
  • 12 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , August 12, 2011 6:45 AM
    scotty99The galaxy GTX 465 has been 129.99 for over a month now on newegg, i dont think there is a reason to buy any other card unless you play above 1080p.

    There are very few reasons to get a GTX465, and I would argue that gaming isn't one of them. A stock GTX460 1GB outperforms the GTX465 in most games while consuming significantly less power, running much cooler, and producing less noise. Even at that amazing price, for strictly gaming I would still be tempted to opt for the GTX460 or HD6850.

    However, the GTX465 is capable of outperforming the GTX460 by a pretty wide margin in certain compute workloads. So if you're folding or utilizing your GPU for some other compute intensive task, then the GTX465 is an absolute beast of a card that really can't be beat for $130.
  • 2 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , August 12, 2011 7:49 AM
    GTX 560 Ti is in the same tier of 6950 ? :WTF:
  • 6 Hide
    Assmar , August 12, 2011 8:25 AM
    I don't know if I'm out of line when I ask for this but could we get the SLI/CF setups just recommended in the $270+ range thrown up in that Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart?
  • 0 Hide
    fakie , August 12, 2011 10:01 AM
    2x Sapphire Xtreme 5850 FTW!
    Although i'm crossfiring a sapphire vapor-x 5850 and an xtreme 5850 =D
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , August 12, 2011 10:10 AM
    I believe that another reason for the shortage of HD6990 and HD6970 cards is that people are using them in bitcoin mining rigs. AMD positively smokes nVidia at that compute task. I'd really like to see an article on this subject.
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , August 12, 2011 10:57 AM
    Hmmm...AMD seems to be dominating the recommendations slowly...i hope nvidia gets their act together, and AMD launches more goodies that cause nvidia to drop prices :p 
  • 7 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , August 12, 2011 11:32 AM
    scotty99The galaxy GTX 465 has been 129.99 for over a month now on newegg, i dont think there is a reason to buy any other card unless you play above 1080p.

    the 465 is a power hungry, hot, piece of crap that should have never been released, its was basically a prototype and has never been recommended.the 460 and 6850 are faster, quieter, cooler and are well worth the extra money. They are only cheap because they are trying to get rid of them to suckers like you before they have to bin them.
  • 6 Hide
    zooted , August 12, 2011 12:37 PM
    I'm just glad they didn't mention the gtx 465, now that was a bad card.
  • 2 Hide
    JamesSneed , August 12, 2011 1:09 PM
    The conspiracy about AMD releasing 7000 was boring. I think its possible AMD is going to push out the 7000 GPU's series along with Bulldozer. Since the 7000 series GPU's should be faster than current Nvidia offerings it makes total since to release along with Bulldozer since all the review sites will test them together and the charts will all show Bulldozer is better than Intel for gaming. Now that's a conspiracy theory for you.
  • -1 Hide
    hameem 1 , August 12, 2011 1:38 PM
    we want "graphic cards performers/money" chart !!
  • -4 Hide
    hameem 1 , August 12, 2011 1:42 PM
    some one do for us a chart about the graphic cards "performers for the dollar""
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