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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: September 2011
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This month we're talking about the disappearance of Nvidia's GeForce GT 240 and GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards. Additionally, we consider the implications of our micro-stuttering investigation on the dual-card configurations we recommend.

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
  • 23 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 14, 2011 5:57 AM
    5770 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    6850 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    that makes no sense, that basically says the cards are on the same level, the 5770 does NOT give great performance at 1920, the 6850 only just cuts it at that res. Please re-structure your comments as to how well these GPU's play games, all the lower end ones are way off too, a 5570 cant play recent games well at 1680x1050, not even at 1440x900. Everything seems pretty much way off.
  • 11 Hide
    Zero_ , September 14, 2011 5:49 AM
    The GTX560Ti gets nothing. Sad, really.
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    Zero_ , September 14, 2011 5:49 AM
    The GTX560Ti gets nothing. Sad, really.
  • 23 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 14, 2011 5:57 AM
    5770 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    6850 "Great 1920x1200 performance in most games"
    that makes no sense, that basically says the cards are on the same level, the 5770 does NOT give great performance at 1920, the 6850 only just cuts it at that res. Please re-structure your comments as to how well these GPU's play games, all the lower end ones are way off too, a 5570 cant play recent games well at 1680x1050, not even at 1440x900. Everything seems pretty much way off.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 14, 2011 6:07 AM
    For $220 a GTX 560Ti should be a good bargain.
  • 5 Hide
    xcamas , September 14, 2011 6:34 AM
    I own a Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2GB, pretty good video card. It's giving me good times with crysis, even with that useless tessellation workload they put on background, i caped that out, and i really like my vid card.
  • -2 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 14, 2011 8:23 AM
    toms, did you know i can thumbs up my own message? it happens when im not logged in, then press a thumbs button, then it asks me to sign up or log in, and i log in. I can then thumbs up my own message.
  • -5 Hide
    vaughn2k , September 14, 2011 9:26 AM
    I was wondering if we can include the HD6870X2. It has a good bang for the buck against GTX580....
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 14, 2011 10:00 AM
    Hey where is the 6970 ??? It has great performance and good price for a single card.
  • 3 Hide
    Communism , September 14, 2011 10:31 AM
    Should list Memory Bandwidth if you're going to list memory bus width and memory speed.

    People looking at an article like this are really looking for memory bandwidth when looking at those two parameters.
  • 0 Hide
    DSpider , September 14, 2011 11:12 AM
    Regarding 5670/6670:
    the fastest card (at least the reference version we have from AMD) that doesn't require an auxiliary PCIe power cable. That is to say its power requirements are entirely satisfied by a second-generation PCI Express x16 slot.

    If the motherboard only has PCI Express x16 1.0 (not even 1.1) will that be a problem?
  • 8 Hide
    mobrocket , September 14, 2011 12:32 PM
    i wish there was a free category
  • -9 Hide
    pro-gamer , September 14, 2011 12:39 PM
    the famous card of the year 2011 is gtx 460
  • 0 Hide
    hyteck9 , September 14, 2011 12:44 PM
    I stubbled across a GTX590 in a retail store the other day and snagged it. It is an interesting beast. The performance is epic, and so is the heat. GPU #2 runs 8-10 degrees hotter than the already hot GPU #1. This did not change even with an open air case. I really wonder how much faster this card could get with a more dedicated cooling solution. Aren't the GPU's dialed down like 40% from thier single-card siblings?
  • 6 Hide
    killerclick , September 14, 2011 12:58 PM
    So the majority of GPUs on the market are in this list? How about being more strict? GTX 460 and 6850 can't be tied if they have the same performance and price but one uses 25% less power than the other.
  • 3 Hide
    Max_DTH , September 14, 2011 1:12 PM
    Wow, SLI and Crossfire demoted. I knew this should be the case after reading your article about micro-stuttering, but I've thought this is not going to happen. Respect Tom's Hardware, I wish all journalist were so honest.

    Maybe you could come up with some idea how to compare single and multi-card rigs? In my opinion baseline of those zig-zags we saw on charts in Micro-Stuttering And GPU Scaling In CrossFire And SLI article is good determinant of perceived frame rate, because every other frame rendered fast is just useless.
    This should be discussed among journalists. I know hardware manufacturers wouldn't like it, but we would know the real performance, not just guess how much of our cards performance (and frame rate) is eaten by micro-stuttering. We would also led to minimizing micro-stuttering not just maximizing this illusional frame rate we measure now.
  • -7 Hide
    jjb8675309 , September 14, 2011 1:53 PM
    Id take a gtx 560ti hands down over a 6950, most of the benches toms uses favor amd and beyond that I own a gtx 560ti ASUS DC2 model and it holds a 1ghz core oc, at that speeds it kills a 6950 and is on par with a 6970, for me the ti is on the same tier as the 570, 295, 6950, etc, it is ridiculous to say that you can actually see a difference between a ti and a 6950 at stock in terms of real world performance, Toms seems to be more and more biased as time goes on, and also that raw performance alone does not tell the whole story of performance in some instances where the gtx will offer better minimums, heat, and noise...
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 14, 2011 2:06 PM
    It saddens me that SLI/CF has been downgraded, but I understand why you did it and I applaud you for it. IMO, minimum frame rate is just as important a factor as average frame rate for the actual play experience. A steady 30 FPS is better than an average 60 with occasional drops to 10.
  • 3 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , September 14, 2011 2:45 PM
    jjb8675309Id take a gtx 560ti hands down over a 6950, most of the benches toms uses favor amd and beyond that I own a gtx 560ti ASUS DC2 model and it holds a 1ghz core oc, at that speeds it kills a 6950 and is on par with a 6970, for me the ti is on the same tier as the 570, 295, 6950, etc, it is ridiculous to say that you can actually see a difference between a ti and a 6950 at stock in terms of real world performance, Toms seems to be more and more biased as time goes on, and also that raw performance alone does not tell the whole story of performance in some instances where the gtx will offer better minimums, heat, and noise...


    Many HD 6950s reach 1GHz Core and they overclock a lot more on the Memory, so you're wrong.

    Also, they're right about there being a noticeable performance difference between both stock:

    http://tpucdn.com/reviews/ASUS/Mars_II/images/perfrel_1920.gif

    51/47: 8%. I think 8% is enough to call it a win overall. Oh, and the 6950 2GB is actually 1% slower than the 1GB card at 1920x1200.
  • 6 Hide
    jednx01 , September 14, 2011 3:41 PM
    AMD 6950 2gb in crossfire is definitely still my pick. Good price/performance value.... I got two of these about 6 months ago and really don't regret it at all....
  • 2 Hide
    Darkerson , September 14, 2011 4:14 PM
    I am still glad I got the XFX 1GB Radeon HD 6950 at tax time. It has played all the games I like to play admirably, and I was able to unlock the extra shaders with very little problem. I may be looking for a 2nd one, if I dont upgrade to a 7xxx series, depending on price and what the new version have to offer. Either way, Im sure Ill be happy.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , September 14, 2011 4:49 PM
    For those who do not need every setting maxed (even "medium" looks pretty good in a lot of game reviews I've seen), a HD5770 can indeed play many games at 1920x1080.
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