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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: July 2010
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This month, we discuss the new GDDR5-based versions of the Radeon HD 5550 and 5570, the disappearance of Nvidia's GeForce 9600 GT, and almost-universal price drops across the GeForce GTX 400-series line. Come see how our recommendations have changed!

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: HD 5970
Discrete: GTX 295, GTX 480Discrete: HD 4870 X2

Discrete: HD 4850 X2, HD 5870
Discrete: GTX 280, GTX 285, GTX 470 Discrete: HD 5850
Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 260, GTX 275, GTX 465 Discrete: HD 4870, HD 4890, HD 5770, HD 5830
Mobility: HD 5870

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250 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, GT 220
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)
Discrete: 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 GT Discrete: X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT
Discrete: 7800 GT, 7900 GS, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT (GDDR3)
Go (mobile): 7950 GTX
Discrete: X1800 XL, X1950 GT, HD 4650 (DDR2), HD 5550 (DDR3)
Mobility X1800 XT, HD 4650, HD 5165

Discrete: 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 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, HD 5550 (DDR2)
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 5550
Mobility: X800, 3470, HD 5470 (DDR3), HD 5430
Integrated: HD 3300

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

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

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

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

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
  • 13 Hide
    mitch074 , July 5, 2010 11:17 AM
    My 4850 is now entering its third year of faithful use - and it's still a recommendation! I can hardly believe it.

    It doesn't happen often, but this sure is a 'puter product that wasn't outdated 6 months after it came out.
  • 12 Hide
    cleeve , July 5, 2010 1:55 PM
    youssef 2010who said the 9600 disappeared.


    There's only three models of 9600 GT and two of 9600 GSO on Newegg, and they're all overpriced.

    For all practical purposes, the 9600 GSO is gone.
  • 10 Hide
    DjEaZy , July 5, 2010 10:04 AM
    ... it's ATi all over the place...
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    kckrich , July 5, 2010 6:12 AM
    God how I love Tom's.
  • 10 Hide
    touchdowntexas13 , July 5, 2010 6:22 AM
    I think I agree with the 5850 taking the solid recommendation and the gtx 470 not. The 5850 runs cooler, quieter, and uses less power.

    However I just got my GTX 470 with the EVGA lifetime warranty and free copy of Just Cause 2 for $330, so I am happy with that choice :) 

    Other than that, like the article states, it was a relatives quiet month for video card updates. Looking forward to ATI/Nvidia's next offerings as well as driver updates.
  • 0 Hide
    sprunth , July 5, 2010 6:52 AM
    Error on the 5770 article. Typed '5570' once in the middle.

    I just bought a 5770 like a week ago for $130 :) 

    The 5770 seems to be really good at OCing and economically better priced for X-fire.
  • -5 Hide
    misha87 , July 5, 2010 7:42 AM
    i thought that the 465 was going to be a little higher
  • -2 Hide
    notty22 , July 5, 2010 8:27 AM
    Quote:
    I think I agree with the 5850 taking the solid recommendation and the gtx 470 not. The 5850 runs cooler, quieter, and uses less power.

    However I just got my GTX 470 with the EVGA lifetime warranty and free copy of Just Cause 2 for $330, so I am happy with that choice :) 

    Other than that, like the article states, it was a relatives quiet month for video card updates. Looking forward to ATI/Nvidia's next offerings as well as driver updates.

    At $315, the GeForce GT 470 would take a solid recommendation, but at $330 it gets an honorable mention.
    Here is the GTX 470 at 299.99, sans rebate, free shipping. Read between the lines and the nod goes to Nvidia :) 
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127501&cm_re=gtx_470-_-14-127-501-_-Product
  • -6 Hide
    youssef 2010 , July 5, 2010 8:43 AM
    who said the 9600 disappeared.If you think so, kindly check the following links:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130360&cm_re=9600-_-14-130-360-_-Product

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814162030&cm_re=9600-_-14-162-030-_-Product

    for 9600GSO:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814500149&cm_re=9600-_-14-500-149-_-Product
  • -5 Hide
    jordan009 , July 5, 2010 9:38 AM
    does crossfire even increase perofrmance by that much in games? (what if the games you paly arent optimised for it?) anyways :D  my card is in 4th of the list (5770)
  • 10 Hide
    DjEaZy , July 5, 2010 10:04 AM
    ... it's ATi all over the place...
  • -1 Hide
    FunSurfer , July 5, 2010 11:09 AM
    Why is the mobility HD 4860 is one tier lower than the mobility HD 4850?
  • 13 Hide
    mitch074 , July 5, 2010 11:17 AM
    My 4850 is now entering its third year of faithful use - and it's still a recommendation! I can hardly believe it.

    It doesn't happen often, but this sure is a 'puter product that wasn't outdated 6 months after it came out.
  • -3 Hide
    Petey1013 , July 5, 2010 12:56 PM
    I'm surprised there's no mention of GTX 470s in SLI, especially compared to a 5970.
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , July 5, 2010 1:13 PM
    Don well done on an other great article.

    Gee the 9800gtx+ ... er GT250 is a steal at that price.

    Great card ... if a little hot on the old 65nm process.

    AMD need to drop the price another $10 on their remaining stock of 4 series GPU's and get them out the door ... and keep hammering NV on the 5 series front ... where is is more profitable anyway.



  • 12 Hide
    cleeve , July 5, 2010 1:55 PM
    youssef 2010who said the 9600 disappeared.


    There's only three models of 9600 GT and two of 9600 GSO on Newegg, and they're all overpriced.

    For all practical purposes, the 9600 GSO is gone.
  • 0 Hide
    DaeM , July 5, 2010 1:56 PM
    Best PCIe Card For ~$700: None

    lol trying to spend maximum allowable top-dollar geting ^^... none :p  lol
  • 1 Hide
    nerrawg , July 5, 2010 2:42 PM
    Great and simple guide as usual but I wonder Cleeve if the GFX hierarchy might benefit from adding a tier between the GTX 285/5850 and the GTX 260/4870 levels? This tier would be NVidia: GTX275, GTX280 and GTX 465; AMD: 4890 and 5830. I think such a tier might better reflect the descrepancy in GPU power between these cards and the GTX260/4870/5770 as well as the fact that there is at least a $50-100 separation in price between the preposed tiers.
  • -3 Hide
    scook9 , July 5, 2010 3:24 PM
    I disagree with the layout of the chart on the last page.

    The 4870x2 and 5870 are about equal and a GTX295 is not as good as a GTX 480. The GTX 295 and GTX 470 should be in that gap and the 5870 should be bumped up a notch
  • -5 Hide
    philiprudd , July 5, 2010 3:25 PM
    Nice for AMD again another month with a good lineup still unmatched in many price points but one that is bothering me is that you guys keep on showing the HD5870 is more powerful than a GTX470 but they look very close matched to me these last few weeks but with power and heat the HD cards is on there own with gr8 price/performance.

  • 6 Hide
    zooted , July 5, 2010 3:40 PM
    chriscusanoI thought the 5750 was dx10, not 11...

    All of the 5xxx series are dx11
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