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.
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 will probably be too expensive for what you need;
- 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 channels, your mileage will most certainly vary;
- These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list; they might be a good deal, but it's out of the scope of what we're trying to do.
February Review And January Updates
The biggest news in graphics card pricing during the month of February was the introduction of the GeForce 8800 GTS 320 Mb. This card brings Nvidia's high-end DirectX 10 architecture down to the $300 price point, and costs more than $100 less than its 640 MB 8800 GTS cousin. The only difference between the 8800 GTS 320 Mb and 640 Mb versions is the amount of memory on the cards, which doesn't affect performance all that much. This makes the 8800 GTS 320 Mb the new upper-midrange performance king and the best buy for the dollar right now.
ATI has introduced the Radeon X1950 GT, which is essentially an under clocked X1950 PRO. At first glance, it seems like a great deal at the $150 price point, but with the more powerful X1950 PRO as low as $160 online, it's not much of a deal.
The most interesting news from the ATI camp is evidence that the Radeon X1950 XT will soon be released in an AGP flavor. This will easily be the most powerful AGP card available on release, and is something to watch for in March if you're a die-hard AGP-er.
Check the The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money Series Overview for more articles in this series.