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 for the money.
Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:
- This list is intended for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don't play games, the cards in this list are more expensive than you need.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can't offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information, 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 available from online retailers. In other countries or if buying retail, your mileage will most certainly vary.
- These are new card prices. No used cards or open box units are in the list; they might be a good deal, but pricing those items is beyond the scope of what we're trying to do here.
May Review And June Updates
The big graphics card story in May was the introduction of the new Radeon HD 2900 XT. ATI's new flagship card, the HD 2900 XT trades blows with the 8800 GTS 640mb. The only problem is that the HD 2900 XT costs $410, while the 8800 GTS 640mb can be found for as little as $350. It's hard to justify the extra $60 for similar performance, so until the HD 2900 XT price becomes competitive with the 8800 GTS 640, we can't recommend it.
The Geforce 8800 Ultra has also arrived; it's essentially an overclocked 8800 GTX. In reality, this card is an 8800 GTX with an overclock - and an $800 price tag. Given that the 8800 GTX goes for $540, it's really hard to recommend spending an extra $260 for an overclock. Until the price of the 8800 Ultra drops to maybe $50 over the price of a GTX, we'll be reluctant to recommend it.
At this point, everyone's waiting for the upcoming Radeon midrange cards: the HD 2400 and HD 2600 series. While Nvidia's high end Geforce 8800 is the king of videocards right now, their midrange 8600/8500 cards are much less impressive, so it will be interesting to see if ATI can challenge them in that arena. Hopefully the new Radeons will arrive before the end of June. Until then, here are our current recommendations:
Check the The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money Series Overview for more articles in this series.