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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 on offer for the money.
June has seen some interesting developments in the graphics card world. First, let's talk about the Radeon HD 2900 XT: ATI has done a really good job of releasing new drivers that make the 2900 series perform notably better than it did on release. Prices for the 2900 XT have also dropped a bit as it turns from a dud into a recommended buy. The 8800 GTS 640 is still a recommended buy mind you, while both cards are strong competitors.
Although they are not yet available at retail at the time of writing this article, we have seen some preliminary benchmarks of ATI's upcoming 2400/2600 series. While they don't look particularly powerful in the big scheme of things, the 2600 XT looks to perform a tad better than the 8600 GT on average, and the 2400 XT looks like it is on par with the 8500 GT. If they are released at the same price points as the Nvidia cards, they will offer up some good competition in the low end.
Prices of Nvidia's low-end DirectX 10 lineup have dropped a bit more and are falling into line with their performance, which is good.
One final note for die-hard AGPers: the 7600 GT AGP seems to have dropped in price and can be had in the $130 range, which is a pretty good deal. Also, the 7600 GS and X1650 PROs have dropped below $100 in their AGP flavors.
That's the graphics world news of note, so let's move on to the recommendations.
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list include:
Check the The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money Series Overview for more articles in this series.