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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: September 2010

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: September 2010
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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 pick the right card, then fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming cards offered for the money.

September Updates:

With no new products released in August, the biggest news in the graphics card world may be the announcement that the ATI brand will be dropped from AMD's graphics card division. The Radeon brand remains, but ATI is being replaced by AMD in many instances. For example "ATI Eyefinity" becomes "AMD Eyefinity." This was probably inevitable, and the clock started ticking on this once the AMD/ATI merger happened. But let's have a communal moment of silence for the brand anyway. Is AMD's decision a big deal of any sort? Absolutely not. So long as the same engineers continue designing competitive products, it's all the same to us.

In other news, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 400-series cards continue to put pricing pressure on their Radeon counterparts, and I do believe we just might be on the verge of a price war--something that should make gamers in the market for graphics hardware squeal with anticipation. AMD's boards have been on the market for so long that prices on them are moving slowly. But I've definitely seen signs that things are becoming a little more volatile. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. However, with relative performance being what it is, some reaction is needed unless AMD is willing to surrender the price/performance battle. We already know that AMD has an end-of-year answer to Nvidia's recent activity. Perhaps it'll wait until then to pounce.

Finally, Nvidia recently released its GeForce GTS 450, aimed squarely at AMD's Radeon HD 5750. Though the GTS 450 does offer superior performance in most cases at a similar price point, we still have a hard time getting excited about mainstream DirectX 11-class hardware when Radeon HD 4850 and GeForce GTS 250 boards are floating around for $90. No doubt, there will come a time when older DirectX 10-class hardware disappears, leaving only the newer, pricier options. But until that happens, we're still comfortable recommending that you jump on those fire sales before spending substantially more money on minor performance increases.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:

  • This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, then the cards on this list are more expensive than what you really need. We've added a reference page at the end of the column covering integrated graphics processors, which is likely more apropos.
  • The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that recommendations for multiple video cards, such as two Radeon cards in CrossFire mode or two GeForce cards in SLI, typically require a motherboard that supports CrossFire or SLI and a chassis with more space to install multiple graphics cards. They also require a beefier power supply compared to what a single card needs, and will almost certainly produce more heat than a single card. Keep these factors in mind when making your purchasing decision. In most cases, if we have recommended a multiple-card solution, we try to recommend a single-card honorable mention at a comparable price point for those who find multi-card setups undesirable.
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t base our decisions on always-changing pricing information, but we can list some good cards that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest, along with real-time prices from our PriceGrabber engine, for your reference.
  • The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
  • These are new card prices. No used or open-box cards are in the list; they might represent a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , September 20, 2010 10:36 AM
    So the GTS450 costs 20% more than the GTX260 yet its a tier lower? RIPOFF!
  • 15 Hide
    ray-ng , September 20, 2010 11:07 AM
    I occasionally see the Radeon 4870 for $99.99 on Newegg. How come it wasn't mentioned??
  • 15 Hide
    micr0be , September 20, 2010 8:15 AM
    after a year my 4870x2 is still the "best man" so to speak.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    nativeson8803 , September 20, 2010 6:16 AM
    I'm glad I purchased a GTX 460, it was a great upgrade from my 9800gtx+. I'm thinking of going SLI, but since I'm on a 775 platform (q9550 @3.5) I wonder if there would be a bottleneck there and maybe I should hold off?

    Hope to see a pricewar!
  • 7 Hide
    Opc , September 20, 2010 6:28 AM
    What is a GTS 45 ? I just love the GTX 460
  • 1 Hide
    Tamz_msc , September 20, 2010 6:29 AM
    I totally agree with the selection of cards in the 200+$ range.
  • 7 Hide
    darthvidor , September 20, 2010 6:33 AM
    nice to see nvidia competing finally with amd.
  • 5 Hide
    Reynod , September 20, 2010 6:33 AM
    Thanks Don ... nice roundup.

  • 9 Hide
    jgv115 , September 20, 2010 6:48 AM
    C'mon nvidia! Lower the GTS450 to 100 dollars!! You know you want to ;) )
  • -3 Hide
    nevertell , September 20, 2010 8:07 AM
    nativeson8803I'm glad I purchased a GTX 460, it was a great upgrade from my 9800gtx+. I'm thinking of going SLI, but since I'm on a 775 platform (q9550 @3.5) I wonder if there would be a bottleneck there and maybe I should hold off?Hope to see a pricewar!


    No. There was a test with 2 480's sli'd with both 16x/16x and 4x/4x, and there were no bandwidth bottlenecks.
  • 8 Hide
    basket687 , September 20, 2010 8:10 AM
    On newegg GTX 460 768MB is listed for $170.
  • 15 Hide
    micr0be , September 20, 2010 8:15 AM
    after a year my 4870x2 is still the "best man" so to speak.
  • 8 Hide
    Darkerson , September 20, 2010 8:54 AM
    Always love reading these best GPU / CPU articles. Keeps things in perspective! Keep up the good work!
  • 1 Hide
    RCPG , September 20, 2010 9:42 AM
    Completely agree with darkerson.

    Just a minor correction:
    Middle column, 8th row, HD HD 5670.

    And as opc said: "What is a GTS 45 ?"

    Thanks.
  • 13 Hide
    mitch074 , September 20, 2010 9:55 AM
    My goodness.

    My card is a recommendation. Again.

    Who'd a thought the HD4850 would be such a long-lasting value 2 years ago?
  • 18 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , September 20, 2010 10:36 AM
    So the GTS450 costs 20% more than the GTX260 yet its a tier lower? RIPOFF!
  • -3 Hide
    joytech22 , September 20, 2010 10:53 AM
    My GTX470 SLI setup is a recommendation woohoo!! (well not mine, but you get the idea)

    I'm glad i got them, but now i have to sacrifice the upcoming AMD Processors because pretty much nobody will be making a SLI version of AM3+ or AM4...

    There are only 2 DDR3 SLI boards that i could find from almost EVERY major manufacturer for AMD boards.. and next generation will be lucky to have one..
  • 15 Hide
    ray-ng , September 20, 2010 11:07 AM
    I occasionally see the Radeon 4870 for $99.99 on Newegg. How come it wasn't mentioned??
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 20, 2010 12:15 PM
    Nice roundup... :) 

    But, just like Gamer's cards how about a nice roundup for HTPC oriented discreet cards? Many people are building their own HTPCs or going to something readymade (those ION boxes). But mot DIYers usually hit this question while finalizing the config, which discreet card with give bang-for-buck for HTPC?

    Something on that topics would be great help, especially if done a review roundup based around video decoding/de-interlacing/post-processing and overall picture quality perspective.
  • -4 Hide
    rantoc , September 20, 2010 12:36 PM
    480 GTX SLI in 2560x1600 FTW!
  • 8 Hide
    bujinyun , September 20, 2010 12:54 PM
    ray-ngI occasionally see the Radeon 4870 for $99.99 on Newegg. How come it wasn't mentioned??


    I completely agree with you. I just bought 2 4870 1GB for just $200 on newegg. It's quite shocking that it's not on the recommendation list.
  • 1 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , September 20, 2010 1:27 PM
    Ouch 3 months in a row going against the 5850 after being here for 9 months!!
  • 0 Hide
    gxpbecker , September 20, 2010 1:38 PM
    I love these articles. Debating on getting a 460 1g or just wait for the 6xxx series to come out ... along side price drops lol.
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