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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2010

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

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 460, 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 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), 5550 (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, HD 5550 (DDR2)

Discrete: 7800 GT, 7900 GS, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT (GDDR3)
Go (mobile): 7950 GTX
Discrete: X1800 XL, X1950 GT, HD 4650 (DDR2)
Mobility X1800 XT, HD 4650, HD 5165

Discrete: 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, 8600 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
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 5450
Mobility: X800, 3470, HD 5470 (DDR3), HD 5430
Integrated: HD 3300, HD 4290

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, HD 4250

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
Intel HD Graphics (Core i5-6x1)
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
Intel HD Graphics (Core i3 5x0, Core i5-6x0)
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
Intel HD Graphics (Pentium G)
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


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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  • 6 Hide
    BallistaMan , August 10, 2010 6:09 AM
    The chart at the end puts the 460 a bit low doesn't it? It benches at 285+ levels, leastways the 1GB one does (and ~260 SLI). Perhaps split the two up? 1GB gets bumped up one level and the 768 stays down a bit?

    Although without OCing it doesn't quite match a 5850 sooo...
  • -8 Hide
    techguy378 , August 10, 2010 6:17 AM
    If you don't need DX 11 support then the ATI Radeon 4770 is the best value. The Radeon 4770 is a budget graphics card only by its price tag, not by its performance. I've yet to find a DX 9 or 10 game that isn't playable at 1920x1080 resolution (single display) with 8x AA, and 16X AF. Clearly the numbers on the benchmarks don't tell the entire story. If ATI did as good of a job with the Radeon 5750 then there's probably no reason to spend more than $150 on a graphics card if you only use a single display.
  • 8 Hide
    mitch074 , August 10, 2010 6:32 AM
    @techguy378: since the 4850 costs pretty much the same as the 4770 but is, in most cases, a bit to quite more powerful, then no, the 4770 is not that good a deal. Not that it's BAD, mind you, it's just not the best deal.

    Well, my 4850 is no longer on the list: I have the 512 Mb version, and now only the 1 Gb version is recommended. I don't mind, 3 years as a recommendation is good enough.
  • 9 Hide
    theshonen8899 , August 10, 2010 6:35 AM
    fafkacwhere did ATI Radeon 5850 go o.O

    Yeah...I think the ~$280 5850 doesn't deserve to be kicked off the list guys. Did you forget to add it in?
  • 2 Hide
    andrewcutter , August 10, 2010 6:47 AM
    theshonen8899Yeah...I think the ~$280 5850 doesn't deserve to be kicked off the list guys. Did you forget to add it in?

    perhaps the falling price of 470 along with driver improvement
  • -8 Hide
    firedust , August 10, 2010 6:51 AM
    I appreciate these guides as much as the next guy, but you shouldn't assume that everyone buys from newegg. I personally buy from the local fry's electronics and the sub-90 gpu prices claimed here are way different.
  • 7 Hide
    Mark Heath , August 10, 2010 6:53 AM
    A great read as always :) 

    Thanks for including the Intel CPU graphics on the hierarchy chart.
  • -3 Hide
    SevenSacredSins , August 10, 2010 7:31 AM
    How is the 5870 on the same level as the 4850 x 2, using 9.1 drivers or something a 5850 was faster then that I think. 5870 easily compares to the 4870x2 and with the newest drivers it should be faster.
  • -2 Hide
    aznshinobi , August 10, 2010 7:46 AM
    Hmmm... I think the 5850 actually should be on the list as a 280$ card. The HIS iCooler V on newegg is near only 280$. Plus, it's temperature and overclock ability is much better than the 470. Since you can actually OC the 5850 to the point of a 5870. Plus the 470 is FREEAAKING ON FIRE. Well it's just that it runs very hot.
  • -4 Hide
    arcus_doom , August 10, 2010 8:13 AM
    Yay GTX 460!
  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , August 10, 2010 8:19 AM
    but nVIDIA 460GTX 768 MB in sli better than ATI 5870 at the same price (400$)
  • 8 Hide
    TheStealthyOne , August 10, 2010 8:30 AM
    Competitors innovate and try to attract customers...

    Consumer wins!
  • 5 Hide
    ikaroh , August 10, 2010 9:12 AM
    "But not even the new GeForce GTX 460 can cop an easy win compared to the cheaper Radeon HD 5570."

    Is this a typo? You meant the Radeon HD 5770, right?
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , August 10, 2010 9:33 AM
    I wish I could remember where I read the benchmarks, but it looked like Intel's new HD graphics were in many cases slightly ahead of the AMD HD4200 and even HD3300 IGPs. I'll try to find it, although I'm getting ready for work now.
  • 2 Hide
    bearracuda , August 10, 2010 10:33 AM
    firedustI appreciate these guides as much as the next guy, but you shouldn't assume that everyone buys from newegg. I personally buy from the local fry's electronics and the sub-90 gpu prices claimed here are way different.

    ... Why wouldn't you buy from newegg? From my experience, newegg charges 30% less on computer parts than any brick and mortar store. If not cheaper.
  • -2 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , August 10, 2010 11:18 AM
    newegg doesnt ship internationally as far as i know. if they did the cost of shipping would outweigh thte difference. I dont like buying online either, i prefer if i have a problem with the card, to take it back to a store. HD4xxx series should not even be included in this list, they dont even sell that old tech where I live anymore.
  • 0 Hide
    theguyisback23 , August 10, 2010 11:48 AM
    oh my god! i have the ati radeon 4670 1gb from msi GDDR3 i have it 2 years and i still find the 4650 in the list of best buys here!
    im happy i didn;t throw much dollars and i have a good VGA than im happy to play with!
    here's what the specs are from gpuz!
    55nm process gpu clock 750mhz memory 873 mhz
    bandwidth 27.9 GB/s shaders 320 and all this for just 55 euros(72 dollars)
  • 5 Hide
    Tamz_msc , August 10, 2010 11:53 AM
    The 5850 is perhaps not here because the GTX 470 gives much better performance for a few bucks more.
  • 0 Hide
    Aditya nayyar , August 10, 2010 12:32 PM
    I think Raedon hd 5850 will be the best choice intihis range of buget
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