Tom's Graphics Card Guide: 32 Mid-Range Cards Benchmarked

Conclusion And Recommendations

Conclusion

For most folks, it's not necessary to spend more than $200 to get a graphics card that performs admirably. None of the cards we tested deserve our highest Best of Tom's award, nor does one stand out for a Recommended Buy honor. Rather, we want to pick three winners from the long list of boards we tested in several different categories to receive our Tom's Hardware Approved nod.

The results from our benchmarks prove that the market for graphics cards is over-saturated and that the cheapest cards are hardly worth more than the materials of which they're made. At the low end of the scale, the GeForce GTX 550 Ti does not convince us at the current pricing. The cheapest models are still too expensive to justify a purchase, while the Radeon HD 6790 offers decent performance for similar money. The GeForce GTX 560 (without the Ti suffix) doesn't stand a chance against the Ti version. Here, too, the price is simply too high.

In terms of performance, the GeForce cards are generally ahead of the Radeons, but they are also more expensive and handicapped by higher power consumption. This has a negative impact on their efficiency. There is also room for improvement when it comes to performance per watt.   

Efficiency Winner (Gaming Performance/Watt)
1.
MSI Radeon HD 6870
TwinFrozr II










These three cards receive our Approved badge for their outstanding graphics performance in relation to power consumption.
2.
MSI Radeon HD 6850
Cyclone Power Edition


3.
HIS Radeon HD 6850

   

Gaming Performance Winners (Gamer Index)
1.
Point of View
GTX 560 Ti Beast










 The winners receive this Approved badge for their overall gaming performance, regardless of power consumption and noise-level.
2.
MSI GTX 560 Ti Hawk
TwinFrozr III


3.
Colorful iGame
GTX 560 Ti


   

Low-Noise Winners (under load)
1.
MSI Radeon HD 6870
TwinFrozr II







The Approved badge is granted to the three cards with the lowest noise level under full load, regardless of power consumption and performance

If noise level under load were put in relation to gaming performance, positions 1-3 would be reversed.
2.
Gainward GTX 560 Ti
Phantom


3.
Point of View
GTX 560 Ti Beast
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117 comments
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    Top Comments
  • dco
    In every benchmark its the souped up overclocked versions of the GTX 560 Ti that are on top.

    The standard Geforce GTX 560 Ti is still getting beaten by the standard Radeon 6950
    26
  • fictionforthetame
    No aftermarket 6950? Those 560ti cards that are topping the benchmarks are a good $40-$60 more expensive than a stock 6950 here in Oz. I think you should have included an OC'd 6950 (like the Gigabyte) which is still $20 cheaper than those ti's to make this a bit more interesting.
    21
  • haplo602
    can't help it, another pro nvidia review. where are the overclocked 6950 cards ?
    20
  • Other Comments
  • yukijin
    This confirms that the 560 ti belongs in TH best graphics cards for the money ( they werent recommomended the past 2 months)
    -13
  • Inf3rn0_44
    560ti is an amazing card for the money
    -13
  • KrazerSK
    arent the 6950s in this price range also? there are 2gb ones going for $250
    11
  • whysobluepandabear
    You have a 560 Ti eVGA Superclock for $215~ after rebate on Newegg. Then you have the 6870 from a few various brands for about $169~ after rebate.


    Is the TI worth another 40+ dollars?
    9
  • dco
    In every benchmark its the souped up overclocked versions of the GTX 560 Ti that are on top.

    The standard Geforce GTX 560 Ti is still getting beaten by the standard Radeon 6950
    26
  • SteelCity1981
    The GeForce GTX 550Ti wiould be a bargin if nvidia put the price below 100 dollars in which it should be considering it's performance doesn't justify the extra 30 or 40 dollars.
    14
  • Zero_
    Yup, considering its performance, the GTX550Ti should have replaced the GTS450 price point, which was $110. Since the GTX550Ti was included here, I would have liked to see where the cheaper HD5770/6770 would have placed, probably higher than the GTX550Ti.

    Also, can you guys do a story on how some classic cards match up to modern games? Stuff like 8800GTX's and 2900XT's which used to cost an arm and leg back in the day. Would be cool to see how the fare today.
    8
  • fictionforthetame
    No aftermarket 6950? Those 560ti cards that are topping the benchmarks are a good $40-$60 more expensive than a stock 6950 here in Oz. I think you should have included an OC'd 6950 (like the Gigabyte) which is still $20 cheaper than those ti's to make this a bit more interesting.
    21
  • Lobodomy
    Gah, just as I was about to go to bed an interesting review come out... I'll keep it open to read first thing in the morning!
    -10
  • scrumworks
    Geforces dominate benchmarks because we have used 10 variants of overclocked 560Ti cards against stock clocked few Radeons (6950) here and there. And also, we don't show which drivers and control panel settings we have used because that would reveal our trickery. Why is Tom always hating AMD/ATI?
    14
  • scrumworks
    There even seems not to be performance per $ which is ridiculous. Of course super clocked variants cost more than reference models. I'm sure Radeons have better performance per dollar. That's something "Igor" didn't want us to see.
    14
  • Anonymous
    wher is the most important price/perfomance index.........
    10
  • Anonymous
    and the choice of games is less than miserable......
    9
  • TommyV
    This whole review is bs. Where are the OC 6950's? Did you really think that you could pass this review off as an unbiased review? If we can't trust this review, it makes the whole website suspect (except for the awesome forum people)

    Seriously, update this review if you value the members.
    18
  • atawhai007
    Who still plays Mafia2?
    4
  • haplo602
    can't help it, another pro nvidia review. where are the overclocked 6950 cards ?
    20
  • johnnyb_27
    I'm confused you have the base 560 ti ahead of the His iceQX 6870 in the enthusiast settings but it looks like all but one or two games the His card is better.
    1
  • The_King
    Not that I am a Gigabyte fan-boy but other sites show the Gigabyte Windforce idles at 29-35 and load 60-66.
    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2011/07/11/gigabyte_gtx_560_ti_oc_video_card_review/8

    http://www.guru3d.com/article/gigabyte-gtx-560-ti-soc-review/8
    5
  • joshyboy82
    How can this author say, "from their top-end (AMD Radeon HD 6970, Nvidia GeForce GTX 570)?" I'm pretty sure that the GTX 580 is the top of the line. If it isn't, then what is it considered? Just because it doesn't have an AMD equivalent doesn't make it something exclusive.
    -2
  • mayzie
    Seems to be a lot of unhappy ATI users reading this but I don't know why. Look at best graphics cards for the money and ATI really dominates in a lot of categories.
    Bottom line I got from this article is how oversaturated the market is with choice.
    Use the car analogy, there are a lot of different mid priced cars and they all do a job but some are more comfortable, some more reliable, some quicker and some have more bells and whistles. Which is best comes down to what you want and maybe you just want that Ferrari that will kill them all but costs a packet.
    -5