Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

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

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

We always hear that today's hardware offers more value for your dollar than anything seen previously. It's a claim so overused as to be a complete cliché. But it's true. Technology keeps getting faster, but prices remain relative what the market will bear for every tier of performance. With that in mind, how do you choose the right product in a sea of offerings that are faster, yes, but also so similar to each other? Clearly, the answer is to line up as many of them as possible and compare their performance, noise, power use, and features.

Which type of card will you want? Custom board designs with premium components are often superior in terms of performance and they are sometimes quieter, but does it make sense to spend significantly more money on them? Think about it this way: would you rather pay extra for a mainstream card heavily overclocked from the factory, or would you rather spend that cash on a boring old reference board based on a higher-end graphics processor? 

This process is almost like buying a car (on a much smaller scale, of course). The vehicle should be quiet and comfortable, fast enough, efficient, good-looking, and it should cost as little as possible. Right of the bat, we can say that there is no such ideal machine. High-end cards tend to generate the most heat and low-power models can’t make true gamers happy. Therefore, we decided to create a few categories to assist those of you who want to go for a new graphics card soon.

We split the test bed into the following segments:

  • Performance champions
  • Masters of efficiency
  • Low-noise cards


Our tests don’t only include retail graphics card products; we decided to also include reference cards of each of the tested models, such as AMD’s Radeon HD 6790, 6850, 6870, 6950 and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 550 Ti, 560, and 560 Ti. These reference cards are not included in our recommendations and conclusion, but they serve as a yardstick for the comparative evaluation of individual products.

Display 117 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    dco , July 20, 2011 5:14 AM
    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
  • 21 Hide
    fictionforthetame , July 20, 2011 5:33 AM
    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.
  • 20 Hide
    haplo602 , July 20, 2011 6:33 AM
    can't help it, another pro nvidia review. where are the overclocked 6950 cards ?
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    KrazerSK , July 20, 2011 5:02 AM
    arent the 6950s in this price range also? there are 2gb ones going for $250
  • 9 Hide
    whysobluepandabear , July 20, 2011 5:14 AM
    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?
  • 26 Hide
    dco , July 20, 2011 5:14 AM
    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
  • 14 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , July 20, 2011 5:23 AM
    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.
  • 8 Hide
    Zero_ , July 20, 2011 5:27 AM
    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.
  • 21 Hide
    fictionforthetame , July 20, 2011 5:33 AM
    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.
  • 14 Hide
    scrumworks , July 20, 2011 5:54 AM
    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 Hide
    scrumworks , July 20, 2011 6:06 AM
    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.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , July 20, 2011 6:08 AM
    wher is the most important price/perfomance index.........
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , July 20, 2011 6:11 AM
    and the choice of games is less than miserable......
  • 18 Hide
    TommyV , July 20, 2011 6:21 AM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    atawhai007 , July 20, 2011 6:33 AM
    Who still plays Mafia2?
  • 20 Hide
    haplo602 , July 20, 2011 6:33 AM
    can't help it, another pro nvidia review. where are the overclocked 6950 cards ?
  • 1 Hide
    johnnyb_27 , July 20, 2011 6:53 AM
    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.
  • 5 Hide
    The_King , July 20, 2011 7:06 AM
    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
  • -2 Hide
    joshyboy82 , July 20, 2011 7:08 AM
    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.
  • -5 Hide
    mayzie , July 20, 2011 7:37 AM
    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.
Display more comments
React To This Article