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.
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 available for the money.
April Review and May Updates:
Graphics card purchasers out there are the winners in the never-ending price war between ATI and Nvidia. Aggressive price drops keep coming, and graphics cards get cheaper. It’s hard to believe that a few months ago there were no high-end graphics cards under $200: now all of the new high end single-GPU graphics cards are below $200, except for the 8800 GTS and 9800 GTX.
Speaking of the 9800 GTX, it’s the new kid on the block, becoming available for purchase just in April. While its performance is impressive, the card is essentially an overclocked 8800 GTS 512MB: it’s slower than the old 8800 Ultra in many cases. At $290, it’s hard to recommend at this time, since the similar but slower clocked 8800 GTS 512MB can be purchased for $220, and two 9600 GTs in SLI can be had for as little as $300 (and will usually beat the pants off of it).
On the AGP side, the king-of-the-hill Radeon 3850 has taken a dramatic price drop to $175, and the 2600 XT can be had for just over $100 now. I have a feeling the days of AGP are soon coming to an end, as many of the cards previously available for the bus are vanishing completely.
On a final note, rumors abound that ATI’s next generation R700 based graphics cards are well on their way to making it to release this year. For its part, Nvidia is planning a counterattack with their own next generation parts soon after — and this is always good news for graphics and gaming enthusiasts!
Some notes about our recommendations
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:
- It is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, the cards in this list are more expensive than you need.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing information, but we can list some good cards that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest.
- The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries, or at retail, your mileage will most certainly vary;
- These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list; they might be a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
- The Best Graphics Cards for the Money: May 2008
- PCI-EXPRESS INTERFACE: $0 to $110
- PCI-EXPRESS INTERFACE: $130 to $160
- PCI-EXPRESS INTERFACE: $175 to $260
- PCI-EXPRESS INTERFACE: $300 to $350
- Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: AGP Interface
- What About This Other Card That's Not On The List? How Do I Know If It's A Good Deal?