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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: October 2010

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: October 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.

October Updates:

Competition is driving prices down like mad. And as a result, we're seeing value like never before. The GeForce GTX 460 768 MB and Radeon HD 5830 are bringing their battle below $200, all the way down to $175. The GeForce GTX 470 at just under $300 has pushed the Radeon HD 5850 down to $260. Even the Radeon HD 5970 can be found for $600 or even less, delivering a good price/performance value for the first time in the product's existence.

It's very good to see Nvidia commit to competitive pricing after such a long wait for the GeForce GTX 400-series' introduction, and there's little doubt whether or not there is a battle going on now. We're at a loss to understand why the strategy has changed so suddenly, but we're sure glad it did. With the introduction of the new GeForce GTS 450, Nvidia has strong competition from $100 and up--with the exception of a direct answer to the Radeon HD 5770. The sub-$100 market seems to be a relatively weak suit for GeForce competition, but the price margins between products here is so slim that its difficult to crown solid winners and a $10 difference can make or break a recommendation. The GeForce 9800 GT and GT 240 could do the job if the prices were a little lower, but perhaps the company has decided the slim margins aren't worth a vicious fight in this space.

As Nvidia fills the ranks with more Fermi-based cards, we can't help but recall Dirk Meyer's previous statement in AMD's Q2'10 earnings call, claiming, "We remain on track to bolster our GPU leadership with the introduction of our second-generation DX11 graphics products later this year." If the next-generation Radeons are coming, we would expect them to arrive in ample time for the holiday season. But while rumors abound, there has been no official word from the company exactly when these next gen products will be released. We anticipate that the upcoming Radeon cards will likely be a speed bump that heavily leverages existing Radeon HD 5000-series architecture, but we won't know anything for sure until the company provides information not under embargo (Ed.: *wink wink*).

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
  • 16 Hide
    Opc , October 4, 2010 6:29 AM
    I don't like the GTS 450 at all ! 10$ more get a 5770.
  • 10 Hide
    mitch074 , October 4, 2010 6:45 AM
    ...again, the 4850. This card just won't die.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    Tamz_msc , October 4, 2010 6:24 AM
    The GTS 450 still needs to drop closer to 100$ for people to take notice of it.
  • 16 Hide
    Opc , October 4, 2010 6:29 AM
    I don't like the GTS 450 at all ! 10$ more get a 5770.
  • 5 Hide
    darthvidor , October 4, 2010 6:42 AM
    Nvidia should consider a dual-GPU in one card since it has excellent SLI scaling for the 450 and 470.
  • -2 Hide
    Tamz_msc , October 4, 2010 6:44 AM
    Quote:
    1. good to see hd5850 back in the list after 470 bested it !

    2.anybody who buys a 5970 does not look at prices. so it doesn't really matter if it now has a better price/performance.

    2.why include gtx480 at all if 2x460 beat it comprehensively and comes close to a 5970?

    3.$35 price difference between 5850 and 470 justified is too much for almost same performance.

    4.a 5870 is not really good in P/P as 5850 comes almost equal to it in performance with only a little OC. maybe something else should be included at this point like 2x5770.

    GTX 480- the most powerful single GPU card out there.
    GTX 470 has better performance than the 5850 in DX 11 withe Tessellation enabled.Otherwise the performance difference is 10-12% on average.
  • 10 Hide
    mitch074 , October 4, 2010 6:45 AM
    ...again, the 4850. This card just won't die.
  • 6 Hide
    cleeve , October 4, 2010 6:51 AM
    mayankleoboy12.anybody who buys a 5970 does not look at prices. so it doesn't really matter if it now has a better price/performance.


    I disagree. It's cheap enough now that it justifies consideration based on price/performance.


    mayankleoboy12.why include gtx480 at all if 2x460 beat it comprehensively and comes close to a 5970?3.$35 price difference between 5850 and 470 justified is too much for almost same performance.


    The 480 is included as an honorable mention, check the text. And it does beat a 470 by a notable margin sometimes.

    mayankleoboy14.a 5870 is not really good in P/P as 5850 comes almost equal to it in performance with only a little OC.


    Once again, the 5870 gets an honorable mention, not a full-blown recommendation. You have to read it a little more carefully. :) 
  • 4 Hide
    dallaswits , October 4, 2010 7:06 AM
    I bought an XFX 5850, and i love it....
    It beats the pants off the 2x 9800 GTX+'s I had before. By itself...
  • 6 Hide
    dallaswits , October 4, 2010 7:08 AM
    Nice to see AMD having to defend against Nvidia. Competition breeds better products......

    Cant wait for Halflife 3 and the cards that are swimming in the deep end around that time..... (2011!!! O.o)
  • 9 Hide
    Darkerson , October 4, 2010 8:07 AM
    Already have a 5770 and its done admirably considering my demands of it. Probably gonna get another one at tax time for Crossfire. Really hoping the 6XXX series knocks it out of the park again, so they 5XXX series gets a decent price drop and AMD can stick it to Nvidia another year in a row :p 
  • 1 Hide
    rantoc , October 4, 2010 9:29 AM
    "Besides, SLI compatibility is less common than CrossFire support, so a GeForce GTX 480 might be the only way to go for many enthusiasts. "

    Seems "less" should be "more" up there. Good article!
  • 3 Hide
    RazberyBandit , October 4, 2010 9:44 AM
    I'm surprise the 4870 didn't make it into that list of $130 cards. I know their supply is limited, but it would probably spank both the GTS 450 and 5750 in most titles.
  • 0 Hide
    R6ex , October 4, 2010 10:09 AM
    How about the 480 SLI?
  • -8 Hide
    kovaxo , October 4, 2010 11:01 AM
    i just wonder , why GTX 260 not here ?!!
  • 2 Hide
    enzo matrix , October 4, 2010 11:18 AM
    kOvaxoi just wonder , why GTX 260 not here ?!!

    Because of the GTS450...
  • 2 Hide
    dallaswits , October 4, 2010 12:47 PM

    kOvaxoi just wonder , why GTX 260 not here ?!!

    Because it is being pushed out by a similarly priced 450.......
  • 1 Hide
    tom thumb , October 4, 2010 2:14 PM
    And the battle continues...

    I'm just waiting for the 5850 vapor-x to come down below $300
  • 2 Hide
    victomofreality , October 4, 2010 2:15 PM
    The 4850 is in too high a price bracket NCIX has had it on sale for $70 for 2 weeks now and I think it will stay there till they kill their stock off.
  • 2 Hide
    theoutbound , October 4, 2010 2:17 PM
    I really hope when Nvidia drops the price of the 768mb 460 it drops around $140-$150 to really push the 5770 at a similar price point. Nvidia has a real dead zone in that range they seem to be ignoring for the future. Great roundup as always Tom's. I can't wait until next month when (hopefully) we have some new cards appearing on the list.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , October 4, 2010 2:20 PM
    The crossfire performance issues, is there a place I can read more up on that?
    I'm running a 4640x1050 desktop size and have considerable performance issues. Amd gave me a hotfix driver that is supposed to fix 4870x2 performance issues, but all it did as lower my fps to about 20-30 in world of warcraft window mode (1680x1050).
    Perhaps my problem's the same one you have when testing? Or maybe not, since the cloned output devices are running on a lowcost 5000 series card that isn't crossfired with the other cards ....
  • 1 Hide
    flyinfinni , October 4, 2010 2:29 PM
    Why do you list GTS450 SLI as an honourable mention, but not the 5750 Crossfire? It scales just as well and actually is FASTER than GTS450 SLI in a number of titles.
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