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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2010
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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
GeForceRadeonIntel

Discrete: HD 5970
Discrete: GTX 295, GTX 480Discrete: HD 4870 X2

Discrete: HD 5870
Discrete: GTX 470Discrete: HD 4850 X2
Discrete: GTX 280, GTX 285 Discrete: HD 5850
Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 260, GTX 275 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 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

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
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
Mobility: HD 3850

Discrete: 7950 GX2 Discrete: X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (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
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 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 5550
Mobility: X800, 3470, HD 5470 (DDR3), HD 5430
Integrated: HD 3300

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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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Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    IronRyan21 , May 10, 2010 6:51 AM
    Quote:
    Speaking of rumors, there is also talk of an overclocked Radeon HD 5870 called the 5890, designed to challenge the GeForce GTX 470./quote]

    The 5870 already beats the GTX 470, you would mean GTX 480 right?
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    SpadeM , May 10, 2010 6:15 AM
    Quick note, isn't the GTS250 a 55nm part? I'm asking since the table show's it as a 65nm.
  • 3 Hide
    IronRyan21 , May 10, 2010 6:23 AM
    Nvidia doesn't have much of a showing in the lower segments..... I wonder when they will release their lower priced DX11 cards? Give the 5750 and 5770 some competition. Right now a lot of radeons are competing against each other, like 4850 and 5750, or 4890 and 5830.
  • 3 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , May 10, 2010 6:31 AM
    I kind of expected to see Nvidia start offering 400 series derivatives.

    Even though this article is about video cards for gaming I still find it useful. I am interested in ATI's multiple monitor capabilities so I can increase professional level productivity. Between the two Eye Infinity articles and this article I should be able to make an informed decision.

    I just wish prices would drop a little more.
  • 3 Hide
    njkid3 , May 10, 2010 6:39 AM
    nvidia isnt releasing their lower priced cards till some time in fall and by that time ATI is going to have a refresh of their product lineup
  • 17 Hide
    IronRyan21 , May 10, 2010 6:51 AM
    Quote:
    Speaking of rumors, there is also talk of an overclocked Radeon HD 5870 called the 5890, designed to challenge the GeForce GTX 470./quote]

    The 5870 already beats the GTX 470, you would mean GTX 480 right?
  • -6 Hide
    avatar_raq , May 10, 2010 7:36 AM
    Is the performance talk in this article regarding the GTX 400 cards is based on the latest geforce driver? I heard it gives these cards a more pronounced lead over ATI 5800 series. I hope ATI drivers were that good...I wonder when will they fix the issues plaguing their cards.
  • 9 Hide
    p1n3apqlexpr3ss , May 10, 2010 8:27 AM
    haha, they mention is cf 5770 that added costs in mobo and psu prevents it form being a full option, yet they fully support cf 4850s which suck down a lot more power...
  • 1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 10, 2010 9:14 AM
    Kinda sick how my 4870x2 is still in the second highest tier. Even on a 'small' 22" monitor I can stress it enough to not run farcry2 or dragon age fluidly (granted, with aa and for dragon age an improved texture pack) - not to even speak of metro with aa on.
  • -6 Hide
    kallemankan , May 10, 2010 9:14 AM
    I'm getting tired of this article writer saying the same thing month after month that a 5850 is better than two 5770 in CF when in fact they are beating the 5870 in most games! Get your facts right or look at the graphics chart published here at Tom's Hardware from 2009 where it is absolute clear that 5770 CF crushes the 5850!!
  • 0 Hide
    drowned , May 10, 2010 10:32 AM
    I'm planning on spending $1000-$1500 to build a gaming rig but I'm holding back right now for a lot of the reasons mentioned in the article. With my budget I can't afford top shelf 470/480/5870 gfx cards, but I want to wait for nvidia to put some price pressure on ATI in the 5850 performance segment before I pull the trigger and start purchasing. And I'd also like to see USB 3 and SATA 3 mobos become more mainstream (and lower in price), but that's a tangent.

    So c'mon nvidia/ati, fight each other for my dollars!
  • 0 Hide
    eddieroolz , May 10, 2010 10:42 AM
    I just realized how quiet it's been for the last month. Kinda sad to not have any real rumors to comment about, really.

    I wonder where the fully-functional Fermi cards (GTX 490?) will show up. Yields must be improving with time.
  • -6 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 10, 2010 11:30 AM
    drownedI'm planning on spending $1000-$1500 to build a gaming rig but I'm holding back right now for a lot of the reasons mentioned in the article. With my budget I can't afford top shelf 470/480/5870 gfx cards, but I want to wait for nvidia to put some price pressure on ATI in the 5850 performance segment before I pull the trigger and start purchasing. And I'd also like to see USB 3 and SATA 3 mobos become more mainstream (and lower in price), but that's a tangent.So c'mon nvidia/ati, fight each other for my dollars!


    Get a p55 with an i3, and you should be able to afford two 5850 in cf (serveral p55 boards have cf options) I think - depending on country and local taxes etc ofc.
  • -9 Hide
    Anonymous , May 10, 2010 11:48 AM
    I was going to go with an ATI card, but according to the hierarchy, a $20 9500 GT (on Tigerdirect) is way too good of a deal to pass on.
  • 0 Hide
    matt314 , May 10, 2010 12:23 PM
    neiroatopelccGet a p55 with an i3, and you should be able to afford two 5850 in cf (serveral p55 boards have cf options) I think - depending on country and local taxes etc ofc.

    For that price range get a AMD 955, GA-770TA-UD3and 2x 5850 or a 5970. I just built that for
  • 1 Hide
    saint19 , May 10, 2010 1:13 PM
    Very nice article, I'm waiting to upgrade my GPU but I don't know yet if go with two 5770 in Crossfire, one 5850 or one GTX470 (I always prefer nVidia but ATI seems deliver a better performance for the price)
  • -1 Hide
    Onus , May 10, 2010 1:55 PM
    If a 9800GT "will outperform the Radeon HD 5670 by a notable margin in most games," why are they on the same tier?
  • 0 Hide
    ksampanna , May 10, 2010 2:24 PM
    Quote:
    there is also talk of an overclocked Radeon HD 5870 called the 5890, designed to challenge the GeForce GTX 470


    typo
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 10, 2010 2:33 PM
    matt314For that price range get a AMD 955, GA-770TA-UD3and 2x 5850 or a 5970. I just built that for


    That'd do too.
  • 0 Hide
    samssf , May 10, 2010 3:07 PM
    I clicked the "check prices" link for the 4650 and didn't see any for $50 or less. You need to be more realistic with the listed prices. $60 for the 4650 is a 20% error.
  • 0 Hide
    triculious , May 10, 2010 4:18 PM
    once again, I like this... I'm still waiting for 5850s to go for their intended MSRP of 250... I was counting on nvidia to get enough pressure over ATI in order to start a price war, alas, doesn't seem any of them are interested on it

    on other topic: can the hierarchy chart include the standings of dual card configurations?
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