The big news this month isn't a new GPU launch, but the actual availability of the GeForce GTX 470 at retail. The GeForce GTX 480 can be found out in the wild too, and we discuss rumors we've heard about upcoming derivative cards in this month's update.
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.
April has given the graphics world something of a calm after the GeForce GTX 400-series storm. The biggest news is actual availability of GeForce GTX 470 cards, while we still wait for the GeForce GTX 480 to show up in greater quantities (they're lasting a little longer at retail this week than they were last week, and at MSRP pricing, too!).
At this point, we're also eagerly waiting for Nvidia's new mid-range cards to show up. Something based on the Fermi architecture, but targeting the sub-$200 price point. Even the rumor mill has been quiet on this front, so we don't expect this to arrive in the near future. We have heard about a GeForce GTX 460 arriving during Computex, which should essentially be a cut-down GeForce GTX 470 able to compete in the same price/performance bracket as AMD's Radeon HD 5850. Speaking of rumors, there is also talk of an overclocked Radeon HD 5870 called the 5890, designed to challenge the GeForce GTX 480. But the only murmur we know will come to pass for sure is the GTX 460 card.
The fact of the matter is that the past month has only really seen some minor price shifting, showing us that the status quo is a comfortable place to be. The new GeForce GTX 400-series cards don't really challenge any existing price points, so they have managed to tiptoe into their respective brackets without altering the landscape.
The biggest surprise might be the continued availability of AMD's Radeon HD 4850 cards at $100. They remain a killer price/performance deal, and we have to wonder if they're still in production, despite the existence of the Radeon HD 5750 cards designed to replace them (and slowly encroaching on their price territory). We've even seen the Radeon HD 4890 become available again on a small scale. No matter how you slice it, the clock is ticking for these powerful, older models, but they continue to offer excellent playability for the price today.
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.