Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2010

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2010
By

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.

May Updates:

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.
Display 71 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
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?
Display more comments