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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?

Best Graphics Cards for the Money: June 08

This will happen! In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen, because both stock 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 are two resources to help you judge if a card is a good buy. The first is the graphics card hierarchy chart, which groups graphics cards with similar overall performance 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 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 and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to be clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphic solutions. While the discrete video chipsets on the chart are placed based on a lot of information, many of the laptop chipset positions on the chart are guesstimates based on their specifications. At worst, I don’t think they’re more than a tier away from their actual performance, but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphic chipsets.

GeForce Radeon
9800 GX2
8800 GTX, 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX 3870 X2
8800 GT 512MB, 8800 GTS 512MB
8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT HD 2900 XT, 3870
8800 GS, 9600 GSO 3850 512MB
8800 GT 256MB, 8800 GTS 320MB HD 2900 PRO, 3850 256MB
7950 GX2 X1950 XTX
7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 GT X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT
7800 GT, 7900 GS, Go 7950 GTX, 8600 GTS X1800 XL, X1950 GT, Mobility X1800 XT
6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, Go 7800 GTX, Go 7900 GTX, 8600 GT X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, Mobility X1900, HD 2600 XT, 3650 (DDR3), 3670
6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), Go 7800, Go 7900 GS, 8700M GT X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, Mobility X800 XT, HD 2600 PRO, Mobility HD 2600 XT, 3650 (DDR2)
6800 GS (AGP), Go 6800 Ultra, Go 7600 GT, 8600M GT X800 GTO 256mb, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT, Mobility HD 2600
6800, Go 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, Go 7700, 8600M GS X800, X800 GTO 128mb, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO, Mobility X1800
6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT DDR2, Go 7600 (128 bit), 8500 GT 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, Mobility X800, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT
FX 5900, FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5950 Ultra, 6600 (128 bit), Go 6800 (128 bit) 9700, 9700 PRO, 9800, 9800 PRO, X700, X1300 PRO, Mobility X1450, X1550, Mobility X1600, Mobility X1700, HD 2400 PRO, Mobility HD 2400 XT, Mobility X2500, HD 3200
FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT, Go 6600, Go 7600 (64 bit), Go 8600M GS 9500 PRO, 9600 XT, Mobility 9800, 9800 PRO (128 bit), X600 XT, Mobility X700, X1050 (128 bit), Mobility X1350, Mobility X1400, Mobility X2300, Mobility HD 2400
4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200, 8400 GS 9600 PRO, Mobility 9700 (128 bit), 9800 LE, X600 PRO, Mobility X600, Mobility X1300, Xpress 1250, Mobility HD 2300
4 Ti4200, 4 Ti4400, 4 Ti4800 SE, FX 5600 Ultra, FX 5700, 6600 (64 bit), 7300 GS, 8400M GS 9500, 9550, 9600, Mobility 9600, X300, X1050 (64 bit)
3 Ti500, FX 5200 Ultra, FX 5600, FX 5700 LE, Go 5700, 6200 TC, 6600 LE, 7200 GS, 7300 LE 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO, 9600 LE, Mobility 9700 (64 bit), X300 SE, X1150
3, 3 Ti200, FX 5200 (128 bit), FX 5500, Go 5600, Go 6200, Go 6400, Go 7200, Go 7300, Go 7400 (64 bit) 9000, 9200, 9250, Mobility 9600 (64 bit), Mobility X300
FX 5200 (64 bit), 6100, 6150, Go 7200, Go 7400 (32 bit) 9200 SE, Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 7500
256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200
Nvidia TNT ATI Rage 128


There you have it folks: the best cards for the money this month. Now all that’s left is to find and purchase them, and we leave that part up to you. The best prices will almost certainly be found online, but sometimes large retail outlets might surprise you with a good sale.

Don’t worry too much about which brand you choose, because all of the cards out there stick pretty close to the reference designs by Nvidia and ATI. Just pay attention to price, warranty, and the manufacturer’s reputation for honoring that 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 cope with fluctuating prices. Good luck!

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  • 4 Hide
    reasonablevoice , June 2, 2008 7:46 AM
    Will somebody finally fix the wording on the 9600 GSO description?! It states, "the 9600 GSO is what was formerly known as the 8800 GS, and the 8800 GS is essentially a crippled 8600 GT"
    That should say it is essentially a crippled 8800 GT
  • 3 Hide
    reasonablevoice , June 2, 2008 8:00 AM
    Something else that bothers me is seeing all these spots being taken up by SLI and Crossfire configurations. I suppose it makes sense to include them but I for one never want to have to run more than one graphics card in my system. I still go for performance, my main machine has an 8800 GTS 512 in it, but it seems like this is more of a play for gamer's cash than trying to make games more playable. Cost is just one issue for me though. The extra power requirements, heat dissipation, and when you start talking about 3 or 4 cards space in your case becomes an issue. I have several expansion cards in my system besides my double slot cooled graphics card.
    Energy is of especial concern to me, while my system isn't exactly a "green" machine, I did take keep in mind power efficiency and savings while selecting the parts for my build. Anyway, aside from multiple gpus on one PCB, I will never run SLI or Crossfire.
  • 0 Hide
    shmuls , June 2, 2008 9:37 AM
    I second reasonablevoice's comment!! Don, what if I have $210+ to spend on a GPU and only one PCIE slot?!? More people have a MoBo with a single PCIE slot than have AGP, but you always mention AGP!! To use SLI they have to buy a new motherboard with an Nvidia chipset (not intel!), and probably a new power supply or case as well, costing much more time and money. Don, start listening to the people...
  • 1 Hide
    brownlove , June 2, 2008 11:34 AM
    I do appreciate artcles like this. However, they don't seem to take in others qualities of the technology. If an Nvidia card scores 15 to 20 FPS better in a video game than an ATI based card, but has poorer quality when it comes to watching tv, video, and other media functions, I'd want to know about that. I'd rather have the whole package in a video card.
  • 0 Hide
    JeanLuc , June 2, 2008 11:35 AM
    donstinksDon, your Best Graphics Cards for the Money just get worse every time. Do you research these cards for the price ranges? such as performance/power requirements or common problems? or just spend 5 or less minutes slapping this all together? or do you just reach further up your arse every time?? no recommendations for non-sli over 210? from a power/performance standpoint, there must be at least 1 card better than sli at the equiv. price.

    Why do you have to be so rude?

    Despite how he puts his POV across he is right. You should consider those who don't have access to SLI or Crossfire technologies in future articles.

    BTW, when are the charts going to be updated?
  • 0 Hide
    r352alit , June 2, 2008 11:40 AM
    Yeah, thats right!!! I agree with you donstinks, too much SLI or Crossfire, that is really such a pain in the arse. I mean c'mon think about power consume, heat issue, and money. i don't think that anyone can buy or change a system just for 1 month or less, after they read and ask here and there about plus and minus from their current system specially GPU. It did powerfull card means expensive one, but don't forget about the price and power consumption. Not too many people that can afford a $210 card, so... why don't you start to 'research' about cheap card, low power consume and can play the latest game. And don't too focus to high-end multi billionaire hardware maniac enthusiast though.
  • 0 Hide
    spaztic7 , June 2, 2008 12:03 PM
    What card for the money will be able to display at 1920x1200 or higher in Crysis, Oblivion, or any high end game? My 8800GTX is struggling at this resolution and I am looking to go up to 2560x1600 soon. What is the best card for that for $300-$400???

    These best for the money is good... but it could be so much more!
  • 0 Hide
    WiredEvolution , June 2, 2008 1:02 PM
    reasonablevoiceSomething else that bothers me is seeing all these spots being taken up by SLI and Crossfire configurations. ... Energy is of especial concern to me, while my system isn't exactly a "green" machine, I did take keep in mind power efficiency and savings ... /citation]

    This was apparent on May's round up too. No consideration for extra "cost" involved with added heat disipation or power consumption. This *IS* an article looking at costs, and these 2 variables should factor in to any purchasing benchmark.

    shmulsI second reasonablevoice's comment!! ... To use SLI they have to buy a new motherboard with an Nvidia chipset (not intel!), and probably a new power supply ... Don, start listening to the people...

    Good point, although I think mobo choices are a little subjective to include in this benchmark as it's benchmark is cost/performance of video cards. Good call though about AGP being mentioned, while THG seems aloof to the inherited heat and power issues associated with SLI.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 2, 2008 1:26 PM
    Hmmm... well i think a card is missing from the $300 - $400 Range. The
    HD3870x2, benchmarks have shown it outperforming 2 hd3870s in crossfire.
    Plus Dual GPUs are sexy
  • 1 Hide
    Rosanjin , June 2, 2008 1:26 PM
    I for one would like to thank Don for his continuing work on this article. I believe it's up to us, as readers, to filter out what hardware configurations are unworkable in our current rigs from issues like chipset/hardware/thermal limitations. The point of what he's doing here is to give a simple, relative recommendation scale for gamers who may have been out of the loop for a bit. (I'm sure most of us know how quickly this market can turn if you're not paying constant attention) :D 
  • 3 Hide
    mpkonig , June 2, 2008 1:29 PM
    Too many Sli Configs. If you really like putting the Sli configs in, then make another section for that. I personally want to know about single card solutions.
  • 0 Hide
    blackened144 , June 2, 2008 1:38 PM
    brownlove, as someone who went from the 6800GT to the x1650 to the 8800GT, I have not noticed any difference image quality watching DVD, BluRay, HD DVD or live TV broadcasts on my ATI theater 600 Pro going from the x1650 to the 8800GT. The only difference I ever noticed was when I was using a 30" CRT HD Sony Wega TV as my monitor, the the ATI did compensate for overscan better than the Nvidia card, but the actual image quality was close enough that I did not notice a difference going to the 8800GT from the x1650 Pro. I did see a pretty big improvement when I went to the x1650 Pro from the 6800GT.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , June 2, 2008 2:20 PM
    Hey guys,

    I've dsaid it before and I'll say it again: what I'm recommending is the best price/performance setups, not the best for your particular mobo.

    You have a single PCIe slot? Then buy the single PCIe card like the 8800 GTS 512MB. I'm not going to recommend something with poor price/performance like the 9800 GTX because you don't have two PCIe slots. That doesn't make sense.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 2, 2008 2:46 PM
    lol, you are talking about price/performance ratio? did you count the cost premium you gonna spend on a sli/Crossfire ready motherboard than a standard single PCIe slot motherboard? then there goes power consumption and oh don't forgot to mention a sli/crossfire ready psu is usually cost $30-50 more than a
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , June 2, 2008 2:50 PM
    That still doesn't make the 9800 GTX or 9800 GX2 a good deal, mate. They are overpriced.

    There are recommended single card solutions, the best of which is the 8800 GTS 512MB. IMHO if you have a single slot and you're spending more than that, you're wasting your money.

    Compared to the 8800 GTS 512MB, the price difference is huge and the performance increase is minimal with the GTX.

    The GX2 hasd more oomph, but dude... it's $500 for chrissake. Two 9600 GTs are $300, it still makes more sense to get an SLI mobo.

    So yeah, I did count the cost premium...

  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , June 2, 2008 3:24 PM
    I will cede the 3870 X2 might not be a terrible choice though.

    I might add it next month if the price is close enough to two 3870s/9600 GTs.
  • 1 Hide
    johnbilicki , June 2, 2008 3:27 PM
    You guys need to stop with the copy and paste and actually review things before you publish them. The 9600 GSO is essentially a crippled 8800GT. You can cripple a 128-bit memory interface card unless you lower the bus width. I'm glad at least one other person posted about this.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , June 2, 2008 3:46 PM
    Wow. We're fixing it, but seriously... It's a typo fella.
    Learn to cope.
  • -1 Hide
    LkS , June 2, 2008 4:13 PM
    cleeveWow. We're fixing it, but seriously... It's a typo fella.Learn to cope.

    This problem isn't just with this article it is in many posts on the site. Please proof read. This article was very lazy job. It was confusing to read. I will probably stop visiting Toms if this level of poor presentation continues.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , June 2, 2008 4:19 PM
    The article was proofread a number of times, lad. But nobody's perfect.

    For what it's worth, your threat gave me a chuckle though. :) 
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