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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 make the right decision, fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware Guide have come to your aid, with a simple list of the best gaming cards available.
Unlike the massive price reductions we’ve seen in previous months, the May market was relatively stable when it comes to graphics cards. Some prices shifted slightly, but the biggest mover was, strangely enough, the Geforce 8600 GTS with a 20% price hike to the same price point as the vastly superior 9600 GSO. Needless to say, the 8600 GTS has been removed from the recommended list!
Speaking of the 9600 GSO, it has arrived in force. The interesting thing is that these cards are basically rebranded 8800 GS cards, so they don’t really bring anything new to the market, although they seem to be a little cheaper than their 8800 GSO brothers. Why, we can’t say.
These 9600 GSO cards are held back a bit because most of them have 384 MB of RAM; there are some 768 MB versions of the card out there, but they are harder to find, and their price is too close to the better-performing 9600 GT.
The really big news for June is the anticipated arrival of the next generation graphics cards, rumored to arrive in the next couple months: ATI’s R700 series and Nvidia’s G200 series. With no concrete evidence of anything yet, we can only report the rumors: the R700 series is supposed to be cheap and powerful, while the G200 is rumored to be even more powerful but very expensive. None of that means anything until we have benchmarks to see, but when these cards arrive, it will undoubtedly change the graphic card landscape really quickly.
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list include:
- This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, the cards in this list are more expensive than you need.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can’t offer up-to-the-minute accurate pricing info, but we can list some good cards that you probably won’t regret buying at the price ranges we suggest.
- The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail, your mileage will most certainly vary.
- These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list—you might get a good deal on these, but they are outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.