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Best Graphics Cards for the Money: June 08

Best Graphics Cards for the Money: June 08
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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.

May Review and June Updates:

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.

Some notes about our recommendations

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.

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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
    Thanks
  • 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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