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Price/Performance Comparison

The Fastest 3D Cards Go Head-To-Head
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The Radeon 3850 is an interesting data point. The 256 MB version was more expensive than the 512 MB model on the day the price research was carried out, so the price listed in the table refers to the 512 version. The Geforce 8800 GT with 1024 MB has become considerably more expensive.

Price comparison dollars
Geforce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB) 840
Geforce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB) 540
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 540
Geforce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 420
Geforce 9800 GTX SLI (512 MB) 400
Geforce 8800 GT SLI (1024 MB) 380
Radeon HD 4850 CF (512 MB) 350
Geforce 8800 GTS SLI (512 MB) 340
Geforce GTX 260 (896 MB) 290
Geforce 9800 GX2 (2x512 MB) 280
Geforce 9600 GT SLI (1024 MB) 280
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 270
Radeon HD 3870 CF (512 MB) 250
Radeon HD 3870 X2 (2x512 MB) 250
Geforce 8800 GT SLI (512 MB) 240
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) 200
Geforce 8800 GT (1024 MB) 190
Radeon HD 4850 (512 MB) 175
Geforce 8800 GTS (512 MB) 170
Geforce 8800 GTS (640 MB) 160
Geforce 8600 GTS SLI (256 MB) 160
Geforce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 140
Geforce 8800 GT (512 MB) 120
Geforce 8600 GT SLI (512 MB) 120
Radeon HD 3870 (512 MB) 130
Radeon HD 3650 CF (512 MB) 120
Radeon HD 3850 (256 MB) 90
Geforce 8600 GTS (256 MB) 80
Geforce 8600 GT (256 MB) 70
Radeon HD 3650 (512 MB) 60

The “dollar per frame” figures below show the current graphics chips sorted according to price/performance ratio. The lower the number, the better the ranking. People looking for the best price/performance ratio should purchase a Geforce 8800 GT.

Price/performance comparison dollars per frame
Geforce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB) 0.238
Geforce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB) 0.166
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 0.155
Geforce 8600 GTS SLI (256 MB) 0.127
Geforce 9800 GTX SLI (512 MB) 0.114
Geforce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 0.111
Geforce 8800 GT SLI (1024 MB) 0.109
Radeon HD 4850 CF (512 MB) 0.108
Geforce 8800 GTS SLI (512 MB) 0.098
Radeon HD 3870 X2 (2x512 MB) 0.089
Radeon HD 3870 CF (512 MB) 0.086
Geforce GTX 260 (896 MB) 0.083
Geforce 9600 GT SLI (1024 MB) 0.084
Geforce 9800 GX2 (2x512 MB) 0.083
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 0.080
Geforce 8600 GT SLI (256 MB) 0.079
Geforce 8600 GT (256 MB) 0.074
Radeon HD 3650 CF (512 MB) 0.073
Geforce 8600 GTS (256 MB) 0.071
Geforce 8800 GT SLI (512 MB) 0.070
Geforce 8800 GT (1024 MB) 0.068
Geforce 8800 GTS (640 MB) 0.067
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) 0.067
Radeon HD 3650 (512 MB) 0.060
Radeon HD 4850 (512 MB) 0.059
Geforce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 0.057
Geforce 8800 GTS (512 MB) 0.057
Radeon HD 3870 (512 MB) 0.054
Radeon HD 3850 (256 MB) 0.044
Geforce 8800 GT (512 MB) 0.043

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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    elbert , August 29, 2008 10:55 AM
    Version AMD Catalyst 8.6? Why not just say i'm using ATI drivers with little to no optimizations for the 4800's. This is why the CF benchmarks tanked.
  • 19 Hide
    wahdangun , August 29, 2008 11:07 AM
    WTF, hd4850 SHOULD be a lot faster than 9600 GT and 8800 GT even tough they have 1Gig of ram
  • 16 Hide
    mjam , August 29, 2008 11:09 AM
    No 4870X2 and 1920 X 1200 max resolution tested. How about finishing the good start of an article with the rest of it...
Other Comments
  • -4 Hide
    San Pedro , August 29, 2008 10:14 AM
    Looks like the results for SLI and Crossfire were switched with the single card results. . .
  • 14 Hide
    Duncan NZ , August 29, 2008 10:40 AM
    Not a bad article, really comprehensive.
    My one complaint? Why use that CPU when you know that the test cards are going to max it out? Why not a quad core OC'ed to 4GHz? It'd give far more meaning to the SLI results. We don't want results that we can duplicate at home, we want results that show what these cards can do. Its a GPU card comparason, not a complain about not having a powerful enough CPU story.

    Oh? And please get a native english speaker to give it the once over for spelling and grammar errors, although this one had far less then many articles posted lately.
  • 14 Hide
    elbert , August 29, 2008 10:50 AM
    No 4870x2 in CF so its the worlds top end Nvidia vs ATI mid to low end.
  • 15 Hide
    Lightnix , August 29, 2008 10:51 AM
    It'd be a good article if you'd used a powerful enough CPU and up to date Radeon drivers (considering we're now up to 8.8 now), I mean are those even the 'hotfix' 8.6's or just the vanilla drivers?
  • 20 Hide
    elbert , August 29, 2008 10:55 AM
    Version AMD Catalyst 8.6? Why not just say i'm using ATI drivers with little to no optimizations for the 4800's. This is why the CF benchmarks tanked.
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2008 10:57 AM
    at 1280, all of the highend cards were CPU limited. at that resolution, you need a 3.2-3.4 c2d to feed a 3870... this article had so much potential, and yet... so much work, so much testing, fast for nothing, because most of the results are very cpu limited (except 1920@AA).
  • 19 Hide
    wahdangun , August 29, 2008 11:07 AM
    WTF, hd4850 SHOULD be a lot faster than 9600 GT and 8800 GT even tough they have 1Gig of ram
  • 16 Hide
    mjam , August 29, 2008 11:09 AM
    No 4870X2 and 1920 X 1200 max resolution tested. How about finishing the good start of an article with the rest of it...
  • 15 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2008 11:50 AM
    I agree, the 4870 X2 should have been in there and should have used the updated drivers. Good article but I think you fell short on finishing it.
  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2008 11:59 AM
    @pulasky - Rage much? It's called driver issues you dumbass. Some games are more optimised for multicard setups than others, and even then some favour SLi to Crossfire. And if you actually READ the article rather than let your shrinken libido get the better of you, you'll find that Crossfire does indeed work in CoD4.

    Remember, the more you know.
  • 7 Hide
    buzzlightbeer , August 29, 2008 12:03 PM
    isnt forceware 177.41 out for gt200 series? so they are using a recent driver for the nvidia cards yet not for the ATI cards...plus yes would have to agree with wahdangun the 4850 is alot faster then the 9600gt and the 8800gt i have 2 friends with both cards with q6600s one at 3.2 (9600gt) and the other at 3.0 (4850) and the 4850 machine destroys the other one even with a lower clocked cpu
    but yes the article was off to a great start, maybe throw some vantage in there as well?
  • 15 Hide
    chesterman , August 29, 2008 12:06 PM
    agree with the others. u guys should use a more recent driver for ati/amd cards, use a more game-effective cpu and REALLY should have put the 4870x2 on the fight
  • 11 Hide
    masterwhitman , August 29, 2008 12:09 PM
    elbertVersion AMD Catalyst 8.6? Why not just say i'm using ATI drivers with little to no optimizations for the 4800's. This is why the CF benchmarks tanked.


    Precisely; several other websites tested with 8.7 and 8.8 long before this article was published. Why couldn't you? Look at the 8.6 release notes; it doesn't even mention the HD4000 series cards as supported devices.

    Brilliant guys.
  • 0 Hide
    roynaldi , August 29, 2008 12:27 PM
    NVISION comes around and IRONicallY, a 36 page article is produced that is magically in favor of, whats that, NVIDIA!!!

    After having the Mythbusters appear, you would think this would be the most comprehensive, "scientific," factual, and update article meeting Tom's usual standards.... I didn't finish reading this.
  • 10 Hide
    xrodney , August 29, 2008 12:47 PM
    Using old drivers with no optimalisation at all fo newest card whitch was released months ago seems too strange to me. Also temperature results for 48xx are quite oposite reality, at least when compare to 8.8 catalyst.
    (82 temperature in 2D 69 in 3D with no fanfix)
  • 2 Hide
    jitpublisher , August 29, 2008 1:00 PM
    Pretty good, finally. Wish you would have have used an overclocked Quad so the newer GPU's could show their full potentianl, and you really should have used the latest drivers, but I give this article 2 thumbs up. Lot of good information in here.
  • 3 Hide
    Haiku214 , August 29, 2008 1:13 PM
    Well the main reason why they don't have the 4870x2 and the latest drivers is simply because they made this article a couple of weeks ago. If you could just imagine how long and tedious it is to produce all these data and results. It's just sad that after finally finishing the article, a lot of new stuff has already happened(new drivers and the x2).
  • 6 Hide
    jameskangster , August 29, 2008 1:19 PM
    First I want to say that the article itself is not bad at all.
    Also, I can understand why TH didn't have time to use 8.8 since it was released publicly on August 20, 2008 (Although ATI would have gladly released a beta version to TH for testing purposes).

    However, AMD publicly released stable Catalyst 8.7(internal version 8.512) on July 21, 2008. That's more than a month ago. It has numerous improvements (for example, CF performance increase, improved stability and performance under Vista). To be honest, most of the improvements range from 4% to 15%. (In CF case, up to 1.7 X scaling)

    TH has rarely been unfair and/or inaccurate and they always owned up to their mistakes before, and I trust them to re-test ATI products with at least 8.7 if not 8.8 to continue to uphold their values and integrity.
  • 7 Hide
    outlw6669 , August 29, 2008 1:20 PM
    So, to start off with, this article is much better than many of the other recent reviews. I feel you put some thought into it and for the most part it is good. I found the comparative performance charts at the end interesting. Have you thought of changing the GPU charts in a similar fashion?

    Now on to my criticism.

    I can understand how you want to keep the results homogeneous with previous results but if you already know that a stock QX6800 will bottleneck the system, be proactive in fixing it. At the very least you should have done a small segment of the review showing the newer cards with a quad core overclocked to 4.0Ghz.

    Also, if you have ever read any of the older Toms articles, you would know that you can still minimise the bottleneck from a slow GPU bye raising the resolution. Perhaps you should test the fastest cards at the highest resolutions?

    I can also understand why you did not use the latest nVidia drivers. It takes time to create a review of this scale and the GF8/9 series drivers have been stable for some time. As the GT 200 series brings no new features to the table, they would needed little optimisation for their newer cards allowing the slightly dated drivers to perform nicely.

    What I can not understand is why you would use ATI's 8.6 drivers??
    The 8.7 drivers have been out for more than a month bringing quite a few fixes/optimisations with it. I understand it probably took more than 9 days to complete all of these benchmarks (today is the 29th, the 8.8 drivers were officially released on the 20th) but you should have called ATI and asked for their latest drivers. The 8.8 drivers were leaked at least a week before the official release which means, if you could nurture a relationship with the people you review, they could/probably would have provided them to you. There is still no excuse I can see for testing with the old 8.6 drivers. Seriously, it does not even have official support for the 48X0 cards...

    From the title of the article,"The Fastest 3D Cards Go Head-To-Head", I would have assumed that you would have been testing the Fastest 3D cards? What happened to your 4870x2? As you have already attempted to review it, we know you have your hands on one. How can you claim to review the "Fastest 3D Cards" and still leave out the fastest card?

    In summation, I liked many things from this article. The layout was nice and a little more technical than we have been seeing as of late. I enjoyed the comparison charts at the end and I think you should adopt a similar method for the CPU and GPU charts. I would have thought this was an excellent and well thought out article if it had not been for the glaring and obvious deficiencies in reason. I give you credit for stepping Toms in the right direction. With a little more unbiased comparison, critical thinking and common sense I could come to see reviews such as this in a very positive light.
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