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 board, 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.
November Review and December Updates:
The Radeon HD 4850 X2 became commercially available right after last month’s article was published. The 4850 X2 is a tough card to peg, as its $370 street price is a bit more than the cost of two separate 4850 cards, which can retail for as low as $340. Having said that, the 4850 X2 is equipped with 2 GB of video RAM, while the 4850s with 1 GB of RAM start at $200 each from what we’ve seen. In addition, the 4850 X2 seems to be able to beat Nvidia’s more-expensive flagship GeForce GTX 280 by a small margin. With this in mind, we recommend the Radeon 4850 X2 for those of you with a $370 budget.
Otherwise, the news has been pretty quiet going into the holiday season. Prices keep falling and consumers can’t complain with all of these wonderfully-powerful cards hovering around the $100 mark.
AMD is on the verge of releasing its Catalyst 8.12 driver, which, once installed, should introduce marked performance increases in a number of newer games, as well as adding some new capabilities like a stream computing feature and video encoding acceleration to battle Nvidia’s recent "Badaboom" trial.
On the Nvidia side, we should soon see 55 nm versions of the G200 cards. These should use less power than Nvidia’s current 65 nm GeForce GTX 260/280 cards and make them more overclockable to boot. If this is the case, it’s a safe bet that they’d be ideal for a GeForce 280 GX2 card with two GPUs — just the kind of thing that Nvidia would love to manufacture in order to get the performance crown back from the Radeon HD 4870 X2.
Regardless of what the future holds, lower prices and more performance equal good times right now.
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, the cards on this list are more expensive than what you really 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 stores, your mileage will most certainly vary;
- These are new card prices. No used or open box cards are in the list; they might be a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.