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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: June '09

What about this other card that’s not on the list? How do I know if it’s a good deal or not?

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 or not. The first is the graphics card hierarchy chart, which groups graphics cards with similar overall performance levels 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 one 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 graphics and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to make it clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphics solutions. While the discrete video cards in the chart are placed in tiers based on a lot of information, many of the mobile and integrated devices in the chart are guesstimates based on their specifications. At worst, I don’t think they’re more than one tier away from their actual performance, but this is something to keep in mind when considering mobile graphics chipsets.

Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart
GTX 295

HD 4870 X2
GTX 280, GTX 285 HD 4850 X2
9800 GX2, GTX 260, GTX 275 HD 4870, HD 4890
8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+,
GTS 250
HD 3870 X2, HD 4850
8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MBHD 4770
8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT HD 4830
8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT HD 2900 XT, HD 3870
8800 GS, 9600 GSO HD 3850 512 MB, Mobility 3870, HD 4670
8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB, GO 8800M HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB, Mobility 3850
7950 GX2 X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (DDR3)
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, 9500 GT (GDDR3) X1800 XL, X1950 GT, Mobility X1800 XT, HD 4650 (DDR2)
6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, Go 7800 GTX, Go 7900 GTX, 8600 GT (GDDR3), 9500 GT (DDR2) X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, Mobility X1900, HD 2600 XT, HD 3650 (DDR3), HD 3670, Mobility 3670
6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), Go 7800, Go 7900 GS, 8600 GT (DDR2) X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, Mobility X800 XT, HD 2600 PRO, Mobility HD 2600 XT, HD 3650 (DDR2), Mobility 3650
6800 GS (AGP), Go 6800 Ultra, Go 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT X800 GTO 256 MB, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT, Mobility HD 2600
6800, Go 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, Go 7700, 8600M GS X800, X800 GTO 128 MB, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO, Mobility X1800
6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT (DDR2), Go 7600 (128-bit), 8500 GT, 9400 GT 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, Mobility X800, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT, HD 3300, Mobility 3470, HD 4350, HD 4550
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, Mobility 3450
FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT, Go 6600, Go 7600 (64-bit)
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, 8300, 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, 9300M G, 9300M 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, 8200M, 9200M GS, 9100M 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 Rage 128


There you have it folks: the best cards for the money this month. Now all that’s left to do is to find and purchase them.

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

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  • 5 Hide
    ColMirage , June 10, 2009 6:14 AM

    Copy paste error @ Radeon HD 4850 1 GB.
  • 0 Hide
    xg4mer , June 10, 2009 6:40 AM
    In "Mención Honorífica: Radeon HD 4870 X2, in the pic is the 4850 x2" xD

    Thx for review!
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , June 10, 2009 7:58 AM
    It is really annoying to have the "see more products" table before the previous page/article index/next page selection. Its like you are trying to trick people into clicking on them. shady.
    Also just a fyi, for best cards for $455 you state it is 2 4890's in crossfire, but your table directly underneath says 4850 X2 2 GB.
  • 1 Hide
    Proximon , June 10, 2009 8:22 AM
    Even better and clearer than before. Keep up the good work!
  • 0 Hide
    t-train , June 10, 2009 8:49 AM
    If you were able to purchase 2 4770s, which you still recommend the now cheaper 4850s? Even with 1GB per card, they still seem to lose to 2 * 4770s

    Seems like you getting a bad deal paying an extra 2 * $30 for 4850s that consume more power and perform similarly.

  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , June 10, 2009 9:30 AM
    t-trainIf you were able to purchase 2 4770s, which you still recommend the now cheaper 4850s? Even with 1GB per card, they still seem to lose to 2 * 4770s [...] firex.htmlSeems like you getting a bad deal paying an extra 2 * $30 for 4850s that consume more power and perform similarly.

    Feel free to check out this one, as well:,2288.html

    If you already bought the 4770s, then you got a great deal--probably in the neighborhood of $99 apiece. Unfortunately, they've since gone up in price to reflect current supply.

    This month's recommendations reflect the current state of the market, where you have to take into account few, if any, 4770s available for purchase and a load of 4850s that were beaten down in price as a result of the 4770s and actually *are* available. =)
  • -1 Hide
    manitoublack , June 10, 2009 9:33 AM
    I swear I've read that article before. A little copy here and a little paste there. That said when not much changes, there's not much point in changing a good article.
  • -6 Hide
    shreeharsha , June 10, 2009 10:35 AM
    Thanks for the Updates, though these prices don't tally to prices in India.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , June 10, 2009 11:17 AM
    I don't see how there can be a "tie" between 4650ddr3 and 9500gt.4650ddr3 is quite a bit faster than 95gt.
  • -4 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , June 10, 2009 11:48 AM
    So since 4850 has replaced 4770 I've got to ask - do versions of this card exist, that clock down in 2d mode like the 4770? or are all of those 'better' cards 4 times as hungry in idle mode?
  • 5 Hide
    scook9 , June 10, 2009 11:59 AM
    yay my GTX 275 SLI made the list finally. You don't have to tell me about falling 4850 prices, it's killing me because I got a pair I am selling now. Bought for 160 each, 30 MIR each, trying to sell for 85 each!

    Its a sad reason, but I am pretty much upgrading because:
    1) I can
    2) I play Crysis a lot and need more than 4850 CF
    3) I play Crysis a lot on a 24" monitor

    Have to enjoy being a kid as long as I can ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    avatar_raq , June 10, 2009 12:56 PM
    Nice article as usual. I wish I live in the states! If only you guys know the prices here..:sigh:
  • 2 Hide
    glawk , June 10, 2009 1:38 PM
    "We acknowledge that recommendations for multiple video cards, such as two Radeon cards in CrossFire mode or two GeForce cards in SLI mode, typically require a motherboard that supports CrossFire or SLI and a case with more space to install multiple graphics cards. They also require a beefier power supply compared to what a single card requires and will likely produce more heat than a single card."

    If you acknowledge it, how can you continue to recommend 2 cards when there are so many intangibles regarding total cost? Even single-card SLI solutions are not without their issues as well (microstutter, buggy performance and support in some games).
  • 0 Hide
    gwolfman , June 10, 2009 2:32 PM
    Quote: the Radeon HD 4850's competition (the GeForce GTS 250) starts at $150 for both the 512 MB and 1 GB versions, oddly enough.
    Really? I just bought a GTS 250 for someone else and it was only $129. No rebate required.
  • 6 Hide
    gwolfman , June 10, 2009 2:40 PM
    Thanks for adding the alternating colors on the hierarchy charts again! Makes it so much easier to read. :D 
  • -3 Hide
    duckmanx88 , June 10, 2009 2:53 PM
    whenever people criticize TH, I just think about how great the video card articles are, and how wrong the critics are. can someone tell me which GeForce cards have an HDMI on them?
  • 2 Hide
    frozenlead , June 10, 2009 3:24 PM
    duckmanx88can someone tell me which GeForce cards have an HDMI on them?

    All of them. Even if they don't have the port, DVI is the same as HDMI, and you can purchase (and most of the time they come with the card) an adapter between the two interfaces.

    Nice article. Over time you've seemed to manage to accommodate everyone - fanboys, single pci-e's, and duals. I think these are written well and well thought out.
  • 1 Hide
    frozenlead , June 10, 2009 3:25 PM
    frozenlead DVI is the same as HDMI

    Well, DVI lacks audio. But they're electrically compatible, both digital and such. Hopefully you know what I mean.
  • 3 Hide
    Kill@dor , June 10, 2009 3:38 PM
    Can't complain, i still have my 8800GT and its working flawlessly. The only thing i hate about it is the fan...very inadequate cooling. Raising the fan speed makes it loud, but i'm used to it now. It plays everything from Cysis, GTA4, Assassins Creed and tons more perfectly ^_^
  • 2 Hide
    geofelt , June 10, 2009 3:44 PM
    This list is about price/performance tiers. To that end, you neel to include ALL the costs. The sli/cf solutions initially look good because they do not include all the costs. I would suggest that those entries be adjusted by the extra costs associated with dual cards:
    1)PSU upgrade $30.
    2)mobo with dual pci-e slots/sli license. $20.
    3)increased case cooling $20.
    ------total about $70.
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