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Gigabyte has the best performance at a class-average price, leading to its performance value leadership. HIS has the lowest noise and power consumption, but second-place performer MSI has the best efficiency. So who wins?
Let’s consider a few of the features and additions. HIS and Sapphire provide a free game, DiRT3, with their cards. The H695QN1G2M also has added value compared to both Gigabyte and Sapphire in its dual DisplayPort outputs, yet costs $10 more. Sapphire becomes the value leader for those who want the free game, while HIS is the only choice for those who want both a free game and dual DisplayPort outputs.
Yet, we can’t look past Gigabyte’s performance advantage, especially when we consider that most people don’t need a pair of DisplayPort connectors.
When it comes to Tom’s Hardware Recommended Buy award, there can be only one recipient. At $240 for either the Sapphire or Gigabyte cards, we have two potential winners, though. The tiebreakers for value seekers will be Gigabyte’s slight performance advantage or Sapphire's free game, but we know some enthusiasts insist on the fastest product.
It’s because of this division between different (but equally important) judging criteria that we introduced the Tom's Hardware Approved award, which can be bestowed on multiple deserving products able to service disparate segments. While we generally approve of most of these cards, the two products that most easily earn our recommendation are Gigabyte’s R695OC-1GD and Sapphire's dual-fan HD 6950 1GB GDDR5 PCIE.
XFX also deserves special credit for its available lifetime warranty. Although we know most serious gamers replace their cards after a couple of years anyway, anyone concerned about warranty coverage beyond three years should look to XFX, buy the XFX HD-695X-ZDFC, and then register that purchase immediately.