Adding Discrete Graphics
A Lot More Performance for a Little More Money
Spending an extra $50 to $100 gets you a lot of additional graphics muscle, making it easier to game at higher resolutions and using more attractive settings. A Radeon HD 6670 with GDDR3 memory sells for as little as $70 or so. We consider this to be the lowest-end card worth buying. Anything less is going to be barely (if at all) faster than the integrated engines found in AMD's APUs.
As for the highest-end solution we'd recommend to go with these processors, let's draw the line at a Radeon HD 7750, 6790, or GeForce GTX 550 Ti. Anything higher is probably going to be CPU-limited in most games.
Also, don’t forget about older graphics cards like AMD's Radeon HD 4870 and 4890, or Nvidia's GeForce GTX 260, 9600 GT, and GTS 450. Those models are often available inexpensively on the secondary market. Or, you can cannibalize an unused system sitting in a box somewhere. As entry-level solutions, each model can hold its own in today's games, so long as you have a power supply able to support formerly fairly high-end hardware.
We used both old and new graphics cards for the following benchmarks. Old against new should yield an interesting comparison.