Tom's Graphics Card Guide: 32 Mid-Range Cards Benchmarked

Conclusion And Recommendations


For most folks, it's not necessary to spend more than $200 to get a graphics card that performs admirably. None of the cards we tested deserve our highest Best of Tom's award, nor does one stand out for a Recommended Buy honor. Rather, we want to pick three winners from the long list of boards we tested in several different categories to receive our Tom's Hardware Approved nod.

The results from our benchmarks prove that the market for graphics cards is over-saturated and that the cheapest cards are hardly worth more than the materials of which they're made. At the low end of the scale, the GeForce GTX 550 Ti does not convince us at the current pricing. The cheapest models are still too expensive to justify a purchase, while the Radeon HD 6790 offers decent performance for similar money. The GeForce GTX 560 (without the Ti suffix) doesn't stand a chance against the Ti version. Here, too, the price is simply too high.

In terms of performance, the GeForce cards are generally ahead of the Radeons, but they are also more expensive and handicapped by higher power consumption. This has a negative impact on their efficiency. There is also room for improvement when it comes to performance per watt.   

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Efficiency Winner (Gaming Performance/Watt)
1.MSI Radeon HD 6870 TwinFrozr II

These three cards receive our Approved badge for their outstanding graphics performance in relation to power consumption.2.MSI Radeon HD 6850Cyclone Power Edition

3.HIS Radeon HD 6850

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Gaming Performance Winners (Gamer Index)
1.Point of ViewGTX 560 Ti Beast

 The winners receive this Approved badge for their overall gaming performance, regardless of power consumption and noise-level.2.MSI GTX 560 Ti HawkTwinFrozr III

3.Colorful iGameGTX 560 Ti

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Low-Noise Winners (under load)
1.MSI Radeon HD 6870 TwinFrozr II

The Approved badge is granted to the three cards with the lowest noise level under full load, regardless of power consumption and performanceIf noise level under load were put in relation to gaming performance, positions 1-3 would be reversed.2.Gainward GTX 560 Ti Phantom

3.Point of ViewGTX 560 Ti Beast

  • yukijin
    This confirms that the 560 ti belongs in TH best graphics cards for the money ( they werent recommomended the past 2 months)
  • Inf3rn0_44
    560ti is an amazing card for the money
  • KrazerSK
    arent the 6950s in this price range also? there are 2gb ones going for $250
  • whysobluepandabear
    You have a 560 Ti eVGA Superclock for $215~ after rebate on Newegg. Then you have the 6870 from a few various brands for about $169~ after rebate.

    Is the TI worth another 40+ dollars?
  • dco
    In every benchmark its the souped up overclocked versions of the GTX 560 Ti that are on top.

    The standard Geforce GTX 560 Ti is still getting beaten by the standard Radeon 6950
  • SteelCity1981
    The GeForce GTX 550Ti wiould be a bargin if nvidia put the price below 100 dollars in which it should be considering it's performance doesn't justify the extra 30 or 40 dollars.
  • Zero_
    Yup, considering its performance, the GTX550Ti should have replaced the GTS450 price point, which was $110. Since the GTX550Ti was included here, I would have liked to see where the cheaper HD5770/6770 would have placed, probably higher than the GTX550Ti.

    Also, can you guys do a story on how some classic cards match up to modern games? Stuff like 8800GTX's and 2900XT's which used to cost an arm and leg back in the day. Would be cool to see how the fare today.
  • fictionforthetame
    No aftermarket 6950? Those 560ti cards that are topping the benchmarks are a good $40-$60 more expensive than a stock 6950 here in Oz. I think you should have included an OC'd 6950 (like the Gigabyte) which is still $20 cheaper than those ti's to make this a bit more interesting.
  • Lobodomy
    Gah, just as I was about to go to bed an interesting review come out... I'll keep it open to read first thing in the morning!
  • scrumworks
    Geforces dominate benchmarks because we have used 10 variants of overclocked 560Ti cards against stock clocked few Radeons (6950) here and there. And also, we don't show which drivers and control panel settings we have used because that would reveal our trickery. Why is Tom always hating AMD/ATI?