The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Choosing a graphics cards is a confusing endeavor. So Tom's Hardware shared their buying results after testing pretty much every card on the planet. Whether you've got $50 to spend or $250 to spend, this list will come in handy:

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

  • This list is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don't play games, then the cards on this list are more expensive than what you really need. We've added a reference page at the end of the column covering integrated graphics processors, which is likely more apropos.
  • The criteria to get on this list are strictly price/performance. We acknowledge that recommendations for multiple video cards, such as two Radeon cards in CrossFire mode or two GeForce cards in SLI, typically require a motherboard that supports CrossFire or SLI and a chassis with more space to install multiple graphics cards. They also require a beefier power supply compared to what a single card needs, and will almost certainly produce more heat than a single card. Keep these factors in mind when making your purchasing decision. In most cases, if we have recommended a multiple-card solution, we try to recommend a single-card honorable mention at a comparable price point for those who find multi-card setups undesirable.
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. We can't base our decisions on always-changing pricing information, but we can list some good cards that you probably won't regret buying at the price ranges we suggest, along with real-time prices from our PriceGrabber engine, for your reference.
  • 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 represent a good deal, but it's outside the scope of what we're trying to do.

Best PCIe Card: $90 and under

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For Under $50:
Radeon HD 4650 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Great 1280x1024 performance in most games, 1680x1050 with lowered detail

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

You will not find a card that packs more punch than ATI's Radeon HD 4650 at the alluring $50 price point. With solid stock performance and an overclockable GPU, this card is an excellent starting point for our list of recommendations, and a wholly worthwhile upgrade if you're currently stuck using a motherboard limited to integrated graphics.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For ~$70:
Radeon HD 5570 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Great 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in many games with lowered detail

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

At $70, the Radeon HD 5570 can take a recommendation for being a solid performer at a relatively low price, and won't disappoint folks who don't want to upgrade their power supply to accommodate a more powerful graphics card.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For ~$80:
GeForce 9600 GT (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Great 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

The GeForce 9600 GT is still a great entry-level performer, thanks in part to its high-end 256-bit memory interface and speedy DDR3 memory. It's a solid choice on an $80 budget, even if the architecture on which it centers is showing its age.

While the GeForce GT 240 is beginning to encroach on this card's price territory, the 9600 GT remains a bit faster than even the GDDR5 version of the newer card, and its recommendation remains secure for the time being. While fluctuating GeForce 9800 GT prices have edged out the GeForce 9600 GT last month, that card can no longer be found for $80 at the time of writing, allowing the GeForce 9600 GT to retain it's former recommendation.


Best PCIe Card: ~$100 To $190

Best PCIe Card For ~$100: Tie
Radeon HD 4850 512 MB (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

The Radeon HD 4850 can still be found at the ~$100 price point after a brief hiatus, and while we keep waiting for availability to dry up in the face of Radeon HD 5000-series successors, we hope it lasts. Then again, the Radeon HD 4850 and GeForce GTS 250 seem determined to stay on the market for as long as possible.

GeForce GTS 250 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

As fast as the Radeon HD 4850 is, the GeForce GTS 250 remains a viable option with similar gaming performance. With an eye to the future, your choice between these $100 cards probably relies more on whether or not your motherboard is CrossFire- or SLI-compatible.

Best PCIe Card For ~$125:
Radeon HD 5750 1 GB (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

The price of the 1 GB Radeon HD 5750 is quite low, and this month, it's enough to take the recommendation from the 1 GB versions of the Radeon HD 4850 and GeForce GTS 250.

Although it costs a few dollars more, the 5750 is more appealing due to its DirectX 11 hardware capabilities. There are other benefits too, such as Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreaming and Eyefinity triple-display output support, making this card an easy $125 choice on all fronts.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5750 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$155:
Radeon HD 5770 1GB (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Great 1920x1200 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

While AMD's new Radeon HD 5770 isn't any faster than the older Radeon HD 4870 (we've found that it's even slightly slower in many instances), it does have something the Radeon HD 4870 doesn't have: full DirectX 11 and Eyefinity support. Indeed, while the Radeon HD 5770 doesn't run away with any performance crowns in this category, it does look good from a longevity/value standpoint.

Perhaps more importantly, at the $155 price point, there is nothing to compete against this card now that the Radeon HD 4870 is at the end of its effective life. Nvidia's claims that its GeForce GTX 260 remains the last GT200-based card in its lineup, but supply is definitely not what it used to be (nor is the card's price tag, which hovers around $200 now).

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5770 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.


Best PCIe Card: ~$200 To $275

Best PCIe Card For ~$220:
Radeon HD 5830 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Great 1920x1200 performance, 2560x1600 in most games with lowered detail

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

The new Radeon HD 5830 delivers Radeon HD 4890-class performance for $220, but includes all of the Radeon HD 5000-series value-adds to go with it. With the scant availability of the Radeon HD 4890 and disappearance of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 275 from the market, AMD's Radeon HD 5830 is the only single card left standing at this price point. Now that it can be found as low as $220 online ($199 with rebates), we can give it a proper recommendation, although we don't think buyers should pay any more than that with the vastly superior Radeon HD 5850 at $290.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5830 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$250:
2 x Radeon HD 5750 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Dual Radeon HD 5750s in CrossFire make for a much more powerful option than a single Radeon HD 5830, if the buyer is willing to pay the extra money required for a CrossFire motherboard and a beefier power supply.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5750 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.


Best PCIe Card: $280 to $400

Best PCIe Card For ~$290:
Radeon HD 5850 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Fortunately for value-seekers, the Radeon HD 5850 recently dropped back under the $300 price point. Despite competition from Nvidia's $350 GeForce GTX 470, the Radeon HD 5850 remains a superb performer for the money. It doesn't require a CrossFire-compatible motherboard, it sips power at idle, and the card sports DirectX 11 and Eyefinity capabilities. If sub-$300 price tags fit your budget, the Radeon HD 5850 is an obvious recommendation.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$310: None
Honorable Mention: 2 x Radeon HD 5770 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

A pair of Radeon HD 5770s in CrossFire is a very effective high-end configuration for the dollar, often besting even the Radeon HD 5850 on the performance front. The extra expense required by CrossFire manifested in high-end motherboards and power supplies prevents a clean recommendation, but this setup remains a viable option.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5770 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$350: None
Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 470 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Along with the GeForce GTX 480 flagship, the GeForce GTX 470 is one of Nvidia's next-generation DirectX 11 cards, which performs between the Radeon HD 5850 and Radeon HD 5870, on average. Quite often it seems that the 470 performs more closely to the Radeon HD 5850, but in some cases, the GTX 470 really stands out.

Because of this, it's hard to give the GeForce GTX 470 a solid recommendation compared to the cheaper Radeon HD 5850. But its solid performance, coupled with PhysX, 3D Vision, and CUDA capabilities, can certainly make the GeForce GTX 470 an attractive buy for the gamer who values its strengths.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 470 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$400: None
Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5870 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

For $100 less than the price of this card, a couple of Radeon HD 5770s (or a single Radeon HD 5850) can easily deliver exceptional performance in the games that matter today. From a raw price/performance standpoint, this makes the Radeon HD 5870 a hard sell. But that is not to say this card is underpowered: it is the fastest single-GPU Radeon option available, sporting relatively low power usage (remarkably low at idle), and the hardware prowess needed to accelerate DirectX 11-based games. For folks without a motherboard that supports CrossFire and a hefty power supply, the new Radeon HD 5870 is definitely a more-than-viable option.

For those thinking at the other end of the performance spectrum, a pair of Radeon HD 5870s in CrossFire also make this an attractive card.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5870 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.


Best PCIe Card: Over $400

Best PCIe Card For ~$440:
Two Radeon HD 5830 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Two Radeon HD 5830 cards in CrossFire will beat out a single Radeon HD 5870, just like a dual Radeon HD 4890 setup does. But the newer Radeon HD 5830 cards offer all the DirectX 11 and Eyefinity goodies, too.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture

Best PCIe Card For ~$500: None
Honorable Mention: GeForce GTX 480 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Good 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Nvidia is a competitive company. And while the Radeon HD 5970 maintains its title of fastest video card in the world, Nvidia has reclaimed the honor of selling the fastest single-GPU graphics card. This is, of course, the GeForce GTX 480, which performs notably faster than the Radeon HD 5870, on average.

It's hard to justify the $100 price premium over AMD's Radeon HD 5870, but it's pretty easy to justify a $200 savings compared to the Radeon HD 5970, so I suppose the card is positioned correctly—assuming cards continue selling at MSRP (many are going for as much as $100 more). For buyers who value the GeForce GTX 480's value-added features like PhysX, 3D Vision, and CUDA, the card is a viable buy. But raw GeForce GTX 480 game performance is often close to the $100 cheaper Radeon HD 5870, so the GeForce gets an honorable mention.

Read our full review of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 for more information on the card and its underlying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$580:
Two Radeon HD 5850 in CrossFire Configuration (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1920x1200 performance, Great 2560x1600 performance in most games

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Two Radeon HD 5850 cards in CrossFire are a force, to be sure, with power almost equaling a single Radeon HD 5970 for $120 less, coupled with abundant availability. This configuration has become the de facto standard setup for folks who want serious power from a high-end machine.

Read our full review of AMD's Radeon HD 5850 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.

Best PCIe Card For ~$700: None
Honorable Mention: Radeon HD 5970 (Check Prices)

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

Great 2560x1600 performance

The Best Graphics Cards at Every PriceS

3,200 shader processors. There isn't much more we need to say about the brutal rendering muscle that characterizes the world's fastest graphics card, the Radeon HD 5970. With two Radeon HD 5870 GPUs onboard, the only things we can complain about are scant availability and an extremely high price tag. Availability has improved over time; the price not so much. But if you're in the market for this card, price probably isn't an issue.

Read our full review of ATI's Radeon HD 5970 for more information on the card and its accompanying architecture.


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 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!