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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Best Video Cards For The Money: Nov '08
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What About This Other Card That’s Not On The List? How Do I Know If It’s A Good Deal?

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. The first is the graphics card hierarchy chart, which groups graphics cards with similar overall performance 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 and integrated chipsets to the hierarchy chart. I want to make it clear that there is very little performance data available for these graphic solutions. While the discrete video chipsets on the chart are placed in tiers based on a lot of information, many of the laptop chipset positions on 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 graphic chipsets.

GRAPHICS CARD HIERARCHY CHART
GeForce Radeon
4870 X2
GTX 280
9800 GX2, GTX 260 4870
8800 GTX, 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+ 3870 X2, 4850
8800 GT 512MB, 8800 GTS 512MB, 9800 GT 4830
8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT HD 2900 XT, 3870
8800 GS, 9600 GSO 3850 512MB, 4670
8800 GT 256MB, 8800 GTS 320MB, GO 8800M HD 2900 PRO, 3850 256MB, 4650
7950 GX2 X1950 XTX
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
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, 3650 (DDR3), 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, 3650 (DDR2)
6800 GS (AGP), Go 6800 Ultra, Go 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT X800 GTO 256mb, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT, Mobility HD 2600
6800, Go 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, Go 7700, 8600M GS X800, X800 GTO 128mb, 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, 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
FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT, Go 6600, Go 7600 (64-bit), Go 8600M GS 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, 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 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 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 ATI Rage 128

Summary

There you have it folks: the best cards for the money this month. Now all that’s left is to find and purchase them, and we leave that part up to you. The best prices will almost certainly be found online, but sometimes large retail outlets might surprise you with a good sale.

Don’t worry too much about which brand you choose, because all of the cards out there stick pretty close to the reference designs by Nvidia and AMD. 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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  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 10 November 2008 14:57
    Quote:
    Other than that, we keep hearing rumors of an upcoming Radeon HD 4850 X2 card, although we haven’t seen any yet. We’ll keep our fingers crossed as we march forward into the holiday season.


    Sapphire have one:
    http://www.custompc.co.uk/reviews/605133/sapphire-radeon-hd-4850-x2.html
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 10 November 2008 17:29
    HD 4870 for $230!!!.. You having a laugh?. These have skyrocketed in the last month or so and you are not likely to find one for less than $320+..or £170 in .co.uk money..

    Would be nice if you linked the prices you are quoting and used the currency relevant to the audience.

  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 10 November 2008 17:30
    HD 4870 for $230!!!.. You having a laugh?. These have skyrocketed in the last month or so and you are not likely to find one for less than $320+..or £170 in .co.uk money..

    Would be nice if you linked the prices you are quoting and used the currency relevant to the audience.
  • 0 Hide
    Dark Hunter , 10 November 2008 17:50
    milesukHD 4870 for $230!!!.. You having a laugh?. These have skyrocketed in the last month or so and you are not likely to find one for less than $320+..or £170 in .co.uk money..Would be nice if you linked the prices you are quoting and used the currency relevant to the audience.


    I just paid £158 on Amazon for a Sapphire 4870, which equates to about $250 just a little higher than mentioned here, i dare say i could of got it even cheaper if i was prepared o shop around. They are still very inexpensive compared to the Nvidia offerings. Anybody want a factory overclocked 3870 by any chance :D 
  • 0 Hide
    ubertiger , 10 November 2008 18:12
    The 4870 is available for $230 (£145) AFTER mail in rebates (which we don't really get in the UK) on newegg.com
    Cheapest price on there for it straight up without fannying about with mail in rebates is $250 shipped (£158)
    It's difficult to get a 4870 for less than £160 shipped brand new in the UK but Aria currently has an overclocked one for £165 + shipping.
  • 0 Hide
    t0p5ecret , 11 November 2008 06:33
    I can get one in Aus no problems for 323 which is 216 US
  • 0 Hide
    slvr1969 , 13 November 2008 15:44
    Quote:
    I just paid £158 on Amazon for a Sapphire 4870, which equates to about $250 just a little higher than mentioned here, i dare say i could of got it even cheaper if i was prepared o shop around. They are still very inexpensive compared to the Nvidia offerings. Anybody want a factory overclocked 3870 by any chance
    For how much?
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 14 November 2008 01:25
    The 4830 and the 4870 remain virtual non-runners in the UK and Ireland due to massively inflated prices; etailer stocks look like the culprit (STILL trying to shift huge reserves of modified 3850/70s and modded nVidia cards up to 2 years old! €120 OCd 8600GT anyone? Thought not!) Indeed, most Irish etailers have as little as €10 difference between 4830 and 4850. Guess which one is selling... and which isn't.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 15 November 2008 21:44
    Is the Tom's Hardware staff aware that ATI makes a 4870 1GB version? I see no mention or reviews of it.