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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April 2010

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: April 2010
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Detailed graphics card specifications and reviews are great—that is, if you have the time to do the research. But at the end of the day, what a gamer needs is the best graphics card within a certain budget.

So, if you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right card, then fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best gaming cards offered for the money.

March Review and April Updates:

The end of March gave us a whole lot to talk about in the PC graphics arena.

Let's start with the obvious, the launch of Nvidia's next-generation DirectX 11 cards, GeForce GTX 470 and 480. The bottom line is that the GeForce GTX 470 performs between the Radeon HD 5850 and 5870, and the GeForce GTX 480 performs between the Radeon HD 5870 and 5970. Pricing falls appropriately, performance considered. The GeForce GTX 470 has a $350 MSRP and the GeForce GTX 480 is priced at $500 (assuming they will be available at that price when they actually hit retail in volume).

When it pulled the covers on its performance details, Nvidia claimed it'd have mass availability on April 12th. The day has come and gone, and as of this writing, cards are completely unavailable. We gave Nvidia the benefit of the doubt in our launch coverage, despite suggestions from top-tier board partners that the launch would consist of thousands of cards, rather than the tens of thousands we were hearing about. Unfortunately, the lack of cards currently suggests that there simply isn't enough supply.

Availability issues aside, these cards offer solid DirectX 11 performance, PhysX, and CUDA compatibility at a price that wiggles in between gaps in AMD's lineup. On the downside, they lack the triple-monitor capabilities of the new Radeon 5000-series cards, unless you're running a dual-card configuration, consuming a heap of power and generating copious heat.

For an in-depth look at these new GeForce cards check out our GeForce GTX 470 and 480 launch review. In the meantime, we'll be bestowing honorable mentions for these new products, since they are notable gaming boards. They simply can't be recommended given their current availability issues and more compelling pricing from AMD, though. We look forward to seeing what less-expensive derivatives of the Fermi architecture enables in the future.

From the competing camp, AMD has finally gotten around to delivering its long-expected 2GB Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition card. With six DisplayPort outputs capable of 2560x1600 each, the new Radeon is technically able to handle a whopping 7680x3200 resolution over a corresponding number of monitors. A more realistic six-display setup would probably consist of 1920x1200 panels, yielding a manageable 5760x2160 resolution, which still taxes the Eyefinity 6 Edition card to its GPU-imposed limit. We have a nice review of the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity Edition card here, and although this makes for a killer setup, it's not mainstream enough to be considered for our monthly recommendations.

As always, prices have been moving (as usual, in a nice downward direction). Particularly, the Radeon HD 5670 and GeForce 9800 GT can now be found in the $80 range, which drop-kicks the GeForce 9600 GT out of the running. We're giving the nod to the 9800 GT as the better buy simply because it's a stronger performer, but we can't ignore the Radeon as a viable option. In addition, we've seen a 512MB Radeon HD 5770 as low as $120 and the 1GB version as low as $140, delivering a fantastic price/performance value in the sub-$200 bracket.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:

  • 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.
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  • 0 Hide
    redkachina , 19 April 2010 23:13
    when will Tom's update the 2010 graphics chart?
  • 1 Hide
    ksampanna , 20 April 2010 01:55
    When an HD 5850 gives adequate fps @ full HD & is priced $50 less than the gtx 470, consumes much less power & stays cool, its foolish 2 go for the latter. Anyway, the increase in frame rate won't be noticable.
    Same goes for the HD 5870 & Gtx 480.
    Unless you are a hardcore nvidia fanboy, the ATI cards are much better ...
  • 2 Hide
    Silmarunya , 20 April 2010 02:10
    ksampannaWhen an HD 5850 gives adequate fps @ full HD & is priced $50 less than the gtx 470, consumes much less power & stays cool, its foolish 2 go for the latter. Anyway, the increase in frame rate won't be noticable.Same goes for the HD 5870 & Gtx 480. Unless you are a hardcore nvidia fanboy, the ATI cards are much better ...


    That's a fact. Although you can't make toast, heat up your coffee and game at the same time with a Radeon.
  • 2 Hide
    Ko0lHaNDLuKe , 20 April 2010 03:13
    Many thanks for writing these concise and precise guides to the latest parts. Be it CPUs, graphics cards, or whatever, you always give brilliant advice.
    And you have once again justified my decision to go for the 5850 in my latest build!
  • 3 Hide
    darkguset , 20 April 2010 18:57
    SilmarunyaThat's a fact. Although you can't make toast, heat up your coffee and game at the same time with a Radeon.


    NVIDIA's latest moto: "Bacon & eggs for the world!"
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 22 April 2010 14:50
    Silmarunya :
    That's a fact. Although you can't make toast, heat up your coffee and game at the same time with a Radeon.

    With a little cheese on it :) 
  • 0 Hide
    vernoncougar , 22 April 2010 14:51
    and the Oscar goes to : Ati Radeon Graphics Cards :) ))
  • 0 Hide
    silicondoc , 10 May 2010 01:38
    Turn AA on above 4X and the ati cards framerates CRUMBLE.
    --
    So we're supposed to silently pretend no one used 8xaa, 16xaa and 32xmsaa, because by golly, oxaa and 4xaa are the only two settings the ati cards compete with !
    ROFLMAO - IT'S WHAT THEY DON'T SAY !
    Why don't we just set up every test to make the glaring ati deficiencies hidden and not mentioned ? OH WE ALREADY HAVE THAT DONE!
    Hey fellas, fellow gamers, 8xaa, 16xaa, and 32xmsaa(for nvidia ONLY) DON'T EVEN EXIST ANYMORE AND ARE NOT TO BE MENTIONED EVER AGAIN, UNTIL OF COURSE ATI HAS SOME ADVANTAGE THERE, INSTEAD OF HAVING A PATHETIC HAMMERED AND CRUMBLING NON PLAYABLE FRAMERATE!
    Thanks so much for the massive lies and bias reviewers.
    --
    PS - the 470 is $30-$40 more than the 5850, NOT FIFTY dollars, here in the USA.
    Why make the $10 or $20 lie red fans ? WHY !
    ( oh it's absolutely clear WHY - the raging red bias is uncontrollable!)
  • 0 Hide
    silicondoc , 10 May 2010 01:44
    Think I'm kidding ? Think again, let's let Tom's tell you, and we see when they found out - 8XAA WAS SUMMARILY TOSSED OUT FOREVER!
    " All of our cards serve up what I’d consider playable performance at 1680x1050. Most interesting, perhaps, is that the GeForce GTX 480 and 470 sacrifice less of their performance in switching from 1x to 8x anti-aliasing, allowing the GeForce GTX 470 to jump in front of the Radeon HD 5870 with 8xAA enabled, even though the 5870 is faster without AA. "
    THERE YOU HAVE IT STRAIGHT FROM ONE OF THE REVIEWS -
    http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/geforce-gtx-480,review-31846-13.html
    =
    That's WHY this site only gives you 0xaa and 4xaa in the reviews on the 480/470/5850/5870/5890.
    WAKE UP !
  • 0 Hide
    silicondoc , 10 May 2010 08:40
    I can't believe it ! I checked the prices, and EVERY SINGLE ATI CARD LISTED is $10, $20, or $40 MORE when you check the prices !
    I even went to NEWEGG - you CANNOT get a 5770 for ~$125 - not even the 512 version! The single 512 version crap brand available is $145, the claimed price for the 1gig model, which is really $165 !
    In EVERY CASE the ati listed as the WINNER 11 ati vs 6 nvidia, is AT LEAST QUOTED as $10 CHEAPER than it's lowest available internet price!
    ---
    That's NOT coincidence,
    IT'S BLATANT BIAS!
  • 0 Hide
    silicondoc , 10 May 2010 08:53
    ksampannaWhen an HD 5850 gives adequate fps @ full HD & is priced $50 less than the gtx 470, consumes much less power & stays cool, its foolish 2 go for the latter. Anyway, the increase in frame rate won't be noticable.Same goes for the HD 5870 & Gtx 480. Unless you are a hardcore nvidia fanboy, the ATI cards are much better ...


    Yes, if you keep your settings at 0xAA , or 4xAA, no AF, certainly not 16xAF, then make certain tesselation is not on high, that the game doesn't offer PhysX, and now. not Cuda water texturing, nor Bokeh filtering, then, yes, the ati 5850 is "adequate", just forget about the GSOD issues, the VRM downclocking, and TERRIBLE in comparison minimum framerates that make for YOUR death in FPS shooters.
    Yer right, why would I spend MSRP $349 for the GTX470 that includes the ray tracing studio car app, has cuda, PhysX, special water texturing, higher minimum framerates in every game with no bogging, no microstuttering like ATI has issues with, no GSOD, a great NV control panel with preset gaming modes easily accessible, a better video manipulation core, when I could spend at best, $30-$40 less for the $309.99 ati/ 5850 that lacks all those features, framerates, minimum framerates, specialized additions, and stable drivers to boot ?
    Golly, getting a 5850 IS A NO BRAIN ERR.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 June 2011 05:15
    I used to refer to this chart all the time - any chance of updating it please?