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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2012

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2012

After more than a month missing in action, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is finally available. We've seen a few price adjustments recently, but the real news is the rumored Radeon HD 7990, GeForce GTX 660 Ti, and GeForce GTX 650.

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.

August Updates

When AMD launched its Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition card on June 22, it claimed boards would show up the following Monday, with widespread availability 10 days later. More than a month later, we were still waiting for the first card to show up. As of right now, there are a handful of models selling on Newegg in the US. In the UK, there are quite a few models available through the likes of Dabs with the least-expensive being £340.

That compares favorably to the £370 GeForce GTX 680 (though the 680 fell out of favor shortly after £300 GeForce GTX 670s started showing up). We're glad that AMD got its Catalyst 12.7 beta driver package out to customers so quickly, but find it ridiculous that AMD even threw a 10-day figure out there.

Then again, we're sure AMD has other things on its mind, like the anticipated Radeon HD 7990. You heard us: the expected replacement for AMD's dual-GPU 6990 should upon us soon to answer Nvidia's GeForce GTX 690. We first reported on a late-August launch back in July. According to that report, the Radeon HD 7990 is thought to employ six-pin PCIe power connectors, 6 GB of GDDR5 memory, and a price tag slightly lower than Nvidia's flagship. Of course, we'll need to wait for hardware to land in our lab before confirming any of those rumors.

Nvidia is expected to launch a new product soon as well, though it's going to be a more mainstream offering. The company's Kepler architecture hasn't yet permeated into every price point. There's a big hole between the GeForce GT 640 and GeForce GTX 670. That's where the rumored GeForce GTX 660 Ti and 650 are expected to land. We've already previewed the 660 Ti's leaked specs. And, assuming they're legitimate, the card is essentially a GeForce GTX 670 with a narrower memory interface. Finally, we're also hearing talk of a GeForce GTX 650, which is expected to use the GK107 GPU in Nvidia's GeForce GT 640 coupled to faster GDDR5 memory. If the rumors prove true, both cards will go a long way in proliferating the Kepler architecture.

Speaking of the GeForce GT 640, we're disappointed to see it still selling for £80, particularly since AMD's Radeon HD 7750 easily beats it for the same price.

In other news, GeForce GTX 460s are basically gone and dual-GPU GeForce GTX 690s are a little easier to find.

As for AMD's products, the Radeon HD 7970 continues to sell for about £350, although one or two models are slightly cheaper. That's closer to where it needs to be in order to outshine the £300 GeForce GTX 670. The Radeon HD 7870 dropped a little, and can now be found for £230. Conversely, the Radeon HD 7950 and 7850 jumped a bit in price (in the U.S. market, at least).

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./UK 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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    Anonymous , 5 September 2012 03:18
    Thank you so much, this is a priceless information. Hope for a frequent update. Þ