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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: March 2013

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: March 2013

In this month's market analysis, we discuss Nvidia's new GeForce GTX Titan, PowerColor's Tahiti LE-based Radeon HD 7870, and a number of price fluctuations. If you've been holding off on an upgrade, now might be the best time to buy.

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 Updates:

A single graphics card was launched last month: Nvidia's new GeForce GTX Titan, driven by the massive GK110 processor. Up until now, GK110 was only being used in the Tesla K20X and K20 accelerators. The Titan's GPU boasts 2,688 CUDA cores, 224 texture units, and 48 ROPs. Boasting 6 GB of GDDR5 memory operating at 1,502 MHz on a 384-bit bus, you get up to 288.4 GB/s of bandwidth. The GPU itself runs at 837 MHz, but typically jumps to around 876 MHz in games that leave thermal headroom on the table. Its 250 W TDP is identical to the Radeon HD 7970. However, the Titan's performance is notably better, making it the fastest single-GPU card you can buy.

Based on its specifications alone, GeForce GTX Titan sounds like an enthusiast's dream (and in many ways, it is). But there's a catch. Nvidia wants more than £800 for the Titan. If the thing were priced at £400, £500, or even £600, it'd likely earn a well-deserved recommendation in today's list, which must take value into consideration. The card is beaten out by a pair of GeForce GTX 680s in SLI and the GeForce GTX 690, which also cost roughly the same money.

But for a grand, the Titan is a halo product for Nvidia. It's only really a serious consideration in a couple of different cases. One, if you own a mini-ITX-based machine that cannot accommodate a GeForce GTX 690, Titan's smaller size and centrifugal fan are certainly great. Two, if you're truly ballin' out of control and want to run a multi-card configuration, two Titans scale far better than a pair of 690s (which really put four GK104s together). Not that it matters right now anyway; GeForce GTX Titan is completely sold out. Nevertheless, if you want to learn more about the card, check out Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan 6 GB: GK110 On A Gaming Card and Benchmarking GeForce GTX Titan 6 GB: Fast, Quiet, Consistent.

Otherwise, the news coming from Nvidia involves price reductions. The GeForce GTX 650 Ti is down to around £130. That's better, but still high compared to the faster Radeon HD 7850 1 GB. The GeForce GTX 670 has dropped a bit in price in the U.S., making it an even more impressive deal on such a high-performance card. Finally, the GeForce GTX 680 has also dropped a bit, though it's still too pricey compared to most Radeon HD 7970s. With that said, it's almost on par with the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition now.

On the AMD side, PowerColor's HD7870 PCS+ is sold out still, and we're told that inventory won't be replenished for a while. Fortunately, PowerColor has another Tahiti LE-based card now: the AX7870 2GBD5-2DHPPV2E. Other than the small "Tahiti LE" in parentheses on Newegg's listing, there's no way to tell that this card is more powerful than the Pitcairn-equipped models, except for the 925 MHz base clock rate under its specifications.

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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    blazorthon , 22 March 2013 06:11
    Is it just me, or did a lot of comments that were even from the current article get cleared?
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    hizodge , 22 March 2013 17:26
    Is there an echo in here?