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Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2013

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: August 2013

August brings us the slashing of prices on AMD's Radeon family at £80-and-up, with huge savings on the dual-GPU Radeon HD 7990. We talk about the impact this has on our list of recommendations and discuss possible reasons for AMD's actions.

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:

The only new card to emerge since last month's update was AMD's Radeon HD 7730. It appeared to be a potentially attractive successor to some of the company's older VLIW5-based 6000-series cards. The crippled Cape Verde LE graphics processor at the heart of Radeon HD 7730 features two render partitions capable of eight full-color ROPs per clock, an aggregate 128-bit memory interface, and six compute units totaling 384 shaders and 24 texture units. As a result, the Radeon HD 7730 is slightly faster than a Radeon HD 6670 with similar memory (DDR3 or GDDR5; both cards come in both flavors), though in certain cases the powerful GCN architecture really does exhibit an advantage over the older VLIW design.

We hoped that the GDDR5-equipped version would show up in the U.S. priced to our liking. However, only the slower derivative with DDR3 memory will make its way to our shores, and at an unsuitably high price point compared to the superior Radeon HD 7750, too. At the end of the day, the Radeon HD 7730 is most interesting as a potential look at what AMD's upcoming Kaveri APU might be able to do with fast DDR3 memory, but it isn't a discrete card we'd recommend at this time. For more information, our analysis is available in AMD Radeon HD 7730 Review: A Harbinger Of The Kaveri APU?

Speaking of the Radeon HD 7750, we're noticing cards armed with DDR3 showing up for sale online. Stay away from these! You want the memory bandwidth of GDDR5, and if you're willing to do your homework to find the best-priced Radeon HD 7750s with this more advanced technology, you won't save much money at all by stepping down to DDR3. 

With all of that said, there's little reason to consider the £75 Radeon HD 7750 anyway now that AMD's Radeon HD 7770 is going for around £80. In fact, there are huge price drops affecting the entire Radeon HD 7000-series, and this has a substantial impact on our recommendations this month. The Radeon HD 7850 2 GB is down £10 to £150, and earns a recommendation alongside the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2 GB at the same price. AMD's Radeon HD 7870 dropped to £175, and steals our endorsement away from the GeForce GTX 660. Meanwhile, the Radeon HD 7950 Boost falls to £210, where it competes against Nvidia's GeForce GTX 760.

In terms of figures, the biggest cuts hit the Radeon HD 7970, 7970 GHz Edition, and dual-GPU 7990. These make the vanilla Radeon HD 7970 an incredibly attractive £290 card, leap-frogging the £350 GeForce GTX 770 and earning a nod for high-end value. The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition remains overpriced compared to its lower-clocked, but still-overclockable sibling. As for the Radeon HD 7990, a £650 price tag is much more impressive than £800, but we need to wait for our objective and subjective results with the beta Catalyst 13.8 drivers before deciding whether to reconsider our original evaluation. By the time you read this, we will have already put on an event in Bakersfield, CA with real gamers going hands-on. The outcome should be pretty cool!

Of course, we love the big price drops. But they also make us ask: why now? We've seen a number of suggestions that AMD's next-gen products are coming soon. It's possible that a large-scale price break could precede this move.

There's a lot less to talk about from Nvidia. The biggest news is a drop on the GeForce GTX 670, but it's still too expensive compared to the newer GeForce GTX 760. We also see far fewer GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost cards for sale on Newegg than usual. Only three were available when this was written. This is a trend we're watching closely.

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 honourable 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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  • 0 Hide
    aje21 , 21 August 2013 06:49
    Hmm, I miss the "fastest card which doesn't need an auxiliary power connector" recommendation which usually went to the 7750. With the pricing of the 7770, how cheap would the 7750 need to go to make it worth slotting in between the 6670 and 7770?
  • 0 Hide
    sam_p_lay , 21 August 2013 09:07
    GTX670 for £170 on Novatech!
  • 0 Hide
    MajinCry , 21 August 2013 09:14
    £150 for a 7850? Hell, I nabbed one for £60 of Ebay. One of the 2GB cards with dual fans, too.

    Wonder when prices will come down to Earth.
  • 0 Hide
    bemused_fred , 21 August 2013 09:36
    I don't normally do this sort of thing, but I think I would be doing prospective GTX 760 and HD 7950 buyers a massive disservice if I failed to point out that you can get the GTX 670 (which is better than both) for the same price here:

    (Really hope this doesn't get me the bannhammer)
  • 0 Hide
    IIFlexxy , 22 August 2013 17:12
    7950 Windforcex3
  • 0 Hide
    ericlokness , 12 September 2013 14:07
    I am in the process of building a new desktop and wanted to build a linux based system which is also capable of gaming with steam. I am very conscious about how much energy my computer draws - I want to make a lower power, yet powerful computer. (I am aware of the contradiction) How does the Asus GTX650-E-2GD5 stack up against other more power "thirsty" graphics cards? Will I be wasting my money investing in this board? Do you have any other efficient graphics cards that you would recommend for my build?

    Proposed system:
    AMD X4 740 (four cores and 65 watts for only $80!)
    Motherboard (is there much difference in power draw between brands?)
    8GB Corsair Ballistix Memory
    Samsung 840 SSD 500GB
    Asus GTX650-E-2GD5 (only about 65 watts!)
    Rosewell 80 plus Gold PSU

    All told this system will max out at 200 watts, or so that is the estimate. Any recommendations?

    Newbie Eric :)