Mar 4 2014 - Graphics card performance has been amazing the past few years with many extremely affordable graphics cards available for those looking to PC game on the cheap. It is now even possible to get a graphics card for under $250 that can reach acceptable frame rates at resolutions as high as 2560x1600 but are still best suited for 1920x1080. Here are my selections for various graphics cards costing between $100 and $250.
Technically, the GeForce GTX 760 is really just a rework of the existing GK104 processor that was used in past 600 series cards, but the pricing has dropped and performance adjusted. The eVGA GeForce GTX 760 Superclocked offers some amazing performance that is capable of 2560x1440 in many games but offers 1920x1080 users with extreme levels of filtering while keeping the frame rates up. The card requires a single 6-pin PCI-Express power connector with a recommended 450 watt power supply as it draws 170 watts of power. It is a double wide card for the cooler and features one HDMI, one DisplayPort and two DVI connectors. Priced around $250.
©Sapphire Technology Ltd.
Pricing has crept up on the Radeon R9 graphics cards because they are often used by those looking to get into Bitcoin mining. This means that the R9 270 is the card you will typically find below the $250 price point. Performance is not as good in 3D games as the GeForce GTX 760 which means it supports less games at a higher 2560x1440 resolution but it does allow games at 1920x1080 with high detail levels and good levels of filtering enabled. Connectors include DisplayPort, HDMI and two DVI. It requires a 6-pin PCI-Express power connector and a recommended 500 watt power supply.
©MSI Computer Corp.
OK, the name of this graphics card is technically N660 Gaming 2GD5/OC but all you need to know is that this is an overclocked GeForce GTX 660 graphics processor with extra dual-fan cooling. While this is an older generation card, it still offers the best overall performance when it comes to games with its $200 price tag. It can easily achieve the 1920x1080 resolution levels with high detail levels and with some filtering enabled in games. It can even be pushed to higher 2560x1440 resolutions but detail levels will have to be dropped to keep the frame rates smooth. The card requires a single 6-pin PCI-Express power adapter with a recommended power supply wattage of 400 watts. Connectors include DisplayPort, HDMI and two DVI.
Want a graphics card that will play games at 1920x1080 resolution but have a desktop system with a low wattage power supply? Don't worry, the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti is a marvel at efficiency providing solid game play at the resolution without the need of PCI-Express power connectors. Now it is not going to be as fast as those that do require extra power but it is an impressive feat and 1920x1080 is possible in most games with good detail levels. The card is still two slots wide to fit the fan but noise is actually quite low that also make this well suited for home theater PCs. Pricing is around $170. Connectors include DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI.
©Sapphire Technology Ltd.
The Radeon R7 260X from AMD is essentially just a rebadged version of the previous 7790 graphics card. It offers the same level of features just at slightly higher clock speeds. While the card may not be as efficient as the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 cards, it still beats it out when it comes to raw performance in games. The card does a great job handling most games at the 1920x1080 resolution with high detail levels. It requires just a single 6-pin PCI-Express power connector and a 450W power supply. Connectors include VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. Priced around $140.
NVIDIA's latest graphics cards are a marvel at power efficiency. Before, it was pretty much impossible to find a graphics card capable of playing games at 1920x1080 that did not require an additional PCI-Express power connector. The GTX 750 does not require any additional power but can play most games at this resolution without a problem making it a great option for anyone with an OEM machine that lacks power connectors. Now the GTX 750 Ti should have been in this slot but the cards available on the market cost over $150 but the non-Ti versions run around $120 and still provide some good performance. The card still takes up two slots in width. Connectors include DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI.
©Sapphire Technology Ltd.
Even though there is the new R7 series cards from AMD, they are all just rebadges of the older Radeon HD 7000 cards. Prices are dropping on the existing cards and the Sapphire Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition actually offers a comparable performance to the R7 250X but often with discounts that can push it as low as $80. The card offers enough performance to play games at 1920x1080 but not at the same high detail levels in the more demanding modern ones as more expensive cards. The card requires a single 6-pin PCI-Express power connector from a 400W rated power supply. Connectors include DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
At the $100 price point, NVIDIA's options are a bit limited. The GeForce GT 640 is the highest of the 600 series cards you will find and the eVGA GeForce GT 640 2GB is a solid choice especially because of the company's Step-Up program
to allow buyers to trade in the card for an upgrade within 90-days. In terms of3D performance, don't expect a lot as it will be restricted to lower resolutions such as 1366x768 or 1280x800 for smooth frame rates. The card is a single slot design but the cooler on it would block a card in the next slot effectively making it a dual-slot card size. Connectors include two DVI and one mini-HDMI. Priced around $90.