Apr 25 2013 - 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 1920x1200. Here are my selections for various graphics cards costing between $100 and $250.
Unfortunately, there isn't a huge performance difference between NVIDIA cards at $250 and $200. This is because it uses the same GTX 600 graphics chip just with extra memory and higher clock speeds. The eVGA Superclocked+ pushes those clock speeds quite high such that it can run games at 1920x1080 with ultra detail levels and filters. It can push some games up to 2560x1440 but will need to turn down detail levels and filters. The card still only requires a single 6-pin PCI-Express power connector with a recommended 450 watt power supply. It is a double wide card for the cooler and features one HDMI, one DisplayPort and two DVI connectors. Priced around $250.
It has been over two years since AMD first introduced the Radeon HD 7870 graphics processor and it still is the companies mainstream chip albeit with a slightly improved clock rates from the GHz editions. The fact that this two year old processor can still push games at the most common 1920x1080 resolution with high detail levels and smooth frame rates is a testament to its capabilities. The big downside is that it isn't as efficient as newer NVIDIA graphics cards as it requires two 6-pin PCI-Express graphics connectors and a 500 watt power supply recommended. The double wide can does feature two fans for improved cooling of this overclocked edition. Video connectors include DisplayPort, HDMI and two DVI. Priced around $240.
While NVIDIA has release a new very expensive and some lower end graphics processor, the mid range hasn't changed much other than some slight price decreases. The GeForce GTX 660 anchors their mid range product lineup. The card provides solid 3D performance for modern games at the 1920x1080 resolution of most monitors with high detail levels with filtering enabled. The card is a bit longer but still fits in most cases and is a double wide card. It is rather efficient needing only a single 6-pin PCI-Express power graphics connector and a recommended 500 watt power supply. It features one HDMI, one DisplayPort and two DVI ports. Priced around $200.
The Radeon HD 7850 is one of the oldest of AMD's 7000 series graphics processors but it still provides some solid gaming performance. The Sapphire version here has a slight overclock with a special two fan cooling design. It should be able to play all modern games at 1920x1080 resolutions with high detail levels but some games may not allow extra filtering. The card is a double wide design that requires two 6-pin PCI-Express power connectors with a recommended 500 watt power supply. Video connectors include one HDMI, one DisplayPort and two DVI. Priced around $200.
NVIDIA's latest low cost video chip is the GeForce GTX 650 Ti. This is specifically released to help fend off AMD's latest card and it does a surprisingly excellent job running many games at 1920x1080 resolutions most with high detail levels even with its 1GB of memory. The card is surprisingly efficient too only requiring a single 6-pin PCI-Express power connector and a suggested 450 watt power supply. The card is double wide in size and features two DVI, one DisplayPort and one HDMI power. Priced at $150.
AMD's new Radeon HD 7790 was meant to fill a gap in their pricing structure between the previous 7770 GHz and the 7850 graphics cards. This did the job just find but NVIDIA's quick release of the GTX 650 Ti Boost meant some quick price drops as it just doesn't offer the same level of performance. It can still reach 1920x1080 for many games but generally at slightly reduced quality levels. The HIS is slightly overclocked but it isn't a huge performance gain over the standard version. The card is double wide and features one DisplayPort, one HDMI and two DVI graphics ports. The card does require a single 6-pin PCI-Express graphics power connector with a recommended 500 watt power supply. Priced around $145.
AMD's 7000 series has been on the market for a long time now and the Radeon HD 7750 isn't a particularly new card anymore but it is very affordable. It may not be able to do 1920x1080 on many games but it does offer smooth gameplay for many at 1600x900. Filters are not something to really consider at this level. The card is double wide but relatively short meaning it fits fairly easy on tight space cases. Power requirements are still around 400 but you can probably get by on less as long as it does not require any specific PCI-Express power connectors. It features one HDMI, one DisplayPort and one DVI connector. Priced around $95.
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 black 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.