Apr 26 2013 - Graphics cards are the most competitive component in the PC market now. All of these cards now support Direct X 11 and can provide some spectacular levels of performance at high resolutions. Most cards still utilize a single graphics core but some feature more than one core for single slot solutions when CrossFire or SLI multiple card configurations aren't an option. Here are some of my selections for the best performance graphics cards currently available.
NVIDIA's latest graphics card was really developed for non-graphics purposes in massive computing centers but has been adapted for use in desktop PCs. The new design focuses on efficiency which has resulted in a card that is smaller than the massive GTX 690 and uses less power but still can provide some very solid performance. In fact, the card has no trouble running a single 2560x1600 display with the highest graphics settings in the most modern games with no problem. Running multiple displays on the card is also quite effective thanks to the 6GB of video memory. Even being more efficient, the card still requires a 6-pin and 8-pin PCI-Express power connector from a minimum 600 watt power supply. Video connectors include one Displayport, one HDMI and two DVI. Priced around $1000.
In many cases, the GeForce GTX 690 which is essential a pair of GTX 680 graphics cores that are run via an internal SLI mechanism, is faster than the new TITAN graphics card. The problem is that it is larger and more power hungry that makes it much less easy to put into a computer system than the newer card. At $999, it is virtually the same price at the Titan as well. The question though is really how much performance do you need. The card can easily handle the 2560x1600 resolution of the largest monitors with modern games at their ultimate settings and detail levels just as the TITAN can. The big difference here is that it does a better job at handling games that can use PhysX as one of the two cores can be dedicated to that while the other handles the graphics. This card is a beast requiring two 8-pin PCI-Express power connectors and a 650 watt power supply minimum. For video connectors, there is a single mini-DisplayPort and three DVI.
There are certainly single core graphics cards priced over $500 but the performance gains are not that much beyond what you can get at $500. The NVIDIA Kepler graphics core at the heart of the GeForce GTX 680 makes some significant changes which greatly improve efficiency such that the card only needs two 6-pin PCI-Express power supply and a recommended 550W power supply. eVGA s Superclocked+ version offers some of the highest clock speeds available for the core and their Step-Up program is also nice in case a newer card is released within 90-days of purchase. It should be able to run a 2560x1600 resolution display at ultra high detail levels with filtering enabled on all modern games. Connectors include two DVI, one DisplayPort and one HDMI. Pricing is roughly $500.
The Radeon HD 7970 had a great head start when it came to performance thanks to NVIDIA's delays but that lead was not going to last. While the card may be starting to age a bit, it still offers some solid overall performance that is plenty for even diehard gamers. XFX was one of the first with a custom cooling solution with the Double D that allowed for improved cooling and faster clock speeds that reached 1GHz. Gaming up to 2560x1440 is no problem even with modern games and with filters enabled. Power requirements are high but not unreasonable at just a 500W power supply with an 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-Express power connector. It features two mini-DisplayPorts, one HDMI, and one DVI connector. Priced around $450.
Prices have not dropped as much on the GeForce GTX 670 which leaves the GTX 660 Ti still as the best option for under $350. Of the cards available, the eVGA FTW version offers one of the highest base clock rates that provides it with some superb performance that is nearly on-par with the GTX 670. Gaming at the 2550x1440 resolution should not be a problem but don't expect as much filtering as the more expensive cards on the most demanding games. The card requires two 6-pin PCI-Express power connectors and a minimum 450 watt power supply. Video connectors include HDMI, DisplayPort and two DVI. Priced around $325.
AMD's Radeon HD 7950 may not be their top of the line graphics processor but it does offer some solid performance. The Sapphire Vapor-X version of the card offers a few enhancements that make it an improved version. First, it uses a custom two fan cooling solution that provides a cooler and quieter card compared to the typical design. This also helps Sapphire provide it with a slightly overclocked setup that gives it a bit more performance. Gaming up to 2560x1440 is possible in many games and the 3GB memory setup helps it even use filters in many at this resolution. Power supply requirements are fairly high with a 500 watt model that has two 8-pin PCI-Express power connections. It features one DisplayPort, one HDMI and two DVI connectors. Priced around $330.