Best Mainstream and High-end Graphics Cards

By on January 4, 2013, 10:56 PM
We take pride in bringing you the latest coverage in graphics cards when new products are announced as well providing an extra outlook with game-specific GPU performance reviews. However, with an ever-changing scenario, it can be hard to keep up with the pace of things. For that reason, we published a digested version of our recommended budget and mid-range graphics cards last February. In addition to listing our top picks (which all happened to be ATI-based boards at the time), we created a second column of the closest Nvidia offering, providing a quick and simple reference for anyone looking to upgrade their video card.
While there are many fantastic solutions for gamers on a budget, anyone who's serious about fortifying their machine for the pending release of Crysis 2 is probably looking for something a bit more robust. For that reason, we've decided to expand on the previous article, focusing on today's enthusiast-oriented GPUs, scaling from $200 upward. Read the complete article.




User Comments: 26

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dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Seem like solid choices, although with AMD and nvidia staggering their price/performance parts to some extent, competition doesn't seem overly cut-throat at the present time.

Personally I'll look to upgrade to a GTX 460 1Gb SLI setup, while my GTX 280's and waterblocks still retain some value in the "pre-loved" market. My secondary system already has current gen AMD graphics so no big cash outlays until I see how the next generation shakes out.

The value of the upper echelon ($800+) multi-gpu probably are OTT for single monitor gaming, but if you're going Eyefinity or 3D Surround....then yeah, they look gooooooooood

Puiu Puiu said:

Until i see some benchmark for Crysis 2 i won't buy anything new. Also the second gen (aka "tweaked" card that AMD wants to release this year look tasty.

princeton princeton said:

I won't be upgrading for crysis 2. I won't even BUY the game. Their "move" to consoles because of piracy is going to cause more piracy than ever in the PC community. The same thing happened to IW. But I will probably move to a GTX 460 from my 260.

Cueto_99 said:

It's really difficult for me to move out of three 4830's in crossfireX, they deliver amazing performance and I bet they can take Crysis 2 with ease...Maybe when Direct X11 becomes the standard as it is Direct X10 right now, I'll make my move.

Royalgok said:

I won't be upgrading for a while because I bought an XFX Radeon 5850 last April and I couldn't be more satisfied, although I must say DirectX 11 gamer are rather thin on the ground at the moment. I expect Crysis 2 will work fine for me.

@princeton Crytek's move to consoles causes more PC piracy? How so?

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

I'm already thinking of adding a 5870 to my current rig - but I'll wait for the numbers to show up about Crysis 2 and FFXIV. NDA is way too tight on FFXIV so it's hard to see how well it actually performs and the benchmarking app is no good for my testing.

Having just recently finished Crysis playing at 1920x1200 w/4x AA and a silky 60 fps I've gotta say that I'm really excited about Crysis 2. Not focusing on performance issues with Crysis really made it much more enjoyable for me and I even liked the storyline since I was able to pay a lot more attention to it. The only issue I had was with a memory leak on the next to last boss in DX10 - had to kill that boss in DX9 and then switch back to 10 for the last guy.

Guest said:

I have 4870X2, I don't see anything (in the near future), that would make me want to upgrade. It will be AT LEAST a year (and maybe more), until we see anything that would really NEED DX11. As PC's are no longer the dominant market, the importance of DX10 -> parts is nearly non-existent. Everything is designed for 360/PS3 in mind, everything is more or less lousy ports, that work badly on PC's as the testing, which PC games really need because of different configurations, is mainly omitted. Sad, but true.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Next month I'm going with a SLI GTX 460 setup. Can't wait to see what kind of benchmarks I get with those!

princeton princeton said:

royalgok said:

I won't be upgrading for a while because I bought an XFX Radeon 5850 last April and I couldn't be more satisfied, although I must say DirectX 11 gamer are rather thin on the ground at the moment. I expect Crysis 2 will work fine for me.

@princeton Crytek's move to consoles causes more PC piracy? How so?

A game with a dumbed down setting(new york) to accommodate console hardware,low viewdistances(skyscrapers will be used to render less by blocking) and it isn't a fully sandbox game. When you see in their trailer a car get thrown that is definitely placed to hit an object it makes you wonder if Crytek has forgotton what sanbox really means. Do you think that's going to make people want to buy the game? No.

Wagan8r Wagan8r said:

I plan to upgrade my GTX 260 to a 1GB GTX 460 as soon as Newegg has any EVGA or XFX cards in stock. I'll be happy to finally play Crysis at 1920x1200 on max settings instead of at 1280x800. Later on, I'll pop in another one for some sweet SLI + Physx 3 GPU combo.

For all of you saying that DX11 is irrelevant, you need to rethink your position. The adoption rate of DX11 is leaps and bounds ahead of the adoption rate of DX10. There are a lot of developers who are going to skip straight to DX11 from DX9. There are also quite a few games that use DX11 features right now. Battlefield: Bad Company 2, BattleForge, Just Cause 2, Dirt 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Metro 2033, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, and when released, Crysis 2, Civilization V, and Medal of Honor.

The consoles have another 3-5 years in their lifespans. As the consoles continue to stagnate and limit video games, developers will have to find an outlet to push technology forward, and the only place they can do that is on the PC.

tractorphil said:

My HD 5870 will hold me over for a while. Just came from 3870x2 and if things slow down too much I'll add another 5870 to keep me going but I perceive that will take a while for that to happen.

Guest said:

Right, I'll do this too, I think waiting for benchmarks is far better than buying a card specifically to play a game without knowing if it can max it out! I'm actually running on two 5700 series ATI cards in crossfire with my core i7 and they can max out crysis at 720p using 4x AA on DX10, but I'd like to play crysis2 on 1080p all maxed out, AA is not important, so I think a single gtx470/gtx480 will do the trick at 40+ fps, since crytek said that crysis2 will require less system sources than crysis, but I'll not like to waste money, if my ATIs can make this game to run at 1080p with no AA but maxed out than it will be ok!

Guest said:

I'm waiting until there are more 1G versions of the GTX 460, maybe an EVGA model. I'm running 2 Asus 9800GT Ultimates in SLI right now and have been pleased with the performance, but for DX11 I'll need a GTX 460 at least. I'm not waiting for Crysis 2 (I could care less). Besides more 1G versions I'm looking for some rebates, but that wont happen until we get closer to the holidays. So I'm going to wait a few more months, after all it'll only help my wallet not hurt it.

Guest said:

Do all Fermi cards scale better with SLI than crossfire? Have their been any tests on the 460?

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

It's been said and reported by many sites that SLI scales way better than Crossfire. The averages I've seen are around 90% performance increase for SLI and around 50-75% for Crossfire.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

We tested SLI vs. Crossfire in-house just a few weeks ago, and yes SLI scaled way better.

Royalgok said:

princeton said:

A game with a dumbed down setting(new york) to accommodate console hardware,low viewdistances(skyscrapers will be used to render less by blocking) and it isn't a fully sandbox game. When you see in their trailer a car get thrown that is definitely placed to hit an object it makes you wonder if Crytek has forgotton what sanbox really means. Do you think that's going to make people want to buy the game? No.

Sorry for being off-topic.

Crysis 2 is going to appeal to the same fan base who bought Crysis and Crysis: Warhead. As you probably know, PC gamers are snobbish toward console gamers. So they will tend to buy the PC version rather than the console version (or pirate the PC version).

When the hype machine runs at full tilt, do you think people will concentrate on things like lesser freedom? They will put graphics and gameplay first and definitely queue up to buy the game. So I don't really think opening up Crysis 2 to the consoles is going to have much of an impact on the PC version sales.

Julio said:

We tested SLI vs. Crossfire in-house just a few weeks ago, and yes SLI scaled way better.

Tesselation is an obvious reason. Do you think it's because of ATi's drivers as well? I'm looking to go Crossfire in the near future and I don't see myself buying a Fermi because I already have an HD 5850.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Tesselation is an obvious reason.

It adds to the scaling difference it is nowhere near the main reason. Here's a review including benchmarks of around ten games that don't feature tessellation. Crossfire still scales to a lesser degree

Do you think it's because of ATi's drivers as well?

Given that single card performance between AMD and nvidia is fairly close, I'd say that it's a given that Crossfire drivers are the key issue, especially since a number of games benchmarked do not appear to be bottlenecked by frame buffer

I'm looking to go Crossfire in the near future and I don't see myself buying a Fermi because I already have an HD 5850.

Why should Crossfire's scaling in relation to SLI affect your decision to add a second HD 5850 ?

Surely the object of the exercise would be to ensure a good gameplay experience, which CF'ed 5850's would provide. The fact that someone else's SLI setup pushes a few more pixels than your intended solution should not have any relevance.

Do all Fermi cards scale better with SLI than crossfire?

Yes, the SLI bully kicks CF in the nuts and laughs in his face

Have their been any tests on the 460?

Yes, Yes and Yes

Zilpha Zilpha said:

I'm already thinking of adding a 5870 to my current rig - but I'll wait for the numbers to show up about Crysis 2 and FFXIV. NDA is way too tight on FFXIV so it's hard to see how well it actually performs and the benchmarking app is no good for my testing.

Having just recently finished Crysis playing at 1920x1200 w/4x AA and a silky 60 fps I've gotta say that I'm really excited about Crysis 2. Not focusing on performance issues with Crysis really made it much more enjoyable for me and I even liked the storyline since I was able to pay a lot more attention to it. The only issue I had was with a memory leak on the next to last boss in DX10 - had to kill that boss in DX9 and then switch back to 10 for the last guy.

on FFXIV:

They did release some information about the recommended specs recently - a 5830 coupled with a hexacore CPU is what they are saying is the best. I don't know - since the information has been sketchy all beta. There is a thread on Zam forums about it, if you are interested.

I do know that the XIV benchmark ran pretty smoothly on my 5850 and scored reasonably well - but then again the benchmark *ran smoothly* on my old GT220 as well but scored horribly, so I feel your pain about the benchmark being basically useless for testing. I guess we'll see.

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

Yeah - I scored 3900 @ 1080 on the benchmark, but since it runs in a window it doesn't take advantage of Crossfire. I assume the real deal will support Crossfire and SLI, but they have such a lockdown of all info with the NDA that it's hard to really tell. I have heard, though, that people get pretty reasonable gameplay even though they only scored in the 1500 range on the benchmark. I need more than reasonable... I want all the bells and whistles when I play and I need it to run well at the same time. This is the game I've been waiting for for over five years now.

Royalgok said:

dividebyzero said:

It adds to the scaling difference it is nowhere near the main reason. Here's a review including benchmarks of around ten games that don't feature tessellation. Crossfire still scales to a lesser degree

Thanks for the link.

dividebyzero said:

Why should Crossfire's scaling in relation to SLI affect your decision to add a second HD 5850 ?

Surely the object of the exercise would be to ensure a good gameplay experience, which CF'ed 5850's would provide. The fact that someone else's SLI setup pushes a few more pixels than your intended solution should not have any relevance.

You misunderstood. The reason I am hesitant to go Crossfire is because of ATI's possible Crossfire driver issues; and the reason I mentioned Fermi at all is because I am not going to buy one seeing as I already have a DirectX 11 card.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Gotcha.

The driver issue is more that Crossfire generally doesn't scale as well as SLI not that it doesn't scale well in most cases. AMD's drivers have historically lagged behind nvidia's for the simple reasons that 1.nvidia's TWIMTBP is the dominant graphics vendor development/sponsorship program in PC gaming, and 2. AMD (and ATI before it) focus more on hardware than software application. AMD have promised a faster response with hotfixes and Crossfire patches for new release games so hopefully lack of Crossfire support in the occasional game will be remedied in a timely manner.

Guest said:

Damn!

I bought a geforce GTX 470 and yes it is noisy and it gets really hot but i was happy until i read that 460 is a better bang for the buck

Down here in Mexico we have really few options and Nvidia does a better job than now defunct Ati

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Damn!

I bought a geforce GTX 470 and yes it is noisy and it gets really hot but i was happy until i read that 460 is a better bang for the buck

Down here in Mexico we have really few options and Nvidia does a better job than now defunct Ati

Defunct? really? a name change is defunct? nice try troll

Guest said:

I bought a GTX 480 a few months ago to replace my dual sli 8800GT's and I'm amazed at the performance. I only use a Quad core 8200 though so if I get a second GTX480 it will be majorly bottlenecked by the CPU without an i7.

Next year they are bringing out new processors (INtel with it's Sandybridge processor at almost 5 Ghz and AMD with bulldozer). Not to mention that Kepler form Nvidia boasting 3-4 times faster speeds than the GTX 480 is coming out next year too. If i was looking to upgrade, i'd wait till next year to get these new processors and video cards. By then the old gen GTX480 cards will be much cheaper anyway.

It all depends on how much bang you want for your buck. Pay a premium and get the new Kepler and Sandybridge/Bulldozer and have crazy "beat-all-your-friends" performance, or pay a bargain price for the old cards (which are now premium). Wait till next year people! :P

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Just a couple of notes...

Next year they are bringing out new processors (INtel with it's Sandybridge processor at almost 5 Ghz and AMD with bulldozer).

Sandy Bridges' top speedbin is 3.4GHz (Core i7 2600K), anything more is an overclock figure

Not to mention that Kepler form Nvidia boasting 3-4 times faster speeds than the GTX 480

JHH actually quoted 3-4 times the double precision (DP) performance per watt over Fermi. Mathematical DP performance accuracy does not necessarily correlate to graphical performance. Given that a process shrink will likely lower power requirements by some considerable margin it is probably not out of the question even if Kepler is basically a tweaked GTX 4xx (although that is unlikely).

...is coming out next year too.

Grain of salt needed here > <. The slide here shows Kepler due in 2011. The same slide also shows Fermi in 2009 (!)*.

This also presupposes that TSMC's 28nm high-K metal gate process, not to mention nvidia's GPU design, have a fairly troublefree introduction- not a given since this is new tech all around, and GPU's have been (and will likely to continue to be) the worst yielding products made at any foundry.

* GTX 480/470 were launched in March,2010

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