Budget Graphics Card Round-up: 13 Sub-$150 Boards Tested

By on May 12, 2011, 1:34 AM

For all the glory that comes with owning a dual-GPU video card, the reality is most hardware buffs don't have the coin to fund their desires. Instead, the typical system builder settles for a graphics solution in the $100 to $250 territory, which generally provides enough performance to play any modern game with reasonable settings.

Fortunately for cash-strapped gamers, intense competition between AMD and Nvidia ensures that the sub-$150 market is well stocked. Along with wallet-friendly HD 6000 and GTX 500 products, many older mainstream cards have been demoted to the budget bracket. We'll compare the most relevant ones in this review, with a total of thirteen graphics card models tested.

Read the complete review.




User Comments: 38

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dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Nice comprehensive review.

No doubt a category that could have a different conclusion for every day of the week, given the price fluctuations in these segments - the GTX460 768mb @ $105 (after MIR), HD 5770 at <$100 prices and HD 5750 starting at $80 being prime examples.

Guest said:

Nice breakdown of the cards. I am sure there is a big market for these. I have to say tho I find your conclusion at the end were you say the 6790 "trounced" the GTX 460 and 550ti Yes it cleaned the floor against the 550ti that's just the red headed step child of Nvidia, but the 460 was not "trounced". I went back in your review and counted the times the 460 was on top and the 6790 was on top. I negated anything that was within 1 FPS as a margin of error and came out with the 460 having 12 wins and the the 6790's 9. Now did you do a different thing to come up with that 3% margin in the 6790's favour? I just am asking no fanboi here just looking at it and wondering where the "trouncing" is.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Nice comprehensive review.

No doubt a category that could have a different conclusion for every day of the week, given the price fluctuations in these segments - the GTX460 768mb @ $105 (after MIR), HD 5770 at <$100 prices and HD 5750 starting at $80 being prime examples.

Very true but at least with a wide range of results readers can make their own evaluation based on current pricing.

Nice breakdown of the cards. I am sure there is a big market for these. I have to say tho I find your conclusion at the end were you say the 6790 "trounced" the GTX 460 and 550ti Yes it cleaned the floor against the 550ti that's just the red headed step child of Nvidia, but the 460 was not "trounced". I went back in your review and counted the times the 460 was on top and the 6790 was on top. I negated anything that was within 1 FPS as a margin of error and came out with the 460 having 12 wins and the the 6790's 9. Now did you do a different thing to come up with that 3% margin in the 6790's favour? I just am asking no fanboi here just looking at it and wondering where the "trouncing" is.

Actually we started by saying this...

This leaves the GTX 460 and HD 6790 to duke it out for the $150 throne. Compared to the GTX 550 Ti, the HD 6790 was 11% faster, while it was just 3% faster than the GTX 460 on average. In addition to being slightly faster, the 6790 used a tad less power, so we feel that it is the better choice.

If you look at the 1680x1050 data which is what we discussed in the review the 6790 was 3% faster as claimed. As for getting all excited over the word "trounced", well that was the editor making things sound a little better, I used the word "superior" originally but at the end of the day we meant the same thing. To dumb it down the 6790 overcame the 460 and it did at 1680x1050.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Remind me not to get you guys to do my tax return.

I think you'll find that the percentage is a little smaller than 3% at 1680.

GTX460 768mb = 557 fps total (ave. 69.6 fps)

HD 6790 = 562 fps total (ave. 70.3 fps)

Difference should be 0.9%

Other than that the sentiments are valid - a win is a win regardless of margin.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Beauty of numbers, one can find many ways to present the same data after 'massaging' it according to needs

Generally a very nice effort otherwise.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

As long as all data is massaged in the same way I don't think there is a problem. We simply rounded if off game by game rather than all at once.

fpsgamerJR62 said:

I would just like to add that while the GTX 460 1 GB, GTX 460SE 1 GB and HD 6850 1 GB are priced above the $150 limit for this round-up, they are still part of the sub $200 graphics market and they do bring a lot of performance to the table for a small increment over the $150 bracket.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

I would just like to add that while the GTX 460 1 GB, GTX 460SE 1 GB and HD 6850 1 GB are priced above the $150 limit for this round-up, they are still part of the sub $200 graphics market and they do bring a lot of performance to the table for a small increment over the $150 bracket.

Indeed, from our conclusion...

"While we won't hesitate to recommend the Radeon HD 6790 at $155, if you're serious about playing demanding games with quality settings beyond medium, you should really consider spending a little extra on the HD 6850 as it offers considerably more performance for a small premium at $175."

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@Steve

I was replying to DBZ's comment, and personally I'd rather do it game by game, instead of rounding it off; but that is just my opinion with which others may disagree.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

@Steve

I was replying to DBZ's comment, and personally I'd rather do it game by game, instead of rounding it off; but that is just my opinion with which others may disagree.

Ahh then sorry it seems we agree

I only do it that way because we discuss the results individually. Adding it all together is much quicker and easier but then I would end up with two different totals.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Exactly

Is it possible to do a review of mobile graphic solutions? By the way, I have talked with Matthew about this suggestion, and explored some issues with it, but I think still it could be done. For example, if you take GTX460M and pit it against other options, by getting notebooks with Quad or Dual core CPU configurations. Notebookcheck does a 'reasonable' job with mobile graphic reviews, but one feels like it can be improved. Besides, mobile options (read notebooks) are making inroads into desktop segment, so it may be an idea worth exploring. Thanks

Guest said:

The GTX460 768mb has a trick up its sleeve - overclocking. If that is taken into consideration, at 900-950mhz on the GPU, it will mop the floor with the HD6790. Also, the GTX460 768mb cards can often be found in the $95-110 range with rebates. So if you look hard enough, the GTX460 is the best gaming card in this round-up for the $$. (And I am not an NV fanboy as I own an HD6950).

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

(And I am not an NV fanboy as I own an HD6950).

Me thinks thee doth protest too much...:p

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Update: Intel's Sandy Bridge built-in GPU performance scores have been added in all tests for straight comparison with the most affordable discrete boards.

mosu said:

I wonder how those charts will change when Llano will enter the stage and a MB AM3+ with A3550 processor in crossfire with a HD6670 will challenge Nvidia and Intel.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I wonder how those charts will change when Llano will enter the stage and a MB AM3+ with A3550 processor in crossfire with a HD6670 will challenge Nvidia and Intel.

I doubt the charts would change at all.

(A3550 = FM1 socket not AM3+.......bad fanboy, no donut)

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Excellent review. Will definitely come in handy.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Nice round up Steve. Just a heads up though for those looking for a card in this price range, the Radeon HD 5850 depending on where you shop is selling for ~$150. Which in my opinion if you can find it for that much is the best available card which still can holds its own.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Relic said:

Nice round up Steve. Just a heads up though for those looking for a card in this price range, the Radeon HD 5850 depending on where you shop is selling for ~$150. Which in my opinion if you can find it for that much is the best available card which still can holds its own.

I was fixin to say the same. newegg has the 5850 for 150 w/rebate, and will run roughshod over any card on the chart.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I was going to include the Sapphire 5850/5830 Extreme in my post regarding fluctuating pricing influencing results (post #2). The problem being that the SKU's are out of stock at Newegg and some other big etailers. Being a model designed to clear excess inventory makes its sustained availability a little questionable.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

I was going to include the Sapphire 5850/5830 Extreme in my post regarding fluctuating pricing influencing results (post #2). The problem being that the SKU's are out of stock at Newegg and some other big etailers. Being a model designed to clear excess inventory makes it's sustained availablility a little questionable.

Exactly why it was not included, that and there are no samples left.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Yeah they appear to be on their way out fast, get'em whilst you can kids. These are the ones I was referring to, $154 with rebate.

[link]

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I was fixin to say the same. newegg has the 5850 for 150 w/rebate, and will run roughshod over any card on the chart.
"Run roughshod" huh? Me likely when you use dat ol' fash-und kinda power speak..........It be time to break out the Village People's greatest hits......

Jiraiya said:

HD 6790 better than the GTX 460 768MB this joke

Staff
Steve Steve said:

HD 6790 better than the GTX 460 768MB this joke

For your third troll attempt this is probably the worst, so much effort went into your first.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

"Run roughshod" huh? Me likely when you use dat ol' fash-und kinda power speak..........It be time to break out the Village People's greatest hits......

OHHH, son of a seacook! why must you make sport of me dagnabit!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I guess a fair question here, is why wasn't the GTX-460 1GB included, as it seems these fall into the price range, if only from time to time by virtue of promotions

Guest said:

Nice review, however I want to point out that it is unlikely that a person which is buying such a card will go for a core i7 and more than this that it will overclock it to 3.7.

This should have been tested with a mid-range processor. Maybe a core i3, core i5 entry (not overclocked), athlon II X4, Phenom II X4.

At the end of the day this is what people buying this kind of cards have in their systems, and maybe due to the processor they will not see any difference between a GTS450 and a GTX460, so what's the point to pay more.

George

Staff
Steve Steve said:

At the end of the day this is what people buying this kind of cards have in their systems, and maybe due to the processor they will not see any difference between a GTS450 and a GTX460, so what's the point to pay more.

George

I'm not sure that testing with an Athlon II X2 215 processor and telling our readers that they all perform the same would make for a very objective review but thank you for the feedback.

Guest said:

I am afraid he is right though, budget cards means budget CPUs as well and if the results mean all cards perform the same, buy the cheaper! The round-up is interesting but not representative of actual performance in the reader's target rig.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Any performance change will only occur in games which have some sort of dependency on CPU, otherwise I think it is not that big of an issue.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Any performance change will only occur in games which have some sort of dependency on CPU, otherwise I think it is not that big of an issue.

It's not and you are right. The idea is to remove the CPU as a possible bottleneck as you are concentrating on GPU performance. This is common practice when testing GPU's of all calibers. Overclocking the Core i7 to 3.7GHz was not necessary, the standard 2.66GHz would have delivered the same results but I saw no need to change the standard GPU test system configuration.

Notis said:

Why no mentioning of Nvidia's CUDA? It should effect some peoples choice greatly. (In my case I need it for digital film editing.)

[link]

ohsilly said:

I am not a gamer but I like fast graphics if it will help with my browsing or opening huge graphics files like PDF , etc. . I keep noticing that PDF files do not scroll smoothly in most cases meaning the pages kiind of goof around as you scroll down or up in halting styles or manners like that.. what do you recommned the minimum standards for discrete graphics for guys like me.. Remy, I am not a gamer. I also hear about how some graphic cards acutally help cpu with some of the tasks.. What are they? What about AMD Fusion?? I suspect that Intel's Sandybridges is actually a mush up of the old integrated graphics once found on the Intel mobos which controls over half of the mobo market, anyway.. nothing so grand about Sandybridge as if Sandybridge include the level of discrete graphics cards which it is not by a long shot, right? Is AMD Fusion going to blow SAndybridges in this context that is if users want powerful discrete level graphics to go along with CPU which Sandybridge do not .

Guest said:

Well one card IS missing here

HD5850!

Seling in germany for about 120$ TROUNCES everything on offer here.

In crossfire quicker than a GTX580 by some games!

Guest said:

What drivers did you use for Sandy Bridge? And which CPU as well as Memory

Guest said:

Interesting to read but sadly of little value as the bit width and DDR level is unspecified.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

What drivers did you use for Sandy Bridge? And which CPU as well as Memory

Core i7 2600K (it was added at the last minute using the latest drivers at the time and DDR3-1866 memory).

Interesting to read but sadly of little value as the bit width and DDR level is unspecified.

How does that make it of little value? Since when does the memory bandwidth make any difference to Core i7 (LGA1366) performance? Also whats the bit width? Anyway it was DDR3-1600 memory as specified on the test system specs page...

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