Best Value: Cost per Frame, Recommendations
Our cost per frame analysis for the GeForce GPUs reveals that the GTX 570 offers the most bang for your buck at today's prices. The GTX 670, 760 and 660 Ti also put forth an exceptional value. The GTX 770 was a standout here, being quite capable in all the games tested yet coming in at just $1.53 per frame.
As expected, the AMD cards are a little more pricey in today's market and getting anything good for less than $1.50 per frame isn't really possible. Realistically, for a good AMD gaming card you'll be paying over $1.80 per frame. Still, compared to buying a new GPU, used options such as the 290X and 290 for example are a much better value.
Here are all the graphics cards that can be regularly had for a cost of less than $2.50 per frame, based on our testing. Again, the GTX 570 and 670 are standouts here and while the R7 260X looks decent, it's actually very slow. Most GPUs in this list are quite capable, but what if you want something that could maintain over 60fps in our three game average test.
Well there we go, a detailed look at the best value, best performing secondhand graphics cards that will still get you respectable results in the latest titles at 1080p. As mentioned previously, the GTX 770 stands out as the best value choice while the GTX 680 offers a decent bang for your buck and the GTX 780 does surprisingly well also.
The R9 285 looks to be a great choice from AMD but be aware that the results are somewhat skewed by availability. However, in the last six months there have only been 24 of of AMD's R9 285 graphics cards sold at auction while 600 of the GTX 770 were sold during the same period.
Likewise, more than 200 GTX 680 and HD 7970 models have been sold, so realistically you have a much better chance of getting a 7970 at a reasonable price than the R9 285. It should also be noted that the R9 280X appears to be better value than the 7970 and with over 400 of them selling at auction in the last six months you have a much better chance of getting your hands on one.
The GTX 780 Ti looks like a good option as well and I feel like driver support has improved for the Kepler series recently, but I could be wrong. Either way, it did very well in the three games selected for this test and as such came in at a cost of just $1.99 per frame -- not bad, though only 150 of them have been sold in the last six months.
It might cost $240 on average but the GTX 970 should be pretty easy to find for that price as almost 2000 of them have sold at auction since late last year and as one of Nvidia's best selling GPUs of all time, it's not surprising to find so many of them on the secondhand market.
Again though, it's worth noting that the GTX 1050 is similar to the GTX 970 and 980 in terms of value, but the latter two are a good bit faster and will enable higher quality visuals.
So there you have it, a full breakdown of the used graphics card market. It should be noted that this guide is accurate based on auction prices in March 2018 and as always pricing will likely change over the coming weeks and months. Whether that be for better or worse is of course yet to be seen, but for those of you buying right now this article should give you a very good idea of what you should be looking out for.
For those of you in different regions with a different pricing structure, the benchmark results included in this article should still prove useful for working out which graphics cards are worth investing in and how much you should spend.
As we found in our recent GTX 680 and R9 280X revisits, you really need to do better than the average selling price to justify buying a used graphics card. For example, at its average selling price, the GTX 980 is just 20% cheaper in terms of cost per frame than a brand new GTX 1060 and while that means you stand to save about $70, that's really not enough to justify the gamble with older used hardware.
Of course you could get lucky. The cheapest GTX 980 sold this month at auction went for $225 and that's a massive savings from the $360 you can expect to pay for a GTX 1060 -- nearly a 40% discount, in fact. Personally, I always shoot for at least a 40% savings on secondhand hardware compared to the new equivalent.
Secondhand shopping for a Radeon card looks to be less cost effective as the R9 390X for example is just 16% cheaper than the RX 580 when comparing the cost per frame. So although the 390X is on average $100 cheaper, it should ideally be $200 cheaper to make sense. At $270, that would give you an almost 40% saving over buying new. Given auction prices over the past few months though, getting one for that price won't be easy. I only found a single example of a working card that went for as low as $270 while most examples on the lower end of pricing have gone for a little over $300, which is admittedly still good.
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The star of this roundup is undoubtedly the GTX 770, followed by the recently revisited GTX 680. The GTX 780 also offered a surprisingly good showing. Based purely on average auction prices, there isn't much to see from AMD. The company's cards are just too good at mining, though the future could be bright for gamers once again with the cryptocurrency industry stumbling at the moment.