Tech Tip of the Week: Top Budget to Mid-Range Graphics Cards

By Jos ยท 14 replies
Feb 19, 2010
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  1. Besides adopting newer platforms, at some point, every gamer or hardware enthusiast worth their salt will upgrade or at least consider upgrading their graphics card. Of course, going for the fastest and most expensive is not always an option. Having reviewed a wide variety of graphics cards as they were released in the past months, we've compiled a table with the best options at several price points between $90 and $200.

    This week's tip: Top Budget to Mid-Range Graphics Cards
  2. Technochicken

    Technochicken TechSpot Paladin Posts: 729

    Right now the old HD4850 can be had for around 100$, and it outperforms both the 4770 and the 9800gt, giving similar performance to the next level up, the GTS250. Yes it is older and less efficient, but for the budget minded it might be a better buy than the 4770.
  3. I agree with you on this. In fact, I was able to pick one up not long ago from Best Buy for $84.99 and newegg has these card at 99.99 - 129.99, for it's price, it is the best price/performance in that range right now. Once you get to the $150 or above, than the other preferred card is a better choice.
  4. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,868   +2,035

    The 4850 is not as fast as the GTS 250 in general, at best it is a few frames per second faster than the 4770. However like you said Newegg lists them for $100 - $130 which places them in line with the 4770/9800 GT. Therefore it is an alternative to these graphics cards so perhaps we should have listed the 4770/4850 together.
  5. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    Added the Radeon HD 4850 -- problem solved. Thanks for the feedback :).
  6. anonemus

    anonemus TS Rookie

    Various net reviews and my own experience with the 4850 have shown that this card is on par, or better, than the 9800GTX and GTS250.
  7. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,868   +2,035

    Unless it is an ATI bias game there is no way the 4850 will beat the 9800 GTX/GTS 250. With a little over 10% more bandwidth at their disposal the 9800 GTX/GTS 250 is faster.

    For example right now I am banchmarking with Starcraft 2 and at 1680x1050 using maximum in-game quality settings the GTS 250 is 33% faster than the 4850. Still the GTS 250 is the same speed as the 4850 in games such as Bioshock 2 so it really comes down to the game.
  8. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,224   +164

  9. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Reading that review would show a 23-22 benchmark win for the HD 4850, although I would tend to discount any benchmark where the winner was unable to play the game in any case. Taking @30fps for shooters and @25fps for RTS etc. as an arbitrary cut off point the odds favour the nV card especially if you factor in a game where one card has acceptable framerate with the other card marginal.
    I would also weight in the fact that the CoD:WaW result can also be translated to MW, MW2, CoH and Brothers in Arms franchises.
    If you concentrate on resolutions best suited for the cards (1280, 1440, 1680) at realistic AA/AF levels then I would expect the HD4850 to come up big in Bioshock and games that heavily favour ATI cards like STALKER and Lost Planet. The opposite is generally true of nVidia's (very numerous) TWIMTBP games like Dead Space.

    Of course once the card becomes a relic of a bygone era (next week or so) the GTS250 would make a fine PhysX card...assuming that nV are still keeping their proprietry IP away from the CPU next week (or so).

    The price of the HD4850 makes for a nice painless upgrade-the only nagging doubt I have regarding it (and the HD3xxx and 4xxx series in general) is that I can see AMD metaphorically cutting it's throat re: driver optimization for new games now the cards have been superceded in order the facilitate HD5xxx series uptake in the name of progress (all hail DX11)
  10. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,224   +164

    Yeah im kind of wondering about the fate of the 4xxx series support myself divide. it would be really bad PR to drop it, but who knows?......oh wait....I bet Charlie does! :haha:
  11. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Guaranteed. He effectively works for them and his site is basically an AMD mouthpiece given the number of AMD employees that post there (yes, I'm a member of the forums there too...all very amusing in small doses-just too many haters and Chas's mini cult of personality for anything other than a casual browse).
    Hopefully AMD keep support going, but it wouldn't surprise me if they let the performance gap between the HD5 and 4 series widen a little with every driver release.
    If DX11 games are going to be the exception rather than the norm, and even those that are, in the main, only tesselated to add a little eye-candy over DX9/10 then there wouldn't be a great need to upgrade from the 4 series -especially those with 4870/4890 or Crossfire setups (or indeed nV's equivalents), which would leave 5 series adoption down to replacement through attrition or inclusion in new builds only. The problem with that being nVidia's present vice-like grip on the OEM market and the fact that most new builds are entry-level systems where budget and system resource allocation is usually geared towards web/entertainment/communication demands rather than primarily gaming (at least in my experience).
    The DX11 experience and it's selling point seems to be a double-edged sword for ATI- not enough tesselation and the gaming experience isn't a big enough selling point. Large amounts of tesselation which would make for a more immersive experience are likely to tax the graphics card possibly to the extent that gaming at DX10 (or 9) becomes preferable purely on an fps standpoint. This is assuming that DX11 game development has funding thrown at it by AMD, since I assume that TWIMTBP will become non-existant with nVidia seemingly viewed as having one foot in the grave.
  12. LGraves

    LGraves TS Rookie Posts: 39

    I own a 9800 GT BGF card and I love it!
  13. It's not "AMD Radeon" , it's still "ATI Radeon" , im annoyed by the fact that most sites just call it AMD , there was never such change ANY where , not in brand not in official name , and AMD actually confirmed long ago they will not abolish ATI brand at all.

    So stop calling amd radeon please :)
  14. bmaytum

    bmaytum TS Enthusiast Posts: 47

    I'm wondering why the HD5770 got the "Preferred" status over the GTX260 in this roundup, especially when the HD5770 review concludes "... At $160 the Radeon HD 5770 appears to be picking up where the Radeon HD 4870 left off. Unfortunately we found the new card to be running slightly short on performance compared to both the Radeon 4870 and the GeForce GTX 260. On its favor you have a more efficient operation, a smaller PCB, some new features like Eyefinity and DirectX 11, though it's ultimately up to you to decide whether those make a big enough difference.

    There is no question that the Radeon HD 5770 is a great sub-$200 product, however a problem is presented when you have both Nvidia and AMD offering competent previous generation products at bottom line prices. .... "
  15. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,332   +101

    :) Your question is answered in the text you quoted.

    " have a more efficient operation, a smaller PCB, some new features like Eyefinity and DirectX 11, though it's ultimately up to you to decide whether those make a big enough difference."

    In our opinion, if you're going to buy a new graphics card at this stage in the game, you might as well have support for DX11. This won't be the case for everyone, but a brief guide like this isn't meant to cover the zillions of possible circumstances surrounding an upgrade. Instead, it's intended to cover the majority, and in most cases, the Radeon HD 5770 is a smarter buy.

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