See Updated For 2011: Top Budget to Mainstream Graphics Cards

While the gaming landscape seems to have shifted toward consoles in recent years, many feel PCs are still where the action is. Naturally those looking to experience the hottest video games in all their glory will need the appropriate hardware powering their rigs. 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 latest and greatest (read: fastest and most expensive) is not always an option. Up until a couple years ago the budget graphics scene was barren to say the least. Buying a graphics card for $100 or less would sentence you to mediocre performance on substandard quality. Thankfully, that's no longer the case.

Having reviewed a wide variety of graphics cards as they were released in the past months, we've compiled a table with some of what we consider the best options at several price points between $90 and $200. Every card chosen can cope with the typical game on respectable settings. Items are listed from least to most expensive, therefore, also by performance. For reference, we've also placed each product next to its closest competitor.

Our Preferred Graphics Card Price Competition's Approx. Equivalent Price
AMD Radeon HD 5670 $95 Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT / GT 240 $90
AMD Radeon HD 4770 / 4850 $110 Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT $115
AMD Radeon HD 5750 $145 Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX / GTS 250 $135
AMD Radeon HD 5770 $170 Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 $190

Granted, a few of these (like the Radeon HD 4770 and some of the Nvidia cards) are "yesterday's technology," but for the price, they offer an incredible value -- especially if you "just want to play WoW on high settings."

This tip is intended to offer GPU upgrade suggestions for the most common price points, but if you're building a system from scratch, our always-fresh desktop buying guide might be just what you're looking for.

Previous Tech Tips