Graphic Cards - spend more, save more?

Every gamer or avid computer user wants good graphics performance for the most advanced of the programs. But not everyone has the time or the drive to do the research to go into detailed graphics card specifications. Reviews are great, but at the end of the day one just needs to know what is best for his or her needs. So, if you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right card, then just keep reading. We've put together a simple list of the best gaming cards offered in any given price range.

Last month's news on graphics cards was marked by the shortage of high end Radeon cards due to high demand and too few GPUs. A month later... we have good and bad news. The good is that Radeon R9 280X, 290, and 290X cards are now much more readily available online. The bad part is that pricing is now worse than before.

Asus GTX780TI

The least expensive flagship Radeon R9 290X cards sell for $600 with an "improved" $50 tag to the original $550 launch price. Those require AMD's reference thermal solution to, a solution what we do not recommend (after extensive testing on our part).

Next one down from the R9 290 is a great way to save some money. But still, the most affordable models go for around $500 (that is $100 more than when AMD introduced them). A more capable heatsink and fan combination starts right around $580. And all that only makes Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 at $490 look mighty tasty, right?

On the upside, the Radeon R9 280X doesn't suffer the same cooling, noise, and performance consistency issues as the Hawaii-based boards. But you'll still need to pay a $100 premium over AMD's introductory price tag, since these are selling for $400 now.

It is hard to call these prices a bargain but as long as the trends continue... we have to steer gamers away from much of AMD's high-end portfolio and toward alternatives like the GeForce GTX 770 and 780.

It is a proven fact that Radeon R9 290/290X cards are dependent on effective cooling for maximum performance. However we are pleased that models with aftermarket thermal solutions are now available. Several companies like XFX, MSI, Asus, Sapphire, Gigabyte, and PowerColor are already selling their alternative options on the high end Radeon line-up. Our hope is that we will see a price drop to a more "easy to swallow" level.

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 Ti came down a few dollars to $670, making it more attractive than third party cooling solutions. The GeForce GTX 760 cut another $10 to $240, while GeForce GTX 780 cards are now at $490 or so. That's pretty decent next to an aftermarket-cooled 290 at $580.

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind.
This analysis is for gamers who want to get the most for their money. If you don’t play games, the cards on this list may be more expensive than what you really need.

For recommendations on multiple video cards please seek further reference as you explore this option.

The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will almost certainly vary.
These are new card prices. No used or open-box cards are in the list. Our purpose is to test performance and evaluate the worth of these offers. The purchase choice is your decision and beyond our scope.
Make the best decision and... enjoy!

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