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Tested: Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards for every budget

Brad Chacos | Feb. 16, 2015
Which graphics card is best for your money? We test over a dozen AMD and Nvidia GPUs to help find the answer.

So which graphics card should you buy?
Many charts and many thousands of words later, we're finally ready to answer the question: Which graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck?

$100: If you're looking to spend $100 or less, the AMD Radeon R7 250X is your best choice. It's no barn-burner, but it will let you play modern games at 1080p on low to medium detail settings.

Under $200: The Radeon R9 270X is a solid choice, especially if you can find one on sale around $150. You'll need to dial down some detail and anti-aliasing settings in especially demanding games, however.

But it's worth giving the Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti honorable mention here, because it doesn't need any supplementary power connections whatsoever. That, plus its humble 300W power supply requirement, means the GTX 750 Ti could add a big graphics punch to a low-end system with integrated graphics for just $120.

$200: The GTX 960 is clearly the best pick of the cards we've tested, delivering very playable frame rates with high or ultra settings at 1080p resolution. Its silence, coolness, and power efficiency are top-notch, too. But note that while we haven't been able to test its Radeon counterpart directly--the R9 285--other sites report that AMD's card offer similar performance, albeit in more power-hungry fashion.

$250: The Radeon R9 290 can't be beat here. This high-end card was selling for $400 less than six months ago. Insane!

$300 - $500: Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970 is a beast of a card at $330, despite the recent firestorm over its memory allocation design and incorrect initial specs. The card bests AMD's flagship R9 290X in our trio of games at both 1920x1080 and 2560x1600 resolution, has plenty of overclocking overhead if you want to push it further, sips power, and runs far cooler than AMD's graphics cards.

That said, if you plan to game on multiple monitors or on a 4K monitor, the Radeon R9 290X's memory configuration makes it better for pushing insane amounts of pixels. And if you're gaming on a single non-4K monitor, opting for a $300 Radeon R9 290X over a $330-and-up GTX 970 could save you some real dough with minimal performance impact--assuming you can find one of those $300 deals, that is.

$500 and up: There's no question: The $550 GeForce GTX 980 is clearly the most potent single-GPU graphics card on the market today. Its insane power efficiency is just icing on the cake.

The dual-GPU champion: Finally, the $700 Radeon R9 295X2 is just in a league of its own--as it should be, with a pair of graphics processors crammed into a single card. If you can afford the sticker price and the sky-high power usage, this behemoth utterly demolishes any single-GPU graphics card you can buy. And with prices hovering around $695, its now sells for less than half of its original $1550 sticker price.

 

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