Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Graphics Card Buying Guide

If you’re planning on buying a new rig or simply upgrading but don’t know which graphic card to choose, here’s an in-depth graphics card buying guide to help you out!

What do I need to pay attention to?

The first thing you need to consider while buying a Graphics card is that it should have atleast 1GB memory.
Note: Higher the memory, stronger is the card… While this is true, in most cases it actually isn’t.
Here is a list of things which you should consider while buying a graphic card.

Memory Size

Let’s start off our graphics card buying guide with one of the most important attribute: MEMORY. It is assumed that higher memory means better performance, but this isn’t true all the time. More memory is used if you have multiple displays or play games at very high resolution. In most cases, or if you have a single monitor, 1GB is more than enough for your tasks.
Consider these two cards – HD 6670 2 GB VS HD 6770 1 GB for the game Far Cry 2
far cry2 1680 x 1050 ultra high no aa
Here the HD 6670, despite having more memory i.e. 2 GB, performs lower than the HD 6770 which has 1 GB memory.

Type of Memory

There are two types of memory used in Graphic cards nowadays, i.e. DDR3 and DDR5, DDR5 being the faster one. You should always get the DDR5 model despite the price difference between them because there is a performance difference between the two.

Your Monitor or Display Size

Depending on your monitor size and resolution the card has to be selected. If you have a large monitor with high resolution you will require a high end card. Also if you have multiple monitors you will require a high end card. Also it will be a waste of money if you plan to buy a high end card for a 17” display.
Others things to consider will be -
Does the monitor have HDMI, DVI or VGA connections? Nowadays most of the cards have all the above three but if you have a HDMI connection in the monitor its better you buy a card which supports HDMI.


There are two graphic card manufacturers AMD and Nvidia. One of the most common question one faces is which should I choose AMD or Nvidia.. Choosing the right brand is a pain, but the card model decides the performance and not the brand.

Naming scheme

The graphic cards are named in such a way that buy the name one can identify whether it’s a low end, mid end or high end card.
Let’s start with Nvidia’s naming scheme the first number is the series number like incase of the graphic card GTX 660, 6 is the series number. Each series has its features like which Direct X it supports, die size  etc. The newer series is always better than the older one. The next two numbers i.e. 60 in this case, determines the performance level of the card higher the number greater is the performance. If you want performance you should go for higher number and latest series or higher number and slightly lower series because a card say GTX 570 will outperform GT 650 even though GT 650 is of the latetst series. Nvidia graphics also have GT,GTS or GTX prefix before the number which also determines the performance of the card.
ULTRA = enthusiast high end
GTX = mid to high end
GTS = mid-range good price / performance
GT = low mid-range
GS = low
LE = entry level extremely low end

AMD’s naming scheme is also almost same. Consider HD 7870, here the first number i e. 7 gives you the series number. The remaining two numbers tell you about the performance level i.e. higher the number, higher is the performance. All have a HD prefix.
Here is a performance comparison of most modern cards (Credits Tomshardware)
The graphic cards are arranged in descending order of their performance
Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart
Discrete: GTX 690
Discrete: GTX 590 Discrete: HD 6990, 7970 GHz Ed.
Discrete: GTX 680 Discrete: HD 7970
Discrete: GTX 670 Discrete: HD 5970, 7950
Discrete: GTX 580, 660 Ti Discrete: HD 7870
Discrete: GTX 295, 480, 570, 660
Go (mobile): 680M
Discrete: HD 4870 X2, 6970, 7850
Mobility: 7970M
Discrete: GTX 470, 560 Ti, 560 Ti 448 Core Discrete: HD 4850 X2, HD 5870, HD 6950
Mobility: 7950M
Discrete: GTX 560, 650 Ti
Go (mobile): 580M
Discrete: HD 5850, HD 6870
Mobility: 6990M
Discrete: 9800 GX2, 285, 460 256-bit, 465
Go (mobile): 675M
Discrete: HD 6850, HD 7770
Mobility: 6900M
Discrete: GTX 260, 275, 280, 460 192-bit, 460 SE, 550 Ti, 560 SE, 650
Go (mobile): 570M, 670M
Discrete: HD 4870, 5770, 4890, 5830, 6770,  6790, 7750
Mobility: HD 5870, 6800M
Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250, GTS 450
Go (mobile): 560M, 660M
Discrete: HD 3870 X2, 4850, 5750, 6750
Mobility: HD 4850, 5850, 7870M
Discrete: 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MB, GT 545 (GDDR5)
Go (mobile): GTX 280M, 285M, 555M (GDDR5)
Discrete: HD 4770
Mobility: HD 4860, 7770M, 7850M
Discrete: 8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT, GT 545 (DDR3), GT 640 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): 9800M GTX, GTX 260M (112), GTS 360M (GDDR5), 555M (DDR3)
Discrete: HD 4830, HD 5670, HD 6670 (GDDR5)
Mobility: HD 5770, HD 5750, 6600M/6700M (GDDR5), 7750M
Discrete: 8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT, GT 240 (GDDR5)
Go (mobile): 9800M GTS, GTX 160M
Discrete: HD 2900 XT, HD 3870, HD 5570 (GDDR5), HD 6570 (GDDR5)
Mobility: 6500M (GDDR5), 6600M/6700M (DDR3), 7730M
Discrete: 8800 GS, 9600 GSO, GT 240 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): GTX 260M (96), GTS 150M, GTS 360M (DDR3)
Discrete: HD 3850 512 MB, HD 4670, HD 5570 (DDR3), HD 6570 (DDR3), HD 6670 (DDR3)
Mobility: HD 3870, HD 5730, HD 5650, 6500M (DDR3)
Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB, GT 440 GDDR5, GT 630 GDDR5
Go (mobile): 8800M
Discrete: HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB, 5550 (GDDR5)
Mobility: HD 3850
Discrete: 7950 GX2, GT 440 DDR3, GT 630 DDR3 Discrete: X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (DDR3), 5550 (DDR3)
Integrated: HD 7660D
Discrete: 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX, GT 430, GT 530
Go (mobile): 550M
Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 G, GT 220 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): 525M, 540M
Discrete: X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 Pro, HD 2900 GT, HD 5550 (DDR2)
Integrated: HD 7560D
Discrete: 7800 GT, 7900 GS, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT (GDDR3), GT 220 (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7950 GTX
Discrete: X1800 XL, X1950 GT, HD 4650 (DDR2), HD 6450
Mobility: X1800 XT, HD 4650, HD 5165, 6400M
Integrated: HD 6620G, 6550D, 7540D
Discrete: 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, 8600 GS, 8600 GT (GDDR3), 9500 GT (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7800 GTX, 7900 GTX
Discrete: X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, HD 2600 XT, HD 3650 (DDR3), HD 3670
Mobility: X1900, 3670
Integrated: 6520G, 6530D, 7480D
Discrete: 6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), 8600 GT (DDR2), GT 520
Go (mobile): 7800, Go 7900 GS, 520M, 520MX
Discrete: X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, HD 2600 Pro, HD 3650 (DDR2),
Mobility: X800 XT, HD 2600 XT, 3650
Integrated: 6410D, 6480G
Discrete: 6800 GS (AGP)
Go (mobile): 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT, 410M
Discrete: X800 GTO 256 MB, X800 PRO, X850 Pro, X1650 GT
Mobility: HD 2600
Integrated: 6370D, 6380G
Discrete: 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, 8600M GS
Go (mobile): 6800, 7700
Discrete: X800, X800 GTO 128 MB, X1600 XT, X1650 Pro
Mobility: X1800, HD 5145, HD 5470 (GDDR5)
Discrete: 6600 GT, 6800LE, 6800 XT, 7300 GT (DDR2), 8500 GT, 9400 GT
Go (mobile): 7600 (128-bit)
Discrete: 9800 XT, X700 PRO, X800 GT, X800 SE, X1300 XT, X1600 PRO, HD 2400 XT, HD 4350, HD 4550, HD 5450
Mobility: X800, 3470, HD 5470 (DDR3), HD 5450, HD 5430, 6300M
Integrated: HD 6310, HD 6320
Discrete: FX 5900, FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5950 Ultra, 6600 (128-bit)
Go (mobile): 6800 (128-bit)
Integrated: 9300, 9400
Discrete: 9700, 9700 Pro, 9800, 9800 Pro, X700, X1300 Pro, X1550, HD 2400 Pro
Mobility: X1450, X1600, X1700, 2400 XT, X2500, 3450
Integrated: HD 3200, HD 3300, HD 4200, HD 4250, HD 4290, HD 6250, HD 6290
Discrete: FX 5800 Ultra, FX 5900 XT
Go (mobile): 6600, Go 7600 (64-bit)
Discrete: 9500 Pro, 9600 XT, 9800 Pro (128-bit), X600 XT, X1050 (128-bit)
Mobility: 9800, X700, X1350, X1400, X2300, HD 2400
Discrete: 4 Ti 4600, 4 Ti 4800, FX 5700 Ultra, 6200, 8300, 8400 G, G 210, G 310
Go (mobile): 315M
Discrete: 9600 PRO, 9800 LE, X600 PRO, HD 2300
Mobility: 9700 (128-bit), X600, X1300
Integrated: Xpress 1250
Discrete: 4 Ti4200, 4 Ti4400, 4 Ti4800 SE, FX 5600 Ultra, FX 5700, 6600 (64-bit), 7300 GS, 8400M GS, 9300M G, 9300M GS Discrete: 9500, 9550, 9600, X300, X1050 (64-bit)
Mobility: 9600
Discrete: 3 Ti500, FX 5200 Ultra, FX 5600, FX 5700 LE, 6200 TC, 6600 LE, 7200 GS, 7300 LE
Go (mobile): 5700, 8200M, 9200M GS, 9100
Integrated: 8200, 8300
Discrete: 8500, 9100, 9000 PRO, 9600 LE, X300 SE, X1150
Mobility 9700 (64-bit)
Discrete: 3, 3 Ti200, FX 5200 (128-bit), FX 5500,
Go (mobile): 5600, 6200, 6400, 7200, 7300, 7400 (64-bit)
Discrete: 9000, 9200, 9250
Mobility: 9600 (64-bit), X300

Discrete: FX 5200 (64 bit)
Go (mobile): 7200, 7400 (32-bit)
Integrated: 6100, 6150, 7025, 7050
Discrete: 9200 SE
Integrated: Xpress 200M, Xpress 1000, Xpress 1150
Discrete: 2 GTS, 4 MX 440, 2 Ultra, 2 Ti, 2 Ti 200 Discrete: 7500
Discrete: 256, 2 MX 200, 4 MX 420, 2 MX 400 Discrete: SDR, LE, DDR, 7000, 7200
Discrete: Nvidia TNT Discrete: Rage 128

Our Take

It all comes down to your budget and what you do. Are you a gamer or just going to do work relating to Photoshop or 3D max or what type of games you play if you play graphic demanding games like battlefield 3 or do you play games like angry birds. It also comes down to what type of monitor you have. Don’t buy a card that will get outdated in say 6 months or when newer games are launched.


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