How to Find the Best Gaming Video Card for the Money no Matter what your Budget

If you’re looking to get the best gaming video card for the money it’s important that you know what features make a gaming card the best gaming video card.  In this article I’ll first take a look at the features common to all good gaming video cards and then I’ll show you what the best gaming video card for the money is based on three prices levels, good, better and best.  Truth be told the best gaming video card for the money right now is well over $500, much greater than the average person is willing to spend.  I’ll show you what the best gaming video card is based on how much you really want to spend.

What features should I look for when I want the best gaming video card for the money?

There are two main things you should be looking for when trying to find the best gaming video card for the money; On board memory, chip speed and finally the number of pipelines.  Let’s look at each of these criteria a bit further.

  • First off there’s on board memory.  When it comes to gaming, especially shooters or other 3d style games this is one of the most important features you should be looking for.  When a screen is rendered all those textures you see need to be processed by the video card.  The more memory the card has, the more it can process before it needs to call on the hard drive for more data.  If you’ve ever played a shooter and entered a new area and all of the sudden the frame rate drops and the hard drive starts going this is what’s happening.  The video card is calling on the HD for more textures.  This is a little bit of a simplification but that’s essentially what’s happening.  The more memory you have, the more textures will be stored and less calls to the hard drive will be made.
  • Next up is chip speed.  Although this is an important stat it isn’t as important as most manufacturers would have you believe.  While it’s true that a faster chip can blast pixels onto the screen faster than a slower one you begin to get diminishing returns after a while.  I personally rate this particular stat the lowest.
  • And finally there’s pipelines.  I like to think of this as lanes on a highway, the more pipelines a card has the faster it can display graphics on the screen.  A 4 pipeline card isn’t near as fast as a 6 pipeline card.  The best gaming video card for the money is one that has the most pipelines in your price range.

Now, taking the above into consideration you should weigh these stats in the following order.

  1. Number of pipelines
  2. Memory
  3. Chip speed

Understanding what these stats mean and how important they are will enable you to weed out garbage video cards easily and concentrate on the good ones.

radeon 4650

At entry level this Radeon 4650 is hands down the best gaming video card for the money

Now, with that out of the way let’s see which are the best gaming video card for the money.  Once again I want to point out that I’ve broken these down into different price ranges.  I also want to say that I avoided the seriously high end video cards, in the $400 plus price range since they almost always drop by $100 or so dollars even just a few months after release.

Find the best gaming video card – Low end, or about 75 dollars

The Radeon HD 4650 or the GeForce 7800 series video cards are an excellent value, and, at this price point are the best gaming video cards for the money.  I want to point out that you’ll find the 4650 in both 512mb and 1gb versions, I’m referring to the 1gb model here.

Sapphire Radeon HD4650 1 GB DDR2 VGA/DVI/HDMI PCI-Express Video Card 100254HDMI

The GeForce has less memory but still top notch performance, better for strategy games or games with less texture dependent graphics.
EVGA 512-A8-N403-LR GeForce 6200 LE 512MB DDR2 AGP Graphics Card

Now we’re going to look at some more expensive video cards, at this price point you’ll find more memory, more pipelines and of course faster chip speeds.

the best gaming video card for the money

This IceQ 5750 is a great choice at this price point

Find the best gaming video card – Medium level, or about 150 dollars

In this price range we’re looking at the Radeon 5750 or the GeForce 8800 series.  The Radeon pictured to the right, the 5750 IceQ edition is perhaps the finest video card you can get your hands on at this price point, it’s performance rivals some of the higher end cards.  This one also has much faster memory and lots of it.
HIS Radeon HD 5750 IceQ 1 GB (128bit) GDDR5 DisplayPort HDMI DL-DVI (HDCP) PCI Express 2.0 X16 Video Card Retail (RoHS) H575Q1GD

The 8800 series, personally I own one of these cards and I absolutely love it.  I’ve thrown just about everything out there at this card and it’s always come through with flying colors.
BFG BFGEGTX260MC896OCE NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 OC MAXCORE 896MB GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 Graphics Card

Find the best gaming video card – High end, or about 250 to 300 dollars

the best gaming video card for the money

Now we’re going to look at some of the best gaming video cards available out there.  As I’ve said before I’m not going more expensive than this since we’re looking for the best cards for the money.  Buying the latest and greatest video card the day it’s released isn’t the smart way to go since you’ll be paying a premium price.

In this price range I like the Radeon 5850 or the GeForce GTX470 or above.  The Radeon 5850 has tons of memory, blazing speed in both chip and memory and tons of pipelines.  I really think this is one of the best gaming video card models you can get.
HIS Radeon HD 5850 Turbo 1 GB (256 bit) GDDR5 Eyefinity DisplayPort HDMI 2x DL-DVI (HDCP) PCI Express 2.1 X16 Video Card Retail (RoHS) H585FNT1GDG

And finally there’s the GTX 470.  Like the Radeon above there’s nothing this card can’t do.  It’ll cost you but I believe the results are indeed worth the investment.  Over a gig of memory, blazing fast chip, pipelines and memory, this is one serious card.
EVGA GeForce GTX470 1280 MB DDR5 PCI-Express 2.0 Graphics Card 012-P3-1470-AR

Some final thoughts when looking for the best gaming video card for the money

There’s a few things you should be aware of when searching for the perfect gaming video card.  If you’ve ever shopped for a computer card then you probably already know these but it’s worth pointing out again.

Make sure your computer can handle the card you’re looking at, for video cards make sure you have the slot type that the card needs.  In addition, for higher end cards you may need additional power supply plugs inside, not all PCs have them so check to see if you do.  I hate to say this but for serious video cards you’ll more than likely need a gaming power supply as well, so factor that into the total cost.

There’s a new technology out now called SLI or Crossfire, depending on the manufacturer.  This is where you can put two (or more) video cards onto your mother board and get twice the video processing power.  Make sure your motherboard actually has two slots before you look into this technology, and be especially aware of your power supply as well.  With SLI or Crossfire the nice thing is you can buy a gaming video card now, and add a second one later (when the price drops) to double your gaming pleasure.

I also want to point out that when searching for a gaming video card that I only recommended the base model, you’ll no doubt find many different ‘flavors’ out there, so use the guide above, the reviews and common sense when deciding on which to get.

And finally, make sure the card you’re interested in can support the software that new games are using, such as directx 11.  If they don’t you’ll take a performance hit.  In some cases you’ll want to check the manufacturer website to see if driver updates added new software support.

And that’s it, when looking for the best gaming video card it’s important to know the technology and your budget to truly find which is the best gaming video card for the money.  I suggest checking out a few cards on Amazon to read the reviews, they’re by real gamers who’ve purchased, installed and used these cards so I find their reviews much more useful than any paid reviewer site.

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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