Best budget Gaming video card

The gear we used for testing

What graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck?

That single, simple sentence cuts to the core of what people on the hunt for a new graphics card are looking for: The most oomph they can afford. Sure, graphics cards are complicated pieces of modern technology, powered by billions of transistors and countless other types of intricate hardware, but people just want to crank the detail settings on Far Cry and just plain play.

Answering the question can be a bit trickier than it seems. Raw performance is a big part of it, but factors like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software all play a role in determining which graphics card to buy, too.

Let us be your guiding light. We’ve tested graphics cards of all shapes, sizes, and price points to nail down exactly what you can expect for your money—from itty-bitty $90 cards to fire-breathing $1000 models to behemoths with not one, but two graphics processors and custom watercooling loops. We’ll also talk a bit about the “extras” that can sway your buying decision, like Nvidia’s ShadowPlay software and AMD’s TrueAudio, and we’ll issue buying recommendations for various price points. Finally, I’ll update this article with performance data from every new GPU that launches going forward, so you’ll always have the most recent information at hand.

Graphics cards are expensive. Choosing one can be complicated. But it won’t be after reading this. Let’s dig in.

Editor's note: If you want to skip all the benchmarks results and the talk about Nvidia- and AMD-specific features, jump to the last page of the article for our buying recommendations, separated by price point.

pcw haswell ebuild primary Brad Chacos

PCWorld’s graphics card testing rig.

Hold your horses! Before we dive into raw numbers we need to detail our test system and the cards we’ve tested. If you want to jump right into the juicy benchmarks, skip ahead to the third page. Buying recommendations are on the final page of this article.

Still with me? Great. Here are the details of our test rig. Yes, it’s powerful—and definitely overkill for gaming—but that eliminates any pesky potential bottlenecking situations in the system. For more information you can check out our build guide for PCWorld’s graphics testing PC.

We tested as many different GPUs as possible—one GeForce GTX 750 Ti, one Radeon R9 390X, et cetera—with a preference for models with custom cooling solutions, in order to mimic as realistic a scenario as possible. Some high-end reference cards are also included, however.

Models of all current Nvidia GPUs have been benchmarked, but you’ll notice some missing Radeon models, such as the R9 285 and the R7 370. This is due to a few things: PCWorld’s graphics card review coverage was kind of light past years, and when AMD updated its entire graphics card lineup to the R300-series in one fell swoop, they didn’t send publications review samples. We managed to scrounge up high-end models, but nobody wanted to send us entry-level Radeon R7 graphics cards to review. That said, this is a fairly comprehensive look at the current landscape, from top to bottom.

Zotac ZOTAC GeForce GTX 750Ti 2GB GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 DVI HDMI DisplayPort Video Graphics Card (ZT-70605-10M)
Personal Computer (Zotac)
  • Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
  • Video Memory: 2GB GDDR5
  • Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600, Support 3x Display Monitors
  • Connectors: DVI Dual Link, HDMI, DisplayPort
  • Package contents : ZT-70605-10M graphics card, DVI-to-VGA Adapter, User manual, Driver Disc
  • Extended warranty included with every graphics card purchase. User registration required on ZOTAC website.
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ZOTAC ZOTAC GeForce GT 730 Low Profile 4GB 64-Bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 (x8 lanes) Graphics Card (ZT-71115-20L)
Personal Computer (ZOTAC)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 730 GPU. 384 processor cores. 4GB DDR3. 64-bit memory bus. Engine clock: 902 MHz. Memory clock: 1600 MHz. PCI Express 2.0 (x8 lanes)
  • 1 x DL-DVI-D. 1 x VGA. 1 x HDMI. Triple simultaneous display capable. HDCP compliant.
  • 300-watt power supply recommended. 25-watt max power consumption
  • HDTV READY : ED 480p. HD 720p. HD 1080i. Full HD 1080p. Quad Full HD (4K).
  • Package contents : ZOTAC GeForce GT 730. 1 x Low-profile bracket [VGA]. 1 x Low-profile bracket [DVI + HDMI]. User manual.Driver disc
  • Extended warranty included with every graphics card purchase. User registration required on ZOTAC website
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Seagate Seagate 1TB Gaming SSHD SATA 8GB NAND SATA 6Gb/s 2.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive (ST1000LM014)
Personal Computer (Seagate)
  • Solid State Hybrid Drive, boots and performs like an SSD
  • 9.5mm drive for mobile devices, add capacity without adding complexity to get more from your PC, Mac, tablet or game console
  • 5x faster than traditional 7200-RPM HDD. Ideal for gaming and performance laptop
  • Easy Playstation upgrade up to 500GB capacity without void warranty
  • 64MB Cache with 8GB NAND Flash for more speed, cost efficient. Now with a 5 year warranty
Dell Marketing USA, LP Dell Studio s1747-2839CBK 17.3-Inch Laptop (Black Chainlink) [Discontinued By Manufacturer]
Personal Computer (Dell Marketing USA, LP)
  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM Processor with 6MB cache and Turbo Mode up to 2.8GHz
  • 6GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz (two DIMMs)
  • 500GB, 7200 RPM SATA hard drive; Slot-Loading DVD+/-RW with Double-Layer Write Capability
  • 17.3 HD+ (900p) LED display with TrueLife; HDMI output
  • Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium (64-Bit) operating system
Excelvan Mini 80 Inch Projector for Mobile Use (640x480 Resolution, 1080p Support, HDMI/USB/AV/TF Card/VGA Input Support, 100 Lumens Brightness), Black
Office Product (Excelvan)
  • Hassle-Free Setup: built-in speakers and support for almost every input imaginable (such as USB, HDMI, VGA, and more) ensure that you will be able to enjoy this...
  • Projection on a Budget: features like support for 1080p, the most common aspect ratios and file formats, a great price tag, and a light weight ensure that you will...
  • Long Lasting Lamp: a 20, hour lamp life ensures that you will enjoy years and years of regular use, without the need for bulb maintenance, replacement, or a whole...
  • Compact Design: don t be slowed down by other bulky projectors: our projector s ergonomic design, size, lightweight, and built-in speakers guarantee you ll have...
  • Comfortable Brightness: our projector features a brightness of 60 lumens, ideal for nighttime viewing (not recommended for professional presentations)
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