It’s not unusual for avid gamers to spend more than $500 on a video card. However, if you’re working off a tight budget or just starting out in the gaming world, there are other cheaper options that will still give you a good gaming experience. It’s important to pick the right card, though – often, low-priced cards just don’t deliver the performance you need. Here, we look at 5 cards that give you decent gaming performance without emptying your wallet.
Sapphire Radeon R7 250X
Let’s start with the best. For a great balance of price and performance, it’s hard to beat the 250X. You’ll pay around $90 for this card, and it’s a lot of card for the money. Because the card comes with GDDR5 memory running at 1125 MHz, the effective memory bandwidth comes in at 4.5 GB/sec. While that is still relatively low compared to high-end cards, it should still give you high frame rates – in fact, some games can get close to 50 frames a second and 30 fps is pretty standard. The other nice thing about this card is how well it handles textures. It has many more texture units than other cards in its class, and the result is a texture fill rate that comes in at 38 GT/s. This means that you will be able to crank up the detail more than you can with other similarly priced cards.
Sapphire Radeon R7 240 Boost
If $90 is a little too high for your budget, then take a look at the 250X’s little cousin, the 240. You can get this card for around $60 if you look around, and it’s a good choice for novice gamers. The memory bandwidth is about 28.8 GB/s, thanks to a combination of 900 MHz memory clock speed and GDDR3 memory technology. That’s only about 60% of what you get with the 250X, but it’s still good enough for moderate gaming – although you won’t be able to turn your games up to their maximum display settings. Just like the 250X, for the 240 has excellent texture performance, although it’s obviously not as good as the more expensive card. Here is the bottom line – you’re not going to find a better video card at this low price point, so just don’t bother looking for anything else.
MSI Radeon R7 260X OC
On the other hand, if you want to step up to the top of the budget card range, then take a look at the 260X. This is going to set you back around 120 bucks. Still, that’s incredibly cheap compared to top-end video cards, and you get a lot for your money. This card will easily give you 50 fps with most games, although you still may have to tweak your display settings a bit. While the 250X has a memory bandwidth of 4.5 Gb/sec, the 260X more than doubles this to 96 GB/sec. The texture fill rate is also a step up from the 250X – 58.8 GT/sec compared to 38 GT/sec. The only real complaints are that the card draws a massive 115 W and generates a lot of cooling noise.
Asus GeForce GT 740 OC
Let’s talk about power consumption for a minute. All of the Radeon base cards we’ve been talking about do draw a lot of power, which can be a real problem if your existing power supply isn’t up to the job. If this is the case, there are alternatives, although you won’t get quite the same performance. For example, the GeForce GT 740 is in the same price range as the 250X, and only needs 60 W as compared to 90 W with the Radeon card. However, unless you need to make the compromise to limit power consumption, the 250X is a better choice – the 740 tends to run about 5 fps slower, and it can start to struggle if you turn up your display options too high.
EVGA GeForce GTX 750
This card is in the same class as the 260X – in fact you’re likely to pay a little more for it. Again, the real selling point here is the power consumption. The 750 pulls far less power than the 260 X, and it runs more quietly. However, its performance falls between the 250X and 260X – you’ll get a few less frames per second than the 260X across the board, and in demanding applications the rate can be down as much as 7 to 8 FPS. That having said, this is still one of the better budget video gaming cards on the market today.