Entry-level graphics cards: SA price roundup
So you want in to the graphics card owner’s club, but don’t know what to wear? This short guide will help budget buyers kit out their rig properly.
In this article we compare prices for budget graphics cards that enable just the basic features without breaking the bank. Is it possible to spend as little money as possible and still come up with the minimum requirements for your gaming needs?
Below is the listed pricing for the various graphics cards from local online retailers. The lowest prices are highlighted in Bold. If a product is listed as “Sold out”, “Contact for availability” or “Limited stock”, that price does not make it into this table.
|Graphics cards||Rebel Tech||Wootware||Ikonix||Titan-Ice||Prophecy|
|Nvidia Geforce GT210 1GB DDR3||337||397||376||399||404.49|
|Sapphire HD6540 Flex 1GB DDR3||598||835||753||829||656.98|
|Sapphire HD6670 1GB GDDR3||866||917||872||929||942.96|
|AMD Radeon HD7770 1GB GDDR5||1349||1349||1399||1529||1563.87|
Just ticking the necessary boxes: Nvidia Geforce GT210
Nvidia Geforce GT210 1GB DDR3 ± R383
Nvidia’s GT210 is the plucky one – it stays around for ages regardless of how many price drops are seen on older Geforce 500 and 600 series stock. Its cemented its value among HTPC buyers looking for something small and quiet for their rig and as a bonus it can unlock the option to run Physx calculations on the GPU.
It won’t be very fast for gaming or much else, but as a enabler for HDMI playback with hardware acceleration or even for use in a dual-screen setup, you can’t really beat that value. AMD offers a similar package which is just as old with the HD5450. Drivers for both cards are rock-solid, but see few updates apart from compatibility fixes. Both Nvidia and AMD consider the cards in this segment “legacy devices” despite the fact that they continue to make them.
Eyefinity on the cheap: Sapphire HD6450 Flex
Sapphire HD6450 1GB DDR3 Flex ± R734
Sapphire’s Flex family isn’t really anything fancy, but they do one thing that Nvidia’s cards can’t: enable the use of three screens in an Eyefinity configuration without the use of expensive Displayport adapters. The HD6450 Flex gives us two DVI ports and one HDMI-out port to link up three screens to the card. The addition of a low-profile bracket in the retail box means this can be used in small-form-factor setups as well.
Gaming performance is very limited, but you may be able to run up some hours in Counter-Strike and League of Legends with details on Low. Diablo III scales pretty well across a broad range of hardware as well, and on low at 720p resolution will be playable on this card. Other than that, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill, but cements its value because its cheaper than anything in the budget line from Matrox.
The minimum for games: Sapphire Radeon HD6670
Sapphire Radeon HD6670 1GB GDDR3 ± R904
Gamers on a super-tight budget can breathe a sigh of relief because you won’t have to dig that deep into your pockets to gain some playable performance. AMD’s HD6670 may be over two years old now, but it’s still good enough to deliver playable framerates at 720p with medium settings in most games. It doesn’t receive driver performance updates any more, but keeps on plodding as AMD’s driver team works to make sure that programs and games continue to function on it.
For bonus points, there’s also the option to pair this to an AMD A8 or A10-series APU and enable dual graphics mode. Its Crossfire on the cheap and pairs the HD6670 to the built-in graphics core on the APU. Its not going to enable you to put up the graphics to Ultra, but medium-to-low details at 1080p should be more playable now. For around R900, it’s a bargain of note.
Here’s where the fun begins: AMD Radeon HD7770
AMD Radeon HD7770 1GB GDDR5 ± R1438
The HD7770 finishes off AMD’s domination of the low-end segment with a card that’s capable of delivering playable frame rates for most games with high settings at 1080p. Based on the GCN architecture, it’s at least twice as powerful as the HD6670 and still has a good amount of overclocking headroom available. Its powered by a single 6-pin power connector and power draw is at a miserly 85W for most variants.
Its generally slower than the competing Nvidia Geforce GTX650 Ti, but that card is also on average R300 more expensive. The HD7770, meanwhile, has been bundled in the past with some great games like DiRT Showdown, and now is eligible for AMD’s Never Settle Reloaded bundle, which gives you Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon for free. Nvidia doesn’t bundle anything with the GTX650 Ti, although you may find that the Gigabyte variant may bundle in Assassin’s Creed 3.
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