Best Graphics Cards for Your Money – March 2016 (Part One)

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Hello there. It’s been awhile since we did this. A lot has changed since the last time we published a best graphics card roundup. Before we dive into our analysis and recommendations, let’s take a look at the current state of affairs.

Both Nvidia and AMD have refreshed their graphics card lineups to bottom over the past year, with Nvidia fleshing out the 900 series (and the 700 series, oddly enough) and AMD launching the R9 300 and Fury series graphics cards. AMD has been keeping up the good work with significant performance gains through drivers and Nvidia has been accused of doing the opposite with older generation cards.

Still though, keep your drivers up to date for the best performance and compatibility with the newest gaming titles. You can find the latest drivers for your AMD and Nvidia card here.

Windows 10 is now in wide use, and with it comes Direct X 12. Marketing hype aside, Direct X 12 shouldn’t be making too much of an impact on your purchasing decisions yet. No Direct X 12 compatible games have been released thus far, and if the launch of Direct X 11 is something to go by, then we won’t be seeing games that fully utilize the advanced features of Direct X 12 for at least a couple of years, by which time it will be time for an upgrade. All current generation graphics cards have basic Direct X 12 compatibility, so you should be fine for now.

A little closer to home, a few things have changed as well. The biggest news in terms of brands was that the largest graphics card manufacturer in the world, Palit Microsystems established business operations in Sri Lanka with an authorized distributor. This means that 6 of the 7 top-tier graphics card manufacturers (Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Palit, EVGA & Sapphire) now have official representation in the country, with the notable exception being XFX. This in itself is impressive for a market as small as Sri Lanka. As consumers, more competition means higher quality products at better prices.

In not so great news, the USD exchange rate now sits at an all time high Rs 146, while the latest amendments to the import duty structure sees tariffs applicable on computer hardware increase by around 5% (mostly through the Ports and Airport Levy – PAL). Both these factors have adversely affected the prices of graphics cards over the past year. If you find some of our older recommendations now more expensive, this is why.

Before we move onto our recommendations, our trusty graph.

graph

Why 3D Mark? A couple of reasons. The above graph is a compilation of scores found here (link: http://www.futuremark.com/hardware/gpu). How this list works is it collects the scores of thousands of users who have submitted their scores through the benchmark, and gives out an average for each card. This eliminates the bias towards any platform and gives an indication of real world performance. Also, since some users submit scores of overclocked cards, it also gives an indication of the cards true potential available through overclocking. Actual gaming performance may vary due to multiple reasons.

Well, onwards to our recommendations.

Best graphics card for Rs 10,000/= or below

Max settings on any game below 1366×768. Average performance (medium) on all the latest games at 1366×768. Entry level performance (low) at 1920×1080.

What can you buy for less than 10k? Mostly, crap. Honestly, there is very little for under 10k to be had in terms of gaming. This price segment is populated by the ancient G210s, GT520s, GT610s, HD5450s, HD6450s and the newer (but equally bad) GT710s and GT720s and the R5 230s. Why are none of these recommended? To put it into perspective, the Intel HD Graphics present on the current generation Pentium processors will give you better graphics performance than all those older gen cards. And that processor itself costs only Rs 9,500/=. So avoid these at all costs. The GT710 and 720 redeem themselves a bit, but again, these are bested by Intel HD530 graphics found on a current gen Core i3 processor, and are only viable if you are looking for a cheap performance bump for a 5-6 year old PC.

Our favorite card under 10k has been the R7 240 DDR3. However with the prices increasing, it’s now hard to find one below 10k. The GT730 has been given a mid life refresh by Nvidia. In addition to the 96 core 128-bit version that had been prevalent until now, there’s also a 384 core 64-bit version now available. While the 384 core version lends itself poorly to a high memory buffer, it does perform significantly better than it’s 96 core counterpart in gaming, making it a compelling buy for 720p gaming. Since both versions are available in the market, keep an eye out for the 64-bit version if you are planning to buy one.

If you are absolutely stuck below 10k though, we’d recommend getting a used card or saving up for a bit more before investing on a card.

Recommendation:
Nvidia GT730 1GB GDDR5 (64-bit)

Our pick:
Palit Geforce GT730 1GB GDDR5 – Rs 11,000/=

Image taken from http://pcadvisor.co.uk
Image taken from http://pcadvisor.co.uk

Recommended processor:
Intel Pentium G4400

Recommended Monitor Resolution:
1366×768

Recommended Power Supply:
250W

Best graphics card for Rs 15,000/=

Great performance (high/ultra) on any game at 1366×768. Entry level performance (low/medium) at 1920×1080.

Similar to the GT730, the R7 250 from AMD has also seen a mid life refresh. The previous 384 core version has been updated to a faster 512 core version, which straight up offers upto 30% more performance for around the same price, which puts it very close to the R7 250X which now sells for Rs 17,500/=. The new version comes with an “SP512” prefix, so it should be easy enough to identify on a shelf.

In terms of competition, not much is to be found in the same price range. The only other card in the same price bracket is the GT740, which at it’s best only traded blows with the 384 core version of the R7 250 and now finds itself trailing the updated card by a margin. The slightly faster, but slightly more expensive R7 250X loses out due to it’s slightly higher power requirement in order to offer similar performance.

Recommendation:
Radeon R7 250 SP512 1GB GDDR5

Our Pick:
Sapphire Radeon R7 250 SP512 1GB GDDR5 – Rs 15,500/=

Image taken from http://expertreviews.co.uk
Image taken from http://expertreviews.co.uk

Recommended processor:
Intel Core i3 6100

Recommended Monitor Resolution:
1366×768 or 1600×900

Recommended Power Supply:
250W

Best Graphics card for Rs 20,000/=

Max settings on any game at 1366×768. Average performance (medium) on all the latest games at 1920×1080.

20k is the sweet spot for graphics card in our market. So whatever goes here will undoubtedly be the crowd favorite.

Three cards battle it out at Rs 20k, the R7 360 from AMD and the GTX750 and 750Ti from Nvidia. As the replacement for the R7 260X, the R7 360 is slightly slower than its predecessor while being a few bucks cheaper internationally. As one of the newer chips from AMD, the R7 360 has seen a significant improvement through driver updates since launch. Even though launch reviews would place the R7 360 roughly 10% slower than a GTX750Ti, they now manage to trade blows, in most titles.

In a turn of events that’s exactly opposite to what’s been happening, factory overclocked versions of the GTX750Ti are now significantly cheaper than they used to be. We would put this down to competitive pricing from the likes of Gigabyte and Palit. As such, the GTX750Ti is no longer overpriced and merits a buy based on performance rather than solely relying on efficiency. The R7 360 gains a honourable mention for delivering similar performance, albeit at the cost of needing a slightly beefier power supply.

Recommendation:
Nvidia Geforce GTX 750Ti 2GB  GDDR5

Honorable Mention
AMD Radeon R7 360 2GB GDDR5

Our Pick:
Palit Geforce GTX 750Ti StormX Dual 2GB GDDR5 – Rs 22,500/=

Image taken from http://www.overclockers.ua
Image taken from http://www.overclockers.ua

Recommended processor:
Intel Core i3 6100

Recommended Monitor Resolution:
1600×900 or 1920×1080

Recommended Power Supply:
250W (300W for a R7 360)

 

Best Graphics card for Rs 25,000/=

Good performance (medium/high) on all the latest games at 1920×1080. Recommended for solid performance in competitive multiplayer.

There are not many cards available around 25k in the local market. For around 26k you can find the AMD R7 370 and 4GB versions of the GTX 750Ti, which seems to be quite popular among ill-informed buyers.  The choice between these two is pretty straightforward. The GTX750Ti is highly unlikely to utilize 4GB of VRAM, and as a result the 4GB version would perform similar to the cheaper 2GB version. The R7 370 would perform roughly 25-30% faster across all titles.

Recommendation:
Radeon R7 370 2GB GDDR5

Our Pick:
MSI Radeon R7 370 Armor 2x 2GB GDDR5 – Rs 26,500/=

Image taken from http://www.bhphotovideo.com
Image taken from http://www.bhphotovideo.com

Recommended processor:
Intel Core i3 6100

Recommended Monitor Resolution:
1920×1080

Recommended Power Supply:
350W

Best Graphics card for Rs 30,000/=

Good performance (high) on all the latest games at 1920×1080. Recommended for solid performance in competitive multiplayer.

The 30k price point has only once contender, and therefore gains one of the easiest recommendations on this list. The GTX 950 is available starting at just under Rs 30k and offers around 10-15% more performance over the R7 370 for a similar price premium. There is merit in spending a bit more for a version with a beefier cooling solution because a little bit of dabbling with overclocking can push a GTX 950 beyond a stock GTX 960 that’s around 7-8k more expensive.

Recommendation:
Nvidia Geforce GTX 950 2GB  GDDR5

Our Pick:
Gigabyte Geforce GTX 950 Xtreme Gaming 2GB GDDR5 – Rs 31,000/=

Image taken from http://www.gigabyte.com
Image taken from http://www.gigabyte.com

Recommended processor:
Intel Core i3 6100 or Intel Core i5 6500

Recommended Monitor Resolution:
1920×1080

Recommended Power Supply:
350W

Best Graphics card for Rs 40,000/=

Great performance (high/ultra) on all the latest games at 1920×1080. Good performance (medlum) on all the latest games at 2560×1440.

40k sees one of the toughest AMD vs Nvidia battles on our lineup – The R9 380 vs the GTX 960, in both 2GB and 4GB flavours.

First to address the VRAM issue. While it’s true that most games nowadays can use upwards of 2GB of VRAM, it’s still questionable if a card at this price range is capable of running said games at the settings that do use that much VRAM. Ultimately, it’s pointless having more VRAM if a game is unplayable at the point it uses more VRAM. Classic example would be GTA V. Yes it’s perfectly capable of using up to 4GB of VRAM with the distance scaling turned up and anti-aliasing turned on. But on a GTX 960, turning up both these settings will drop frame rates to mid 20s (with everything else turned up) which makes the game unplayable. So while the extra VRAM is being used, its usefulness is debatable. According to multiple reviews online and through our personal testing, there’s no difference between a 2GB and a 4GB versions of the GTX960. If you feel like you need 4GB of VRAM, the better option is the slightly faster R9 380, which is fast enough to utilize the additional VRAM (as in the above scenario where you can expect just above 30fps with the same settings – making it just about playable).

In raw power wise, the R9 380 is generally the faster card by a small margin (say around 10%) in most games, with the GTX 960 catching up in games that favour Nvidia, while the R9 380 increases it’s lead in any game with large and expansive worlds that demand more texture work. The flipside of the coin is that the GTX 960 draws around 60W less power than a R9 380, and therefore requires less of an investment on the power supply.

All things considered, our recommendation goes to the 4GB version of the R9 380 for being the outright faster card and having the additional usable VRAM if needed, with the 2GB version of the GTX960 gaining a honourable mention as a viable alternative to a budget or power conscious gamer.

Recommendation:
AMD Radeon R9 380 4GB GDDR5

Honorable Mention
Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 2GB GDDR5

Our Pick:
Sapphire Radeon R9 380 Niro 4GB GDDR5 – Rs 42,000/=

Image taken from http://www.sapphiretech.com
Image taken from http://www.sapphiretech.com

Recommended processor:
Intel Core i5 6500

Recommended Monitor Resolution:
1920×1080

Recommended Power Supply:
450W

As you can see, for around Rs. 40,000/-, you can get your hands on a killer graphics card. Stay tuned for the next part of the series where we delve into the higher end lineup of graphics cards.

Till then, ciao peeps.

*All prices are accurate at the time of publishing.

2 COMMENTS

  1. You completely are you seriouse? We can buy a 970 for around 35k brand new .ita not worth it to use a brand new 950 over a used 970 or even 960 4Gigs.

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