14 best graphics cards for every budget

AMD or Nvidia? Choose the best DX11 graphics card for you

Given our penchant for high-performance components it might seem strange that we've gone all gooey over a $190 graphics card which is easily outperformed by a good chunk of the cards on test. But a quick scan of the benchmarks on these 'ere pages should show you why we're so taken by the HD 7850 1GB.

It beats the other cards in its class in pretty much every test and gives much more expensive cards a run for their money. In fact, as the two value tests prove, it offers the most performance for your dosh of the lot - and you can't ask for much more than that.

At the top of the tech tree, the HD 7970 and GTX 680 inevitably fight it out, each taking it in turn to top the test. Except when it comes to price performance - in both tests the Sapphire offers far better value than the EVGA.

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And the winner is… MSI HD 7850 1GB

MSI HD 7850

We've been accused in recent times of being AMD fan boys here at PCFormat. That's a rather ridiculous accusation considering that we get to test every single card on the market and we don't have to make decisions on what graphics cards to jam in our machines based on tribal loyalties.

What we do base our decisions on is a combination of gaming performance and the cost to you, our beloved readers. In this generation it's been an almost complete whitewash for AMD in terms of performance per pound, and actually in outright straight-line gaming speed too.

Most of this is down to Nvidia's tardiness in releasing the new Kepler architecture into the wild, giving AMD the time to harvest its cards at the high initial price tags and then the option to slash prices when the competition finally comes around.

At every pairing AMD comes out on top. At the top-end, the HD 7970 has held on to the performance crown thanks to the release of the GHz Edition, even the pricey, overclocked EVGA GTX 680 Signature 2 can't maintain a consistent performance lead over the AMD card. The price cuts have also allowed the HD 7950 to carve out an excellent little niche for itself, sitting between the GTX 660 Ti and GTX 670.

The GTX 660 Ti has become a little more relevant thanks to some price chopping on the part of Nvidia for a change. It's got enough about it to take on the HD 7870 and make a real fist of it.

The truth of it, though, is that Nvidia actually hasn't had to make a fight on the pricing front. It has been happily selling its Kepler cards thanks to existing goodwill among its user base, and that tribal loyalty sometimes outweighs the actual performance. If Nvidia is still selling at its current pricing then there's really no reason to get any more competitive on cost.

That's where AMD really has to fight its corner, after all, a quick check of the Steam hardware survey shows that Nvidia still has the advantage in numbers out in the real world.

The real star of the show, though, has to be the incredible HD 7850 in lightweight 1GB trim. We really didn't expect this MSI card to be quite as impressive as it is. We ostensibly got the card in to go up against the HD 7770, but as it turned out it made things uncomfortable for the 2GB version, and for both the GTX 650 Ti and the GTX 660.

In fact, for the gamer on a budget, the HD 7850 1GB is the perfect 1080p graphics card - it's got some impressive performance chops in high-resolution trim too. We've had a play with a pair of these in CrossFire too, and at $380 you're getting performance that is right up there with the GTX 680 and HD 7970.

The vagaries of multi-GPU systems in terms of playing nice with modern games mean it's still not an absolute must-buy pairing, but it's getting pretty darned close.