Top Graphics cards for 2013

Published: November 23, 2013

The holiday season is almost on us and many PC gamers are bound to be looking for or hoping for new graphics cards to include in their gaming rigs. There are many options out there and this list will present the most enticing ones based on price, features and performance. This list aims for financial sanity, therefore uber expensive cards are either not welcome or lowly rated.

  1. AMD Radeon HD 7970/R9 280X

    The two cards are practically the same with some difference in that the R9 280X cards seem to come in shorter varieties. If you have one of those cases that cannot hold longer graphics cards, a 280X might be the better option. Either way, both can be had for around $300 and probably less when the deals hit. Why is this number one? $300 falls below the cost of the new next gen consoles so it presents an attractive option. In addition, this card can play most games currently available at their maximum settings with good framerates, as long as you don't go far beyond 1080p. It is an old architecture which lacks the new features of AMD's latest, but for what it offers, it is the best deal.

  2. AMD Radeon R9 290

    Now this card is the ideal for anyone looking for the latest features at a reasonable price. It could be cheaper, that is for sure, but for $400 and performance that is very close to it's $550 older sibling, it's a great deal. This is the best option for the higher end crowd looking for something not totally crazy in pricing. 

  3. AMD radeon 7950/Nvidia GTX 760

    These two cards are similarly priced at the moment. The 7950 offers more Vram in the standard configuration but the 760 is a strong performer. Nvidia often insists on 256bit 2GB memory configurations and higher than necessary pricing, but this card is one to take seriously. Either one would be worth it in this price range.

  4. Nvidia GTX 770

    The 770 makes the list just barely due to recent price cuts by nvidia. at roughly $330 recommended pricing, the basic configuration of the GTX 770 puts it close to the 280X/7970. If you are an nvidia fan, this is now a reasonable option. It still offers just 2GB of ram and a 256bit memory but, but nvidia tends to use higher speed memory resulting in respectable memory bandwidth. With 2GB, you are mostly safe, at least until the next gen consoles being to replace current generation consoles.

  5. AMD Radeon 7870 XT (Tahiti core)

    This is a 7870 with 1536 stream processors versus the typical 1280 found on standard HD 7870 Graphics cards. This here is a great option for anyone not able to quite afford a 7950. The performance is mostly better than the HD 7870 GHz Edition but the power consumption is higher. Powercolor versions of this card have been seen at $170, which is below the cost of most 7870 cards and 270X cards. 

  6. AMD Radeon R9 270X/HD 7870 GHz Edition

    These cards are surprisingly good options for 1080p and below gaming. Respectable performance can be had in games like farcry 3, tomb raider and Bioshock infinite. Satisfaction is guaranteed for most gamers who opt for these cards, as far as currently available games are concerned. Future releases may present more challenges for these cards however. Simply find whichever costs less. Worth mentioning is the R9 270. This card is a weaker version of the previously mentioned cards. No hardware is removed and overclocking the card would result in equaling their performance, however the 270 is likely binned to not be able to clock that high. Still a worthy alternative at $180

  7. AMD Radeon R9 290X

    AMD's latest and greatest. This card presents the best performance with the latest features, including trueaudio and AMD's new and improved GCN 1.1. Unfortunately the card is plagued with throttling issues, is often loud and consumes a lot of power. if you must have the fastest and are willing to do what it takes to get it working as fast as it can, then this is a good option at just $550. A high price, but not as high as the competition. 

  8. Nvidia GTX 780

    Due to Nvidia's price cuts, which also affected the GTX 770, the GTX 780 is a bit more attractive. Previously it was being sold at over $600 in typical nvidia fashion. The card is a respectable performer at $500 and there is little risk of disappointment especially when considering the physx benefits as well as power consumption and acoustics.

  9. AMD radeon HD 7850

    This card can often be found at around $150. The AMD radeon R7 260x was considered but the 7850 is a stronger performer in this price range. During the holiday season the options available for this card are likely to get even more affordable. At 1080p and with 4x antialiasing (aa) enabled, this card can achieve around 47 frames-per-second (fps) in battlefield 3. Most definitely a respectable option for the budget gamer.

  10. AMD Radeon R7 260X

    The major benefit to this card is that it offers AMD's new true audio technology found in their highest end 290 and 290X graphics cards. In a game like battlefield 3 you would be looking at 40 fps at 1080p 4x aa. The performance in games like Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Bioshock Infinite and more, is also respectable and often well above 30 fps. 

For the hardened PC gamer who may be running an older graphics card and looking to get into currently available games comfortably and affordably, the HD 7970 or R9 280X are the right way to go. They offer great performance and come in at that not too high $300 mark. If you must have the best or come as close as possible without offending your wallet, then the R9 290 will not disappoint.