/>
X
Tech

Get the best graphics card upgrade

Choosing a good graphics card upgrade can be difficult. Depending on what you already have fitted, a new graphics card might mean that you get a really good frames per second boost, or it might mean that you've spent money on little more than a sideways upgrade and you're seeing no gain for having spent your money. Worse still, you could find that your new graphics card actually performs worse than what you've already got!

Choosing a good graphics card upgrade can be difficult. Depending on what you already have fitted, a new graphics card might mean that you get a really good frames per second boost, or it might mean that you've spent money on little more than a sideways upgrade and you're seeing no gain for having spent your money. Worse still, you could find that your new graphics card actually performs worse than what you've already got!

What I've done here is compiled a list of possible upgrades based on your current graphics card and what you could upgrade to in three categories - budget, mid-range and high-end.

Check out the graphics card gallery here!

Note: Only PCI-E graphics cards will be considered here (so those of you still using AGP are outta luck. Also, I won't be considering SLI/Crossfire setups either because performance can vary dramatically based on hardware and what games you are running.

OK, let's get stuck in and start looking at possible upgrades based on your current GPU. 

Right now you have a low-end GPU, such as ...

  • something old, like a GeForce 7800GT
    GeForce 7800GT
  • an integrated (build-in) GPU
    Integrated GPU

Upgrade to ...

  • Budget: a Radeon HD 4850
    Radeon HD 4850
  • Mid-range: a Radeon HD 4870
    Radeon HD 4870
  • High-end: a GeForce GTX 280
    GeForce GTX 280

Right now you have a reasonably good GPU, such as ...

  • a GeForce 8800 GT
    GeForce 8800 GT
  • a Radeon HD 3850/3870
    Radeon HD 3870

Upgrade to ...

  • Budget: ... keep your money! A budget upgrade here will be a sideways move at best, and at worse you'll be downgrading your system.
  • Mid-range: a Radeon HD 4870
    Radeon HD 4870
  • High-end: a GeForce GTX 280
    GeForce GTX 280

Right now you have a pretty decent GPU, such as ...

  • a GeForce 8800 GTX
    GeForce 8800 GTX
  • a GeForce 9800 GTX/GX2
    GeForce 9800 GX2

Upgrade to ...

  • Budget: ... don't waste your money! Any budget upgrade is going to mean a downgrade for your system.
  • Mid-range: ... again, keep your money! A mid-range upgrade is unlikely to offer your system much in the way of a frames per second boost.
  • High-end: a GeForce GTX 280 is about your only viable upgrade option here.  
    GeForce GTX 280

Bottom line ...

Graphics card updates can be a real minefield, so spend your money wisely.

If you're current GPU is from the era of the Flintstones then you have a broad set of upgrade options in front of you, ranging from the the budget Radeon HD 4850 that you can pick up for around $170, to the monster GTX 280 which will set you back over $400. It all depends how much power you are looking for.

Some videos for your enjoyment - HD 4870 vs GTX280 vs 9800GX2 vs 9800GTX (you might want to watch the high quality videos to see the frame rates):

Enjoy!

Editorial standards