bit-tech.net

Autumn 2009 Graphics Card Upgrade Guide

Bang for Buck

While it's clear from the graphs how each graphics card performs in each game and at each resolution, it's a little harder to nail down a measurable metric when considering a graphics card's value. Trying to plot a three-dimesional graph to show performance vs price would be a nightmare, and the graphs itself too confusing to be useful. We spent a while thinking about finding a way to measure bang for buck, and with our new set of benchmarks and our focus on minimum rather than average frame rates, we've cracked it.

Results from each resolution are judged for their ability to surpass what we regard as a playable minimum frame rate of 25fps versus their value. Each card is given one point for every minimum fps above 25fps for each resolution, and no points if the minimum is below 25fps. We add a bonus 10 points to any card managing a minimum of 25fps or more to reward cards a playable gameplay experience. These scores are then totalled up by resolution (combining our 0x AA and 4x AA results) and divided by the card's current retail price. We then multiply the result by ten to produce a larger, workable number.

While we're happy to admit that this method far from the be all and end all of ways to calculate value, no method is perfect. Even if it were, the numbers generated should be used more as guide rather than the only factor to consider – if you really wanted to squeeze the most from your cash, you might only want to consider frame rates without AA, for example.

However, our bang per buck calculation does give you a decent idea of which card offers the smoothest game play experiences at a decent price for each resolution. Remember that, as price is intrinsically involved in the calculation, slower cards are just as likely to perform well as high end monsters if they're competitively priced. After all, this is about value, and not just performance or price. Finally, we’ve used the UK price of the cards we’ve used – if we’re going to have to suffer this crappy UK weather, we’re going to make our lives a little easier and use UK pricing.

Numbers below are based on the performance scores we've covered over the last few pages, and up to date pricing as of time of writing. Prices are listed below.
Autumn 2009 Graphics Card Upgrade Guide Bang for Buck
Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 1,792MB Single PCB
UK Price (as reviewed): £339.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $494.99 (ex. Tax)

ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB
UK Price (as reviewed): £306.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $379.99 (ex. Tax)

ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB
UK Price (as reviewed): £242.98 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): N/A

Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 1GB
UK Price (as reviewed): £199.98 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $325.99 (ex. Tax)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 275 896MB
UK Price (as reviewed): £157.88 (inc. VAT)Autumn 2009 Graphics Card Upgrade Guide Bang for Buck
US Price (as reviewed): $209.99 (ex. Tax)

ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB
UK Price (as reviewed): £129.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $184.99 (ex. Tax)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 260-216 896MB
UK Price (as reviewed): £119.59 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $164.99 (ex. Tax)

ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
UK Price (as reviewed): £103.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $144.99 (ex. Tax)

Nvidia GeForce 8800GT (9800GT) 512MB
UK Price (as reviewed): £69.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $89.99 (ex. Tax)

ATI Radeon HD 4850 512GB
UK Price (as reviewed): £68.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $96.99 (ex. Tax)

Bang for Buck

1,680 x 1,050 - Minimum frame rate formula

  • Radeon HD 4890 1GB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 260-216 896MB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 275 896MB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 1GB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 5870
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 1,792MB
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800GT 512MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB
    • 14.230
    • 13.655
    • 11.751
    • 10.960
    • 9.800
    • 9.560
    • 9.479
    • 8.020
    • 6.710
    • 5.230
0
3
5.5
8
10.5
13
15.5
Bang for Buck - Higher is better
  • Bang for Buck Score

Bang for Buck

1,920 x 1,200 - Minimum frame rate formula

  • Radeon HD 4890 1GB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 260-216 896MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 5870
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 1GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 275 896MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 1,792MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800GT 512MB
    • 9.150
    • 8.550
    • 7.920
    • 7.720
    • 7.000
    • 6.900
    • 6.660
    • 6.470
    • 4.150
    • 4.140
0
3
5.5
8
10.5
Bang for Buck - Higher is better
  • Bang for Buck Score

Bang for Buck

2,560 x 1,600 - Minimum frame rate formula

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 1GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 260-216 896MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 5870
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 275 896MB
  • Radeon HD 4890 1GB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 1,792MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800GT 512MB
    • 3.700
    • 3.660
    • 3.640
    • 3.540
    • 2.384
    • 2.340
    • 2.278
    • 2.140
    • 0.000
    • 0.000
0
1
2
3
4
Bang for Buck - Higher is better
  • Bang for Buck Score

For analysis of these number, please see the final page