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Budget-Friendly Graphic Cards For Your PC

Getting great gaming performance doesn't have to involve breaking the bank. Here are the best budget graphics cards.

5. AMD Radeon HD 7750

The AMD Radeon HD 7750 launched at the right side of £80, making it an altogether friendlier proposal than the AMD Radeon 7970 which goes for around £440. These new-gen AMD cards boast some excellent power efficiency by shutting off all but one core when your system enters power save mode.

But what's this HD 7750 missing out on to hit that price point? The HD 7750 is quicker than its big Nvidia rival, the GTX 550 Ti, and its predecessor, the HD 5770 - but not the HD 6770. General performance is limited primarily by a slender 128-bit frame buffer, however the die-shrink down from 45nm to 28nm and increase in transistor count that comes with it gives this Southern Islands card a definite edge in tessellation-heavy tasks. You can also eke out some modest improvements through overclocking, with big core and memory clock increases running smoothly and without crashes - we had ours cranked up to 900 MHz on the core clock from the 800 MHz stock setting without any glitching or hangs.

4. AMD Radeon HD 6670

It's all very well talking about £600 graphics cards that need PC cases the size of Andre the Giant to house them, and a mini Arc reactor to keep them powered, but how many of us are actually going to drop a month's wages on such a pixel-pushing behemoth? More likely you're going to be looking at a maximum outlay of around £150-£200.

And currently there's a lot of graphics processing power available all the way down the price spectrum too. AMD though has come in, GPUs-blazing, at a sub-£100 price point with a DirectX 11 graphics card, the Radeon HD 6670.

At under £70, it's a decent compromise between price and performance, and if you're really on a tight budget you'll still be able to game at your 22-inch panel's native res, albeit with a few graphical niceties dialled down.

As ever in this tightly compressed graphics card market there's a more powerful alternative, but it's a few pounds away. For less than a tenner you're looking at XFX's single-slot Radeon HD 5770,  and that's rather close to being a bone fide gaming GPU.

3. Nvidia GeForce GTS 450

The Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 is in serious gamers' graphics card territory, without hitting the big prices.

Nvidia doesn't have a great lineup in the budget segment of cards, and anything lower than this here GeForce GTS 450 isn't really worth a look for those with any passing interest in frame rates. This venerable card does have some gaming chops to offer, and for the £81 cost it's a tough card to argue against.

Immediately you can feel the step up in performance terms with this gaming-oriented card. With DiRT 3 and Far Cry 2 we saw the card hit 32fps and 52fps respectively, and that's with 4x AA running at very playable speeds. You could drop this into any system and be hitting gaming speeds across most modern titles at the modest 1680 x 1050 resolution. Should you not mind taking the performance hit, this card will also give you access to PhysX extras in game and 3D Vision, if you so wish.

2. AMD Radeon HD 6850

To be honest we were rather unforgiving of the HD 6850, at launch it was pricing itself almost out of the market.

It was going toe-to-toe with Nvidia's 1GB GTX 460 which, at the time, just about had it pipped in performance terms. It was also a little pricier than the GTX 460, coming in around the £160 mark.

Again though time has been kind to the HD 6850. The price has dropped a huge amount, indeed AMD recently announced a further price-drop bringing the card down to less than £120, which for a spec like this is a serious bargain.

AMD's constant driver updates too have meant that performance has increased over time as well. The Barts Pro GPU core at the heart of the HD 6850 is a reworking of the Cypress Pro that made the HD 5850 such an impressive card back in the day. It doesn't have the huge number of Radeon Cores the HD 5850 had, but still maintains the ROPs count of 32.

1. AMD Radeon HD 5770

For budget-conscious gamers, the HD 5770 should be a serious consideration. Have a scout around the online retailers, and you'll see that examples can be had for less than £100 now.

Offering competent performance at the mainstream 22-inch resolution of 1680 x 1050, it also comes with the promise of cool-running, quiet operation – a trademark of AMD's last-gen design philosophy.

However, try to crank the shinier graphical elements – such as Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering – too high, and the card starts to run out of grunt.

AMD's EyeFinity technology, which enables multi-screen scaling, is a very real option with the 5770, although we wouldn't recommend the 5770 for multi-screen gaming; it just doesn't have the throughput for gaming at huge resolutions.

The really interesting thing about the HD 5770 is what its price represents. At these low prices, our thoughts turn to CrossFire setups. For under £200, you can net yourself a twin-card setup that offers kick-ass performance at mid-range resolutions.

If you're content with that 22-inch monitor and want zingy performance on a budget, this CF setup is probably the cheapest way to achieve it.

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