The Best Video Cards For Gaming: Feb. 2015

| February 1, 2015 | (22)
MSI Geforce GTX 960 Gaming 2G

In January, Nvidia launched the Geforce GTX 960 at the $200 price point. The one pictured here is the MSI Geforce GTX 960 Gaming 2G, a model with higher frequencies and an efficient dual-fan cooling system.

The best video cards for gaming?

By that, I mean the graphic cards that offer the best performance in video games at a given price.

Why would you want that, you ask?

Because you want the best bang for the buck, because you want the best graphic card for your hard-earned money and because you want the best gaming experience possible!

However, I do realize that not everyone has the time to read detailed video card reviews and to make sense of video card specifications.

This is why I write this guide for you: To help you save your time and money by doing the research for you and letting you know what are the best video cards for your money.

January 2015 update: What’s new?

From AMD:

$10 Price drops on Radeon R7 250X, R7 260X and R7 265

AMD have been dropping their prices on many of their video cards, to remain competitive.

  • The R7 250X dropped from $100 to $90.
  • R7 260X: From $120 to $110.
  • R7 265: From $150 to $140.

Those are nice $10 price cuts on lower end cards. What’s the real story here though?

$60 price cut on the R9 290X!

AMD fastest single-GPU video card now sells for a whole $60 less than it used to, at $300 instead of $360!

From Nvidia:

Nvidia Geforce GTX 960

Following up on the success of the GTX 980 and 970, which offered higher performance with lower consumption, is the Geforce GTX 960. Also based on the Maxwell architecture, from a specifications point of view, it’s pretty much half of a Geforce GTX 980.

Fortunately for you, its price is less than half, at only $200, compared to $550 for the flagship Geforce GTX 980.

Read on to see how it compares to its competitors at the $200 price point.

Please note that:

1- This list is based on the best U.S. and the best International(when available) prices for new video cards from NewEgg, Amazon and/or B&H that I’ve seen as of February 1st 2015.
2- Each video card performance will vary based on the games that you play; some games run better on Nvidia cards and some run better on AMD cards.
3- These video card recommendations are based on video game performance. These video cards are way overkill if you don’t play videos games and may not suit your needs for a Workstation.

Best entry level video cards:

Best video card for $65-70:

Geforce GT 730 64-bit GDDR5

- $64.99 – Zotac GeForce GT 730 1GB 64-bit GDDR5
- $64.99 – PNY GeForce GT 730 1GB 64-bit GDDR5
$69.99 – EVGA GeForce GT 730 1GB GDDR5 64bit
$77.06 – Zotac GeForce GT 730 1GB GDDR5 64bit at B&H (International Shipping)
$82.99 – EVGA GeForce GT 730 1GB GDDR5 64bit at B&H (International Shipping)

Radeon R7 240 vs Geforce GT 730:

The Geforce GT 730, equipped with GDDR5 memory on a 64-bit wide memory bus, offers a significant step-up in performance compared to the Radeon R7 240. This is why it replaced the previously recommended Radeon R7 240 1GB GDDR5 at the $70 price point.

Note the Zotac and PNY models are currently less expensive than the EVGA one. They are all just as good, so pick whichever one is the least expensive when you’re buying it.

Note that the GT 730 doesn’t need any additional power connector, it gets all the power that it needs from the PCI-Express 16x slot, so it’s a good choice if your PC’s power supply output is limited.

Is it for you? Only if:

  • You’re on a very tight budget and cannot afford to spend more than $70.
  • You only play older and not very demanding video games.
  • You play at a low resolution, such as a 1366 x 768 (monitor) or 720p (HD TV) or lower.

For those cases, the Geforce GT 730 is an entry level video card perfectly capable of matching your needs.

Otherwise, get a more powerful video card.

Avoid:
1- Models that come with DDR3 and 128-bit wide memory bus. Their performance is nothing like models equipped with GDDR5 and a 64-bit wide memory bus.
2- Wasting your money on 2GB of memory, it won’t make any difference in performance at this level.

Most people will need a more powerful video card to get a good gaming experience.

What video games can the Geforce GT 730 1GB GDDR5 run smoothly?

This video card will do the job at 1366 x 768 or 1440 x 900, although you might have to lower details in some games.

Best video card under $100:

Radeon R7 250X 1GB

$89.99 – MSI Radeon R7 250X 1GB GDDR5
- $101.95 – ASUS Radeon R7 250X 1GB (B&H – International Shipping)

At the $90-100 price point, the R7 250X (re-badged Radeon HD 7770) is replacing the R7 260 which is no longer available at that price.

- The R7 250X comes with 640 shader processors, 40 texture units. Frequencies of 1000MHz/4500MHz for the core and memory respectively.
- The R7 260: 768 shader processors, 48 texture units. Frequencies of 1000MHz/6000MHz for the core and memory respectively.

If you can find the R7 260 for $105 or less, get it instead of the R7 250X. For $110 or more, it’s not worth it; get the more powerful R7 260X instead.

What video games can the Radeon R7 250X 1GB run smoothly?

This video card will run games maxed out at at 1366 x 768 or 1440 x 900 resolutions. 1680 x 1050, although you might have to lower details in some games.

Best mid range video cards:

Best video card for $110, $120 or $130:

Radeon R7 260X 2GB

- $109.99 – ASUS Radeon R7 260X OC 2GB Dual-fans (Newegg)
- $119.99 – Sapphire Radeon R7 260X 2GB (Newegg)
- $126.99 – XFX RADEON R7 260X OC 2GB (Amazon)
- $129.99 – ASUS Radeon R7 260X OC 2 GB Dual-fan (Amazon)
- $133.99 – MSI Radeon R7 260X 2GB OC (Amazon)
- $127.95 – XFX R7 260X 2GB (B&H International Shipping)
- $133.95 – Gigabyte R7 260X 2GB OC dual-fan (B&H International Shipping)

The R7 260X is pretty much the same video card as the older Radeon HD 7790, with the same number of stream processors, but with higher frequencies.

Radeon R7 260X vs Geforce 750

I’m recommending the R7 260X over the Geforce GTX 750 because it offers on average 10% higher performance, according to AnandTech’s review of the Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti.

R7 250X vs R7 260 vs R7 260X:

- The R7 250X: 640 shader processors, 40 texture units. Frequencies of 1000MHz/4500MHz for the core and memory respectively. 1GB VRAM
- The R7 260: 768 shader processors, 48 texture units. Frequencies of 1000MHz/6000MHz for the core and memory respectively. 1GB VRAM
- The R7 260X: 896 shader processors, 56 texture units. Frequencies of 1100MHz/6500MHz for the core and memory respectively. 2GB VRAM

Avoid Radeon R7 260X models with only 1GB of memory
The R7 260X is powerful enough to take advantage of 2GB of memory. Considering the small price difference between 1GB and 2GB models, you’re making a better choice by going with the 2GB model.

What video games can the Radeon R7 260X 2GB run smoothly?

The R7 260X is capable of handling the vast majority of games at 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080, although you might have to lower details for the most demanding games, especially at 1080p.

Best Video Card for $140:

Radeon R9 265 2GB

$139.99 – XFX Radeon R7 265 2GB

Radeon R7 265 vs Geforce GTX 750 Ti:

According to AnandTech’s review of the Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti, the Radeon R7 265 outperforms the Geforce GTX 750 Ti by 17% on average.

The $140 R7 265 sits nicely between the budget $110-120 R7 260X 2GB and the more mainstream $155 R9 270X 2GB price wise and performance wise. If your budget is strictly $140 and you can’t afford the R9 270, the R7 265 is a great choice for $140.

R7 260X vs R7 265 vs R9 270

- The R7 260X: 896 shader processors, 56 texture units. Frequencies of 1100MHz/6500MHz for the core and memory respectively. 2GB VRAM
- The R7 265 comes with 1024 shader processors, 64 texture units and 32 ROPs. Frequencies of 925MHz/5600MHz for the core and memory respectively. 2GB VRAM
- The R7 270: 1280 shader processors, 80 texture units and 32 ROPs. Frequencies of 925MHz/5600MHz for the core and memory respectively.

Want the most powerful video card that doesn’t require an additional power connector?
If you have an older PC with a power supply that’s not powerful enough to handle power-hungry video cards such as the R7 265 but want a more powerful video card, the GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB, available for $139.99 (Amazon) or $149.99 at B&H (International Shipping) is what you want.

Pulling all the power that it needs from the PCI-Express 16x slot, it’s the most powerful video card that that doesn’t require an additional power connector.

What video games can the Radeon R7 265 2GB run smoothly?
The R7 265 is capable of handling the vast majority of games at 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080, although you might have to lower details for the most demanding games, especially at 1080p.

Best Video Card for $160:

Radeon R9 270 2GB

- $155.76 – XFX Radeon R9 270 2GB Dual Fan
$155.76 – XFX R9 270 2GB Dual Fans from B&H (International Shipping)
$159.99 – XFX R9 270 2GB Single Fan from B&H (International Shipping)
- $164.18 – XFX R9 270 2GB Single fan
- $169.95 – ASUS Radeon R9 270 2GB Dual-fan OC
- $166.99 – MSI Radeon R9 270 2GB Dual-fan OC
- $155.76 – XFX Radeon R9 270 2GB Dual Fan

Replacing the previously recommended R7 265 is the R9 270.

The R9 270 is definitely worth the additional $15-20 over the R7 265 (~$140), hence why I recommend it over the R7 265 at the $155-$160 price point.

- The R7 265 comes with 1024 shader processors, 64 texture units and 32 ROPs. Frequencies of 925MHz/5600MHz for the core and memory respectively.
- The R7 270 comes with 1280 shader processors, 80 texture units and 32 ROPs. Frequencies of 925MHz/5600MHz for the core and memory respectively.

VS the competition:
Nvidia doesn’t have any product competing at this price point, AMD are basically competing with themselves.

What video games can the Radeon R7 270 2GB run smoothly?

The Radeon R7 270 is capable of handling all games at 1600 x 900 with details at high, as well as most games at 1920 x 1080, although you will have to lower details in more recent and more demanding games.

Best Video Card for $200:

Geforce GTX 960

EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SuperSC ACX 2.0+ 2GB 1279/1342MHz – $209.99 (Amazon)
EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SuperSC ACX 2.0+ 2GB 1279/1342MHz – $209.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Alternatives:

1. Zotac GeForce GTX 960 2GB 1177/1240MHz – $199.99 (Amazon)
2. Zotac GeForce GTX 960 2GB 1177/1240MHz – $199.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
3. Gigabyte GTX 960 2GB 1165/1228MHz Ideal for Mini ITX – $199.99 (Amazon)
4. Gigabyte GTX 960 2GB 1165/1228MHz Ideal for Mini ITX – $199.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
5. ASUS Geforce GTX 960 2GB 1291/1317MHz – $209.99 (Amazon)
6. ASUS Geforce GTX 960 2GB 1291/1317MHz – $209.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
7. MSI Geforce GTX 960 2GB White/Black 1178/1241MHz – $209.99 (Amazon)
8. MSI Geforce GTX 960 2GB White/Black 1178/1241MHz – $209.99 (B&H – International Shipping)
9. MSI Geforce GTX 960 2GB Gaming 2G Red/Black 1216/1279Mhz – $219.99 (Amazon)
10. MSI Geforce GTX 960 2GB Gaming 2G Red/Black 1216/1279Mhz – $219.99 (B&H – International Shipping
11. MSI Geforce GTX 960 2GB GAMING 100 Million Edition Green/Black 1216/1279MHz – $239.99 (Amazon)
12. MSI Geforce GTX 960 2GB GAMING 100 Million Edition Green/Black 1216/1279MHz – $239.99 (B&H – International Shipping

Launched on January 22nd 2015, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 is the new best video card for $200.

AMD and its partners have been dropping the prices on the R9 285 to match the price of the Geforce GTX 960, so that’s its direct competitor.

Geforce GTX 960 vs AMD R9 285:

Performance:
The two cards trade blows, with the R9 285 offering better performance in some games and the Geforce GTX 960 leading in other games.

That said, overall the Geforce GTX 960 does has the edge in performance, according to TechReport’s review of the Geforce GTX 960.

Power consumption and requirements:
The Geforce GTX 960 is far more power efficient: It consumes 4W less at idle and 87W less at load, again according to TechReport.

Its lower power consumption results in requiring only a single PCI-Express 6 pin power plug, instead of two on the R9 285.

Thanks to its lower power consumption, you can get away with a smaller power supply than with the R9 285.

Conclusion: The Geforce GTX 960 is the best choice for $200
With slightly better performance and lower power consumption, the choice is obvious to me: The Geforce GTX 960.

Why recommend the EVGA Geforce GTX 960 SuperSC ACX 2.0+?

1- EVGA customer support is the best in the industry. If you have any problem with your card, you can rely on them to get useful answers in a timely manner.
2- This particular card runs at higher frequencies (1279/1342MHz base/boost) than the reference Geforce GTX 960, resulting in higher performance.
3- Double bearing fans, meaning it has a longer lifespan and is less likely to fail early like cheaper sleeve fans.
4- If the GPU runs at 60C or less, the fans will shut down and your video card is silent. Of course, if the GPU runs above 60C, the fans will start again automatically. This is not exclusive to EVGA video cards but it’s a nice feature to have.

What video games can the Geforce GTX 960 2GB run smoothly?
The Geforce GTX 960 2GB is the ideal card if you want a card capable of handling games at 1920 x 1080 (1080p or Full HD), with details maxed out.

Best high end video cards:

Best Video Card For less than $300:

Radeon R9 290X 4GB:

- $299.99 – Diamond AMD R9 290X 4GB Dual-fan
- $309.39 – ASUS Radeon R9 290X

The Diamond model is $300 and has a $10 mail-in rebate available, bringing its price down to $290. However, the ASUS model is $310, but has a $30 mail-in rebate available, bringing its price down to $280. Choose whichever one you prefer.

Upside: Outstanding performance for less than $300

From a performance point of view, the R9 290X trade blows with the Geforce GTX 970. At very high resolution (2K), the R9 290X pulls ahead. At 2560 x 1440, they trade blows. At 1080p, the Geforce GTX 970 pulls ahead.

That said, the R9 290X is quite a bit less expensive, at $300 vs $330-340 for the GTX 970. This makes the R9 290X a compelling option for $300.

The downsides:

  1. High power consumption: You need a power supply that can handle the power consumption, especially if you overclock or intend to run two in Crossfire.
  2. Cooling system has a lot of heat to dissipate: You need a case that can dissipate that heat too.
  3. Long cards: Due to the larger cooling systems, the R9 290X cards are rather long. If you have a smaller case, double-check the video card length clearance for the case and the video card’s length.

What video games can the Radeon R9 290X 4GB run smoothly?

This card will run any game at 1920 x 1200 (or 1080 for 1080p) maxed out, as well as most games at 2560 x 1600 without any problem. Gaming with a 4K resolution or on multiple monitors is also possible, although you might have to turn settings down, depending on the game.

Best Video Card For $340:

Geforce GTX 970 4GB:

$339.00 – EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Dual-fan

Geforce GTX 970 vs Radeon R9 290X:

  1. Higher performance at 1920 x 1080 (1080p/Full HD)
  2. Consumes less power: You don’t need as powerful of a power supply, especially with multiple video cards (SLI/Crossfire).
  3. Runs less hot: Will have no problem running in smaller cases with limited airflow.
  4. More quiet: Always a pro in my book.

Alternative models

- From Amazon:
- $329.99 – EVGA Geforce GTX 970 4GB Blower
- $348.99 – EVGA GTX 970 SC Blower
- $329.99 – MSI Geforce GTX 970 Dual-fan OC
- $342.99 – ASUS Geforce GTX 970 Dual-Fan OC
- $369.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW Dual-fan ACX 2.0
$369.99 – ASUS GeForce GTX 970 DC Mini Ideal for Mini-ITX

- From B&H (International Shipping):
- $329.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Blower
- $339.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Dual-fan ACX 2.0
- $349.99 – MSI GTX 970 GAMING 4G Dual-Fan OC
- $369.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW Dual-fan ACX 2.0
- $369.99 – ASUS GeForce GTX 970 DC Mini Ideal for Mini-ITX

What video games can the Geforce GTX 970 4GB run smoothly?

This card will run any game at 1920 x 1200 (or 1080 for 1080p) maxed out, as well as games at 2560 x 1600 without any problem. Gaming with a 4K resolution or on multiple monitors is also possible, although you might have to turn settings down, depending on the game.

To AVOID for $400:

Two Geforce GTX 960 2GB in SLI

For those cases were you feel like you need more graphic performance, two Geforce GTX 960 2GB in SLI might seem like a bargain at $400.

However, the 2GB of VRAM per card will be a limitation for those very cases where you’ll need more performance, such as very high resolution and multiple screen setups.

This bears repeating: Avoid getting two Geforce GTX 960 in SLI.

If you want more performance, get the fastest single-GPU video card on the market, the Geforce GTX 980 recommended below. Then, if you feel that you need even more performance even with the Geforce GTX 980, you can easily add a second Geforce GTX 980 for a far more efficient solution.

Best Video Card for $550:

Geforce GTX 980 4GB

- $554.99 – EVGA Geforce GTX 980 SC 4GB Dual-fan (Amazon)
- $554.99 – EVGA Geforce GTX 980 SC 4GB Dual-fan (B&H – International Shipping)

Simply put, this card features the fastest graphic processor unit (GPU) on the market. AMD has no card to compete at this level.

Not only that, but it’s surprisingly power efficient for such a powerful video card.

Why this particular model from EVGA? 
1- EVGA customer support is the best in the industry. If you have any problem with your card, you can rely on them to get useful answers in a timely manner.
2- This particular card runs at higher frequencies  than the reference Geforce GTX 980, resulting in higher performance.
3- Double bearing fans, meaning it has a longer lifespan and is less likely to fail early like cheaper sleeve fans.
4- If the GPU runs at 60C or less, the fans will shut down and your video card is silent. Of course, if the GPU runs above 60C, the fans will start again automatically. This is not exclusive to EVGA video cards but it’s a nice feature to have.

Alternative models

- From Amazon:
- $629.99 – EVGA Geforce GTX 980 SC 4GB Blower
- $549.00 – Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP Omega Edition 4GB Dual-fan
- From B&H (International Shipping):
- $629.99 – EVGA Geforce GTX 980 SC 4GB Blower
- $579.99 – Zotac GeForce GTX 980 AMP Omega Edition 4GB Dual-fan

What video games can the Geforce GTX 980 4GB run smoothly?

1080p and 2560 x 1600 is handled by this card without any problem. 4K and multiple monitors can also be handled, although you should consider a Crossfire or SLI setup to get the best experience possible.

Best Video Cards For $660:

Two Geforce GTX 970 in SLI

- $660 (Amazon) – Two EVGA Geforce GTX 970 4GB in SLI
- $660 (B&H – International Shipping) – Two EVGA Geforce GTX 970 4GB in SLI
- $660 (Amazon) – Two PNY XLR8 GeForce GTX 970 4GB in SLI
- $698 (Amazon) – Two EVGA GTX GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB in SLI
- $698 (B&H – International Shipping) – Two EVGA GTX GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB in SLI

Upside: A LOT of performance for $660

For $110 more than one Geforce GTX 980, two Geforce GTX 970 in SLI are a force to be reckoned with.

The downside: Power consumption, heat, and SLI profiles

Two Geforce GTX 970 in SLI will consume quite a bit of power, emit more heat and consequently, you will need a case with sufficient airflow to get rid of all that heat.

For multiple video cards: Which cooling system works best?
Note that if you intend on getting more than one video card, you’re better off with models that have a closed cooler, such as the ones recommended above, because they exhaust the heat outside of your case.

Unless you have a case with a lot of airflow, in which case (no pun intended) you’re better off with a dual/triple fan cooler, as they are more quiet and can be more efficient at handling the heat.

Alternative: Radeon R9 295×2
Two GPUs on a single card with an included all-in-one water cooling system.

If you don’t have space for two video cards (Mini-ITX case for example), but do have space for a 120mm radiator in your case and have a relatively powerful power supply, the $689.99 – XFX Radeon R9 295 X2 is an interesting alternative to two GTX 970 in SLI.

Two GTX 970 will match or outperform the R9 295 x2 in most cases, but for those of you who can’t install two video cards in their systems, the R9 295 x2 is an alternative to consider.

Avoid: Two Radeon R9 290/290X in Crossfire
Two Radeon R9 290/290X in Crossfire would consume a whole lot more power, emit a lot more heat, will be far noisier and you will need a case with sufficient airflow to get rid of all that additional heat. Unless you’re an enthusiast and don’t mind dealing with these issues, it’s not worth the trouble, in my opinion. Most people will be better off with two Geforce GTX 970 in SLI instead.

Best Video Cards For under $1000:

Three Geforce GTX 970 in Three-Way SLI

- $990 (Amazon) – Three EVGA Geforce GTX 970 4GB in Three-Way SLI
- $990 (B&H – International Shipping) – Three EVGA Geforce GTX 970 4GB in Three-Way SLI
- $990 (Amazon) – Three PNY XLR8 GeForce GTX 970 4GB in Three-Way SLI
- $1047 (Amazon) – Three EVGA GTX GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB in Three-Way SLI
- $1047 (B&H – International Shipping) – Three EVGA GTX GTX 970 Superclocked 4GB in Three-Way SLI

Upside: A LOT of performance for $990

For $110 less than two Geforce GTX 980, three Geforce GTX 970 in SLI are a force to be reckoned with.

The downside: Power consumption, heat, and Crossfire profiles

Three Geforce GTX 970 in SLI will consume a lot of power, emit more heat and consequently, you will need a case with sufficient airflow to get rid of all that heat. You also need a motherboard with Three-Way SLI support, as well as a powerful enough power supply to handle the power requirements for three video cards.

For 3/4 video cards: Which cooling system works best?
With 3 or 4 video cards, you’re better off with models that have a closed cooler, because they exhaust the heat outside of your case.

Avoid: Three Radeon R9 290/290X in Crossfire
Unless you go with water-cooling, three Radeon R9 290/290X in Crossfire is a terrible idea, as their cooling system won’t be able to cope with the heat generated by three of those cards and thus performance would be reduced due to throttling.

What settings can this setup handle?
Three Geforce GTX 970 in SLI will have no problem running the latest games maxed out at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), 2560 x 1440/1600. Games at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (Ultra HD/4K) and a triple 1080p monitor setup (6.2MP) should be able to run maxed out, although the most demanding ones might require you to slightly lower settings. You should be able to run a triple 2560 x 1440/1600 monitor setup (11.1/12.3 Megapixels) or two 3840 x 2160 monitor setup (16.6MP) too, although you may have to turn down settings.

Alternative for less than $1200: Two Geforce GTX 980 4GB in SLI

- $1180 (Amazon) – Two EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB in SLI
- $1180 (B&H – International Shipping) – Two EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB in SLI
- $1260 (Amazon) – Two EVGA Geforce GTX 980 Superclocked 4GB in SLI
- $1260 (B&H – International Shipping) – Two EVGA Geforce GTX 980 Superclocked 4GB in SLI

If your case, motherboard or power supply limit you to two video cards, if you don’t want to deal with three video cards for any reason, or if you plan on maybe upgrading to three or four video cards, two Geforce GTX 980 for $1100 are the way to go.

Best Video Cards for $1800:

Three Geforce GTX 980 in Three-Way SLI

- $1770 (Amazon) – Three EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB in Three-Way SLI
- $1770 (B&H – International Shipping) – Three EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB in Three-Way SLI
- $1890 (Amazon) – Three EVGA Geforce GTX 980 Superclocked 4GB in Three-Way SLI
- $1890 (B&H – International Shipping) – Three EVGA Geforce GTX 980 Superclocked 4GB in Three-Way SLI

Want more performance? Time to step up to three Geforce GTX 980 in Three-Way SLI.

Remember to plug the Nvidia Three-Way SLI bridge on the three cards to be able to enable Three-Way SLI. It’s included with the motherboard.

Make sure to get the latest version of the drivers straight from Nvidia, avoid those on the included DVD as those are outdated. There are updates on a regular basis, especially when new games are launched. New drivers fix bugs, increase performance and support newer games.

What settings can this setup handle?
Three Geforce GTX 980 in a Three-Way SLI will easily run the latest games maxed out at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) or 2560 x 1440/1600, same with games at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (Ultra HD/4K) and a triple 1080p monitor setup (6.2MP).

You should also be able to max out or run at high settings with games on a triple 2560 x 1440/1600 monitor setup (11.1/12.3 Megapixels) and with slightly lower settings (lower AA/AF) for a two 3840 x 2160 monitor setup (16.6MP).

Note that for Three-Way SLI, I recommend the blower style cooling system, which exhausts the hot air outside of the case, which is preferable for a multiple video card setup.

Best Video Card for $2400:

Four Geforce GTX 980 in a Four-Way SLI

- $2360 (Amazon) – Four EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB in Four-Way SLI
- $2360 (B&H – International Shipping) – Four EVGA Geforce GTX 980 4GB in Four-Way SLI
- $2520 (Amazon) – Four EVGA Geforce GTX 980 Superclocked 4GB in Four-Way SLI
- $2520 (B&H – International Shipping) – Four EVGA Geforce GTX 980 Superclocked 4GB in Four-Way SLI

Want as much performance as possible? Four Geforce GTX 980 in a Four-Way SLI is the way to go.

Make sure that your case, motherboard and power supply can handle such a powerful setup.

Note that for Four-Way SLI, I recommend the blower style cooling system, which exhausts the hot air outside of the case, which is preferable for a multiple video card setup.

What settings can this setup handle?
Four Geforce GTX 980 in a Four-Way SLI will have no problem running the latest games maxed out at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), 2560 x 1440/1600, 3840 x 2160 (Ultra HD/4K) or on a triple 1080p monitor setup (6.2MP)

For a triple 2560 x 1440/1600 monitor setup (11.1/12.3 Megapixels) or two 3840 x 2160 monitor setup (16.6MP), this is the best setup possible.

Closing notes:

I hope that you enjoyed the latest edition of The Best Video Cards For Gaming article.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or visit the Hardware Revolution forums.

A few important recommendations and notes regarding video cards:

1- Get the latest version of the video card drivers directly from AMD or Nvidia. This will ensure that you get the latest bug fixes and the best performance possible from your video card(s).

2- To confirm whether Crossfire or SLI is working or not, use GPU-Z which will show that information to you in the last field at the bottom of the program.

3- SLI Guide: How to enable SLI, check if SLI is enabled, actually working in your game and what to do if it’s not is a great guide from the Notebook Review forums.

4- When using two or more video cards in Crossfire or SLI, you want to connect your monitors into the top video card, i.e. the video card that is the closest to the CPU.

5- Most video cards require one or two PCI-Express 6 or 8 pin power connector(s) to be plugged into them to function properly. Make sure that your power supply comes equipped with enough 6 and/or 8 pin connectors for your video cards.

Category: The Best Computer Parts For Your Money

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with over 14 years of experience in building, fixing and modifying PCs. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for PC hardware and now I enjoy helping others build their own PCs! In April 2008, I launched Hardware Revolution and ... Read more at my about page .

  • Volatilexaminer

    I think the article is great except for maybe two arguments:

    1. The two way geforce 970 SLI will bottleneck since it was recently announced that it really only performs optimally to 3.5GB.

    2. I would say for 4k gaming the best card would be the AMD 295×2 8GB since it would actually be able to handle the memory demand from the resolution uppage….i would consider this over 3 way or 4 way SLI since you will still be bottlenecked from the original VRAM of 4GB.

    Other than that great article!

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      I addressed point #1 in a separate comment.
      #2: Keep in mind that on the R9 295×2, the 8GB is split between the two GPUs, so it’s 4GB per GPU.

  • HairyMilkshakes

    I was going to mention the same thing: The 3.5GB available and 500MB that is throttled means the 970 would be unable to perform on par with its initially-released technical specifications.

    Nvidia is apparently working on a driver to address the issue, though an architecture like this cannot be changed through software at all.

  • Anonymous

    You labeled the 970′s wrong – They should be 3.5GB not 4GB. :P

  • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

    Regarding the GTX 970 ’3.5GB’ fiasco:
    Everyone has been talking about it, but its performance hasn’t changed. That’s the important point to remember.

    Ryan Smith at AnandTech said this about it:
    ‘Coming up with real (non-synthetic) gaming workloads that can utilize between 3.5GB and 4GB of VRAM while not running into a rendering performance wall is already a challenge, and all the more so when trying to find such workloads that actually demonstrate performance problems. This at first glance does seem to validate NVIDIA’s overall claims that performance is not significantly impacted by the memory segmentation, but we’re going to continue looking to see if that holds up.’

    In the end, it’s clear that Nvidia marketing department did mess up. That said, the GTX 970′s performance hasn’t changed.

  • M4ENY

    Hello Mathieu thank you for another very helpful guide :)
    I just had a quick question. I am currently gaming at 1080P resolution with gtx 560 ti soc (950mhz)

    I wanted to buy a new gpu to play upcoming games such as gta 5 and Witcher 3

    I am from Canada so the prices tend to be higher than the ones in your guide.

    I have my eyes on either the r9 290x or the gtx 970.
    I can get a MSI r9 290x twin frzr iv for 329.99 where as gtx 970 are closer to 400 dollars.

    Is the gtx 970 still worth the premium over the r9 290x ?

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      With that much of a price difference: Personally, I’d say no, not worth the price premium.

      That said, if you value lower noise, lower temperatures and lower power consumption, then the GTX 970 is the obvious pick.

      If you only care about the performance/price ratio, then the R9 290X is the way to go.

      That said, for 1080p gaming, a GTX 960 is powerful enough to run pretty much all games maxed out, so you can consider it to save money.

      • M4ENY

        Thanks for your advice :)
        I am going to get myself the r9 290x

        gtx 960 cost 289.99 up here lol so even that is not really a viable option I think.

        Just wanted to thank for all the articles you posted over the years I regularly visit your website since I discovered it 5 years ago. Used it to help 3 of my friends with their builds and my own build as well.

        • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

          My pleasure.

          Yeah, I hear you on prices, I’m Canadian too (from Montreal), so I have the same problem :P

          Thank you for your kind words, that’s always nice to hear :)

  • Jayson

    Hi Mathieu, I really appreciate this round-up you’ve been keeping on here.

    i’m doing a new build, and I’m looking to do triple monitor wide screen in 1080p. I was going to go with triple GTX970s. With the recent VRAM situation, and some titles I’m interested in like Star Citizen reportedly really pushing 4GB and even over, I’m kind of in a quandry now. I’ve got a Corsair Carbide Air540 case and am due to receive my new i7 4790K and triple/quad SLI/crossfire capable motherboard shortly, My PSU is 1600W, so no worries there, but what would you recommend? Would triple non-reference R290x w/8GB be a viable option with good enough airflow? Thanks again!

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      Short answer: No. Just no.

      Long answer:
      With 3x R9 290X, you’re going to have to deal with 750-900W of heat coming out of those cards. That’s a LOT of heat to deal with. The problem here is that the cards are going to be pretty much next to each other, without enough space for much airflow to reach them, except for the bottom card.

      Non-reference cooling exhaust heat in the case, so your bottom card will run fine, but the card on top of it will intake the hot air coming out of the bottom card and will most likely overheat. Same story with the top card. Your cards frequencies will throttle, resulting in lower performance, if not shutdown/crashes from overheating. In the long run, too high temperatures are bad for the reliability of your cards too.

      The Corsair Carbide Air540 does offer good airflow, but nothing coming from the side to directly cool the video cards. The front fans won’t be enough to cool three R9 290X and you have to exhaust all that heat somehow.

      A two 8GB R9 290X solution would be viable, as that gives you the option of leaving some space between the two cards. Powerful enough to run most games maxed out on three 1080p monitors too.

      If you want three or four R9 290X, you’re going to have to go with water-cooling.

      • Jayson

        Wow, that head load is even the max load of the liquid cooler I was looking at. That’s huge. Thanks for the advice! I think I’ll go with the two cards with space between option.

  • rocker

    Hi,

    please can you help me with a graphics card that does not require any power connector and just works with the pcie connectors. budget is around $120.

    Thanks in advance.

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      Rocker,

      At $110, the Geforce GTX 750 1GB would be ideal. If you can afford it, the $140 Geforce GTX 750 Ti 2GB is quite a bit more powerful.

      • rocker

        Thanks mathieuB,

        Thanks for your reply.

        I was planning for r7 250 if it is without the power connector.and is gtx 750 future proof.? And amd counterpart for gtx 750…

        Thanks in advance.

        • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

          The r7 250 doesn’t require a power connector, but it is not as powerful as the GTX 750, nor the GTX 750 Ti.

          The AMD counterpart to the GTX 750 is the R7 260X 2GB, which offers higher performance but does require an additional power connector. There is no AMD alternative that does not require a power connector that is as powerful as the Geforce GTX 750 or GTX 750 Ti.

          How future-proof a video card is depends on the resolution of your screen, how demanding the games you want to play are and what level of graphic details you want.

          The Geforce GTX 750 1GB will will run games maxed out at at 1366 x 768 or 1440 x 900 resolutions. 1680 x 1050 is doable, although you might have to lower details in some games. Its 1GB of memory will be a bottleneck sooner than later.

          If you want a more powerful/future-proof card, the Geforce GTX 750 Ti 2GB is a better choice. It’s the most powerful card that doesn’t require an additional power connector.

  • Alex

    Hi,
    What are your opinions on the r9 295×2?

    I plan to build a 1080p tri-monitor setup soon…

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      It’s in the article already:
      “R9 295×2: Two GPUs on a single card with an included all-in-one water cooling system.

      If you don’t have space for two video cards (Mini-ITX case for example), but do have space for a 120mm radiator in your case and have a relatively powerful power supply, the $689.99 – XFX Radeon R9 295 X2 is an interesting alternative to two GTX 970 in SLI.

      Two GTX 970 will match or outperform the R9 295 x2 in most cases, but for those of you who can’t install two video cards in their systems, the R9 295 x2 is an alternative to consider.”

      Simply put, unless you don’t have the space for two cards, two GTX 970 in SLI will offer better performance.

  • Javier

    Hi Mathieu

    First i want to thank you for the info and tips you are posting, they has been very useful!
    So here is my two questions and i hope you can help me;

    1) Witch Video Card you would choose between:

    a) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750Ti 2GB DDR5
    b) “AMD Radeon™ HD R9 270 2GB GDDR5″

    having in mind and looking for better performance and energy consumption is not a issue.

    2) Im choosing between two config of “Dell XPS 8700″ were they have only two diferences and the rest is the same:

    Config 1 / Price = US1.300

    - “AMD Radeon™ HD R9 270 2GB GDDR5″

    - Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260

    Config 2 / Price = US$1.800

    - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750Ti 2GB DDR5

    - Dell Wireless-N 1704 802.11bgn, 1×1, 2.4GHz + Bluetooth 4.0

    Witch one you think is best for gamming? I play games like Company of Heroes 2, War Thunder, Wolfenstein New Order, XCOM.

    The basic config of the models are:
    Intel® Core™ i7-4790 (8MB Caché, hasta 4.00 GHz)/ 16GB de Memory Doble Channel DDR3 a 1600MHz, 4 DIMMs / Sound card Integrated 7.1 con WAVE MAXXAudio 4

    By the way i tend to think the AMD is the best option in price and performance, but such diferenthe in the price make me wonder if i missing something

  • vishy

    Ive been using this site for the last 3 years and check it quite often! Thanks for all the information and help. This site has also helped numerous friends of mine!

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      Vishy,

      Thank you for taking the time to write your wonderful comment, I always appreciate that!

      Thank you for sharing Hardware Revolution with your friends, spread the word, that’s one of best way to support us!

      Cheers,
      Mathieu

  • Name

    Hi,
    Can you recommend a video card that connect through HDMI to a Sony 46″ TV to watch online movies, budget $100 or lower.
    Thanks
    Ken