All gamers love high-end graphics cards in the same way that car enthusiasts lust after a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Their gaming performance is astounding, and the visuals are packed with lavish detail and luscious colour. Unfortunately, just as supercars are beyond the reach of most, not everyone can afford the latest flagship graphics card. And can you really justify spending £300 or even £600 on a graphics card? You could buy an Xbox One or PS4 with that kind of cash. Also see: What's the best graphics card 2015.
So with that in mind, we’ve hand-picked seven of the best AMD and nVidia cards available at three affordable price points: £45, £65 and £90. In this test, we’ll find out just how much money you need to spend if you’re looking at gaming on a shoestring budget. Are any of them really good enough for decent shoot-em-up performance? Read on, and we’ll show you what’s hot, and what’s not. Also see: How to upgrade your PC's graphics card.
Six best budget graphics cards 2015 UK
- Reviewed on: 27 February 15
- RRP: £65 inc. VAT
The R7 250X is a breath of fresh air compared to the cheap £45+ products. At a resolution of 1680x1050, it can effortlessly shatter the 30fps mark. Crucially, it's never far away from the 50fps mark. If you're getting close to 50fps, you should be having a very comfortable playing experience. The 250X is the fastest card at this price point, thanks mainly to its superior texture handling, and generally finishes ahead of the GT 740 by around 4-5fps. Pound for pound, it offers the best value of all the budget graphics cards we've reviewed.
Read our Sapphire Radeon R7 250X review.
- Reviewed on: 3 March 15
- RRP: £90 inc. VAT
The 260X is the superior card for gamers - even if the difference isn't quite as big as you might think. We were mostly seeing average increases of 3-4fps. The most we saw was, in Crysis 3, a gap of almost 7fps. But if you need strong gaming performance for less than £100, this is the best product here, and can handle games even at the relatively high resolution of 1920x1200.
Read our MSI Radeon R7 260X OC review.
- Reviewed on: 2 March 15
- RRP: £90 inc. VAT
As expected, the 750 trails behind its rival, the 260X. The difference isn't as great as the specs seem to hint at, but there was a clear 3-4fps gap across most games. At one point (in Crysis 3) we even saw a lead of 7fps. Pure gamers, then, will shy away from the 750. But if you're looking to build a system where power needs to be tightly controlled, and you want as little pressure on the PSU as possible, the 750 has some merit. It's certainly a revolutionary design, even if, in this case, that design is unlikely to make it a top choice.
Read our EVGA GeForce GTX 750 SuperClock review.
- Reviewed on: 26 February 15
- RRP: £65 inc. VAT
The GT 740 OC is a very nice card, and a significant step up on the £45+ cards - always above the 30fps mark at 1680x1050, it offers good frame rates as long as you don't seek the highest levels of detail and texturing. However, it's not the top choice at this price point. The 250X is simply faster, generally pulling out an extra 4-5fps on every game. The GT 740 will score well on power consumption, though, and if you're looking to create a decent gaming PC, but one that doesn't produce much wattage, this is a beautifully discreet option.
Read our Asus GeForce GT 740 OC review.
- Reviewed on: 24 February 15
- RRP: £48 inc. VAT
The MSI GT 730 is clearly the best of the sub-£48 cards we've seen lately, and fairly consistently beats the R7 240 in game testing. However, the lead - rarely more than 2.2fps - is very minor. Perhaps the bigger question is whether you should buy any card at this low price point. Even at a resolution of 1680x1050, the GT 730 is generally only just breaking the 30fps mark. It is the best for the money, and you can, at a pinch, play decent games on it. However, our advice would still be to save up a little extra and look to the £65+ products instead.
Read our MSI GeForce GT 730 2048MB review.
- Reviewed on: 25 February 15
- RRP: £45 inc. VAT
The R7 240 is marginally inferior to the MSI GT 730 on game frame-rates, but it's generally very close, with the lead generally exceeding around 2.2fps. Like the GT 730, though, the R7 240 will struggle at resolutions of 1680x1050 and above. For any kind of gaming, the R7 240 is probably a card you need to set your sights higher than.
Read our Sapphire Radeon R7 240 Boost review.