GPU price analysis: AMD undercuts Nvidia in multiple segments

AMD has a general pricing edge over Nvidia in several key segments, according to our latest look at graphics card pricing. Since we've already gauged how AMD's and Nvidia's new GPU lineups perform in our recent round of reviews, we were curious to see how they matched on the price ladder. To that end, we've analyzed pricing data for 10 competing AMD and Nvidia GPUs in five different segments.

This endeavor involved a copious amount of data (pricing information for 122 cards in total), so we limited our search to and opted not to publish our giant Excel spreadsheet here. We indexed median prices, lowest prices, and median prices after mail-in rebates for each GPU. Here are the results:

Our graph shows the rough structure of the market, but if you need a little primer and don't have time to peruse our latest GPU reviews, here's a quick look at which cards purportedly compete against which:

  • GeForce 9600 GSO vs. Radeon HD 4670
  • GeForce 9800 GT vs. Radeon HD 4830
  • GeForce 9800 GTX+ vs. Radeon HD 4850
  • GeForce GTX 260 vs. Radeon HD 4870
  • GeForce GTX 260 Reloaded (216 SPs) vs. Radeon HD 4870 1GB

AMD has set the market lately with a string of new product introductions in the Radeon HD 4000 series, and Nvidia has responded with revamped products or revised pricing on existing ones, so the competitive slate you see above is based largely on Nvidia's product positioning claims.  Nvidia and AMD are pretty closely matched on the performance side of things, especially for the last two cards in the list above, but AMD's other offerings tend to outperform the competition slightly overall.

Our pricing data, then, suggest Radeons frequently offer better value in terms of price-performance ratios. The GeForce GTX 260 "Reloaded" and the Radeon HD 4870 1GB have identical median prices, but AMD cards have lower median prices in all other segments.

Well, maybe that's not entirely fair. The GeForce 9800 GT may have a $1 higher median price than the Radeon HD 4830, but Nvidia offers cheaper variants than AMD does.  Then again, median prices favor the AMD offering if we take mail-in rebates into account.

Accounting for mail-in rebates also shows the GeForce GTX 260 "Reloaded" in a more favorable light, because its median post-rebate price is just $283 (compared to $300 for AMD's competitor).

Speaking of mail-in rebates, we should probably talk about the GeForce 9600 GSO for a minute. Nvidia re-introduced its old GeForce 8800 GS under that name to steal the spotlight from AMD's Radeon HD 4670, and when we wrote our review, Newegg was offering a 9600 GSO for $100 with a $50 mail-in rebate. Sure, the Radeon HD 4670 was slightly faster overall, but it also cost $80 without rebates—not as good a deal for folks who don't share our distrust of MIRs.

The picture has changed quite a bit since then, however.

The 4670 is now available for $65 after rebate ($80 before), while the EVGA the card we reviewed now costs $105, and its rebate has expired. The cheapest 9600 GSO you'll find at Newegg costs $80 with no special deals. If you want a 9600 GSO for $50 after rebate, you'll have to settle for a cut-down version with slow DDR2 memory. Such price fluctuations aren't uncommon in the aftermath of product launches, and they make our job of comparing cards just that much trickier—which is why we do these pricing comparisons every once in a while.

All things considered, AMD seems to be in a pretty good position right now, and it's no wonder its share of graphics card sales was on the rise last quarter. The Radeon HD 4670 and Radeon HD 4850 seem to be the most advantageously priced compared to their competitors, while Nvidia might have a slight edge at the $300 price point thanks to juicier mail-in rebates for its GeForce GTX 260 "Reloaded."

With that said, we should note that Nvidia tends to have a stronger list of board partners with broader offerings in terms of custom coolers, game bundles, and the range and scope of "overclocked in the box" cards offered. The higher median prices for GeForces on Newegg may, in part, reflect that reality.

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