When it comes to graphics cards, we go pretty in-depth. Every year we test dozens of different GPUs from both AMD and Nvidia to see which ones are worth your money, and which are dead on arrival. To ensure our information is always relevant, we continue to evaluate them as new games, drivers, and card-specific features are launched.
This year has been particularly busy so far. Nvidia released a whole line of refreshed RTX ‘Super’ GPUs as well as some surprisingly worthwhile mid-range offerings. AMD has broken their stagnant streak with a few new cards of their own. All of this is to say, now is a great time to consider picking up a new video card.
To make that process a little easier, and to reduce the burden that comes with reading through dozens of individual GPU reviews, we’re bringing you TechSpot’s Best Graphics Cards line-up. This piece is intended to answer one simple question: Given a specific budget, which is the graphics card you should buy? Fret no more.
Best Entry-Level GPU ($100 or less)
Radeon RX 550 vs. GeForce GT 1030
For less than $100 we previously recommended the RX 560, unfortunately as any PC enthusiast will tell you, prices are rarely stable in the hardware market, and the RX 560 is a casualty of this trend. Now coming in at $130, the card is still a low-end contender — you get 4GB of VRAM versus the RX 550’s 2GB, which makes a big difference — but that puts it out of reach for those with a particularly tight budget. As such, for the $100-or-less bracket, we’ve gone back to recommending the Radeon RX 550 over Nvidia’s GT 1030.
Note that the price tags on these low-end cards have shifted as well. Late last year, you could snag the 550 for about $75, but now, you’ll be lucky to find a new one for less than $95. The GT 1030 can be had for a bit less ($85), but the price difference isn’t enough to make up for the lower performance.
As before, we recommend steering clear of both GTX 1050 variants. The base $140 model contains a measly 2GB of VRAM, and its 4GB alternative will bring the cost up to about $170, which is absurd. The next step up (read below), the Radeon RX 570 is much faster and less expensive.
Best Mainstream GPU ($200 or less)
Radeon RX 570 vs. Radeon RX 580 vs. GeForce GTX 1650
Nvidia launched the Turing-based GTX 1650 earlier this year however we didn’t think much of that GPU. Right now the best sub-$200 value-oriented GPU option is the good old RX 580. You can snag it for as little as $185 depending on your OEM of choice, which is a great deal. It’s noticeably faster than the GTX 1650 on average, at a slight price premium.
If you aren’t interested in spending that much, the $140 RX 570 is the next best choice. The card is anywhere from 10 to 20 percent faster on average than the $150 GTX 1650 (with a few exceptions), as we revealed in our review.
As for the other options in the $100-$200 price bracket, there’s not much of note. Given the massive performance difference between even the RX 570 and the GTX 1050 Ti (the Radeon often performs over twice as fast), we recommend steering clear of both 1050 variants. The base 2GB model will run you $130 now, and the 4GB 1050 Ti comes in at roughly $160 — both are absurdly priced at the moment.
If you can spend a bit more than $200, the $220 GeForce GTX 1660 is a great option, too. Generally it performs better than the RX 580 for a bit more money. Dollar for dollar the GeForce is a better value (thanks to the performance improvement) and it’s also very efficient.
Best Mid-Range GPU ($300 or less)
GeForce GTX 1660 / Ti vs. Radeon Vega 56 vs. GeForce GTX 1060
Gamers looking to spend up to $300 have three solid options to consider: There’s the newer GTX 1660 and GTX 1660 Ti from Nvidia, and the older Vega 56 from AMD, which has seen significant price cuts.
As mentioned before, for a little over $200, the GeForce GTX 1660 offers amazing value, beats the competition at this price point and is an efficient little card. Its bigger brother, the GTX 1660 Ti will set you back $270 and it’s nearly as good value, offering killer performance for the price. We came away feeling completely pleased with this GPU when it was released early this year.
Coming from a previous generation of so-so mainstream GPUs, for a small price premium over the GTX 1060 6GB, we were getting nearly 1070-like performance. Since the 1060 6GB is now $250, it can be safely eliminated from the running — the 1660 Ti outperforms it by up to 40 percent at 1440p.
However, let’s not forget about AMD’s Vega 56. In our review of the 1660 Ti, we noted that AMD’s card is about 7 percent faster — that’s not a negligible difference, but at the time, we still gave the advantage to the 1660 Ti due to the Vega’s outlandish $400 asking price.
But now the old Vega 56 goes for as little as $280. Thanks to this deep discount, the Vega 56 is no longer a terrible option for Red Team faithfuls who value performance gains above all else, though its efficiency still pales in comparison to the 1660 Ti’s.
Best High-End 1440p GPU ($400+)
Radeon 5700 XT vs. Radeon 5700 vs. RTX 2070 Super vs. RTX 2060 Super vs. RTX 2060
Only earlier this year, we were recommending the GeForce RTX 2060 as the best mid-range, bang-for-your-buck graphics card, however times have changed and the mid-range market is much more competitive than it once was.
The 2060 is still the best option for RTX-enabled gaming at around $350. For the same price you can also grab AMD’s new Radeon RX 5700. The 5700 is more efficient and boasts a slightly higher average frame rate in our benchmarks. They are close though and both offer good performance for the same price.
If you shell out an extra $50, things get even more interesting… doing so gives you access to the $400 RX 5700 XT, which includes 8GB of GDDR6 RAM compared to the 2060’s 6GB. In terms of raw gaming performance, the 5700 XT beats the 2060 and the 2070 by a significant margin — though it lacks ray tracing, that’s a feature we won’t base our recommendations on due to the very limited game support and less than stellar performance on current-gen GPUs.
As a side note, third-party 5700 XT models are starting to pop up. In our review of the MSI RX 5700 XT Evoke we found lower temperatures and quieter operation overall thanks to a better cooling solution. That will come at a $10-$40 price premium depending on the exact brand and model you pick.
At any rate, if you consider ray tracing an absolute must-have or must go for an Nvidia GPU, their new line of refreshed 20-series Super GPUs give you some extra flexibility. We don’t consider the RTX 2060 Super a great addition, but the new RTX 2070 Super is the obvious choice for around $500. It’s faster than the standard 2070 by ~12 percent for the same asking price. It gets you close to RTX 2080 performance and offers a little more oomph than the RX 5700 XT.
With all of that said, AMD has found the sweet spot around the $400 price point with the Radeon 5700 XT and it is our main recommendation if you want to get the most out of your budget.
Best High-End 4K Gaming GPU (Over $600)
GeForce RTX 2080 Ti vs. GeForce RTX 2080 vs. GeForce RTX 2080 Super
Despite increased competition in the mid-range battlefield, Nvidia still has a stranglehold over the high-end GPU market. If you’re looking to spend more than $500 for something 4K-ready, your options are all going to come from the Green Team: there’s the RTX 2080, its Super variant, as well as the RTX 2080 Ti.
If price if no object and you simply want the best consumer-oriented GPU on the market, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti remains the clear winner.
The RTX 2080 Super is technically supposed to launch and replace the 2080 at the $700 price point (with a mere 5 percent performance bump), but thanks to the wonders of GPU price volatility, it’s pretty tough to find a 2080 Super for less than $740. In fact, some models currently cost upwards of $790. By contrast, the standard RTX 2080 can be snapped up for about $660. Standard 2080 stock will deplete eventually, but in the meantime we wouldn’t recommend the Super over the regular 2080, and honestly, we’re not sure we would recommend the 2080 over the RTX 2070 Super.
Unfortunately for AMD, this means the $700 Radeon VII is simply not worth considering anymore and it’s being phased out sooner rather than later.
If price if no object and you simply want the best consumer-oriented GPU on the market, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti remains the clear winner. No other GPU has managed to beat it so far, and due to this lack of competition, Nvidia has been free to make its own rules. As such, RTX 2080 Tis are still grossly overpriced at $1,100 or more a pop. The suggested MSRP was supposed to be $1,000 for AIB models, but many months after launch, we’ve yet to see any cards drop that low.
Though Nvidia managed to muscle AMD out of the market earlier last year with their Turing GPUs, the Red Team has started to recover some ground. The 7nm Radeon 5700 and 5700 XT have crushed several of Nvidia’s new offerings in terms of both performance and overall value. Those two new cards, combined with shifting prices across the board, has made the GPU market considerably more competitive than it’s been in quite some time.