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. Nvidia released a new line of refreshed RTX Super GPUs as well as some surprisingly worthwhile mid-range offerings. AMD broke 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.
- Entry-Level GPU ($100)
- Mainstream GPU ($200)
- Mid-Range GPU ($300)
- High-End 1440p GPU ($400+)
- High-End 4K GPU ($600+)
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. With luck, you may find one for $110 (make sure it's a 4GB model) which is still a good buy.
Note that the price tags on these low-end cards have shifted as well. Last year you could snag the RX 550 for about $75, but now, they are mostly around $90. 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 brings the cost even higher, which is absurd. The next step up (see 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
Right now the best sub-$200 value-oriented GPU option is the good old Radeon RX 580. You can snag it for as little as $175 depending on your brand of choice, which is a great deal. Nvidia launched the Turing-based GTX 1650 earlier this year however we didn't think much of that GPU. The RX 580 noticeably faster than the GTX 1650 on average, at a slight price premium.
For a tad less, 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. The RX 570 is much faster for gaming than the sub-$100 alternatives suggested above.
As for other options below $200, 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 GTX 1050 variants.
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
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 $280 and it's nearly as good value, offering killer performance for the price. You can see a ton of gaming benchmarks here and here to understand why we were very pleased with this GPU since launch.
Coming from a previous generation of so-so mainstream GPUs, for a small price premium over the GTX 1060 6GB, we get nearly GTX 1070-like performance. The older 1060 has since been safely eliminated from the running -- the 1660 Ti outperforms it by up to 40 percent at 1440p.
Then there is AMD's old 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 we still gave the advantage to the 1660 Ti due to the Vega's outlandish $400 asking price. AMD reacted and lowered Vega 56's price to as little as $280, which made it a contender, but today its availability has dried up and it's commanding a steeper price tag that makes no sense.
Not only is the GTX 1660 Ti more efficient but at anything over $300, the Vega 56 loses to AMD's newer and better Radeon RX 5700.
Best High-End 1440p GPU ($400+)
Radeon 5700 XT vs. Radeon 5700 vs. RTX 2070 Super vs. RTX 2060 / Super
The mid-range market is much more competitive than it once was. Early this year, we were recommending the GeForce RTX 2060 as the best mid-range, bang-for-your-buck graphics card, however times have changed. The 2060 is still the best option for RTX-enabled gaming at around $350. However for the same price you can also grab AMD's new Radeon RX 5700.
The RX 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. Of note, there are a few basic 5700 models selling for a bit less ($330), while others that have better cooling capabilities are known to be flashed to XT levels, if you are into that kind of tinkering.
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 RTX 2060's 6GB. In terms of raw gaming performance, the Radeon 5700 XT beats the 2060 and the vanilla 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.
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.
As a side note, Radeon 5700 XT models with custom cooling will set you back an extra $10-$40 and provide lower temperatures and overall quieter operation. 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.
The RTX 2080 Super was supposed to launch and replace the 2080 at the $700 price point (offering a minor 5% performance bump), but thanks to the wonders of GPU price volatility, the 2080 Super is still selling for a premium that goes from $730-760. The standard RTX 2080 can still be found around but it's becoming scarcer by the minute, with luck you can snap one up for about $680.
Price point aside, per our review, the RTX 2080 Super is on average 26% faster at 4K gaming than our $400 pick, the Radeon RX 5700 XT.
If price is no object and you simply want the best consumer-oriented GPU on the market, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti remains the clear winner.
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, the RTX 2080 Ti is 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.
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