When it comes to graphics cards, we go pretty in-depth. Every year we test dozens of 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 on the graphics front. 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 buying guide. 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 (Less than $100)
Radeon RX 550 vs. GeForce GT 1030
For less than $100 we recommend the Radeon RX 560, however do note this GPU's pricing can fluctuate a lot. Currently it can be found for $99 and at that price we can recommend it. Only a few weeks ago the lowest we could find it for was $130 which is too rich for this low-end contender and too close to the much faster RX 570 (see below). You get 4GB of VRAM versus the RX 550’s 2GB, which makes a big difference.
For less, we recommend the Radeon RX 550 over Nvidia’s GT 1030 (read our comparison). Note that the price tags on these low-end cards have shifted as well. Right now you can snag the RX 550 for about $75. The GT 1030 can be had for around $85, and yet the Radeon is the faster of the two.
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 580 vs. RX 570 vs. RX 5500 XT vs. GeForce GTX 1650 Super
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 $160 depending on your brand of choice, which is a great deal. The expectation was that AMD would solidify their dominance in the entry-level gaming market with the release of the Radeon RX 5500 XT, but with barely competitive pricing of the 4GB and 8GB models, that wasn’t really the case.
The 8GB 5500 XT costs more than the 8GB RX 580 and it’s no faster. It is more power efficient, but we think most gamers won't care about that but will favor getting all those extra frames, the more the better.
If power consumption is of great concern, then we recommend the GeForce GTX 1650 Super, it uses even less power than the 5500 XT, it’s slightly cheaper and doesn’t suffer nearly as much when memory usage is at its peak, presumably due to superior memory compression technology and perhaps better driver optimization.
Now, if all you care about it getting the most performance for your money, the $130 RX 570 is the next best choice. The card is anywhere from 10 to 20 percent faster on average than the $150 GTX 1650 (non Super, 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, too.
Bottom line, in the $100 - $200 price range the Radeon RX 580 8GB is without question your best value option. Also keep an eye out for deals on the RX 590 and the GeForce GTX 1660 which can be great options for $200 or even less if you get a good deal.
Best Mid-Range GPU ($200 - $300)
GeForce GTX 1660 Super vs. Radeon RX 590 vs. Radeon Vega 56
Gamers looking to spend up to $300 have a few options to consider, but overall we like the GeForce GTX 1660 Super the most. AMD doesn't have anything new to offer in this price range, not until they release the RX 5600 series. You can find a few outgoing Vega 56 cards with a decent cooler. The Gigabyte Vega 56 Gaming OC, for example, can often be found for around $270 and while many AMD fans will scream from the rooftops that this is the deal of the century, we're not completely convinced it is.
On average the GTX 1660 Super is ~15% slower but it also costs 15% less. Crucially, it's widely available in all regions -- and costs a lot less in most regions -- it's also worlds better in terms of power usage. When factoring in total system usage with an overclocked Core i9-9900K at 5 GHz, the Vega 56 configuration consumes 54% more power when gaming. We know gamers don’t prioritize power usage, but over 50% more is insane.
For about $230, the GeForce GTX 1660 Super offers amazing value, beats the competition at this price point and is an efficient little card. The GTX 1660 Super is a good bit faster than the Radeon RX 590, beating it overall by a 13% margin. But the Radeon's appeal is on pricing and that will determine which way you should go. If Nvidia does offer the 1660 Super at $230 then we’d purchase it over a $200 RX 590.
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 locked down by AMD with their Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT. After a series of massive game benchmarks featuring the 5700, 5700 XT, RTX 2060 Super and RTX 2070 Super, we have a good idea of how these GPUs compare.
In short, the Radeon 5700 XT is $100 cheaper than the RTX 2070 Super and when compared across a massive range of games it's just 6% slower on average at 1440p. The only reason you might consider the RTX 2070 Super would be for 4K gaming, but even there the 5700 XT still offers better value, despite being 9% slower, as it costs 20% less.
The GeForce RTX 2060 remains the cheapest option for RTX-enabled gaming at around $350. However the Radeon 5700 XT eliminates the RTX 2060 Super from contention, offering more performance at the same price, while the vanilla RX 5700 offers 2060 Super performance for a ~$50 discount. So this one's pretty cut and dry if you want the most performance for your dollar.
If you consider ray tracing an absolute must-have or must go for an Nvidia GPU, the RTX 2070 Super is the obvious choice for around $500. It's faster than the standard 2070 by ~12 percent for the same 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 Super vs. Your Wallet
Despite increased competition in the mid-range, Nvidia still has a stranglehold over the high-end GPU market. If you're looking to spend more than $600 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.
But be aware, you’re beyond the point of diminishing returns here. On average the RTX 2080 Super is only ~15% faster against the 5700 XT at 1440p, yet it’s priced 75% higher. At 4K the 2080 Super does better, offering 26% more frames than our $400 pick, the Radeon RX 5700 XT.
The RTX 2080 Super was supposed to launch and replace the original 2080 at the $700 price point (offering a minor 5% performance bump), but thanks to the wonders of GPU price volatility, and no direct competition from AMD, they can get away with charging more.
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.
The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is a beast, offering around 20% more performance than the RTX 2080 Super. It's also 47% faster than the RX 5700 XT at 4K, but of course that all comes at a hefty premium. The RTX 2080 Ti does enable a much higher quality 4K gaming experience than the rest of the pack sitting below it.
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. 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. If you happen to land a 2080 Ti for $1,000 you’re doing pretty well by 2080 Ti standards, expect to pay more like $1,100 to $1,200.
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