Between Nvidia’s powerful Turing and Ampere GPUs and AMD’s designs using a 7nm process, the graphics card market may be the most competitive it’s been in some time. That competition means good value for you as a consumer, especially considering there’s a graphics card to fit just about every need. So, if you’re looking to outfit your gaming PC with one of its most crucial parts, you’ve come to the right place.You can find graphics cards for a little over $200 that will make short work of 1080p gaming, and you won’t break the bank to enjoy 1440p at high frame rates or even a perfectly playable 4K. Thanks to the many GPU variants there are, such as Nvidia’s Super GPUs or AMD’s XT models, you can find a graphics card that will truly find the performance you need to make the most of your gaming monitor. We’ll walk you through the best options, so you can pick out exactly what you need to make your computer hum and for those of you in the UK, click here to see where you can get them.TL;DR These are the Best Graphics Cards:
1. Nvidia RTX 3070
Best Graphics Card
CUDA Cores/Stream Processors 5,888 Base Clock: 1,500MHz Boost Clock: 1,730MHz Video Memory: 8GB GDDR6 Memory Speed: 14Gbps Memory Bus: 256-bit Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin (12-pin adapter) Outputs: 1 x HDMI 2.1, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4 Size: 9.5″ x 4.4″ x 2-slot
For an incredible marriage of performance and price, you can’t do better than the new Nvidia RTX 3070 (read our review). This card costs just $500, but it is capable of offering performance levels exceeding even the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, which had been retailing often for more than three times the price of the RTX 3070.This new graphics card offers up 5,888 CUDA cores that can run at a decent clip with a 1,730MHz boost clock. It also includes 8GB of GDDR6, so you’ll have plenty of memory for game textures and frame buffer. This card can do some 4K if that’s your aim, but it’s best suited for maxing out on 1440p. We’re not talking 1440p/60Hz either, but rather high-speed and high-resolution gaming.
2. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition
Best 4K Graphics Card
CUDA Cores/Stream Processors 8,704 Base Clock: 1,440MHz Boost Clock: 1,710MHz Video Memory: 10GB GDDR6X Memory Speed: 19Gbps Memory Bus: 320-bit Power Connectors: 1 x 12-pin Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4a, 1 x HDMI 2.1 Size: 11.2″ x 4.4″ x dual-slot
There’s a new king when it comes to high-performance gaming, and that’s the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition (read our review). At just $700, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition jumps over the performance threshold of the previous reigning champ, the RTX 2080 Ti (read our review), which was much more expensive. The RTX 3080 achieves this thanks to a new achitecture that allowed Nvidia to pack 8,704 CUDA (double that of the RTX 2080 Ti) cores onto the chip and run them at up to 1,710MHz.Though the RTX 3080 has less VRAM than the 2080 Ti, it’s now a faster GDDR6X memory. There’s enough power under the shroud to let the RTX 3080 achieve 4K gaming at 60fps with ray-tracing enabled. There’s something to be said of the new cooling shroud as well, as it manages to keep the RTX 3080 cooler than the RTX 2080 Super and 2080 Ti in our testing. So, if you’re looking for the best option for 4K gaming, this is it, and the inclusion of HDMI 2.1 means you’ll even have the option of pairing this with some 4K/120Hz gaming TVs.
3. XFX RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra
Best 1440p Graphics Card
Stream Processors: 2560 Base Clock: 1,810MHz Boost Clock: 2,025MHz Video Memory: 8GB GDDR6 Memory Speed: 14Gbps Memory Bus: 256-bit Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0 Size: 12.4″ x 5.16″ x 2.24″
AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 XT (see our review) was already a phenomenal graphics card for 1440p gameplay and even a touch of 4K, and a budget-friendly option at that. But, XFX has made the RX 5700 XT even more appealing by taking the clock speeds up a notch. The XFX RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra manages an heightened 1,810MHz base clock, which is 205MHz faster than the base frequency of the stock RX 5700 XT. And, it gives the graphics processor a solid 120MHz uptick to its boost clock.With the extra speed and ample cooling provided by a triple-fan shroud, this graphics card is ready to keep pace with graphically demanding games even at the higher 1440p resolution. Even with those upgrades over stock, this card doesn’t get overly expensive.
4. XFX RX 5600 XT Thicc II Pro
Best 1080p Graphics Card
Stream Processors: 2304 Base Clock: 1,560MHz (Game Clock) Boost Clock: 1,620MHz Video Memory: 6GB GDDR6 Memory Speed: 12Gbps Memory Bus: 192-bit Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b Size: 11.02″ x 5.83″ x 1.73″
If you’re looking to get the most out of 1080p gaming, then look no further than the XFX RX 5600 XT Thicc II Pro. This graphics card takes the Radeon RX 5600 XT, adds a capable cooling shroud onto it, and keeps it running along at a tidy 1,560 MHz game clock. That heightened game clock gives it consistently higher performance over the stock model, as it should be able to maintain that speed over long periods of time.This card comes kitted with plenty of VRAM and and ample memory bandwitch, making sure you don’t need to go with low-res textures in your favorite games. So, if you want to dial up the graphics settings and enjoy fast frame rates at 1080p, this graphics card is a solid bet.
5. Asus TUF Gaming RTX 3070
Best Nvidia RTX Graphics Card
CUDA Cores/Stream Processors 5,888 Base Clock: 1,500MHz Boost Clock: 1,730MHz Video Memory: 8GB GDDR6 Memory Speed: 14Gbps Memory Bus: 256-bit Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin Outputs: 2 x HDMI 2.1, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4 Size: 11.81″ x 5″ x 2.7-slot
One of the best ways to enjoy Nvidia’s excellent new RTX 3070 graphics card is through the options available from Nvidia’s board partners. Asus’s TUF Gaming RTX 3070 is an excellent option. You’ll still get the same 5.888 CUDA cores and boost clock, but you’ll be getting a different design that comes a few perks of its own.There are a couple of chief differences between this card and Nvidia’s reference model. For one, you’ll get multiple HDMI 2.1 ports, letting you take advantage of the supported 4K/120Hz signal on multiple displays that lack DisplayPort. You’ll also find two 8-pin power connectors instead of the new 12-pin connector that Nvidia has implemented. And then there’s the triple-fan design, which should have no trouble keeping this card cool and quiet, just as the RTX 3080 version of this card did in our review
6. MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio
Best for High-End Gaming for Most Gamers
CUDA Cores: 8704 Base Clock: 1,440MHz Boost Clock: 1,815MHz Video Memory: 10GB GDDR6X Memory Speed: 19Gbps Memory Bus: 320-bit Power Connectors: 3 x 8-pin Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.1 Size: 12.72″ x 5.51″ x 2.2″
If you’re looking at the RTX 3080, you definitely are looking for speed. The MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio (read our review) takes the already excellent GPU card, and makes it even faster. In our testing, it was one of the faster RTX 3080 models. Those speeds come right out of the box as well, so with some tweaking, you could potentially see even more.The MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio is fairly beefy, as it’s stacking on a triple-fan cooler to keep temperatures in check, and it’ll require you to have three 8-pin connectors. That extra power may come in handy if you’re trying to overclock this card for even more performance. MSI tops it all off with a bit of RGB lighting. All that’s on offer here makes up for the $50 price hike over the Nvidia reference RTX 3080.
7. MSI RX 5500 XT Mech 8G OC
Kick-Off Your Esports Career with this Graphics Card
CUDA Cores/Stream Processors 1408 Base Clock: 1,647MHz Boost Clock: 1,845MHz Video Memory: 8GB GDDR6 Memory Speed: 14Gbps Memory Bus: 128-bit Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b Size: 8.5″ x 5″ x 1.6″
AMD’s RX 5500 XT (read our review) is very much a 1080p graphics processor. It can keep around the 60fps ballpark even at Ultra settings. It even musters acceptable performance at 1440p in some titles, and could put up some decent speed in 1080p or 1440p if settings were dialed down.That makes it particularly well suited toward budget builds with esports in mind. If you’re willing you balance your in-game settings a bit, you should be able to hit the high frame rates that make competitive play that much easier. Thanks to the compact size of the MSI RX 5500 XT Mech 8G OC, you can even build this into a smaller PC that’s ready for travel to LAN parties and back.
8. Nvidia RTX 3090 Founders Edition
The Out of Your Mind Graphics Card
CUDA Cores/Stream Processors 10,496 Base Clock: 1,400MHz Boost Clock: 1,700MHz Video Memory: 24GB GDDR6 Memory Speed: 19.5GbpsMemory Bus: 384-bit Power Connectors: 1 x 12pin (converts from 2 x 8-pin) Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4a, 1 x HDMI 2.1 Size: 12.3″ x 5.4″ x 3-slot
If you need a machine that won’t sweat in even the most demanding situations, then you’ll want the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Founds Edition (read our review). Nvidia decided to make this the top dog in its new graphics card stack, forgoing a Titan card or 3080 Ti. The RTX 3090 more than doubles the CUDA cores found on the earlier Titan RTX that used to hold this ranking in our guide, and it runs all of those cores at an even higher base clock.You’ll need a beefy power supply to run the RTX 3090 in your system, but you’ll get that energy back in the form of serious performance. The RTX 3090 can achieve smooth 4K gaming. Depending on the type of game you throw at it and whether it has any enhancements like DLSS, it can even make 8K playable. In our tests, we saw games like Rocket League and Rainbow Six Siege run at well over 60fps in 8K with no DLSS, and even Control and Death Stranding were in the ballpark of 60fps at 8K with DLSS in Ultra Performance Mode. And, when you’re not gaming, this graphics card can put earlier Nvidia cards to shame in rendering and 3D modeling tasks.
9. PNY GeForce GTX 1650 Super
Best HTPC Graphic Card
CUDA Cores/Stream Processors 1280 Base Clock: 1,530MHz Boost Clock: 1,725MHz Video Memory: 4GB GDDR6 Memory Speed: 12Gbps Memory Bus: 128-bit Power Connectors: 1 x 6-pin Outputs: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x DVI-D Size: 6.61″ x 4.96″ x 1.57″
The GTX 1650 Super is hardly a slightly boosted GTX 1650 but more like a lower-spec GTX 1660, especially on account of its implementing the same TU116 GPU. This graphics processor offers substantially more CUDA cores, higher clock speeds, and better memory than the standard GTX 1650. Those upgrades translate to an excellent 1080p gaming experience.If you were in the market for a GTX 1650, the upgrade to the Super model is definitely worthwhile. The extremely compact size of the PNY GTX 1650 Super graphics card also makes it great for small PC builds, so you can build a home theater PC that won’t stand out in your living room next to your TV but will be ready to kick in for gaming or media.
Where to Get the Best Graphic Cards in the UK
There isn’t too many differences when it comes to the graphics cards you can pick up in the UK, but the main takeaway is where you can purchase them. All of the following links have been updated with UK vendors, saving you some time and money if you’re interested in picking up any of the graphics card we’ve mentioned. Don’t see the graphic cards below? Click here.What to Look for in a Graphics Card
Below we explain how to pick the GPU for the display you have, why there are so many variants of the same Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, and a few factors you should consider when buying a GPU. Above all, you should buy the graphics card you need for the display youre using.If youre gaming on a Full HD monitor, it would be a huge waste to buy a graphics card designed to play games at 2160p or 1440p. Likewise, youll want a powerful graphics card to drive games playing on that premium 4K gaming monitor or 4K TV.
Weve laid out what are the best graphics cards to play games at 1080p, 1440p, and 2160p resolutions above, but here are some more general rules. For a decent to high-frame-rate Full HD experience, you should look at GPUs ranging from the GTX 1650 to the GTX 1660 Ti on Nvidias end. If youre looking at AMDs graphics card family, youll want a Radeon RX 5500 or up.
Jumping up to QHD resolutions will require a more capable graphics card, ideally an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 5600 and up. 4K gaming using a single card is still a tough proposition, but thanks to recent developments its actually approachable with the latest graphics cards like the Nvidia RTX 2080 Super and AMD Radeon VII.
Another Variable
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing the right graphics card for your gaming monitor (or vice versa) is what kind of variable refresh rate technology can you take the most advantage of. For the uninitiated, variable refresh rate (VRR) technology basically syncs the number of frames shooting out of your GPU to the frame rate of your display.This way the GPU isn’t overworking itself for nothing while also helping to eliminate screen tearing on your monitor. Without this VRR tech, your GPU might end up clogging the frame bugger with two ore more frames, which your display might then try and display two different shots of gameplay at the same time. If you have a TV and gaming monitor that supports FreeSync, you should get an AMD graphics card.
Alternatively, if you happen to be playing primarily a G-Sync gaming monitor or one of the latest LG CX OLED TVs then you’ll want an Nvidia GPU. Luckily for you, the line separating G-Sync and Freesync is quickly disappearing as more and more displays that offer the latter are adding support for the former.
G-Sync-compatible gaming monitors are all the rage now because they offer a tear-free and smooth gameplay experience when connecting to either an AMD and Nvidia graphics card.
Graphics card variants
Ok, youve decided which graphics card you want, great! However, even with this monumental decision out of the way, the world of GPUs isnt done being confusing and daunting just yet. Although there are only two companiesNvidia and AMDthat actually manufacture GPUs, there are dozens of different variants of the same graphics cardFor example, when the most recent graphics card launched, the Nvidia GTX 1650, there was a multitude of different versions from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, EVGA and the list goes on. In this case, while Nvidia may have introduced only one new GPU model, vendors or board partners will introduce their own versions featuring different overclock settings, cooling systems, and other differentiating factors we will explain below.
Length: One of the number one factors you should consider before plopping down cash for that shiny new graphics card is whether it will actually fit. If youre building your PC in a Mini ITX case, you should be looking at the smallest or mini graphics cards that will actually fit inside.
Overclocking: Most third-party cardsand even Nvidias own Founders Edition cardswill often come factory overclocked, and this means the graphics card has been tuned to operate above its rated maximum clock speed. As you might expect, the higher the number the faster it will perform.
At this point, you wont find many, including the entry-level cards, without some amount of overclocking from the factory. However, even without a factory overclock, its easy enough do it yourself using software such as EVGA Precision X or MSI Afterburner.
Cooling solutions: In your quest for the best graphics card, you might have noticed that some models come with one, two, or up to three fans. As you might expect, more fans equal better cooling, but there are also two distinct ways of keeping your graphics card chilled. GPUs equipped with a single fan often use a blower-style cooler, which means the card sucks in air and blows it out the back like a leaf blower.
Dual and triple fan setups are often used in conjunction with ‘open-air cooling systems,’ which are designed to move cool air through the open heatsinks and exhaust heat in every direction.
Blower style coolers are typically most useful for PCs built into small Mini ITX cases because they help exhaust heat out of a compact chassis with restricted airflow. If the system you’re building is in a Micro ATX PC case or a larger Mid tower chassis, youd be better off with an open-air cooled graphics card, as there are more mounting points for multiple case fans to do the brunt of cooling while the GPU’s own two (or three) fans blow heat off the card itself.
RTX vs GTX: With Turing, Nvidia didnt just introduce better, faster graphics cards it also debuted RTX GPUs with hardware designed to support real-time ray tracing, and AI-powered supersampling and anti-aliasing (known as Deep Learning Super Sampling). So far, Nvidia premium RTX 20-series cardsincluding the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080 Super, RTX 2080, RTX 2070 Super, RTX 2070, RTX 2060 Super, RTX 2060, and all their mobile counterpartsare the only GPUs to feature these dedicated components.
Thankfully, Nvidia decreed in early April 2019 that you dont need an RTX card with dedicated RT Cores to process real-time ray tracing. So any of the GTX 16-series cards and (most) older 10-series cards can run games with ray tracing turned on. DLSS is still an RTX exclusive since it requires Tensor cores to function, but its a niche performance smoothing feature compared to the strikingly realistic reflections and complex shadows effects that ray tracing produces.
Bargain your way to getting a graphics card
Strangely, one of the more affordable ways to get yourself the latest graphics card is to buy a gaming PC while its on sale. Gaming PCs from brands like Asus, Dell, MSI, Acer, and HP will often see discounts for hundreds of dollars off, so not only are you saving a ton of money, youre also avoiding potential headaches that can accompany a DIY buildand you also get a warranty.Prebuilt PCs have come a long way, too. They aren’t proprietary machines with randomly soldered-on components. They’re mostly as upgradeable as anything you might put together on your own.
Another way of enjoying the latest graphics cards is through gaming laptops. There are plenty of Nvidia RTX 20- and GTX 16-series gaming laptops out there right now. New GTX gaming laptops have also hit the streets and theyre far more affordable than the RTX-equipped models thanks to the laptops introduced during IFA 2019 like the new Acer Predator Triton 300.
Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspamMark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark