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The mainstay of any gaming computer is its graphics card. The GPU performs billions and billions of complicated calculations per second. Thanks to it, games can be enjoyed in their full potential.
Obviously, other components such as the processor and RAM are also essential. However, it is at the level of the graphics card that the real magic is done. This is why you can justify spending more on the GPU when you build a gaming rig.
We have pretty much tested all major video cards in recent years. From the budget ones costing around $100 to the performance monsters costing more than $1,000. Here are our recommendations
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super: the best graphics card for QHD gaming
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super (Check on Amazon) is here to replace the RTX 2080, which will be discontinued.
This GPU is equipped with a variant of the TU104 core, consisting of 2,560 CUDA Cores, 320 Tensor cores, and 40 RT cores. All this translates into a total of 64 ROPs (Render Output Units) and 184 TMUs (Texture Memory Units), in short, its performance is almost identical to the previous RTX 2080, but with a reduced TDP of “just” 215W.
During our extensive game testing our results placed it above the reference RTX 2080 model, with frame rates steadily above 100 fps in 1080p and 1440p and around 60 fps in 4K.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti: the best
There is not much to say about the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti (Check on Amazon). It is the best consumer GPU and it is designed for extreme gaming.
It is equipped with an Nvidia Turing graphics core that mounts 4,352 CUDA cores, 544 Tensor cores, and 68 RT cores, plus 11GB of GDDR6 memory working at 14Gbps.
This card can offer you the best possible performance whether a game is optimized for it or not. The power consumption is a bit high, but what did you expect from the best graphics card around: it requires 342 watts at maximum load and 48 watts at idle, so we recommend a power supply of 750 watts, at least. You will also need a good case with great airflow in order to help it dissipate the huge amounts of heat it produces.
AMD Radeon RX 5700: the best graphics card for most people
The second card that AMD launched on the market with its new RDNA architecture is the RX 5700 (Check on Amazon). This is the smaller sibling of the excellent 5700 XT version. This GPU can compete, in terms of fps, with the RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 Super, and is clearly better than the RTX 2060 (Check on Amazon).
AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT: the best graphics card for 1080p gaming
We have finally managed to test the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT (Check on Amazon) and “spoiler alert” we loved it!
Released in January 2020, this is one of the best cards on the market. It comes in two versions, so you have to take special care when choosing a model. There are some that sport a 1,620MHz Turbo and 12GHz of memory, and others that boast a 1,750MHz Turbo and 14GHz of memory. Always opt for the latter version since it offers at least 10% more power and is closer to the performance of the RX 5700 (Check on Amazon), except for tasks that can benefit from the 5700’s 8GB of VRAM.
The AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT is the best graphics card for Full HD Ultra gaming and demolishes the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (Check on Amazon) (our previous suggestion) with its performance. It’s also fully capable of WQHD gaming provided you don’t get too greedy with the settings.
It can even go toe to toe with the pricier Nvidia RTX 2060 (Check on Amazon), minus the RT (Ray Tracing) and DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) features of course.
GeForce GTX 1660 Super: a budget alternative alternative for 1080p gaming
With the arrival of the Super (Check on Amazon) versions in the mid-range, Nvidia wants to recover and maintain its dominance. Thanks to the outstanding performance and aggressive pricing of the latest Radeon RX models, Nvidia feels threatened and thus raised the stakes with the launch of this modified 1660 (Check on Amazon) that raises its performance to the same level as the 1660 Ti and with a better price to boot.
The GPU is still the same TU116 with 1408 CUDA Cores, but the amount of VRAM memory was raised to 6GB GDDR6 working at 14Gbps. In addition, its overclocked performance is very close to the RTX 2060 which is just impressive.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super: the best graphics card for VR gaming
Since the NVIDIA RTX 2080 (Check on Amazon) will be discontinued we believe that the Nvidia RTX 2080 Super (Check on Amazon) is the next best thing (better actually) for gaming at both WQHD and 4K resolutions.
The Turing architecture and the chip itself remain unchanged. Nvidia chose to increase the number of computing units and the operating frequency as well as the graphics memory.
In 4K, the GeForce RTX 2080 Super is on average 7% faster than the GeForce RTX 2080. This means you will get more than 80 fps in all modern games.
However, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti (Check on Amazon) is 18% faster.
AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT: best bang for your buck
The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT (Check on Amazon) was created to compete with Nvidia’s RTX 2060 Super (Check on Amazon), and the older RTX 2070 (Check on Amazon) models. With it, AMD launched its new architecture called RDNA.
It is on par with the RTX 2060 Super but lags behind the RTX 2070 Super (Check on Amazon) (which was expected). It is cheaper than its main rival, however, it has a couple of disadvantages: it doesn’t support Ray Tracing or Deep Learning Super Sampling and it can get quite hot. It offers great performance in 1080p and 2K resolutions, but overclocking is quite limited.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super: best cheap graphics card for 1080p gaming
Nvidia usually can’t compete with AMD at the low end of the market, but the GTX 1650 Super is our new best budget graphics card. It is capable of 60 frames per second with High or Ultra settings in almost all modern titles – a huge deal for a card that costs (Check on Amazon). It’s also capable of 1440p, but only with the lowest settings.
The GTX 1650 Super is for all intents and purposes a “GTX 1660 Lite” than a GTX 1650 (Check on Amazon). It uses the TU116 GPU (the same one we find in GTX 1660 graphics cards) and is 30% faster than the RX 570 (Check on Amazon) (our cheapest recommendation). It also comes with 4GB of ultra-fast GDDR6 memory, and Nvidia’s latest Turing NVENC video encoder, something that’s missing from the GTX 1650. Better yet, Nvidia’s GPU is incredibly energy efficient, and that means also very quiet.
You will need a six-pin power connector though. The only reason to opt for the non-Super version is if your power supply doesn’t have a six-pin connector or can’t handle the extra demand in power since the GTX 1650 can draw all its power directly from the motherboard.
If you want an AMD video card instead, the RX 5500 XT (Check on Amazon) delivers almost identical performance, but it uses 25% more power and costs more.
AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT: AMD alternative
The problem is that the RX 5500 XT has failed to make Nvidia’s GTX 1660 Super (Check on Amazon) obsolete, which still offers the best performance at Full HD resolutions.
Likewise, AMD has maintained its line of Polaris 500 series GPUs on the market, such as the RX 580 (Check on Amazon) and RX 570 (Check on Amazon), further cutting their price and thus making the RX 5500 XT launch a bit lukewarm.
If you want a graphics card capable of running any modern game at 1080p and 60 fps, the RX 5500 XT currently offers the best price to performance ratio.
Note: The AMD RX 5500 XT is available in two versions, one with 8GB and one with 4GB. The only reason to opt for the 8GB version is if you want to play on Ultra settings since some games require more than 4GB of memory for their more imaginative texture packs. Unfortunately the card is not powerful enough to always hit 60fps on maximum settings. Therefore, the 4GB version offers an almost identical experience, for a much lower cost.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super: Ray Tracing on a budget
The RTX 2060 Super (Check on Amazon) is the best graphics card for a [email protected] (and [email protected]) gaming experience. It offers the perfect mix of price, performance, and features. It offers almost the same performance as the GTX 1070 Ti, at a lower price point, and in addition, it includes all of Nvidia’s advanced RTX features. The only GPU that offers a better price to quality ratio is the AMD Radeon 5700 XT (Check on Amazon).
This title was for long been held by the RTX 2060 (Check on Amazon), the previous generation medium to high-end GPU. The RTX 2060 Super, although a mid-range GPU, offers way better performance, comparable to that of the now “dated” vanilla RTX 2070 (Check on Amazon).
It can also handle last-gen AAA titles with Ray Tracing but at a framerate that will not satisfy hardcore gamers. If you are one of them, you should invest in a high-end Nvidia GPU. But for entry-level Ray Tracing gaming, this is a solid pick.
AMD Radeon RX 570: the most affordable
The AMD Radeon RX 570 is an updated RX 470 that was selling for $200. Now that the cryptocurrency craze is over you can find an RX 570 for just (Check on Amazon).
Its Polaris 20 core consists of a total of 33 Compute Units (CU), 2,048 stream processors, 128 TMUs and 32 ROPs. It is also equipped with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM at 7Gbps, which are more than enough to play the latest AAA titles.
In our testing, we obtained a good gaming experience with 60 frames per second in most modern games on High or Ultra settings at 1080p and playable 1440p.
The insanely low price of the Radeon RX 570 makes all other budget GPUs such as the GeForce GTX 1650 (Check on Amazon), the older GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (Check on Amazon) and the Radeon RX 560 (Check on Amazon) really superfluous unless you want a graphics card that does not require an additional power connection.
AMD Radeon VII: the best graphics card for creatives
AMD didn’t introduce a high-end graphics card since the advent of the Radeon Vega 64 back in 2017. With the launch of the Radeon VII (Check on Amazon), the first 7nm GPU in the world, AMD wants to reclaim a piece of the premium graphics card market and it certainly succeeds in its intent, but perhaps not in the way most fans expected.
The AMD Radeon VII is a beast of a card and offers a respectful gaming performance both in 1440p and 4K resolutions, but where it really stands out is in content creation. Equipped with 16GB of HBM2 memory, the Radeon VII excels in creative applications and competes effortlessly with the much more expensive graphics cards from Nvidia.
If you want the very best gaming video card, the RTX 2080 (Check on Amazon) outperforms the Radeon VII by about 10% and has better energy consumption. If on the other hand want the best and most affordable all-around premium graphics card, then the Radeon VII is the one you should choose.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060: entry-level Ray Tracing
Nvidia’s RTX 2060 (Check on Amazon) was a decent video card when it was launched in January 2019, and its recent price cut a year later keeps it relevant. In a direct confrontation between this and the RX 5600 XT (Check on Amazon), Nvidia is the clear winner.
For many people, $300 is the maximum amount they are willing to spend on a graphics card. The RTX 2080 Ti (Check on Amazon) is almost twice as fast at 4K resolutions, but it also costs almost four times as much. The RTX 2060 is however ideal for gaming at 1080p, with an average framerate of almost 90 fps at Ultra settings.
This is a great choice for Full HD gaming and also lets you use Ray Tracing (it also offers decent 1440p performance, but with Ray Tracing active the framerate drops considerably).
What do I have to consider when buying a graphics card?
Before you buy a graphics card, there are a few things you should clarify:
- It should be clear beforehand exactly what your new graphics card should do. Is it enough for you to play in high settings on Full HD with 60fps? Then your graphics card budget can be significantly lower. However, if you want to fully exploit a gaming monitor with 144Hz and higher resolutions, you should be prepared to spend significantly more money.
- As always, the more performance you need, the more you have to invest in it. Prices are increasing exponentially. While the price difference between a solid Full HD and QHD card is somewhat small, you have to spend significantly more money to jump to 4K.
- Your sensitivity to noise also plays a major role. If you don’t mind that your graphics card gets loud under load, you can save some money by using a reference model with a “simple” fan design.
Also read: Graphics Cards Buying Guide