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Are you a PC gamer or a content creator? Do you want one of the best graphics cards to play the very best PC games or carry out a very intensive graphics design project? Thankfully buying a quality GPU doesn’t require a whole lot of money. Since AMD and Nvidia are constantly trying to outperform each other, there are many graphics cards to choose from regardless of the price range you are looking for.
A solid graphics card is the lifeblood of any desktop PC: it is responsible for converting all those ones and zeros into stunning pixels on the screen. Although there doesn’t exist a single GPU that is the ideal solution for everyone, we are here to help you separate the grain from the chaff. You may want the fastest graphics card possible, or the one that has the best value for money, however, most of us are just looking for the best graphics card in a given price range. Balancing performance, price, functionality, and efficiency are very important because no other component affects your gaming experience as much as the graphics card.
Prices and availability in 2021
A shortage, that started back in 2020, has caused a limited availability of graphics cards.
This situation we are finding ourselves in is not the fault of a single entity. It’s not Nvidia’s and AMD’s fault, and it’s certainly not Bitcoin’s fault.
The dramatic increase in GPU prices, as we have come to experience it today, is due to a confluence of three factors:
- Every sector that is based on semiconductors is accusing a supply squeeze right now.
- The rise in the price of cryptocurrency.
- The increase in bots designed to overcome Amazon’s and other online stores’ restrictions (one graphics card per buyer).
This led to a situation where graphics cards run out the moment they go on sale. They are then resold on eBay for 2, 3, or even 4 times the MSRP, a price that many buyers are clearly willing to pay.
Many experts predict that this particular situation will last until 2022.
“Which graphics card, that falls within my budget, gives me the best performance/price ratio?”
The answer to this simple question is what most people are looking for in a new graphics card: we all want the best performance we can afford. Of course, the technological advancements that accompany each launch of a new GPU can be interesting, but most gamers just want to raise the detail settings to the maximum and experience more FPS, while creative professionals want to quickly open, create and edit high-resolution photos and videos or 3D environments and models as fast as possible — speeding up the workflow allows them to increase productivity and thus earn more money.
What does a graphics card do? And do you really need one?
Most PCs, unless they are game-oriented machines, will most likely not be equipped with a graphics card. Most budget laptops and desktop PCs use a graphics processor built into the CPU (commonly called IGP). This is certainly fine unless you are a gamer or content creator, then investing in a good graphics card is paramount.
The graphics card manages the visualization of 2D and 3D content, drawing the desktop and decoding and encoding video content into programs and games. All video cards on the market are built on large graphics processing chips designed by AMD or Nvidia. These processors are referred to as GPU (graphics processing units), a term that is applied, incorrectly, even to the graphics cards themselves.
Who needs a graphics card?
We already talked about integrated graphics (IGP). IGPs are able to meet the needs of most basic users. The three exceptions are:
- Professional workstation users. These people, who work with CAD, video, and photo editing, benefit from a discrete GPU. Some of their applications can transcode video from one format to another, or perform other specialized operations using GPU resources instead of (or in addition to) CPU resources.
- Multi-display users. Professionals who need a large number of displays can benefit from a graphics card. Desktop operating systems (Windows for example) can manage multiple displays connected to an IGP and a GPU. Thus, if you ever wanted to work with five or six displays simultaneously, you can do this by combining your CPU’s IGP with a discrete GPU.
- Gamers. For games, the graphics card is probably the most important component.
Graphics cards fall into two distinct classes: “consumer” graphics cards designed for gaming and content creation, and “professional” graphics cards designed for workstations and oriented to scientific processing and working with artificial intelligence.
The product line of Nvidia’s consumer graphics cards is divided into two distinct classes: GeForce GTX and GeForce RTX. AMD’s consumer graphics cards include the Radeon RX and Radeon RX Vega families, as well as the Radeon VII.
Before we find out which of them are the best, let’s outline some very important considerations that you should make before buying one.
The resolution informs you of the number of pixels that the GPU needs to “churn out”. This has a huge impact on which gaming graphics card you should buy and how much you will have to pay for it.
Nowadays, even the most modest graphics card (or IGP) can display programs at 4K resolution (3,840×2,160 pixels). However, those graphics cards do not have the power to produce the necessary frame rates (60 fps) at that resolution. When gaming, the GPU is responsible for rendering the game image on the screen in real-time and that means calculating positions, geometry, and lighting on the fly. For this reason, the higher a game title’s level of detail and monitor resolution, the higher the raw power of the GPU.
The three most common resolutions for gaming are 1080p (1,920×1080 pixels), 1440p (2,560×1,440 pixels) and 4K (3,840×2,160 pixels). In general, choosing a graphics card suitable for your monitor’s native resolution is recommended. (A monitor’s “native” resolution is the highest resolution supported by the panel and is the one where the display looks the best.)
High refresh rate
For centuries, 60Hz (or 60 fps) was the limit for most PC monitors, but this was before the advent of eSports.
eSport panels can support a refresh rate of up to 144 Hz, 240 Hz, or even 360 Hz for smoother gameplay (simply put they’re capable of showing more fps).
FreeSync Vs G-Sync
AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-Sync are two sides of the same coin, a technology called Adaptive Sync. With adaptive synchronization, the monitor is displayed at a variable refresh rate that depends on the graphics card; the screen draws the image at a speed that scales up and down according to the capabilities of the graphics card. Without it, frame rate fluctuations can lead to artifacts, stuttering, or screen tears. Adaptive synchronization eliminates all these problems.
A monitor can support FreeSync, G-Sync, both, or none. FreeSync is more common, as it does not add to the cost of manufacturing a monitor; G-Sync requires dedicated hardware within the display, thus G-Sync monitors cost more.
Graphics card basics: understanding the various specifications
When comparing graphics cards, it is worth keeping in mind a few key numbers: the clock speed, the built-in VRAM (that is, the amount of video memory), and, of course, the price.
When comparing GPUs of the same family, a higher clock speed (i.e. the speed at which the graphics core works) and more cores indicate a faster GPU (this statement is valid when comparing graphics cards based on the same GPU only).
Built-in video memory
A graphics card designed for 1080p gaming will generally be equipped with 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM, while GPUs oriented towards 1440p or 4K gaming tend to have at least 8 GB or more.
For creators, this discussion is quite different. In many 3D rendering programs specs such as clock speed are less important than the amount of memory and its speed and bandwidth.
Memory bandwidth tells us how quickly data can move in and out of the GPU. The higher the better. Be careful though, AMD and Nvidia use different architectures and therefore have different bandwidth requirements, so their numbers are not directly comparable.
CrossFireX, SLI and NVLink
Both AMD and Nvidia no longer support dual graphics card configurations (via CrossFireX for AMD, SLI, and NVLink for Nvidia) which has traditionally been a relatively easy way to maximize performance.
Most games these days are not designed to take advantage of two or more graphics cards. For content creation, however, the above statement is still valid and professional creators are the only ones who have such a massive need for graphics processing power that they get a return on investment.
Three types of ports are the most common on modern graphics cards: DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. Some monitors still use DVI, but it is the oldest of the three and no longer appear on high-end graphics cards. Most of them are equipped with a couple of DisplayPorts (often three) and one HDMI port.
But what is the difference between HDMI and DisplayPort? In practice, if you intend to use a 4K display, now or in the future, your graphics card must support at least HDMI 2.0a or DisplayPort 1.2/1.2a.
Before buying a new graphics card, consider the following:
- Once you have narrowed down the list to a couple of them, read their online reviews to discover important information in order to choose the most suitable one for your system and use case scenarios.
- Even the most powerful graphics card on the planet will not matter if your CPU is the bottleneck (and vice versa).
- The higher the resolution of your monitor and the higher the performance you will need.
- Make sure your power supply (PSU) has enough wattage and the right connectors (6-pin, 8-pin).
- Buy a graphics card with at least 4 GB of VRAM, with 6GB and 8GB models strongly recommended.
- All Nvidia GTX and RTX graphics cards support G-Sync, and all AMD Radeon RX 400 or later models support FreeSync.
- The latest graphics cards can support Ray Tracing, which can be used to enhance images. Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), on the other hand, can improve performance without deteriorating the image quality but (at the moment) is only found on Nvidia RTX graphics cards.
- Graphics cards that use the same GPU may vary in price. This is because some models feature more extreme overclocking and better cooling systems.
- Using two graphics cards (CrossFireX, SLI) for gaming is usually counterproductive. Video editing is the only exception but it depends on the software support of the application you are using.
- For photo editing, a mid-tier graphics card may not be enough anymore, although this also depends on the software you are using.
- For video editing, the amount of VRAM can have a great impact on performance if you work with high-resolution video (4K and above).
These are the best graphics cards
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080: the best
The king is dead, long live the king! The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (Check on Amazon) boasts a new and improved Ampere architecture. While AMD has no doubt shortened the gap with its Radeon RX 6000 series graphics cards, the throne still belongs to the Green team. Sure, the RTX 3090 (Check on Amazon) is the most powerful GPU you can buy, but if you only care about games then it’s an unnecessary splurge.
If you intend to game at 4K resolution, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 is the only graphics card worth considering. Before it, you had to shell out more than $1,000 on an RTX 2080 Ti (Check on Amazon) in order to get playable framerates. However, with the new generation, the entry price was cut almost in half, thanks to the RTX 3080. It boasts one of the biggest generational jumps in performance in GPU history, offering a 65% increase over the RTX 2080 (Check on Amazon) and a 25% increase over the RTX 2080 Ti! And despite the fact that it has less VRAM than the RTX 2080 Ti, it uses the new faster GDDR6X memory.
Sure, at the moment the RTX 3080 is a rare find and costs an arm and a leg, but there is no doubt that this is the best gaming graphics card, by far. What really sets it apart is its Ray Tracing performance. The first generation of Ray Tracing capable graphics cards had a drop in frame rates so huge, that most users kept the option disabled, but this is no longer the case.
If you were hesitant to buy a 20-series RTX GPU, the 30 series will have to rethink your options. With nearly double the RT performance and games like Cyberpunk 2077 implementing the technology in question even better, the RTX 3080 is the best way for you to bask in the Ray Tracing glory.
To better understand this, the RTX 3080 delivers the same performance with Ray Tracing turned on, as the RTX 2080 with RT turned off! The RTX 3080 can achieve this thanks to its new 8nm architecture that allows Nvidia to pack as many as 8,704 CUDA cores (twice the amount we find in the RTX 2080 Ti) on this chip.
In addition, it implements upgraded Tensor cores for unprecedented DLSS 2.0 and 2.1 goodness: Deep Learning Super Sampling runs AI rendering in real-time, effectively boosting frame rates and producing frames at a much higher resolution — this is perhaps its most impressive feature. Last but not least, it uses second-generation RT cores for an even nicer Ray Tracing effect — AMD’s new Radeon RX 6000 series graphics cards also come with Ray Tracing, but their performance is not on par with Nvidia’s.
Thus, if you want to game at 4K or 1440p resolutions, with all graphics settings at maximum and Ray Tracing enabled, the RTX 3080 is the only graphics card capable of producing at least 60fps!
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti: best value
AMD is no longer the king of “cheap” graphics cards! The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (Check on Amazon) offers the best performance/price ratio (under normal circumstances).
The 3060 Ti includes all the benefits of RTX cards while costing less than all other Ampere series graphics cards. Despite its price, its performance can match that of the RTX 2080 Super (Check on Amazon) when gaming at 1080p and 1440p and is capable of running some titles even at 4K. It’s also only about 10% slower than the RTX 3070 (Check on Amazon) while costing 20% less. And, unlike Nvidia’s GTX series of graphics cards, the RTX 3060 Ti is built with dedicated hardware for both Ray Tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling. It also consumes “just” 200W; it is, therefore, ideal for those who do not want to upgrade their power supply. If you’re still using a GTX or similar GPU, like the GTX 1070 (Check on Amazon) or the RX Vega 56 (Check on Amazon), the RTX 3060 Ti is twice as fast. It is also 40% faster than the RTX 2060 Super (Check on Amazon), and 25% faster than the RX 5700 XT (Check on Amazon). Last but not least, it costs less than AMD’s competitor, the RX 6800 (Check on Amazon).
The only real concern is its amount of VRAM. 8GB is enough for now, but some games are starting to go over that threshold. Of course, you can always lower the visual quality by a few notches without even noticing the difference — in fact, “High” settings often seem indistinguishable from the “Ultra” ones.
For that matter, gaming at 4K or even 1440p is definitely exciting, but also stressful as you will constantly have to try to optimize your gaming rig. Gaming at 1080p provides clear images and makes it much easier to keep all settings at maximum without worrying too much about frame rates. The new Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti is designed for epic performance in 1080p; it is, therefore, an extremely popular choice for anyone who is not too interested in 4K gaming.
Yes, this card isn’t as future-proof as its bigger sibling, but if you can find one at a reasonable price, it’s a great bargain. We doubt it though since it has been sold out just as fast as all the other new graphics cards.
Until AMD releases its next series of RDNA2 graphics cards, there’s nothing that can challenge the RTX 3060 Ti.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070: best mid-range graphics card
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 (Check on Amazon) is the best mid-range graphics card you can buy right now if you can find one on sale. It rivals the RTX 2080 Ti (Check on Amazon) while costing much, much less.
This is extraordinary news, and anyone who wants to build or upgrade a mid-range gaming PC should be happy. A year ago, before the advent of Nvidia’s 30-series graphics cards and AMD’s 6000 series ones, a GPU with similar features would have broken the Internet.
Despite being the underdog in the RTX 30 range [the middle child between the RTX 3060 Ti (Check on Amazon) and RTX 3080 (Check on Amazon)] offers in practice extraordinary performance at an unbeatable price. Yes, it doesn’t sport the 3080’s new GDDR6X RAM, but it does offer the best performance/price ratio of the three to gamers who want to game at 1440p resolution with more than 60fps.
On top of that, before this graphics card, gaming at 4K resolutions was simply out of the question for gamers on a budget. The RTX 3070, however, manages to bring 4K gaming to the mainstream, without having to compromise on settings in most titles. For all of you who are still clinging to your GTX 1080 Ti (Check on Amazon), it’s finally time to upgrade.
The GeForce RTX 3070 also sports Nvidia’s new Ampere architecture. It’s equipped with 5,888 CUDA cores – more than twice the number we find in the RTX 2070 Super (Check on Amazon) – and 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, which is enough for most titles — but if you need more check out AMD’s Radeon RX 6800 (Check on Amazon) which has 16GB of VRAM and similar performance and cost. It also benefits from RTX enhancements, such as Ray Tracing and Artificial Intelligence DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling).
Unfortunately for the 3070, Nvidia also launched the 3060 Ti which is about 10% slower but also costs 20% less (under normal circumstances). So if you want the best Nvidia GPU at the lowest price, the 3060 Ti is the one you should get. If, on the other hand, you always wanted the performance of the 2080 Ti but couldn’t justify the cost, the 3070 is a reasonable upgrade.
Too bad they’re both sold out.
AMD Radeon RX 6800: a valid alternative
If you think AMD is capable of building only cheap graphics cards, think again. The Radeon RX 6800 (Check on Amazon) marks AMD’s return to the mid-range graphics card market. This GPU delivers solid 4K gaming performance and impressive Ray Tracing effects at 1440p. Compared to its direct rival, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 (Check on Amazon), it is 10% faster at 4K and 1440p resolutions. Unfortunately, it also costs 15% more (in a world with no insanely inflated prices), but we think having twice as much VRAM is worth the extra expense. And, because this graphics card uses “just” 250W of power, it’s an easier upgrade than the other offerings from Nvidia or AMD that demand more than 300W.
AMD took the new Navi 21 GPU that powers the Radeon RX 6800 XT (Check on Amazon), lowered the performance by 10%, and served us the RX 6800. You still get 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and 128MB of Infinity Cache, but only 96 ROP (render output units) and slightly lower clock speeds. This is a reasonable compromise, but we think the RX 6800 XT is the better choice.
The only real concern is the same as the one we have with the RX 6800 XT: their performance with Ray Tracing enabled is very lacking – it basically corresponds to that of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Check on Amazon). And AMD’s lack of an alternative for Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) is even more of a problem. For example, the RTX 3070 with RT enabled but without DLSS is already 10% faster than the RX 6800. With DLSS enabled the gap increases to more than 50%!
So if Ray Tracing is important to you, opt for the RTX 3070. If not, get the RX 6800. Either way, at the moment, neither can be found in stock.
AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT: best AMD graphics card
The Radeon RX 6800 XT (Check on Amazon) is currently AMD’s best graphics card, offering a noticeable increase in performance compared to the previous generation — it’s 80% faster than the RX 5700 XT (Check on Amazon) while adding support for Ray Tracing (via DirectX Raytracing or VulkanRT). It’s also cheaper than Nvidia’s RTX 3080 (Check on Amazon) (under normal circumstances), and is only a tad more expensive than the RX 6800 (Check on Amazon) while increasing the number of computing units and clock speeds. The Radeon RX 6900 XT (Check on Amazon) is 5% faster, but it also costs 50% more. So it’s not a good deal, especially considering that it boasts the same amount of VRAM (16GB) and no other extras.
The new Navi 21 chip – affectionately dubbed “Big Navi” – is more than twice the size of the Navi 10 and offers twice as many cores and twice as much RAM. Clock speeds also increased by about 300MHz (2.1GHz – 2.3GHz depending on the model). And AMD managed to implement all this without greatly increasing energy requirements: the RX 6800 XT has a 300W TDP, slightly lower than Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 320W TDP.
Much of AMD’s performance is due to its huge 128MB Infinity Cache which improves actual bandwidth by 119% (according to AMD).
The RX 6800 XT generally outperforms the more expensive RTX 3080, especially at higher resolutions and in professional graphics applications, thanks to its improved memory bandwidth and copious amounts of video memory.
What don’t we like? Well, Ray Tracing’s performance is a bit mediocre; overall the RX 6800 XT is slightly better than the RTX 3070 (Check on Amazon) in terms of Ray Tracing’s performance, but there are games where it falls 25% behind. And all this without the use of DLSS, which can improve the performance of RTX GPUs by another 30% (and in certain titles even more). AMD is working on its FidelityFX Super Resolution to compete with DLSS, but it is currently far behind.
However, AMD has something called Smart Access Memory (SAM) that can improve performance in some games. Unfortunately, the earnings are not huge, and they are only available if you also have a Ryzen 5000 series processor and a 500 series motherboard. If instead, you want to overclock your card without invalidating the warranty, Rage mode is a nice addition, since it implements overclocking without damaging the hardware.
All in all, if you’re an AMD fan, the Radeon RX 6800 XT impresses in benchmarks and can trade blows with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 in many games, with outstanding performance at 1440p and decent at 4K. If you don’t care about Ray Tracing, the RX 6800 XT is a compelling cheaper alternative (once prices return to normal).
Too bad it’s also sold out everywhere for the time being.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050: the cheapest
The cheapest graphics card we can recommend is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 (Check on Amazon), however, it is neither readily available nor as cheap as it should be.
Obviously, if you can spend more on the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 (Check on Amazon) we highly recommend it… otherwise, the RTX 3050 will provide you with performance on par with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (Check on Amazon) and with the added benefit of RTX features, i.e. Ray Tracing and DLSS, even if it is 10% slower than the previous generation Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 (Check on Amazon).
This means it can handle most 1080p games at decent settings, especially thanks to DLSS (this upscaling technology can help a budget GPU significantly increase FPS, even in the most demanding games, with little or no impact on image quality) that is missing from both AMD’s cheaper graphics cards [like the Radeon RX 5500 XT (Check on Amazon)] and RTX 3050’s predecessors, like the GTX 1650 Super (Check on Amazon).
There is, of course, also support for Ray Tracing but the raw power of this card does not allow it to make a difference (it is equipped with 18 second-generation Ray Tracing cores, nine Shader Cores, 73 Tensor Cores, and 8 GB of GDDR6 memory).
If you primarily play eSport titles, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 (Check on Amazon) is perfect for a budget gaming system (and also supports Nvidia Reflex). That said, we regularly find great deals on the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 (Check on Amazon) and, therefore, with a little patience, you may be able to purchase a much more capable graphics card.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti: best 4K graphics card
If you’re willing to spend four digits on a graphics card, then get the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (Check on Amazon). It’s as fast as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 (Check on Amazon) but has a more affordable price.
It offers “just” 10,240 CUDA cores (17% more than the 8,704 CUDA cores of the RTX 3080) and 12 GB GDDR6X of VRAM (2 GB of VRAM more than the RTX 3080) instead of the 10,496 CUDA cores and 24 GB of VRAM of the RTX 3090, which, nevertheless, are more than enough to game at 4K@60FPS!
Despite the increase in performance, it retains the same dimensions as the RTX 3080 (Check on Amazon) and requires just 30 W more power (350W).
All in all, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (Check on Amazon) is the best 4K graphics card on the market right now, especially for Ray Tracing games.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090: the most powerful
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 (Check on Amazon) is a beast. With as much as 24GB of RAM, no game or graphics project can stand in its way. Actually, you can even game at 8K@60fps on a 3090. It is, however, an extremely expensive graphics card — it costs twice as much as an RTX 3080 (Check on Amazon), with only a marginally better performance (15%). It is, in practice, the replacement for the Titan, so it makes more sense for creative users using it for heavy 3D rendering and 8K video editing than for gamers. Even so, it’s a massive reduction in price compared to the Titan, even though it’s still out of most people’s budget.
The RTX 3090 sports a GA102 chip based on the Ampere architecture and is the only 30-series RTX supporting NVLink. AMD’s Radeon RX 6900 XT (Check on Amazon) can look it in the eyes, but if you just have to have the most powerful graphics card ever, that’s the RTX 3090!
Too bad it’s not in stock anywhere, anyhow.
AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT: best 1440p graphics card
The AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT (Check on Amazon) is based on the Navi 22 GPU (AMD shrank the various functional units of the Navi 21 GPU so that it can sell it for a lower price). Thankfully, it boasts the same number of GPU cores (2,560) as the RX 5700 XT (Check on Amazon) but higher clock speeds (the fastest clock speeds we’ve seen on a GPU so far – 2,424 MHz and beyond), 12 GB of VRAM, and 384 GB/s of memory bandwidth which result in a performance increase of approximately 25% (at higher settings and resolutions).
In our tests, the AMD RX 6700 XT beats the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (Check on Amazon) in raw power in 1440p games but falls behind the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 (Check on Amazon) (especially in DLSS and Ray Tracing games) thus its launch price seems justified.
Although the RX 6700 XT offers Ray Tracing, its support is not as good as NVIDIA’s, and the same is also true for FSR (FidelityFX ™ Super Resolution), AMD’s alternative to DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) which is still not on par.
The real problem, however, is the same with all graphics cards: the stratospheric prices! The card currently sells for (Check on Amazon), and the chances of finding an AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT at a more reasonable price point are slim to none.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060: best cheap graphics card
The latest addition to Nvidia’s Ampere line of graphics cards is the GeForce RTX 3060 (Check on Amazon). This is the first GA106 GPU that also boasts 12GB of VRAM and a 192-bit memory interface (although we suspect that a 6GB model will show up sooner or later). Sadly, with 26% fewer GPU cores (3,585 CUDA cores) compared to the 3060 Ti (Check on Amazon) (4,864 CUDA Core) and less memory bandwidth (360Gb/s Vs 448Gb/s), overall performance is only at the level of an RTX 2070 (Check on Amazon) (that came out two years ago); thankfully, if you’re using Ray-Tracing or DLSS, you can consider this card an update as it boasts the latest RT and Tensor cores. At least it sports better performance than the old GTX 1660 (Check on Amazon) and RTX 2060 (Check on Amazon) which it “replaces”.
If we eliminate Ray Tracing and DLSS from the discussion, the RTX 3060 ends up having approximately the same performance as the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT (Check on Amazon) (a graphics card that was launched 18 months ago).
This time around the amount of VRAM is not a problem, and there are some very specific scenarios where the 3060 can bridge the gap with the 3060 Ti (8GB). It never manages to reach it, however, and the RTX 3060 Ti maintains the title of “best value” graphics card.
The AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT (Check on Amazon), on the other hand, comes with the same amount of VRAM (12GB), but taking advantage of its enormous 96MB Infinity Cache ends up having better performance, albeit costing a bit more.
All in all, the RTX 3060 (Check on Amazon) is a very capable graphics card and the ideal choice if you want to game at 1080p right now — if only we could find it at the suggested price… for the time being, we can only hope that prices return to nominal levels as soon as possible.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti: best graphics card for professionals
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti (Check on Amazon) is for those professionals who need the fastest card, no matter the price.
Compared to the old Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 (Check on Amazon), the new RTX 3090 Ti has more cores and a higher clock speed which results in an average performance increase of 10%. Similar to the RTX 3090, it supports NVLink – you can pair two cards for professional apps – and its 24GB of GDDR6X memory are extremely useful in creating content.
If money isn’t an issue, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti (Check on Amazon) is the best graphics card around. Just keep in mind that the new generation Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 may soon render it obsolete…
AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT: best graphics card for 1080p gaming
AMD’s answer to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 (Check on Amazon) is the Radeon RX 6600 XT (Check on Amazon). It offers better performance (10–15% at 1080p) than the “old” RX 5700 XT (Check on Amazon), which is impressive considering the memory bus has been cut in half to 128 bits. However, there is a reasonable concern with its 8GB of VRAM, which means that there are certainly cases where the RTX 3060 with its 12GB of RAM is the better choice.
In tests, the RX 6600 XT is about 10% faster than the RTX 3060 while also consuming less power, so you can install it on a PC with a smaller power supply.
The biggest problem is Ray Tracing. Several games that support DXR (DirectX Raytracing) couldn’t achieve more than 20 FPS at 1080p. On the other hand, the RTX 3060 was about twice as fast – although neither card is really cut out for Ray Tracing. Unfortunately, the advent of FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution) doesn’t solve this problem, since it provides a similar increase in performance to both AMD, Nvidia, and even Intel GPUs.
Ultimately, the AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT (Check on Amazon) is the replacement for the RX 5600 XT (Check on Amazon) and a great deal if you find it at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $379!
AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT: best cheap graphics card for 1080p gaming
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 GTX 1660 Ti: the best graphics card for eSports
When Nvidia first launched its Turing graphics cards, it was hard to find a model that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Fortunately, with the launch of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (Check on Amazon), the latest generation of Nvidia’s performance has become accessible to everyone.
This graphics card comes equipped with 1,536 CUDA cores and 6GB of GDDR6 memory. Nvidia places it between the GTX 1070 (Check on Amazon) and GTX 1060 (Check on Amazon), but in practice, it offers similar performance to the more expensive RTX 2060 (Check on Amazon). It is not capable of reproducing 4K games at more than 30fps, but it is still one of the best graphics cards at 1080p and can run most eSports titles at more than 60fps. It fares quite well in VR games, too.
You lose some of the amazing features of the RTX series, such as Ray Tracing hardware, but if you don’t need these cutting-edge technologies anyway, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti offers you the perfect mix of convenience and performance.