As you’ve most certainly noticed by now, the GPU space moves quickly, and the best graphics cards are constantly changing to accommodate for increasingly high resolution displays and ludicrously demanding PC games. In fact, the PC market as a whole moves at an accelerated rate to stay ahead of the curb in comparison to consoles, which themselves are now 4K-ready and to some degree.
So, to stay on track graphically with the rest of video game hardware, you’ll want one of the best graphics cards. Obviously, simply buying the most expensive GPU would be the easiest solution, but we aren’t all made of money. Rather, the goal is to find the best performance per dollar (or pound) as you comb through all of the top graphics cards. That way you can ensure that the price tag of whatever graphics card you choose is justified.
Luckily, thanks to the newly-rekindled competitive graphics card market, the best graphics cards aren’t necessarily the most expensive anyway. Instead, they all span a wide range of budgets at reasonable prices depending on what you want to do. That being the case, whether you’re repping Team Red (AMD) or Team Green (Nvidia), we’ve narrowed our list down to the seven top graphics cards for both first-time and veteran PC builders.
Best graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
The best GPU to start PC gaming
Stream Processors: 1,280 | Core Clock: 1,506MHz | Memory: 6GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 8Gbps | Power Connectors: 1 x 6-pin | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0, DL-DVI
As we said above, the best graphics card isn’t necessarily the most expensive. The Nvidia GTX 1060 meets the happiest middle ground of affording Full HD with playable frame rates without blowing up budgets. With a little bit of overclocking, users may even be able to achieve smooth gameplay experiences at a 1440p or even 4K resolution. The only downside of the Nvidia GTX 1060 is it doesn’t support SLI, so users looking to bump up PC’s graphical power will have to buy a new, higher-end card rather than having the option of doubling up on the same part.
Best 4K graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Titan X performance without the Titan X cost
Stream Processors: 3,584 | Core Clock: 1,480MHz | Memory: 11GB GDDR5X | Memory Clock: 11GHz | Power Connectors: 1 x 6-pin; 1 x 8-pin | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0
The Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti comes closest to dethroning the Titan Xp as the world’s most powerful GPU. It’s wildly more capable than the GTX 1080 proper, thanks to its 11GB of GDDR5X VRAM and dramatically higher CUDA core count. It’s still no match for two GTX 1080s in SLI, but this single card is cheaper and supports a larger pool of games. If you’re looking for a single part to run your games at 4K, the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti is the best graphics card to do it.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Best QHD graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
The all-around graphics card champion
Stream Processors: 2,560 | Core Clock: 1,607MHz | Memory: 8GB GDDR5X | Memory Clock: 10Gbps | Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0, DL-DVI
The Nvidia GTX 1080 is the best all-rounder graphics card for gaming we’ve ever tested. While it can make 4K gaming viable, it’s the undisputed master of playing at 1440p and perfect for 1080p setups looking to go well beyond 60fps. Thanks to a recent price drop from Nvidia, it’s also more affordable than ever.
Best Full HD graphics card: AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
Punchy graphics performance above its weight
Stream Processors: 3,584 | Core Clock: 1,156MHz | Memory: 8GB HBM2 | Memory Clock: 800MHz | Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0
The AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 is one of the best value-packed graphics card on the market right now. Benchmarks prove it runs faster than the Nvidia GTX 1070 and, thanks to the Bitcoin mining craze, it’s also cheaper to boot. The Vega 56 is arguably a little bit overkill for Full HD gaming, but that’ll come in handy for 144-to-240hz monitors and future-proofing. Users can also expect a great 1440p experience with this graphics card.
Best VR graphics card: AMD Radeon RX Vega 64
AMD’s return to high-end graphics cards
Stream Processors: 4,096 | Core Clock: 1,247MHz | Memory: 8GB HBM2 | Memory Clock: 945MHz | Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0
AMD’s flagship graphics card may not have won titles for best for gaming on our list, but it is nevertheless a return to form for the Red Team. After all, the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 has proved itself every bit as capable as the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, and for a lower price. Sporting 4,096 stream processors, 256 texture units and 8GB of HBM2 memory, this card has the brute computing power for physics-heavy VR gaming now and into the future. If nothing else, this is the AMD card to rule them all.
Best budget graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050
The little GPU that could
Stream Processors: 640 | Core Clock: 1,354MHz | Memory: 2GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 7Gbps | Power Connectors: PCIe | Outputs: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0, DL-DVI
The Nvidia GTX 1050 might not look like much on paper, what with only 2GB of video memory onboard, but this affordable GPU plays games better than you would think. If you’re willing to drop settings to medium, you can play Overwatch, CS:GO and other popular competitive shooters well above the silky smooth 60fps mark. Thanks to its compact size, it’s also perfect for small builds and entertainment center-bound streaming PCs.
Best eSports graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
Competitive for both eSports and in price
Stream Processors: 768 | Core Clock: 1,290MHz | Memory: 4GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 7Gbps | Power Connectors: PCIe | Outputs: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0, DL-DVI
eSports games often demand high frame rates over beautifully rendered graphical details, and this is where the Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti comes into its own. It’s an affordable but potent graphics card that can play most eSports games well above 60fps. It’s a tad more expensive than its lower-end Nvidia GTX 1050 brethren, but you’ll appreciate the extra legs on this card to play future eSports titles as well as the odd AAA game.
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