Are you a PC gamer? Then trust us on this: there is no other component nearly as important as the graphics card.
Yes, your monitor and even your mouse matter. But nothing has more impact on both frame rates and fun than your graphics card. Problem is, at any moment there are scores of cards to choose from and they typically all claim to have pixel-pushing perfection.
The simple solution is to buy the very best. But that also means the most expensive. For most of us, then, it's all about bang-for-buck at a given budget. Just remember to think carefully about how you match your graphics card with the rest of your PC.
If you have a super-high resolution monitor, for instance, you're going to need a high-end graphics card to make the most of it. But, equally, there's little point unloading on the finest GPU money can buy if its being bottlenecked by an old CPU or feeding a feeble screen.
With all that in mind, here's our guide to not only the fastest, but also the best value PC graphics you can buy.
1. EVGA GeForce Titan X SuperClock
Simply the beast
Stream Processors: 3072 | Core Clock: 1127MHz | Memory: 12GB | Memory Clock: 7010MHz | Power Connectors: 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin | Length: 267mm | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DVI
EVGA GeForce Titan X SuperClock
If money is no object, the Titan X SuperClock offers the most power you can get out of a single card. Packing a huge 12GB of GDDR5 memory, the most powerful consumer GPU around has 3072 shaders and a core clock frequency of 1216MHz, which outpaces the Titan X's 1075MHz boost clock. Slotting one of these beasts inside your rig sets you up nicely for 4K gaming, and you could even hook up a couple of Ultra HD panels without experiencing any stuttering in the latest titles.
2. Zotac GeForce GTX 980Ti AMP Extreme Edition
Titan X power without Titan X cost
Stream Processors: 2816 | Core Clock: 1253MHz | Memory: 6GB | Memory Clock: 7220MHz | Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin | Length: 267mm | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DVI
Zotac GeForce GTX 980Ti AMP Extreme Edition
Though it can't match the Titan X in terms of video memory (6GB versus 12GB), the GeForce GTX 980Ti offers a higher clock speed and can often beat that card for considerably less money. Cards with the 'AMP' moniker usually mean business, and this card lives up to its name. It'll let you game in resolution up to 4K, even if some titles push the card to its limit. The 980Ti AMP Extreme Edition may be better value than the Titan X SuperClock, but it's far from cheap, costing around the same as a budget (or entry level mid-range) gaming PC.
3. Gigabyte Radeon R9 Fury X
Uses an all-in-one liquid cooling system and new High-Bandwidth Memory
Stream Processors: 4096 | Core Clock: 1050MHz | Memory: 4GB | Memory Clock: 1000MHz | Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin | Length: 195mm | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI
Gigabyte Radeon R9 Fury X
The first AMD entry in our list features an all-in-one liquid cooling system that's similar to ones that keep computer processors cool. It means you'll need a spare fan mount inside the case to fit it, but the advantage of having one is quieter operation and lower temperatures than what you'd get without such a setup.
The R9 Fury X is AMD's answer to the Nvidia GeForce 980 Ti, and although it isn't quite on par in terms of performance, its 4096 stream processors, 256 texture units and a massive 4068-bit memory bus helps it shift more pixels than ever before. Oh, and the card also saw AMD make the leap from GDDR5 to faster HBM memory, although there's only 4GB of it. That means the R9 Fury X can struggle if you're playing particularly demanding titles in 4K.
4. Sapphire Radeon R9 Nano
Tiny graphics card packs a big punch
Stream Processors: 4096 | Core Clock: 1000MHz | Memory: 4GB | Memory Clock: 1000MHz | Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin | Length: 152mm | Outputs: 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 2 x DVI
Building a small PC no longer means passing on power thanks to new graphics cards like the Sapphire Radeon R9 Nano. AMD's dinky video card is short enough to squeeze into the smallest of PC cases without sacrificing the raw grunt that you get from high-end cards. Highly efficient for a Fiji GPU, it has the same 4GB of 4096-bit HBM memory found in the Fury X, with an identical number of texture units and ROPs. The clock speed is 5% lower, but on the plus side you won't need as huge power supply to go with it due to the power envelope dropping to just 175W.
Read the full review: Sapphire Radeon R9 Nano
5. Palit GeForce GTX 980 Super JetStream
A potential bargain, despite only 4GB of memory
Stream Processors: 2048 | Core Clock: 1203MHz | Memory: 4GB | Memory Clock: 7200MHz | Power Connectors: 2 x 6-pin | Length: 269mm | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 2 x DVI
Palit GeForce GTX 980 Super JetStream
If you're looking for a card that will handle 4K games on Medium quality settings, look no further than the Palit GeForce GTX 980 Super JetStream. This card used to be Nvidia's fastest non-Titan offering before the 980Ti came along, so it's no slouch. Featuring 2,048 stream processors, a 1,203MHz core clock speed and 4GB of memory, it offers a decent blend of clout and value.
6. Sapphire Radeon R9 Tri-X 390X
AMD's card has the GTX 980 in its sights
Stream Processors: 2816 | Core Clock: 1055MHz | Memory: 8GB | Memory Clock: 6000MHz | Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin | Length: 308mm | Outputs: 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 2 x DVI
Sapphire Radeon R9 Tri-X 390X
When it comes to cost, the Radeon R9 Tri-X 390X sits somewhere between Nvidia's GTX 970 and 980 cards. It often gets the better of the former card, though the 970 performs better in some games. The Tri-X 390X produces blistering frame rates at resolutions up to 2,560 x 1,440 with all graphic details dialled up to 10. Featuring 2,816 stream processors and a core clock speed of 1,055MHz, it doesn't quite pack the muscle required for 4K gaming unless you're playing lesser demanding titles.
7. MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming Edition
Value meets performance in Nvidia's capable card
Stream Processors: 1664 | Core Clock: 1140MHz | Memory: 4GB | Memory Clock: 7010MHz | Power Connectors: 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin | Length: 269mm | Outputs: 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 2 x DVI
MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming Edition
A variant of one of the most popular graphics cards around, the GTX 970 Gaming edition is a 1080p monster. You could even get away with gaming at 2,560 x 1,440, though you'll have to temper expectations when it comes to 4K. Featuring 1,664 stream processors, a core clock of 1,140MHz and 4GB of memory, the GTX 970 offers the mainstream performance you may be looking for without breaking the bank.
8. Asus Radeon R9 380X OC STRIX
Consoles beware, the OC STRIX delivers stunning 1080p performance
Stream processors: 2,048 | Core Clock: 1,030MHz | Memory: 4GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 1,425MHz | Power connections: 2x 6-pin | Length: 271mm | Outputs: 2x DVI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI 1.4
Asus Radeon R9 380X OC STRIX
In a similar vein to the MSI GTX 970 card above, the Asus Radeon R9 380X OC Strix handles 1080p gaming with ease, and can deliver impressive frame rates at QHD too. AMD's mid-range card is closer positioned to the GTX 960 in terms of raw performance, which is impressive considering the cost. And because it uses Asus' STRIX cooling design, the card stays relatively quiet when being put through its paces, with the fans only kicking in when it tops 60 degrees C.
Read the full review: Asus STRIX R9 380X OC review
9. Asus GeForce GTX 960 DirectCU2 OC Strix
On a budget? The affordable GTX 960 still delivers the goods
Stream Processors: 1024 | Core Clock: 1253MHz | Memory: 2GB | Memory Clock: 7200MHz | Power Connectors: 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin | Length: 215mm | Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DVI
The GeForce GTX 960 is an affordable card and a great option if you're looking to game on a budget. With a short design that makes it easy to slip into PC cases, the card delivers great gaming performance at 1080p thanks to its 1,024 stream processors, core clock speed of 1,253MHz and 2GB of video memory. Performance-wise, Nvidia's card lags behind ones in the price bracket above, so things start to get choppy when you begin to raise the resolution. Still, you can't go wrong if you're looking to game at what is still the most popular resolution today.
Read the full review: Asus GeForce GTX 960 DirectCU2 OC Strix
10. EVGA GeForce GTX 750Ti SC
A graphics chip that's super (and super cheap)
Stream Processors: 640 | Core Clock: 1176MHz | Memory: 2GB | Memory Clock: 5400MHz | Power Connectors: None | Length: 170mm | Outputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x DVI, 1 x VGA
EVGA GeForce GTX 750Ti SC
Based on Nvidia's Maxwell architecture, the GTX 750Ti SC is an affordable card that still packs the latest technology. This entry-level offering is still up to the task of playing the latest games if you're happy with playing on Low or Medium quality settings at 1080p resolution, and because it's small it's easy to drop into a basic PC to give it some extra graphical grunt. Just don't expect it to work miracles.
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