As we roll along into August, we're getting a lot of buzz about Nvidia Lovelace, with some leaked specs, tweets about specs, and more fueling the rumor mill. How much of it will end up panning out, we're not sure, but we definitely expect to be adding some new entries to this list in the next couple of months once we get closer to the expected Q4 launch of Nvidia Lovelace.
- John Loeffler, Computing Editor
Finding the best graphics card for your rig had always been one of the more exciting parts of building a gaming PC, and nowadays you have more options than ever with both Team Red and Team Green putting out some amazing options for nearly every budget.
And while getting your hands on some of these cards hasn't been the easiest task over the past few years, graphics card stock has been recovering lately, so its a great time to try your luck again after nearly two years of disappointment.
If you're wondering where to start, we've pulled together the best AMD graphics cards and the best Nvidia GeForce graphics cards in one place to make your search even easier, regardless of which side of the Red-Green divide you fall on.
So whether you're looking for one of the best cheap graphics cards or the most powerful GPU worth buying, we'll help you find the right desktop GPU for your needs and budget.
Where to buy the best graphics cards right now
- Where to buy the RTX 3080
- Where to buy the RTX 3060 Ti
- Where to buy the RTX 3060
- Where to buy Radeon RX 6800
- Where to buy Radeon RX 6900 XT
- Where to buy Radeon RX 6800 XT
Our picks for the Best Graphics Cards of 2022
Is AMD no longer the king of great value GPUs? The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti threatens that claim with its price to performance ratio. One of the newer arrivals in the RTX 3000 line, this graphics card punches way above its weight class, delivering a performance that could rival the RTX 2080 Super while keeping its price tag incredibly affordable for most people. That’s with impressive ray tracing included. We've never seen 1080p gaming to be this good or this affordable.
And, if you plan on gaming in 4K, you can even do that, if just barely. You’ll have to make some compromises on settings and skip the ray tracing. With that said, there’s little else to fault with the 3060 Ti. It stays cool as a cucumber and, for those who like to display their PC’s innards, is quite stylish. This is, indeed, the best graphics card for most people.
Read the full Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti review
The best graphics cards that have come out over the last couple years have had one thing in common: they're really expensive. This has a lot to do with the graphics card shortage we've all been dealing with, but it's also because Nvidia and AMD had been ignoring the budget graphics card world for too long.
Luckily, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 is finally here. While it's way more expensive than 50-series graphics cards from Nvidia have been in the past, this GPU is much more affordable than pretty much anything else in the current generation.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 is more than capable of playing pretty much any game you throw at it at high settings, just as long as you keep the resolution at 1080p. And, esports gamers will love this card, as it is affordable(ish) and can run games like Overwatch and League of Legends without breaking a sweat.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
You can’t beat the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 when it comes to performance. With a whopping 24GB of RAM, no game or, more importantly, heavy graphics project will suffer performance issues. In fact, we were even able to get some 8K performance at 60 fps out of the 3090. It is an incredibly expensive unit, and quite large too, so it will probably be too much GPU for most users.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is, in essence, a replacement for the Titan so it’s meant more for the creative user tackling intensive 3D and video rendering than for the avid gamer. Even so, it comes with a massive reduction in price compared to the Titan, making it a bargain for creative professionals used to shelling out a lot of money for the tools of their trade.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090
With the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, 4K gaming just became a lot more accessible. Before, you had to shell out more than $1,000/£1,000 for the RTX 2080 Ti to get playable frame rates. However, with this new generation of Nvidia graphics cards, the price of 4K gaming has dropped nearly half, thanks to the RTX 3080.
When it comes to sheer power, the RTX 3080 boasts one of the largest generational leaps in GPU history, delivering a 50-80% performance boost over the RTX 2080 and a 20-30% boost over the RTX 2080 Ti, all while keeping the same price point as the RTX 2080. And, while it still comes at a premium compared to other GPUs of this generation, it’s still both an absolute powerhouse of a graphics card and a great value. We wouldn't recommend it, however, if you tend to play games at a lower resolution.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
The AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT is without question the best AMD graphics card ever, and this is especially true when you consider its fantastic price point compared to its fantastic gaming performance, which often rivals the RTX 3090, especially if you aren't worrying about full-on ray tracing performance.
There are some places where the RX 6950 XT lags though, especially in terms of creative performance. It doesn't have any tensor cores either, so its ray tracing performance will lag behind comparable RTX cards.
But you simply cannot argue with this price, and had AMD launched the Big Navi line-up of graphics cards with this as its flagship card, the entire story of this generation of graphics cards might have been rather different. This is a premium card though, so you'll definitely want to consider whether dropping a bunch of money on a premium graphics card this close to the anticipated launch of the next generation of cards is a good idea, but if you're going to go for a premium card right now for pure gaming purposes, then this should be at the top of your list.
Read the full AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT review
There’s a new Nvidia champion in town, and it takes power and performance to an even more accessible price point. The long-awaited RTX 3080 Ti delivered the same level of performance as the RTX 3090 during our tests – an impressive feat in its own right – while dropping the price by a few hundred dollars, making all that sheer power more accessible than ever.
It continues what the RTX 3080 has started – to take 4K gaming into the mainstream arena – with its breathtaking 4K at 60fps performance. It also stays cool under pressure. And, like many of the other 3000 series GPUs, it's quite a stunning-looking card to boot. Of course, it’s still among the more expensive of Nvidia’s offerings and requires a good amount of power to function properly. But, this is still the best graphics card on the market right now, especially if you care about ray tracing.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
The best graphics card on the market for most people, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 delivers excellent performance. It’s on par with the RTX 2080 Ti even without costing an arm and a leg, bringing 4K gaming to the mainstream market for the first time. Before this card, 4K gaming was out of a lot of people’s budget.
The RTX 3070 does exactly that without forcing you to compromise on settings for most games. Yes, with this reasonably priced card powering your PC, you can play your favorite AAA games in 4K at high settings without its performance suffering. A cheap price tag plus 4K gaming on quality settings equals great value, and that’s why the RTX 3070 tops our list. We also appreciate the fact that it doesn’t have the same massive cooler that the RTX 3080, which allows it to have a smaller form factor.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
AMD has offerings at all price points. When it comes to its mid-range options, the AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT is the best. We found it to be an excellent 1440p graphics cards, expertly bringing Team Red’s RDNA 2 architecture to a more approachable level, price-wise. That’s not all. While it’s not the best graphics card for it on the market, it can do ray tracing and give you a taste of it.
It’s an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti rival. However, it is closer to the RTX 3070 in price, which makes it a harder sell for the more budget-conscious. Still, we cannot deny its superb 1440p performance. And, if you’re more of an AMD fan, it’s still an excellent contender. You probably should get comfortable messing with your BIOS though.
Read the full review: AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
If you think AMD is still stuck in the budget and mid-range markets, think again. The AMD Radeon RX 6800 marks AMD's return to the high-end graphics card market, and it’s a premium ace without the incredibly premium price. This GPU delivers a solid 4K gaming performance and impressive ray tracing at 1440p, while being a better value than its direct rival, the RTX 3070, thanks to its VRAM.
We found its ray tracing to be a wash at 4K due to its lack of features, especially those around upscaling. However, if you’re happy to play games at 1440p with ray tracing on, it can more than handle whatever game you throw at it. Plus, AMD's Smart Access Memory technology will make it even faster. As long as you're comfortable playing around in your BIOS.
Read the full review: AMD Radeon RX 6800
If you're after the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090, you're going to want one with a cooler that's more than powerful enough to handle the full brunt of the power on offer. The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio has not only the cooling power to handle this GPU at its stock settings but enough oomph to overclock it to make it even more powerful. For a GPU that already laughs in the face of all PC games at 4K, this extra power is just icing on the cake.
Thanks to its stronger performance and more potential for overclocking, the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio knocks the Founders Edition off its pedestal. That’s without mentioning its sick RGB lighting strip along the side. This is still an RTX 3090, however, so be prepared to pay a steep price for all that.
Read the full review: MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio
How to shop for the best graphics card
How we test the best graphics cards
When it comes to the best graphics cards, it's incredibly important to make sure we're testing everything on an equal playing field. That's why, whenever a new graphics card comes out, we test it in a suite of around 11-12 games and across several resolutions, all on current drivers.
That means that we re-test all current-generation graphics cards whenever a new one comes out. And we make sure that all of the cards are tested on the same hardware, which means the same processor, with the same memory at the same speed, on the same motherboard, with the same SSD. That way, we can be sure that we're measuring how the graphics card itself is performing, and we can more reliably compare it against its rivals.
We also make sure to log how much power its consuming and the temperatures it reaches under load, to make sure we can recommend it to people that may be concerned about high temperatures in their PCs.
Finally, we take a look at the features that each graphics card offers, though usually these don't really change generation-to-generation. However, the performance while enabling something like ray tracing definitely can change.
How to choose the best graphics card for you
The truth is that right now buying a graphics card is harder than ever. You'll rarely find one available on a store shelf, and when you do it'll be gone within seconds. So, really, the GPU you should buy in 2022 is whatever you can get your hands on (and you can afford).
You should probably avoid spending more than twice the retail price for a graphics card – a $1,000 RTX 3060 isn't worth it for instance – but if you need a graphics card right now, just be ready to get whatever comes in stock.
If you already have a pretty good graphics card, though, like if it's from the last 5 or so years, you might want to wait until the current global supply situation starts to normalize. Yeah, you might have to wait longer to get ray tracing, but if you can still play games, you're probably fine waiting.
When the best graphics cards are readily available again, you can be more discerning about your choice. Since you would have more options across different price ranges, you must decide how much you're willing to spend.
Of course, you also need to consider your graphical demands as well. You shouldn't settle for what you can afford right now if it's not powerful enough to handle your daily needs. You're better putting it off for a bit and saving up until you can afford the GPU that's the right fit.
As for which one that is, you need to take a look at the vital specs: GPU memory, GPU size, Thermal Design Power or TDP, and ports and power connectors are all important. As are the number of teraflops (or GFLOPS) it has since that indicates the theoretical performance of that graphics card.
If you want the best ray tracing experience, Nvidia is still the king of the castle. However, we're sure that AMD will be upping its ray tracing game in order to compete. If you're into VR games and experiences, you should also make sure that it supports VR as well.
Which graphics card is best for gaming?
Generally speaking, the best graphics card for gaming is going to depend on several factors. Things like what kind of games you like to play, what resolution you play at and whether or not you care about fancy features like ray tracing and DLSS are incredibly important.
For example, if you just want to play all the latest games at 1080p with high settings, you can get by with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 or an AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT. But if you want to play everything totally maxed out with ray tracing at 4K, you're probably going to want to go for something like the RTX 3080 Ti instead.
What is the best brand for graphics cards?
The age-old question of whether Nvidia or AMD is the best brand for graphics cards will likely never go away. Right now, both GPU manufacturers are basically on equal ground, and what will ultimately be right for you probably won't be right for someone else.
Generally, if you like ray tracing, Nvidia will probably have the edge for you and in the past AMD was better for people on a budget.
Is RTX better than GTX?
Deciding what’s better - RTX versus GTX - ultimately comes down to what you’ll be using your graphics card for. If you like playing the newest game releases that feature ray-tracing technology, you’ll want to get an Nvidia RTX graphics card. These graphics cards feature RT Cores that allow for real-time ray-tracing up to 6x faster than other GPUs, creating stunning in-game visuals with movie-like lighting.
Nvidia GTX graphics cards, on the other hand, can massively improve game performance. These graphics cards feature Turing architecture that take up less power and give you higher frame rates per second. GTX cards are great for competitive gaming as well as immersive experiences, and also adapt well to retro games with fantastically rendered pixel art.
If you’re looking for a more visually impressive gaming experience, the Nvidia RTX line of graphics cards is going to be the choice for you. If visuals are less important than game performance, you’re going to want an Nvidia GTX graphics card instead.