For a gaming PC, the most important component of the rig is without a doubt the graphics card. You could have the most powerful CPU, the fastest SSD, and butt-loads of RAM with highly efficient cooling all over, but none of it will determine how well your games run the way a GPU will.
Best Graphics Cards Reviewed
The graphics card market is simply crazy. For most consumers, the GPU will be the most expensive investment when building their rig. Prices have surged to headache-inducing amounts and choosing the best one for your needs is simply a headache for most.
In this article, we review the best graphics cards you can buy right now. We’ve handpicked 5 graphics cards that we love and believe would appeal to most gamers out there. We’ve prioritized performance/price ratio (how much you get for what you pay), so the best may not necessarily mean the most powerful out there.
Be sure to have a look at our comprehensive buyer’s guide after the reviews to gain further insight about the graphics card and why we chose these five.
Nvidia GTX 1070
Good Performance/Price Ratio
The Nvidia GTX 1070 is a GPU released back in 2016, but given its incredible performance and price point in an inflated market, it’s still the most viable option even today for most gamers. 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM and the powerful architecture will run all games at high FPS at 1080p and even 1440p.
Unless you have a huge budget, it’s simply not worth going for the RTX series or the AMD Vega graphics cards right now. Given the price and performance, the GTX 1070 is still the best bet among all high-end cards you can buy right now.
Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
The Most Powerful GPU Ever at a Crazy Price
The RTX 2080 Ti is the most powerful GPU ever made, dethroning the 1080 Ti. Featuring a whopping 11GB of GDDR6 RAM and the latest Turing architecture, this behemoth can play any game at incredible frame-rates even on 4K.
For the extreme enthusiasts with countless cash to spare, there isn’t anything better than the 2080 Ti out there for your video gaming needs. Just make sure you have $1500 lying around for it.
Many will be surprised to see such an old card at the top of our recommendation list, but there’s a good reason for this. At the moment, despite the release of the RTX series of newer generation cards by Nvidia, the GTX 1070 still remains the overall best graphics card with the most reasonable performance/price ratio.
Inferior to the GTX 1080 and the 1070 Ti, the regular GTX 1070 still manages to outperform most high-end cards from AMD, save for the Vega 56 and 64. Both those cards are unreasonably expensive however for their performance value, and it’s unfortunate (but also the hard truth) that most mainstream gamers still have to rely on technology from over 2.5 years ago due to the ridiculous GPU pricing.
The GTX 1070 is still a top quality card capable of playing all modern titles at QHD (1440p) on high settings with ease. We’d recommend the 1070 Ti over it if you can find one at a reasonable price from a manufacturer that provides good fan design, but 1070 is better overall in the performance/price ratio than any other high-end card out there, and thus earns our top pick.
- Best performance/price ratio among high-end cards
- Still incredibly powerful
- Ideal for 1440p gaming
- More than 2.5 years old
- Still quite expensive for a two-year old card
If you absolutely have to get the latest series of GPU for bragging rights and even gaming in 4K (albeit at medium settings in the most graphically intensive ones), then you shouldn’t spend beyond what the Nvidia RTX 2070 demands.
If you’re like, you can grab an RTX 2070 for almost $100 more than the GTX 1070. Whether or not the 10-14% improvement in performance and ray-tracing technology is worth the extra $100 (again, if you’re lucky) is for you to determine.
Looking past the price though, it’s hard to deny that the RTX 2070 is simply a sensational card for all but the most extreme gamers. It’s more powerful than the GTX 1080, and with the right overclocking can even rival the 1080 Ti. Its performance makes the RTX 2080 seem almost redundant for standard 1080p and 1440p video gaming. The true difference between the RTX 2070 and its elder brethren is only really visible when utilizing the scarcely available ray-tracing technology, as 2070 doesn’t have the power to render that tech the way the 2080 and 2080 Ti do on higher settings and resolution.
Yet its drawbacks are minimal considering this card is less than half the price of the 2080 Ti and almost $200 cheaper than 2080. It’s by far the best modern high-end card in-terms of performance/price, and it only lost out to the GTX 1070 due to its price and that it doesn’t offer a significant upgrade for what it demands.
- Better pricing than other Nvidia RTX models
- Incredible performance
- Can even handle many games comfortably at 4K
- Still very expensive
- Awkward spot in performance hierarchy
For the extreme elitists who want the absolute best of the best when it comes to graphics cards, the new king is here for you. The monstrosity that is the RTX 2080 Ti trumps all graphics cards before it, offering performance superior to the 1080 Ti and featuring a jaw-dropping 11GB of GDDR6 memory and 55% more transistors than the king it dethroned.
It’s not the impressive specs that make this the top dog though. Nvidia’s Turing technology is at its finest display with the 2080 Ti as it is the only graphics card that can handle ray tracing at high graphics settings in the games that support it. Additionally, this is perhaps the only graphics card that can comfortably handle just about any video game at 4K.
Given the jaw-dropping benchmark and in-game performance of the 2080 Ti, it’s hard to see any graphics card beat this behemoth for at least a year. However, the pricing is simply insane, as the 2080 Ti will set you back at least $1300 at the time of writing.
- The most powerful graphics card ever made
- Can handle almost any game at 4K effortlessly
- Future-proof for at least two years
- Unacceptably expensive
- Not worth it for 1080p and 1440p gaming
The AMD RX 580 8GB is our favorite graphics card for mainstream PC gamers who don’t need extreme performance. If you do your gaming at 1080p, any graphics card more expensive than the RX 580 is essentially redundant.
The RX 580 has more than enough video RAM to handle any game at Full HD resolution, and you’ll be able to play practically ever game out there so far at max settings on that resolution. What makes the RX 580 our preferred choice over Nvidia’s GTX 1060 is that it costs less yet offers slightly better performance as well as more video RAM.
Additionally, performance with Directx 12 is generally superior on most AMD cards when compared to similar Nvidia GPUs. With DX12 games being so common, there’s little reason to prefer a more expensive card like the GTX 1060 with less VRAM and overall inferior performance. The only reason you’d opt for the GTX 1060 is the RX 580’s higher power consumption which may not be safe with your current power supply.
Our favorite variation of the RX 580 8GB comes from MSI because of its great pricing and pre-overclocked specs. XFX and Sapphire Nitro+ also make some wonderful 580s provided you’re willing to pay a bit more for great cooling.
- Excellent performance at 1080p
- Great performance in DX12 games
- Great value for the performance
- Power hungry when compared to GTX 1060
The younger brother of the RX 580, the RX 570 is also a fantastic little card that comes at a relatively affordable price. At the time of writing, you can get a Gigabyte version for around $150 or less. As with the RX 580, the RX 570 is tailored to play most games at high settings at Full HD resolution.
4GB memory may seem a little less in 2018 since more games are pushing VRAM utilization boundaries with highly detailed textures, but at 1080p it should be sufficient enough to run at higher settings without any problems.
The card is regarded as a direct competitor of the GTX 1060 3GB version, and the performance is exactly the same despite the GTX 1060 costing more. It can even outperform the 6GB GTX 1060 in games utilizing DX12. However, as with the RX 580, the AMD RX 570 demands more power than the GTX 1060.
When it comes to performance/price ratio, there’s simply no better graphics card than the RX 570. Its performance at Full HD is as good as most gamers would want, and it’s available for a price that won’t generate buyer’s remorse.
- Great performance at 1080p
- Superior to competition in DX12 games
- Excellent value
- Power hungry when compared to GTX 1060
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: the prices of the graphics cards. Yes, they’re absolutely ridiculous, and the primary reason for this is Nvidia’s monopoly in the market. Nvidia’s cards are overwhelmingly more popular than AMD cards, which has encouraged them to demand exorbitant amounts for their top-tier graphics cards.
AMD has offered considerable competition in the mid and low tier range, which has made mid-ranged pricing somewhat reasonable, but the best graphics cards are almost exclusively made by Nvidia that has given them the liberty to drive the market prices hard.
Such business practices by Nvidia have come under heavy criticism, but the truth is that as long as they outperform their competitors in the market (which they have with their incredible products), they hold all the cards as far as pricing of graphics cards is concerned.
It’s the age-old debate. Nvidia has had an upper hand for a long time over AMD, but AMD offers better performance/price. Nvidia’s architecture is overall superior in terms of performance and power consumption.
However, Nvidia has had a considerable part to play in the price surge in the GPU market the past few years. Analysts fear an absolute monopoly by Nvidia given their giant market share in the GPU industry, which has encouraged many consumers to opt for AMD cards instead, particularly those who require mainstream GPUs for gaming in full HD.
AMD offers better video RAM technology on their GPUs, but Nvidia offers superior graphics processors and improved compatibility with most games.
Perhaps most importantly, Nvidia blows AMD out of the waters in their GPU support, offering reliable driver updates designed to streamline their GPUs’ performances for the latest video games that are released. AMD has historically struggled with their drivers support, which has been one of the several reasons Nvidia dominates the graphics cards market.
If you have $1500 burning a hole in your pocket, you might just say YOLO and buy the RTX 2080 Ti. However, even with the most powerful graphics card, it’s not necessary that you’d be able to get the best results.
A graphics card does greatly influence the performance of your computer in video games, but it’s not a magic wand. You need to consider other components too and base your decision around them, especially if you’re building an entirely new PC.
For example, there’s no point buying anything more than an AMD RX 580 if you only have a 1080p monitor. Additionally, buying a powerful GPU but combining it with a weak CPU will bottleneck the graphics card, as the processor simply won’t be about to keep up.
Don’t forget about your casing either. Modern graphics cards – especially the more powerful ones – are incredibly large. You need to measure how much space you have in your case before you buy one.
The PSU is crucial in your consideration because you want one that can provide the required power to the card. Most powerful cards require external connections (6 or 8-pin or a combination of both) directly from the power supply unit to function properly, and those connections need to deliver a specific amount of wattage.
RAM in GPU determines the loading times of textures and details in video games as well as to what extent you can push the image quality. It doesn’t directly dictate the smoothness or framerates of your video games. The higher the resolution of the textures, the more VRAM you’ll need. This makes VRAM crucial for higher resolutions such as 1440p and 4K.
Do clock speeds matter in graphics cards?
Yes, clock speeds do matter because they determine the speed at which the transistors operate. Whether it is core clock speed or memory clock, both determine how hard the card works and directly translates into framerates.
However, this comparison is only true when comparing two models of the same GPU. You can’t determine whether one GPU model is superior to a completely different one (RTX 2080 vs RTX 2070, for example) from clock speeds alone.
How can I ensure better cooling for my graphics card?
The cooling of your graphics card is provided by the manufacturer. Nvidia and AMD provide the graphics processing units to many companies such as EVGA, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and more who design the PCBs, cooling systems, and external chassis of the card.
These companies offer multiple variations of the same card based on the cooling systems and factory overclocking. This also results in a large variation in pricing for the exact same GPU. You should do your research to determine which model for your desired GPU offers the best balance of cooling system and pricing.
Other ways you can improve your cooling is to prevent cable clutter, invest in a more spacious PC case, and adding additional fans to your PC case.