You don’t need to spend a thousand bucks on a GPU to get a great gaming experience. Midrange graphics cards are still around for those who want to run their games at max settings at 1080p resolution or don’t mind a few sacrifices.
Best Midrange Graphics Cards Reviewed
At the moment, there aren’t many midrange graphics cards to choose from. Nvidia and AMD have been obsessed with the high-end graphics cards ever since the cryptocurrency boom. However, this doesn’t mean anyone looking for great graphics cards for $350 and under has no hope.
We’ve picked the four best midrange graphics cards in that price range available right now. Be sure to read our buyer’s guide after the reviews for some insight on graphics card technology and what to consider before you click the purchase button.
Our Top Pick
Nvidia RTX 2060
The New King of Midrange Cards
The Nvidia RTX 2060 was only announced recently, and it’s already looking like a worthy successor to the highly popular GTX 1060 6GB. With its Turing architecture, huge core clock speeds, and ray-tracing ability, it comes at a price point far less than the GTX 1070 despite matching it in performance.
If you have a budget for around $350 for your GPU, close your eyes and just buy the RTX 2060. It’s simply fantastic for the price and completely worth it. And it’s futureproof too.
AMD Radeon RX 580
Fantastic for 1080p Gaming
For 1080p gaming, the AMD RX 580 is still an excellent offer. It is the most affordable midrange graphics card, coming in even cheaper than the GTX 1060 6GB despite being slightly faster than it.
If you have a powerful enough PSU and want a great value midrange graphics card, the RX 580 is currently a no brainer.
- Architecture: Turing
- Core (Boost) Clock: 1800MHz
- Memory Clock: 0 Gbps
- RAM: 6GB
- TDP: 170 watts
The latest addition in the Nvidia RTX lineup falls in an awkward category that can be considered mid to high range, but not necessarily high range altogether. Companies like EVGA, Asus, Zotac, and others have already jumped on the opportunity to release their variants of the card shortly after its release.
The RTX 2060 has 6GB of RAM, which is a little odd considering its predecessor features the same amount. This is GDDR6 memory so it’s faster, but memory capacity is important for running video games at higher resolutions.
As a midrange graphics card, the RTX 2060 is simply phenomenal. There is still a strong argument that it given it is a direct successor of the GTX 2060 it should be similarly priced, but given its performance that can match the older yet very powerful GTX 1070, it’s perhaps not completely unreasonable from Nvidia to slap the price tag they have.
You can expect to run just about every videogame at 1080p well above 60 fps. With RTX on in games that support it, expect a dip of 15-20 frames. The card is also extremely viable for 1440p gaming, though you shouldn’t expect to run RTX at that resolution and get anything above 60 fps.
- Best midrange card out there
- Excellent 1080p and 1440p performance
- Good value when compared to GTX 1070
- Struggles with RTX on higher resolutions
- Architecture: Polaris
- Core (Boost) Clock: 1430MHz
- Memory Clock: 8400MHz
- RAM: 8GB
- TDP: 185 watts
When you’re looking for the best overall value among midrange graphics cards, the AMD Radeon RX 580 is still king. It’s not the fastest midrange card anymore because of the RX 590 and the new Nvidia RTX 2060, but it still is the best value overall among the scarcely populated midrange graphics card market.
For 1080p gaming, this is the best graphics card you can buy right now without spending excessively. The only reason to opt for the RX 590 or the RTX 2060 is because of better performance at 1440p and future-proofing respectively.
AMD offers 8GB of RAM on the RX 580 – more than what you’ll get with even the RTX 2060GB. This can let you run higher resolution textures in video games. However, don’t expect to run all games smoothly on 1440p, as this graphics card is more ideal for 1080p video games. You can get away with running many great-looking games at 2K resolution, but that won’t be universally true.
- Excellent value for performance
- Ideal for 1080p gaming
- Great performance in DX12 games
- High power draw
- Architecture: Polaris 30
- Core (Boost) Clock: 1560MHz
- Memory Clock: 8000MHz
- RAM: 8GB
- TDP: 175 watts
AMD quietly slipped in the RX 590 late last year when no one was looking. It’s a more powerful variant of the RX 580. Many consider it as merely an overclocked RX 580, but it’s not quite there.
AMD’s main objective with this card was to fill in the massive price and performance gap between the midrange models like the RX 580 and the beginning of the high-end models like the GTX 1070.
Regardless of what your opinion of the 590 may be, it’s certainly true that AMD succeeded in this. This midrange graphics card is the fastest one you can buy for under $300 right now, and it only costs $30-$40 more than the RX 580. The result is a 13-15 percent increase in performance.
Perhaps more crucially, the RX 590 is designed with efficiency in mind. Despite being faster than the RX 580, it considers 10 watts less, with a maximum power draw of 175 watts. This is because the processor has been shrunken down from 14nm to 12nm. Yes, the RX 590 has a smaller and therefore newer processor which is more power efficient. It runs at fastest clock speeds than the RX 580 but a lower memory clock speed as a compensation.
- Fastest card under $300
- Fantastic for 1080p gaming
- More power efficient than the RX 580
- Not a huge improvement over the RX 580
- Architecture: Pascal
- Core (Boost) Clock: 1709MHz
- Memory Clock: 8000MHz
- RAM: 6GB
- TDP: 120 watts
With the release of the Nvidia RTX 2060, the 1060 6GB may well be considered obsolete, right? Not quite. Even after two and a half years of release, the GTX 1060 continues to be the most popular modern graphics card out there.
It struck a perfect balance between price and performance which is what boosted its popularity, and despite the RX 580 and 590 coming in cheaper and with slightly better performance, the 1060 6GB continues to be a high demand midrange graphics card for its sheer reputation.
The key question to ask is why anyone would opt for the GTX 1060 6GB over the RX 580 or RX 590. There are two main factors that would tempt you to opt for the 1060 6GB. Firstly, Nvidia simply has better drivers support for the latest games for even its older cards and generally overall better-dedicated support for the majority of the video games.
The other is the TDP. A big reason for Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB’s popularity is how incredibly power efficient it is. The most powerful GTX 1060 6GB will only consume around 120 watts of power, which is more than 50 watts more efficient than the AMD boys. This is why it’s hard to ignore the 1060 6GB as one of the best midrange graphics cards even three years after its release.
- Very power efficient
- Withstood the test of time
- Great for almost all major titles at 1080p
- More expensive than faster AMD cards
For midrange graphics cards, the resolution which you’ll be gaming at is an extremely important factor in your decision. If you’ll be gaming at 1080p resolution, you should consider a sub $300 graphics card instead, such as the AMD RX 580/590 or the GTX 1060 6GB. All three of these cards can handle almost all modern video games at near-max settings at 1080p resolution without any problems, so long as the rest of your PC’s components can keep up.
If you own a 1440p monitor, you should have a larger budget to be on the safe side and remain futureproof to invest in an RTX 2060. The RTX 2060 can handle 1440p gaming quite well and does an adequate job with ray tracing turned on at a 1080p resolution too. Don’t expect to run ray-tracing at max settings and 1440p with 60 fps though.
Your other PC components are important in the overall performance. While the GPU is by far the most important component for a gaming PC, the CPU is also a close second. The CPU needs to be fast enough to keep up with the GPU, or else it will bottleneck it.
Bottlenecking is when the CPU is not powerful enough to keep up with the GPU, resulting in 100% use of the processor while the graphics card is only being used partially. This isn’t a problem with most mid to high-end CPUs that have been released the last couple of years though, whether you’re on Team Red or Team Blue.
However, a multicore CPU with higher clock speeds will aid your GPU far more than one that doesn’t have those features, and not all multicore CPUs are equally good for gaming.
The age-old debate remains. Nvidia continues to have a monopoly in the high-end GPUs, despite heavy criticism of their newly released RTX 2080 Ti, 2080, and 2070 cards for their prices and questionable ray tracing performance.
Things are much more even between the two companies in the midrange graphics card level though. Nvidia has enjoyed a lot of success with the 1060 6GB, and the RTX 2060 is looking like it’ll be just as popular. The RTX 2060 is still more expensive than most midrange cards, but it’s considerably more powerful than any competition in the sub $350 market, equaling in performance to the last generation’s high-end GTX 1070.
However, AMD offers fantastic value for performance with the RX 580, which has been one of their most successful GPUs in recent times. It is faster than the 1060 6GB yet costs less, and now with the RX 590 in the mix to provide slightly better power efficiency, AMD has a slight edge in the midrange graphics card market.
RAM in graphics cards works a little differently from your normal RAM. Generally, this is called video RAM or VRAM, and it determines how much of the details and textures can be loaded at a given time. A graphics card with high RAM will run higher resolution textures much better than one with less RAM, which is why RAM is often crucial for gaming at 1440p and 4K.
RAM in midrange GPUs is important because there are a few devious variants of certain midrange graphics cards offered with lower RAM. While this may not seem like a big deal to those who only game at 1080p, it does greatly affect the in-game performance beyond just the texture resolution settings. The GTX 1060 and RX 580 are the two culprits with sneaky 3GB/4GB variants (respectively) which don’t perform as well as the full model.
Who do midrange graphics cards target?
Midrange graphics card target the mainstream gamers who aren’t looking to play videogames beyond 1080p and/or 1440p resolutions. They are particularly ideal for anyone who only owns a single 1080p monitor.
What’s up with the crazy GPU prices?
The GPU prices are heavily inflated because of the cryptocurrency boom that happened a couple of years ago. Many people bought graphics cards in bulks to mine cryptocurrency, which Nvidia and AMD (the former in particular) saw as an opportunity to inflate their prices.
The cryptocurrency craze has lowered because of its fall over the past year, but Nvidia and AMD have continued to charge exorbitant prices, particularly for their higher end models.
How can I ensure better cooling for my midrange GPU?
The cooling for your GPU largely depends on the aftermarket 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 also overclock the cards to improve performance levels.
Make sure to check the temperature benchmarks of the aftermarket GPU manufacturer model that you have picked for yourself. Note that the power draw (PSU requirement) can also vary among different models of the same GPU as some will come overclocked.