To RTX or not, that is the question.
After what felt like eternity, Nvidia introduced both its premium RTX GPUs and some of its most affordable GTX graphics cards yet. Meanwhile, AMD introduced its Radeon VII, shaking things up a bit by giving gamers an 7nm GPU alternative to Nvidia’s fully-fleshed out Turing line-up.
So, what’s the best graphics card right now? That answer depends on your needs and budget. It takes a lot of research, time, and knowledge to pick out the best graphics card out of the dozens of models and hundreds of variants of said GPUs, however, that’s exactly why I put together this guide to the best graphics cards on the market for you
TL;DR – These are the Best Graphics Cards:
1. Asus ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti OC
The Best Graphics Card
CUDA Cores: 1,536 ● Base Clock: 1,500MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,890MHz ● Video Memory: 6GB GDDR6 ● Memory Speed: 12Gbps ● Memory Bus: 192-bit ● Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 2 x DisplayPort 1.4, 2 x HDMI 2.0b ● Size: 11.9″ x 5.2″ x 1.97″
If you ask me, the best graphics card isn’t automatically the most powerful, but rather the one that strikes the right balance of performance to price. Following that logic, the Asus ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti OC (read our review) is the best graphics card you can buy.
For a little more than $300 this graphics card churns out silky smooth 1440p gaming in most cases, and even some playable 4K experiences hovering around 30 frames per second (fps). For a card meant to replace the Nvidia GTX 1060, it hits above its weight class, offering performance on par with the GTX 1070 and GTX 1070 Ti—and cuts close to the RTX 2060’s performance.
The Asus ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti OC is a top of the line, overclocked version of Nvidia’s mid-range card, so those looking to spend less than $300 for a fast GPU should consider the more affordable EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti XC Gaming or Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Windforce OC 6G instead.
2. Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2080 Ti OC
The Best 4K Graphics Card
CUDA Cores: 4,352 ● Base Clock: 1,350MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,665MHz ● Video Memory: 11GB GDDR6 ● Memory Speed: 14Gbps ● Memory Bus: 352-bit ● Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 1 x USB-C, 2 x DisplayPort 1.4, 2 x HDMI 2.0b ● Size: 12″ x 5.13″ x 2.13″
Seriously, the Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2080 Ti OC (read our review) is an amazing graphics card if you want to run the latest games at a full 60 fps, or faster, at 4K and Ultra quality settings. Also, if you want to live in the Nvidia’s world of ray-traced graphics, look no further, you won’t find another consumer GPU better equipped to give you realistic reflections in Battlefield V.
Out of all the RTX 2080 Ti GPUs I tested, including the Zotac GeForce RTX 2080 Ti AMP (read our review), this card came out on top in terms of performance. The Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2080 Ti OC’s overclocking goes a step further than the Zotac and the other 2080 Ti cards, putting it at the top of my list.
While this is the absolutely most powerful consumer GPU you can get, the power increase doesn’t march lock-step with its price. You will pay significantly more for a 2080 Ti over a 2080, with only a slight jump in performance. If you absolutely require the best of the best, by all means, but if you don’t see the value in it, consider any of the other GPUs on my list.
Best 1440p RTX Graphics Card
CUDA Cores: 1,920 ● Base Clock: 1,365MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,800MHz ● Video Memory: 6GB GDDR6 ● Memory Speed: 14Gbps ● Memory Bus: 192-bit ● Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0 ● Size: 8.3″ x 4.7″ x 1.61″
Out of the entire Nvidia Turing lineup, the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2060 AMP (read our review) is arguably the most sensible GeForce RTX card to buy. For just a little more than the price of a GTX 1060 (originally $299), you get a much faster card. And unlike its 10-series predecessor, there’s no 3GB model: the 2060 comes with a standard 6GB GDDR6 video memory.
In my testing, I had no problem getting over 30 fps in 4K with everything turned up in games like Monster Hunter World. Games like Battlefield 1 and Far Cry 5 almost hit 60 fps at the same settings. Impressive for a card under the $350 mark. At 1440p, the RTX 2060 also knocks it out of the park, crushing the 60fps mark, and often, surpassing it.
4. Asus TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 OC
Best 1080p Graphics Card
CUDA Cores: 1,408 ● Base Clock: 1,530MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,845MHz ● Video Memory: 6GB GDDR5 ● Memory Speed: 8Gbps ● Memory Bus: 192-bit ● Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x DVI-D ● Size: 8.1″ x 4.8″ x 1.8″
The GTX 1660 is the creamy middle of the Nvidia new mid-to-entry level 16-series family. It has the 6GB of video memory and handily beats the performance of last-gen’s GTX 1060 GPU. If you don’t need to run your games on Ultra at 60fps in 4K, the GTX 1660 can easily run them at 60 fps on 1080p—and 1440p Ultra.
It might not have the magical RTX designation like its bigger brothers, but it costs significantly less than the RTX 2060 while providing much of the same FHD and QHD gaming performance. This is the graphics card PC Gaming beginners should buy.
5. AMD Radeon VII
The Best AMD Graphics Card
Stream Processors: 3,840 ● Base Clock: 1,400MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,800MHz ● Video Memory: 16GB HBM2 ● Memory Speed: 2Gbps ● Memory Bus: 4,096-bit ● Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b ● Size: 11.02″ x 4.92″ x 1.57″
The newest GPU from AMD, the Radeon VII (read our review), is also its best GPU yet. The “world’s first 7nm gaming GPU” delivers great 4K and stellar 1440p performance, and its list price is unsurprisingly better than a comparable card from Nvidia.
You don’t get the fancy ray-tracing promised in the new RTX series cards, but given how few games take advantage of the new technology, it’s probably still not worth the trouble yet. In my testing the Radeon VII proves to be a great GPU for both gaming and compute tasks. It’s 16GB of video RAM might look excessive on paper, but it comes in handy in more games than you would think, as multiple modern titles end up using more than 8GB of video memory.
If you’re an AMD diehard, or you’re just looking for a great way to dive into the world of 4K gaming without paying the Nvidia tax, the Radeon VII is a great choice as both the best AMD card around right now and one of the best graphics card for the money.
6. EVGA RTX 2080 8GB FTW3 Ultra
Best for High-End Gaming for Most Gamers
CUDA Cores: 2,944 ● Base Clock: 1,515MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,860MHz ● Video Memory: 8GB GDDR6 ● Memory Speed: 14Gbps ● Memory Bus: 256-bit ● Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 1 x USB-C, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b ● Size: 11.89″ x 5.48″ x 2.75″
The EVGA RTX 2080 8GB FTW3 Ultra has an 1,860MHz boost clock, three big, whisper-quiet fans to keep it running cool, but perhaps most importantly, it has the power of RGB lighting. If you’re going to spend a bunch of money on a graphics card to make your gaming PC into a 4K powerhouse, you’re going to want to show it off, so why settle for anything less than flashy lighting?
Beyond the flashy presentation, the FTW3 Ultra comes with EVGA’s X1 overclocking software, so you can push it beyond its factory limits. And really, isn’t that the true heart of PC gaming? To give you an idea of what the EVGA is capable of, you can check out the RTX 2080 Founders Edition (read our review), and then imagine it with RGB lights and overclocking.
7. PowerColor Red Dragon Radeon RX 570
Kick Off Your Esports Career with this Graphics card
Stream Processors: 2,048 ● Base Clock: 1,168MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,250MHz ● Video Memory: 4GB GDDR5 ● Memory Speed: 7Gbps ● Memory Bus: 256-bit ● Power Connectors: 1 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x DVI-D ● Size: 10.04″ x 5.39″ x 1.85″
The AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU is a well performing graphics card for 1080p gaming, and its particularly spectacular for eSport gaming. Its low, low price of just $130 makes it spectacular buy for users on a budget. With 4GB of video memory and a 1,250MHz boost clock, it offers all the performance you need to play Overwatch, Dota 2, and Rainbox Six Siege at a competitive level.
Whether you’re using a 1080p 144Hz gaming monitor or 240Hz gaming monitor, this graphics card gives you fantastic Full HD gaming experience without breaking the bank. The RX 570 is a superb choice for eSports fans.
8. Nvidia Titan RTX
The Out of Your Mind Graphics Card
CUDA Cores: 4,608 ● Base Clock: 1,350MHz ● Boost Clock: 1,770MHz ● Video Memory: 24GB GDDR6 ● Memory Speed: 14Gbps ● Memory Bus: 384-bit ● Power Connectors: 2 x 8-pin ● Outputs: 1 x USB-C, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0b ● Size: 10.5″ x 4.38″ x 1.8″
When you absolutely, positively need the most powerful graphics card money can buy, you should look no farther than the Nvidia Titan RTX. For the kingly price of $2,500, the Titan RTX is fully loaded with an absurd 4,608 CUDA cores, 24GB of GDDR6 video memory, and 1,770 MHz boost clock. With these supreme specs, it offers 4K Ultra gaming at frame rates well above 60 fps that no other single GPU can offer.
But honestly, buying this card just to play games would be a waste, as it’s also rendering powerhouse for video editing, 3D rendering, and other creative pursuits. If you have the money and the need for a GPU this powerful, the Nvidia Titan RTX is the graphics card of your dreams.
What to look for in a Graphics Card
Below I explain how to pick the GPU for the display you have, why there are so many variants of the same Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, and a few factors you should consider when buying a GPU.
Above all, you should buy the graphics card you need for the display you’re using. If you’re gaming on a Full HD monitor, it would be a huge waste to buy a graphics card designed to play games at 2160p or 1440p. Likewise, you’ll want a powerful graphics card to drive games playing on that premium 4K gaming monitor or 4K TV.
I’ve laid out what are the best graphics cards to play games at 1080p, 1440p, and 2160p resolutions above, but here are some more general rules. For a decent to high-frame rate Full HD experience, you should look at GPUs ranging from the GTX 1050 Ti to the GTX 1660 Ti on Nvidia’s end. If you’re looking at AMD’s graphics card family, you’ll want a Radeon RX 480 or up.
Jumping up to QHD resolutions will require a more capable graphics card, ideally an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 580 and up. 4K gaming using a single card is still a tough proposition, but it’s actually within reach of the latest graphics cards like the Nvidia RTX 2080 and AMD Radeon VII.
Graphics card variants
Ok, you’ve decided which graphics card you want, great! However, even with this monumental decision out of the way, the world of GPUs isn’t done being confusing and daunting just yet.
Although there are only two companies—Nvidia and AMD—that actually manufacture the GPUs, there are dozens of different variants of the same graphics card. For example, when the most recent graphics card launched, the Nvidia GTX 1650, there was a multitude of different versions from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, EVGA and the list goes on.
In this case, while Nvidia may have introduced only one new GPU model, vendors or board partners will introduce their own versions featuring different overclock settings, cooling systems, and other differentiating factors I will explain below.
Length: One of the number one factors you should consider before plopping down cash for that shiny new graphics card is whether it will actually fit. If you’re building your PC in a Mini ITX case, you should be looking at the smallest or mini graphics cards that will actually fit inside.
Overclocking: Most third-party cards—and even Nvidia’s own Founders Edition cards—will often come factory overclocked, and this means the graphics card has been tuned to operate above its rated maximum clock speed. As you might expect, the higher the number the better the performance.
At this point you won’t find many, including the entry-level cards, without some amount of ‘overclocking from the factory.’ However, even without a factory overclock, it’s easy enough do it yourself using software such as EVGA Precision X or MSI Afterburner.
Cooling solutions: In your quest for the best graphics card, you might have noticed that some models come with one, two, or up to free fans. As you might expect, more fans equals better cooling, but there are also two distinct ways of keeping your graphics card chilled.
GPUs equipped with only one fan use a blower style cooler, which means the card sucks in air and blows it out the back like a leaf blower. Dual and triple fan setups are often used in conjunction with an ‘open-air cooling systems,’ which are designed move cool air through the open heatsinks and exhaust heat in every direction.
Blower style coolers are typically most useful for PCs built into small cases to help alleviate their restricted airflow. If the system your building is Micro ATX or Mid tower sized, you’d be better off with an open-air cooled graphics card, as there are more mounting points for multiple case fans to do the brunt of cooling and two (or three) fans are always better than one.
RTX vs GTX: With Turing Nvidia didn’t just introduce better, faster graphics cards it also debuted RTX GPUs with hardware designed to support real-time ray tracing, and AI-powered super sampling and anti-aliasing (known as Deep Learning Super Sampling).
So far, Nvidia premium RTX 20-series cards—including the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, RTX 2070, RTX 2060, and all their mobile counterparts—are the only GPUs to feature these dedicated components.
Thankfully, Nvidia decreed in early April that you don’t need an RTX card with dedicated RT Cores to process real-time ray tracing, so now both its new GTX 16-series and (most) older 10-series cards can run games with ray tracing turned on.
DLSS is still an RTX exclusive since it requires Tensor cores to function, but it’s a niche performance smoothing feature compared to the strikingly realistic reflections and complex shadows effects that ray tracing produces.
Bargain your way to getting a graphics card
Strangely, one of more affordable ways to get yourself the latest graphics card is to buy a prebuilt gaming PC while it’s on sale. Gaming PCs will often see discounts for hundreds of dollars off, so not only are you saving a ton of money, you’re also avoiding potential headaches that can accompany a DIY build—and you also get a warranty. Prebuilt PCs have come a long way, too.
They aren’t proprietary machines with randomly soldered-on components. They’re mostly as upgradeable as anything you might put together on your own. Another way of enjoying the latest graphics cards is through gaming laptops.
There are plenty of Nvidia RTX 20- and GTX 16-series gaming laptops out there right now. The new GTX gaming laptops have also hit the streets and they’re far more affordable than the RTX laptops introduced during CES 2019.