When it comes to graphics cards we go fully in-depth. We test dozens of GPUs year in and year out, and we keep evaluating them months after release as new games and drivers come about. With GeForce RTX cards readily available and pricing down to regular levels, you can finally buy graphics cards again without thinking it over twice.
Don't mind all the testing, marginal fps gains, power consumption figures, or overclocking potential. TechSpot's Best Graphics Cards is written to get a simple question answered:
Given a certain budget, which is the graphics card you should buy? Fret no more.
- Entry-Level GPU ($100)
- Mainstream GPU ($200)
- Mid-Range GPU ($300)
- High-End 1440p GPU ($400+)
- High-End 4K GPU ($600+)
Best Entry-Level GPU ($100 or less)
Radeon RX 550 vs. GeForce GT 1030
When we compared the GeForce GT 1030 and Radeon RX 550 last year in what we called an eSports shootout, the GT 1030 was the faster of the two for the most part. It also consumed slightly less power and overclocked better. However since then AMD sorted its drivers, and the Radeon is a technically superior product, so now the RX 550 is considerably faster than the GT 1030 in most games.
On top of that, the GT 1030 became a disgraced product once Nvidia quietly pushed out DDR4 versions, catching some gamers out with a vastly inferior product for the same price. The awful DDR4 versions range from $70 right up to $100 and it’s difficult to tell what you're getting unless you know how to specifically seek out a GDDR5 model.
The Radeon RX 550 is also adaptive sync ready. If you have a FreeSync monitor or plan on getting one, the Radeon RX 550 is going to be the better buy. The RX 550 is about $10 more expensive than the budget GeForce and we’ve found it offers superior performance overall. We suggest looking at models priced at or below $90. All RX 550 models will deliver a similar level of performance, so again focus on price.
Best Mainstream GPU ($200 or less)
GeForce GTX 1050 vs. Radeon RX 560
GeForce GTX 1050 Ti vs. Radeon RX 570
For those wanting to spend up to $200, there are esentially four options to choose from with the GeForce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti and Radeon RX 560 and RX 570. Previously we have recommended the GTX 1050 Ti as Radeon GPUs were overpriced. Our side note comment was always that normally we'd opt for the RX 570 at its $170 MSRP, but back then they were selling for an insane $260 making them a hard pass.
Today the Radeon RX 570 is selling for as low as $150 which is equally insane, just the good kind. If you can’t locate a $150 model there are a number of options at around $175, so picking up a cheap RX 570 in time for Christmas shouldn’t be difficult.
Alternatively, the GTX 1050 Ti can be had for ~$190. It's a fine GPU, though with the RX 570 offering vastly superior performance in most titles, including the recently released Battlefield V and Hitman 2, it should be your number one choice.
For those wanting to spend a little less the GTX 1050 and RX 560 are both good options, the RX 560 can be typically bought for $140 and the GTX 1050 for about $150. My preference between the two would be the GTX 1050, though both provide a similar bang for your buck. Then again, for marginally more money, that little bit extra gets you the significantly more capable RX 570.
Best Mid-Range GPU ($350 or less)
GeForce GTX 1060 3GB / 6GB vs. Radeon RX 580 4GB / 8GB vs. RX 590
Gamers looking to spend between $200 and $350 also have a few options. You can get the GeForce GTX 1060 with either 3GB or 6GB of memory -- technically we do have two different GPUs here as the 3GB version is slightly cut down -- AMD's RX 580 which can be configured with 4GB or 8GB of memory, and a newly bumped RX 590, which is the same RX 580 with a 15% overclock.
The GTX 1060 3GB is a good value option for those gaming at 1080p and it was our previous top pick in this bracket due to the inflated prices. Today though, the Radeon RX 580 sporting 8GB of memory can be had for as little as $200-220 and oddly you can find some 4GB models listed that are more expensive. In any case, $220 for the RX 580 is an amazing buy, especially considering the GTX 1060 6GB costs at least $30 more and is slightly slower for the most part.
The RX 580 8GB selling at an attractive price point also make AMD’s newer RX 590 the most pointless product on the market -- $280 for single digit gains, no thanks. Expect to see a price drop for those parts very soon, because they sure aren’t selling at the current price.
Best High-End 1440p GPU ($500 or less)
GeForce RTX 2070 vs. GeForce GTX 1070 Ti / GTX 1070 vs. Radeon Vega 56 / Vega 64
This has traditionally been a ~$400 category targeting 1440p gaming. If you want to spend no more than that, it’s a tough pick between Vega 56 and the GTX 1070 Ti, but ultimately I’m going with the GeForce. Overall, the GTX 1070 Ti offers the best performance, it’s faster out of the box in the vast majority of titles, it clocks better, runs cooler and consumes far less power.
Out of the box, the 1070 Ti sits between factory overclocked 1070 and 1080 graphics cards, both of which are on their way out of stock sooner or later. If you're feeling adventurous, the 1070 Ti can be overclocked which enables GTX 1080-like performance for less money. Right now the GTX 1070 Ti can be had for $410 - 450 (only last week we saw some selling closer to $350, but those appear to be gone after the Thanksgiving weekend).
As you get closer to $500, these two choices make less sense and you’re better off getting an RTX 2070 if you pick one of several $500 models available. We also found a single Vega 64 card selling for $400 right now (a great value), but most are priced closer to $500 and there the RTX 2070 would be my number one choice.
Best High-End 4K Gaming GPU (Over $600)
GeForce RTX 2080 Ti vs. Your Wallet
From the RTX 2070 and up, it’s Nvidia all day. The RTX 2080 certainly has no competition and the 2080 Ti is so far out in front it’s playing a different game. When it comes to 4K gaming you really want at least an RTX 2080 or GTX 1080 Ti, but if the budget will allow there is nothing quite like an RTX 2080 Ti.
Availability is poor, reliability is still questionable, the price is horrendous, and on top of all that ray tracing and DLSS look to be a bust on this first generation. But boy oh boy, is the 4K performance glorious.
It’s a situation where I know I’m getting robbed, I’m not cheerful about it, but damn it take my money anyway. Over 60 fps with all the visuals cranked up at 4K, really is something to behold. I’m a bit ashamed of myself but if you’d tried out one of those 4K 144Hz HDR monitors with an RTX 2080 Ti, you’d probably understand.
It’s pretty clear that AMD’s doing its best to be competitive where it can by offering great value Radeon offerings. For around $100 the RX 550 is a must, for $150 the RX 570 is an incredible buy and for $220 there is no going past the RX 580 8GB. Then Nvidia dominates the upper end with the GTX 1070 Ti beating Vega, and then RTX offering from a little extra performance with the 270, up to the 2080 Ti, where top dollar gets you top performance that beats everything else in the market. For further research and head to head GPU comparisons check out our detailed coverage: