Gaming at 4K might be out of reach for some, but if you want the ultimate visual experience, there's nothing quite like it. The best graphics cards of today are more and more capable of providing comfortable frame rates at that heady resolution, and there are a few different options you can pick from if you want the prettiest and most demanding gaming experience in 2022.
Fortunately, the state of the GPU market has improved, making 4K gaming more affordable (though not cheap). Here are our picks for the best GPU for 4K.
Nvidia RTX 3090
Best GPU for 4K
- Top end 4K gaming
- 24GB of VRAM for video editing and other work
- Much cheaper than the 3090 Ti while being almost as fast
Why you should buy this: If you want the highest frame rates for 4K gaming and good performance for creative applications, the RTX 3090 is your best bet.
Who it's for: Users with big budgets who want the best performance in games and apps.
What we thought of the RTX 3090:
When it comes to 4K gaming, the RTX 3090 is bested only by its slightly faster counterpart, the RTX 3090 Ti. But because the 3090 can be found for closer to $1,500 (sometimes even less) and the 3090 Ti starts around $1,800, it's hard to not recommend the 3090 instead. The 3090 is excellent not only for gaming at 4K but for creative applications too, thanks to its massive 24GB VRAM and raw power.
The 3090 exists in the "prosumer" category, made for the kind of people who both work and play on the same PC, so it appeals to a pretty niche crowd, but it's hard to find a GPU that's suitable for both games and real work. Ultimately, the RTX 3090 is more gaming GPU than workstation GPU as it uses GeForce drivers, not workstation drivers which are (perhaps artificially) optimized better for certain applications. Furthermore, Nvidia halves the rate of Tensor core operations on the 3090 because they don't want to cannibalize workstation and datacenter GPUs. If you're only working, there are better options than the 3090.
In our testing, we found that the 3090 averaged a frame rate of 61 fps across several games tested at 4K and maximum or nearly maximum graphics settings. Of course, if you wanted more frames, you could very easily just drop a few settings and get to a more comfortable 90 or even 120 fps.
But if you don't like lowering quality settings, you're in luck. In select games, you can enable DLSS and get a higher frame rate without sacrificing any visual details. Unfortunately, DLSS is only available in around 200 titles, but thankfully many of those games are modern, AAA games where you'd need extra performance the most. Even with DLSS enabled, however, you might still want to lower a few settings if you're interested in 120 fps or more. The 3090 is fast, but not quite fast enough for 4K with no compromises.
While the 3090 is also very fast in ray tracing, doing it at 4K will bring it to its knees. In fact, without DLSS you might struggle to hit 30 fps in some games, especially if you really don't want to turn down graphics settings. It seems like we have to wait maybe one or two generations more before GPUs can perform well enough at 4K with ray tracing on.
The 3090 isn't cheap and it's definitely not for everyone, but overall it's the best 4K GPU thanks to its excellent 4K gaming performance and great workstation performance.
Nvidia RTX 3080 10GB
Best GPU for 4K gaming from Nvidia
- Fast and fluid 4K gaming
- Attractive new design
- HDMI 2.1 support
- Improved ray tracing and DLSS performance
- Needs awkward adapter
- Requires more power
Why you should buy this: The RTX 3080 10GB is the definitive 4K gaming GPU that has performance just shy of the top end while having a more affordable price than the 3090.
Who it's for: Gamers who want to make good use of Nvidia's exclusive features and the 3080's good ray tracing performance.
What we thought of the RTX 3080 10GB:
The RTX 3080 10GB is essentially an RTX 3090 with less VRAM and performance, as well as a lower price tag. The 3080 10GB starts at around $800 to 900, making it significantly cheaper than the 3090 for a similar level of performance. Its lower amount of VRAM makes it less suitable for work, but the 3080 is a GPU focused on 4K gaming first and foremost.
In heavier games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin's Creed Valhalla, the 3080 10GB just barely surpasses 60 fps in 4K with max settings, which is a fine framerate but not amazing. Just like with the 3090, however, you can enable DLSS for better performance in certain games, and turning down graphics settings is also an option. In older or less demanding games, you can definitely expect better framerates; in Battlefield V, the 3080 10GB hit 103 fps, which is really good.
The 3080 10GB is worse at ray tracing than the 3090, which means it's even less capable of ray tracing at 4K. You can make ray tracing work by lowering lots of graphics settings and enabling DLSS (if you can), but it doesn't really make any sense to go down to low or medium settings just to enable ray tracing at a mediocre frame rate. Unfortunately, the 3090 and the 3090 Ti are really the only GPUs that are capable enough for high frame rates at 4K with ray tracing enabled.
You may notice that I've been specifying the amount of VRAM the 3080 has. Well, that's because there's actually a version of the 3080 with 12GB of VRAM and it's simply way too expensive. Now, the 12GB model does have more memory bandwidth and a few more cores, but most 3080 12GB cards start at around $1,100, making the extra performance hard to justify.
AMD RX 6900 XT
Best GPU for 4K gaming from AMD
- Can be found for relatively cheap
- Plenty of VRAM for 4K
- Great performance at 4K
- Poor ray tracing performance
Why you should buy this: The RX 6900 XT is a more reasonable alternative to the RTX 3090 that's made for gamers and provides about the same amount of performance at a lower price.
Who it's for: Gamers with a large budget who can live without Nvidia features like DLSS.
What we thought of the RX 6900 XT:
Although 4K isn't the most favorable resolution for AMD GPUs, they're still plenty fast at this resolution. The 6900 XT in particular has quite a bit going for it: its performance at 4K is excellent, it has plenty of VRAM at 16GB, and its price is relatively low. The price is the main reason why the 6900 XT is getting a recommendation here. At the time of writing, many 6900 XTs are going for about $800 to 1,000, which is much less than its MSRP of $1,499.
In our RX 6950 XT review, we found that the 6900 XT was actually a bit faster on average than the RTX 3090, at 78 fps vs the 3090's 75 fps across five games. However, this does not factor in ray tracing, where the 6900 XT is much slower. In Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing enabled, the 6900 XT managed 13 fps while the 3090 got 21 fps, nearly twice the performance. To be clear, neither GPU made the game comfortably playable, but this was at maximum quality settings, and it's definitely possible to drop some of those in order for things to play more smoothly.
Although AMD GPU's can't use DLSS, AMD does have its own upscaling technology called FSR, but it's not perfect. Most games that have FSR use the original 1.0 version, which has poor visual quality. The newer and better FSR 2.0 looks almost as good as DLSS, but it's not in very many games. More and more games are adding FSR 2.0 support, but at the moment DLSS is better. Nevertheless, AMD's progress on FSR is promising and it could soon be just as good a feature as DLSS is — the fact that it's open source suggests it will ultimately see greater use, too.
The 6900 XT is extremely compelling for someone who doesn't see themselves enabling ray tracing or using exclusive features like DLSS on an Nvidia GPU. It has a great price-to-performance ratio and AMD can definitely improve on FSR in the near future.
One last thing to note is the RX 6950 XT, which I mentioned earlier. By the name, you can guess it's faster than the 6900 XT, but it didn't get the recommendation. Well, it's just too expensive for the performance. The cheapest 6950 XTs start at around $1,100 and that's just not worth it for slightly better performance.
AMD RX 6800 XT
Best GPU for 4K 144Hz
- Good performance at 4K
- Relatively low price
- Lots of VRAM
- FSR generally worse and rarer than DLSS
Why you should buy this: The 6800 XT provides good performance at a decent enough price to deliver 144 fps at 4K without needing a top-end GPU like the 3090 or the 6900 XT.
Who it's for: Gamers who would rather have higher frame rates than higher graphical quality.
What we thought of the RX 6800 XT:
If you want to play at 4K with a frame rate close to 144 fps, ray tracing is right out the window, which means AMD GPUs are a great option thanks to their good performance with ray tracing turned off and the lower price that AMD GPUs tend to have in the current market. The 6800 XT can be found for around $700 to 800, making it relatively cheap for a GPU intended for 4K gaming.
In a recent review, Techspot found that the 6800 XT achieved 70fps on average across 12 games at 4K and max quality settings, while the 3080 10GB achieved 72 fps, an excellent result for the 6800 XT. That's not 144 fps, which means in many games you will have to turn down some graphics settings to hit 144 fps. But you would have to do that even if you had a 3090 Ti or a 6950 XT, so the 6800 XT isn't alone in this regard.
Just like with the 6900 XT, you can't use DLSS on the 6800 XT and you will have to rely on FSR where it's available. However, since the 6800 XT can be found for at least $100 less than the 3080 10GB, we feel like that's a good tradeoff since FSR 2.0 seems to be taking off much quicker than DLSS did.
Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti
Best cheap GPU for 4K
- Low and relatively affordable price
- DLSS to boost performance
- Can support ray tracing
- Best bang for buck midrange GPU
- DLSS not in most games
- Without DLSS, 4K performance is poor
Why you should buy this: The RTX 3060 Ti is the bare minimum for enjoyable gaming and work at 4K while having a relatively affordable price tag.
Who it's for: Gamers and power users that simply don't have the budget for high-end GPUs.
What we thought of the RTX 3060 Ti:
The cheapest GPU that could be used for enjoyable 4K gaming, video editing, and other work is the RTX 3060 Ti. A firmly midrange GPU, the 3060 Ti has just enough performance for 4K applications without costing too much, as it can be found for around $500.
The 3060 Ti by virtue of being an Nvidia GPU is quite flexible. AMD didn't lock down FSR and make it exclusively for AMD GPUs; it also works on Nvidia GPUs. Because some games might only have DLSS or FSR, the 3060 Ti is in a good position to take advantage of both upscaling technologies in order to boost its performance in 4K gaming. This is the main reason why we opted for the 3060 Ti instead of the similarly priced RX 6700 XT.
In professional applications, the 3060 Ti will lag behind other Nvidia GPUs but is still ahead of other AMD GPUs. In Puget Systems' DaVinci Resolve benchmark, the RTX 3060 Ti was even faster than the RX 6900 XT. However, the 3060Ti only has 8GB of VRAM, and although that's plenty for games, it might not be enough for some creative applications. The RTX 3060 actually has more VRAM at 12GB but the GPU itself is much slower so we can't really recommend it for 4K.
The RTX 3060 Ti also supports ray tracing, although it is out of the question at 4K. The 3060 Ti struggles to hit 60 fps at 1080p in a ray traced game, so 4K just isn't going to happen even with DLSS. Then again, it's a midrange GPU for $500, so you can't expect too much from it.
Nvidia RTX A5000
Best GPU for 4K video editing
- Fastest workstation GPU
- Tons of VRAM
- Workstation optimized drivers and full Tensor core performance
- Very expensive
Why you should buy this: The A5000 is a super fast workstation-oriented GPU with plenty of VRAM for pretty much any workload.
Who it's for: People who need good performance at 4K in workstation applications.
What we thought of the RTX A5000:
The RTX A5000 by all metrics is the fastest workstation GPU money can buy. Generally, we'd recommend Nvidia for most users since the software ecosystem for professional applications usually relies on CUDA. The only problem with the A5000 is its price tag, which is usually over $2,000, but if you need to do real work, then it can be worth it. It's also worth noting that the A5000 is basically the RTX 3090 but with no artificial performance limitations thanks to optimized drivers and unlocked Tensor core performance, so if you need better workstation performance more than better gaming performance, the A5000 is the way to go.
If you can't justify spending that kind of money for the A5000, then we recommend the A4000 which is significantly slower and with only 16GB of VRAM, but is also much cheaper at about $1,100. There's also the A2000 which is even slower and has even less VRAM at 12GB but retails for around $600 to 700.
Or, if you have an even larger budget, you could try the RTX A6000. This GPU has the same amount of cores as the RTX 3090 Ti but has twice the VRAM at 48GB. It also costs like $5,000. It won't perform much better than an A5000 unless that extra 24GB of VRAM is going to see any use, however.
AMD does have a competing line of workstation GPUs, but because CUDA is so ingrained into the kind of software you'd want a workstation GPU for, there aren't many applications where AMD is competitive with Nvidia. If you want to use AMD, you'll have to figure out whether or not that's a good idea depending on what applications you use.
Later this year we're expecting both AMD and Nvidia to launch their next GPUs: RX 7000 from the red team and RTX 40 from the green team. While we're confident both companies will deliver significantly better performance with their next-generation top-end GPUs, we're not sure whether or not they'll be sold at a good price. The only thing we know for sure is that GPUs haven't been this cheap in a long while, so buying right now definitely isn't the worst idea.
As long as you have an unlimited budget, the RTX 3090 Ti is the best for 4K gaming and the RTX A6000 is the best for video editing. However, both GPUs (especially the A6000) are very expensive so you might want to opt for slightly slower but much cheaper GPUs, like the RX 6900 XT, the RTX 3080 10GB, and the RTX A4000.
Nvidia has the best performance relative to AMD at 4K, but that doesn't mean you can't have a good 4K gaming experience on an AMD GPU. Nvidia is a better bet for video editing and other applications, however.
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