The best graphics cards for 2019

Upgrade your gaming rig with our favorite graphics cards for every budget

A good graphics card is the most important part of a gaming PC. The best one right now is the Nvidia RTX 2060 Super; a beefed up version of the standard RTX 2060 at a competitive price. It trades blows with AMD’s new RX 5700 and 5700 XT, but with its advanced features, better cooling, and greater efficiency, it’s the best card you can buy right now.

But the RTX 2060 Super isn’t the only graphics card worth considering. We’ve included options below for ultimate 4K power, as well as a good alternatives for budget and mobile gamers.

Nvidia RTX 2060 Super

The best graphics card

nvidia announces geforce rtx super gpus 2070 2060 2080 feature
Luke Larsen/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Nvidia’s RTX 2060 Super offers great performance at a decent price, with entry-level ray tracing and DLSS.

Who’s it for: Gamers who want serious performance without breaking the bank.

Why we picked the Nvidia RTX 2060 Super

Nvidia’s Super refresh of its RTX lineup might have been forced by AMD’s new Navi cards, and could likely have been implemented far sooner if Nvidia desired, but it’s here now nonetheless and the results are impressive. Far more capable than the standard RTX 2060, with a full complement of 8GB GDDR6 and more CUDA cores. The 2060 Super performs relatively close to that of the standard RTX 2070, which itself has been replaced by the RTX 2070 Super. That’s a huge jump up in performance.

It goes head to head with AMD’s RX 5700 and is even often competitive with the 5700 XT, with a better cooler and greater power efficiency. It offers improved bang for buck over the standard RTX 2060 for only $50 more. You might find a little more value and longevity in the 2070 Super, but that card is at least $500, so the RTX 2060 Super remains a much more affordable and accessible GPU for the average gamer.

At the time of writing the only version we’ve had a look at is the Founders Edition from Nvidia, so expect a more in-depth discussion of this card when the option of partner cards becomes available. But even without the variety offered by such cards, the Nvidia RTX 2060 Super is our favorite GPU you can buy today. It’s stylish, performs well, and offers entry-level ray tracing and DLSS for a much lower price than other RTX Super cards.

Read our full Nvidia RTX 2060 Super review

Nvidia GTX 2080 Ti

The most powerful graphics card

nvidia geforce rtx 2080 vs ti

Why should you buy this: You want to play the latest games at the highest frame rate and resolution.

Who’s it for: 4K monitor owners and PC gaming enthusiasts.

Why we picked the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti:

There’s nothing budget-friendly about the massive GTX 2080 Ti. Aside from the Nvidia RTX Titan, which is even more absurdly expensive and not that much faster, the RTX 2080 Ti is the most powerful consumer offering currently available in Nvidia’s arsenal, and it shows in its gaming performance.

Other cards in its range, like the 2080, AMD’s Radeon VII, and the 1080 Ti, remain viable cards for delivering 4K resolution, but the 2080 Ti offers much greater performance potential whether you’re gaming at just 4K resolution, or want to bring in some of the additional visual features of the Turing generation of cards, like DLSS and ray tracing. Considering how hardware intensive the latter of those two features is, if you want to take full advantage of everything modern games like Battlefield V have to offer, the 2080 Ti delivers the best frame rates and the best overall experience.

When put through its paces, we found the RTX 2080 Ti capable of delivering more than 12,000 points in 3DMark Time Spy. It also hit more than 100 FPS in Battlefield 1 at 4K with all settings at Ultra, and even hit near 50 FPS at 4K in the always-taxing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

If you can find a 1080 Ti at a reasonable price, it’s still a viable alternative (and the incoming 2080 Super is sure to be impressive), but right now, the 2080 Ti is head and shoulders above them in terms of its raw power and graphical capabilities.

Read our full Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti review

AMD RX 5700

Best graphics card under $400

AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s a great 1440p gaming card with full support for AMD’s new fidelity-boosting features.

Who’s it for: FreeSync gamers and AMD fans who want the best bang for buck near the high-end.

Why we picked the AMD RX 5700:

It might only be $50 less than the more-powerful 5700 XT, but the 5700 represents a much better value proposition. It keeps up with its bigger brother in most cases, falling only a few frames behind, especially at its sweet spot 1440p resolution. It’s loud and warm, but if you’re willing to pop a few washers on it, you can improve that factor considerably.

Build on AMD’s new RDNA architecture, this card offers much better performance per watt than older, Vega and Polaris graphics cards, while delivering performance comparable to Nvidia’s new mid-range cards, like the RTX 2060 and 2060 Super. It doesn’t have ray tracing or DLSS, but it does have AMD’s new image sharpening, which will see usage in a much wider array of games than Nvidia’s locked-down visual effects.

While it might be a good idea to wait for the third-party versions with better cooling, this GPU is a great buy for the AMD fan looking for solid midrange performance. Don’t even think about the Radeon VII. It’s end of life and far too pricey for what it offers.

Read our full RX 5700 review

Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti

The best graphics card under $300

1660 ti vs rtx 2060 geforce gtx gallery b

Why should you buy this: The 1660 Ti is plenty fast, without the RTX performance and price overhead.

Who’s it for: Gamers who aren’t fussed with RTX-features.

Why we picked the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti:

Nvidia’s entry-level graphics cards haven’t received quite as much attention as its higher-end RTX GPUs, but the Turing-generation GTX cards are no slouch. The 1660 Ti is a solid replacement for Nvidia’s stellar GTX 1060 6GB, offering 20-30 percent uptick in performance, beating out strong contenders from AMD like the RX 590.

The GTX 1660 Ti does lack the RTX features, like ray tracing and DLSS, which have so characterized this generation of graphics cards from the green team, but that’s what helps keep its price so attractive. Just make sure that you buy the most affordable one you can find, as the more expensive ones, even with modest overclocks, don’t come close to RTX 2060 performance, whilst edging far too close to its price.

If you want an AMD alternative at around this price, the RX Vega 56 is a great option. It needs a little tweaking to get the most from it (look up undervolting guides) and it’s not easy to find, but if you can get one at a good price it’ll outstrip anything up to the RTX 2070.

Read our RTX vs. GTX comparison review

AMD Radeon RX 580

The best graphics card under $200

MSI Radeon RX 580 Gaming X+ 8G
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It gives you fantastic 1080p performance without breaking the bank.

Who’s it for: Gamers on a budget who still want high frame rates.

Why we picked the AMD Radeon RX 580:

AMD’s new 5700 cards might not quite eclipse Nvidia’s offerings, but there’s nothing that the green team has for sale at under $200 that can hold a candle to the AMD Radeon RX 580. This beast of a card was once stupendously overpriced thanks to cryptocurrency miners, but today it represents some of the best value gaming power that can be had anywhere. For well under $200 you get a card that can deliver high frame rates in Esport games at 1080p and even handle some 1440p gaming if you don’t mind lowering some settings.

There are a heap of different options out there with improved cooling and higher clocks, but even the budget offerings with only a couple of fans are a great buy. They often come with additional money off and many now ship with three months free Xbox Game Pass.

If you’re on an even stricter budget, you can grab an RX 570 for a little less and that still represents a great budget gaming option, but if you can stretch to the RX 580 you’ll get a lot more for not much extra.

RTX 2070 Max-Q

The best mobile graphics

Razer Blade 2019 review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It offers great performance without adding undue bulk to modern laptops.

Who’s it for: Power gamers on the move.

Why we picked the Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q:

Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Max-Q is the latest iteration of its leaner mobile gaming solutions, but that doesn’t mean it lacks power. It offers greater numbers of CUDA cores than its 10-series Max-Q counterparts and that ends up delivering a sizable performance improvement over the past generation.

Although the RTX 2070 Max-Q falls behind its full scale desktop and mobile counterparts, its real strength lies in not outputting anywhere near the kind of heat of those big scale GPUs do. That means that you’ll still find the RTX 2070 Max-Q in laptops that are sleek and thin and don’t weigh too much. The Razer Blade that we used in our testing weighs just 4.5 pounds and offers performance that in years gone by you’d only find in chunky gaming machines that weigh close to double that.

There are some solid alternatives in this space with both AMD and Nvidia offering mobile options with greater and lesser performance depending on your needs, but for our money, the RTX 2070 Max-Q provides the best blend of performance and compatibility with the kind of thin and light laptops that have come to dominate the gaming and general purpose notebook scene in recent years.

Read our full Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q review.

What about AMD’s Navi RX 5700s?

As much as AMD has notched up a couple of solid entries on our best graphics card list, astute readers or AMD fans may have noticed a lack of new Navi, RX 5700 and 5700 XT graphics cards. That’s not without careful consideration, as we’ve been rather impressed with AMD’s new-generation graphics cards, but they don’t quite manage to take the top spot in any of our categories.

The RX 5700 cards, based on AMD’s new RDNA architecture, are impressively powerful and go blow for blow with Nvidia’s new RTX Super cards in many ways. One area they fall down hard, though, is in cooling and noise levels. The stock blower coolers on the RX 5700 cards are not good. They’re hot and loud and until we get our hands on affordable, third-party alternatives with better chilling solutions, we can’t outright recommend them.

They still offer great bang for buck if you don’t care about such factors and FreeSync gamers will get far more value for money from either of them than the Radeon VII, but for now, the RTX Super and 2080 Ti rule the roost, while AMD’s older cards hold strong in the more budget-conscious categories.

None of AMD’s cards support Nvidia’s newly-pushed ray tracing or DLSS features either, so there is an argument to be made that Nvidia cards offer the most visual features. However, with a limited number of games supporting those new technologies at this time, the jury is still out on whether they will become mainstay gaming features, or more niche offerings for Nvidia users only.

How we test

When we test graphics cards, we tend to focus on three major factors: Feature set, performance, and price.

Feature set is often determined by brand and platform, which we always consider as we review a card. It’s not just about whether it can handle a virtual reality headset, or how many monitors it supports. We check out graphical standard and API support, and special features like Nvidia’s Ansel, or AMD’s WattMan overclocking software.

Of course, performance is key. We run review units through a series of synthetic and real-world benchmarks, even beyond those we report. We keep detailed records of frame rate trends, frame times, and any anomalous metrics, like noise, heat, or artifacts.

Ultimately, it all comes down to cash. With so many GPUs, board partners, and differences in clock speed and memory, there’s no shortage of options, and it’s all too easy to overpay. We check the price of each individual card, and even help determine availability at launch.

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