There are a lot of considerations to factor in when buying a graphics card — everything from monitor resolution, power and thermal requirements, and even game preference will dictate how much you spend and what you spend it on. The time you buy is important too. With a new generation of AMD Navi graphics cards on the horizon, buying the best now or waiting to see what the best will be in a few months time, is another tough decision to make.
While we wait, though, here are the best graphics cards you can buy right now.
AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
Why should you buy this: The RX 580 8GB offers amazing 1080P and 1440P performance at a price tag not far north of $200.
Who’s it for: Gamers looking to improve their gaming quality without breaking the bank.
How much will it cost: $200-$300
Why we picked the AMD RX 580:
It might be a little long in the tooth, but the RX 580 is a better value upgrade today than it’s ever been. At just $220, there is no card that offers as much bang for your bucks, delivering fantastic 1080P and even some 1440P, gaming performance at a budget price.
It sports 8GB of GDDR5, meaning it won’t balk at heavy in-game textures and detail levels and its graphics core is overclockable for those want to squeeze a little extra performance from it. Even at the base configuration though, the RX 580 dominates the GTX 1060 from Nvidia in both 3GB and 6GB guises and offers credible competition for the new RX 590, despite that card’s $60 price premium.
During our original testing of the RX 580 we saw it deliver 50+ FPS on average in For Honor, even when all settings were at Ultra and the resolution was set to 1440P. Battlefield 1 saw an average of almost 70 FPS in extended play, while even in the typically taxing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided we saw perfectly playable frame rates in the mid-30s with all settings maxed out. Lowering the resolution or tweaking the detail settings should lead to 60+ FPS with this card, making it a fantastically versatile GPU for all but the die-hard AAA, or 4K gamers.
There are more powerful cards out there, but in absolute value terms, nothing beats the RX 580.
Read our full RX 580 review
Nvidia GTX 2080 Ti
The best graphics card for 4K
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.
How much will it cost: $1,200+
Why we picked the Nvidia GTX 2080 Ti:
Unlike the RX 580, 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, and its predecessor, 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. Just make sure you buy a third-party one, as the Founders Editions had a serious problem for a while.
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 2080 isn’t a bad choice either, but 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 570
The best entry-level graphics card
Why should you buy this: You want to turn a PC without a GPU into a certified gaming rig.
Who’s it for: Casual and occasional gamers.
How much will it cost: $145+
Why we picked the AMD RX 570:
With a lack of mid-range graphics options in Nvidia’s new RTX generation at the time of writing, we are restricted to what are effectively, last-generation solutions from both it and AMD. Although we have typically recommended the GTX 1050 as a good starting point for entry-level gaming, AMD’s recent price reductions have made some of its cards much more competitive.
The RX 560 is a little too weak for us to easily recommend, but the RX 570 is more affordable today than ever before and offers fantastic performance at its new price point.
Currently available at less than $150 at a few retailers (with free games), the RX 570 delivers credible 1080P gaming performance that isn’t a million miles away from what its more capable big brother, the RX 580 can put out. In our testing, the RX 570 was able to output near 90FPS in Battlefield 1 at 1080p with all settings on ultra – a higher frame rate than the RX 480 or even Zotac’s GTX 1060.
Even more taxing games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Civilization VI proved perfectly playable at Ultra quality levels at 1080P, with average frame rates of 44 and 75 FPS respectively.
If deals change or the price of the RX 570 jumps up as it becomes more popular, the Nvidia GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti remain viable alternatives, but at its current price point, the RX 570 is by far the more capable GPU under $150. We would urge you to aim for it over the alternatives if there’s only a few dollars difference between them. The RX 570 punches well above its weight.
It’s possible that Nvidia will unveil an RTX 2050 Ti in the months to come, but based off of the price of the new-generation cards, they’re unlikely to be anywhere near as affordable as this one.
Our full AMD Radeon RX 570 review
What about AMD Vega, Navi?
Although AMD’s new pricing has made its mid-range and entry-level GPUs far more popular in our newly updated graphics card recommendations, there are some notable absences from the red team. What about its high-end Vega graphics cards? And doesn’t it have a new-generation of Navi GPUs just over the horizon?
To answer the first question, they are still excellent graphics cards and recent price drops have made them more competitive than ever. The Vega 64 is still one of the most powerful cards in the world and can be had for between $400 and $500. At that price it’s very much worthy of consideration if you’re also looking at the RTX 2070 or GTX 1080, as those tend to cost much more.
Neither the Vega 64 or its slightly weaker sibling, the Vega 56, are going to be remotely comparable to the RTX 2080 ti, so we’d still recommend that card for ultimate 4K gaming, but they would be a passable alternative too, especially if you want to take advantage of a Freesync monitor.
As for Navi, we don’t know exactly what it will be like, but the latest rumors suggest that it will offer Vega-like performance at a much more affordable price point. That could mean they end up replacing our recommendations for best budget and bang for buck cards, but it’s unlikely Navi will unseat Nvidia’s most powerful graphics cards when it comes to 4K gaming – at least initially.
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 activities, 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.