Most people who are in the market for a new graphics card have one primary question in mind: Which card will give me the most bang for my buck? Obviously, the answer will vary depending on your budget. Beyond that, there are a number of factors to  consider: Raw performance is important, but so are things like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software. And do you want to pay a premium to get in on the bleeding edge of real-time ray tracing?

Let us make it easy for you. We’ve tested nearly every major GPU that’s hit the streets over the past couple of years, from $100 budget cards to $1,200 luxury models. Our knowledge has been distilled into this article—a buying guide with recommendations on which graphics card to buy, no matter what sort of experience you’re looking for.

Note: There are customized versions of every graphics card from a host of vendors. For example, you can buy different GeForce GTX 3080 models from EVGA, Asus, MSI, and Zotac, among others.

We’ve linked to our complete review for each recommendation, but the buying links lead to models that hew closely to each graphics card’s MSRP. Spending extra can get you hefty out-of-the-box overclocks, beefier cooling systems, and more. Check out our “What to look for in a custom card” section below for tips on how to choose a customized card that’s right for you.

Graphics card news

  • It’s all but impossible to find graphics cards right now, especially at sane prices. Our explainer of the perfect GPU storm reveals why. The GeForce RTX 30-series and Radeon RX 6000-series sold out instantly and remain scarce in the face of overwhelming demand, with scalpers and bots snatching them up just as greedily as enthusiasts. Demand is so high that even older-generation graphics cards are selling for more than they cost new, years ago, in most cases. If you’re stuck without a graphics card, consider trying Nvidia’s free GeForce Now cloud streaming or a next-gen gaming console instead to tide you over. 

  • More affordable graphics cards may start to fill out this generation soon. Nvidia recently launched the GeForce RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti for mainstream laptops—the first time in recent memory a new GeForce GPU debuted in laptops rather than desktops. Don’t be surprised if these wind up launching in proper graphics card form in the coming weeks or months.

  • Don’t expect to see an RTX 4080 soon. At Nvidia’s GTC 2021 keynote in April, the company revealed a roadmap that shows “Ampere Next” scheduled for release sometime in 2022, and “Ampere Next Next” in 2024. (Do expect those architecture code names to change in time, though.)

Best budget graphics card

amd ryzen AMD

Editor’s note: Demand is through the roof for graphics cards right now. Newer models sell out instantly and often cost hundreds of dollars more than MSRP. Even older-generation graphics cards are selling for more than what they cost new, years ago. We can’t recommend people buy graphics cards at those markups, but if you’re lucky enough to find stock at MSRP, this guide should help. Note that prices below discuss MSRP, as it’s impossible to stay current with today’s volatile pricing.

The next-gen Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series and AMD Radeon RX 6000-series have yet to trickle down to budget markets, an understandable twist given how much graphics cards currently sell for. And with even ancient used graphics cards selling for hundreds of dollars, it’s virtually impossible to snag a graphics card on a budget right now. Consider trying Nvidia’s free GeForce Now cloud streaming or a next-gen gaming console instead to tide you over. 

If you need a local PC gaming solution those obviously won’t cut it though. Your best bet is to pick up one of AMD’s game-ready Ryzen 5000G APUs, which remain in stock in both DIY form and inside numerous prebuilt systems. “You can build a Ryzen 5 5700G machine today and get outstanding CPU performance along with OK gaming performance,” we said in our review. Yes, you’ll need to dial down some graphics options for the best performance, but you’ll be able to play esports games and even triple-A titles at a decent clip at 720p or 1080p resolution. At $259 for the Ryzen 5 5600G and $369 for the Ryzen 7 5700G, they aren’t exactly cheap, especially since you’ll also need a motherboard to plop them into, but remember that you’re getting both a CPU and a doable GPU stand-in for the price. And hey, they’re actually in stock.

Best 1080p graphics card

Editor’s note: Demand is through the roof for graphics cards right now. Newer models sell out instantly and often cost hundreds of dollars more than MSRP. Even older-generation graphics cards are selling for more than what they cost new, years ago. We can’t recommend people buy graphics cards at those markups, but if you’re lucky enough to find stock at MSRP, this guide should help. Note that prices below discuss MSRP, as it’s impossible to stay current with today’s volatile pricing.

The next-gen Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series and AMD Radeon RX 6000-series have yet to trickle down to more mainstream price points, an understandable twist given how much graphics cards currently sell for. That said, the (ostensibly) $330 GeForce RTX 3060 is a decent option for high refresh rate 1080p gaming if you can get your hands on one, while the $379 Radeon RX 6600 XT is even faster yet. They’re overkill if you’re gaming on a standard 60Hz display, however, and going for $500 to $700 on the streets, so you may have a better time finding an older, less powerful GPU if you’re lacking a high refresh rate display. Both would also be uninspiring on account of their high sticker prices if the GPU market wasn’t absolutely bonkers right now.

The GeForce RTX 1660, 1660 Super, and 1660 Ti are all good 1080p gaming options for 60Hz panels, as is AMD’s older Radeon RX 5600 XT and 5700. The GeForce RTX 2060 is also worth considering if you want ray tracing and DLSS capabilities. Even older options like the Radeon RX 580 and 590 or Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 can do in a pinch, though you’ll need to make some visual compromises as they’re really starting to show their age.

Best 1440p graphics card

Editor’s note: Demand is through the roof for graphics cards right now. Newer models sell out instantly and often cost hundreds of dollars more than MSRP. Even older-generation graphics cards are selling for more than what they cost new, years ago. We can’t recommend people buy graphics cards at those markups, but if you’re lucky enough to find stock at MSRP, this guide should help. Note that prices below discuss MSRP, as it’s impossible to stay current with today’s volatile pricing.

If you’re looking to drive a 1440p display at 60-plus frames per second (and often much higher) with no graphical compromises, Nvidia’s $400 GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is a “virtually flawless” option. It’s faster than last generation’s $800 RTX 2080 Super—the second most powerful GPU in the world until a few months ago. “That performance paired with 8GB of GDDR6 memory makes the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti a fantastic 1440p gaming option,” we said in our review. “It exceeds the hallowed 60-frames-per-second mark in every game tested at that resolution, even with the most strenuous visual settings enabled. It flies well beyond that mark in several games, and it should have no problem holding 90 fps+ at 1440p in most titles if you don’t mind performing minor tuning on graphics options.”

The GeForce RTX 3060 Ti performs ray tracing better than AMD’s most expensive GPUs, thanks in no small part to Nvidia’s fantastic DLSS 2.0 technology. It’s also capable of fine 4K gaming, but the 8GB of memory could hold it back future 4K games.



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