What is the best gaming graphics card? The video card’s GPU is the heart of your gaming PC and here at PCGamesN we review and benchmark all the latest AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. So, should you go for a cheap graphics card or go all in for 4K? We can help…
Of course if you want the absolute pinnacle of graphical prowess you could drop a cool $3,000 on Nvidia’s Titan V, but now the GTX 1080 Ti is actually starting to come down to a more reasonable price, serious 4K performance is actually within reach. Radeon fans might have hoped the AMD Vega cards would have made more of an impact on the gaming world, but they’re still too expensive and too slow to really matter in the final reckoning.
Make sure to pick the best CPU for gaming to go with your new graphics card.
But what should you buy right now? Well, with graphics card pricing starting to stabilise there is more choice than ever, though it’s still heavily weighted on the Nvidia side.
But whether you’re chasing a good, cheap graphics card, a top-end 4K graphics card, or just simply the best overall card, we’ve got you covered.
The best graphics cards are:
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
- AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
- AMD Radeon RX 570
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
Winner: Best graphics card
GPU: GP106 | CUDA cores: 1,280 | VRAM: 6GB GDDR5 | Memory bus: 192-bit
Rejoice! There could be light at the end of the cryptocurrency tunnel. Reports are suggesting graphics card makers will have to slash prices as miners hold off on buying new cards... which means we get to have more affordable GPUs!
Historically, crypto-mining has been most effective on AMD GPUs, so they took the hit first, meaning it's still a struggle to find Polaris 10-based GPUs - and the ones you can find aren't cheap. That's why we're no longer recommending the 8GB Radeon RX 480 or 580 as the best graphics card right now. We've made the switch back to recommending Nvidia's GTX 1060 instead.
But that's no real trauma as we originally had the GTX 1060 as our go-to GPU from when it launched. But when the prices of the 8GB RX 480 dropped dramatically, that became the card we'd recommend at this end of the market. When the Polaris cards were cheaper (and available) it made sense for them to take pole position, but even though prices for the GTX 1060 have risen now too (again thanks to the miners), they are at least there to buy. The GTX 1060 is also, for the most part, the faster GPU.
The GTX 1060 doesn’t have everything its own way, however. The competing AMD Radeon RX 480 is generally a little off the pace by comparison, except when you start to throw new graphics APIs down its ample pipes. In the Hitman DX12 benchmark even the RX 470 is able to deliver gaming performance on par with the GTX 1060, while the RX 480 leaves it trailing in its volumetric dust. The same thing happens in Doom when using the Vulkan build, where the RX 480 is over 50% quicker than the GTX 1060.
On the whole, though, Nvidia’s GTX 1060 is a value card that will deliver fantastic performance in current-gen games even if its DirectX 12 and Vulkan performance could do with a little work. We're also a little reassured, now that some retailers are starting to limit the number of cards that can be purchased in one go, that there will continue to be stock around for us gamers. At least in the UK...
AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
Runner-up: Best graphics card
GPU: Polaris 20 | GCN cores: 2,304 | VRAM: 8GB GDDR5 | Memory bus: 256-bit
Yeah, sad times. If you wanted a quality mainstream graphics card this is the one we'd have been recomending up until recently. The Radeon RX 580 refresh offers a great mix of excellent value and serious gaming performance. Unfortunately it also delivers great mining performance too, so the miners have been hoarding them, driving the prices for new ones up to silly levels. GeForce prices seem to be coming down quicker, but it looks like the Radeon cards are starting to follow suit.
The Polaris-based Radeon cards perform better than the GTX 1060 competition in a handful of DX12 titles and in Doom's Vulkan build. They also have a superior memory setup, too. Not only does the RX 580 have an extra 2GB of VRAM at its disposal, useful for high-res textures and large open-world games,it's also got that running over a wider, 256-bit, aggregated memory bus.
AMD arren't expecting the current crypto-downturn to lead to more second-hand GPUs flooding the market, but there will likely be some that could offer a decent price alternative. The only concern will be just how many hours per day a second hand GPU has been running at its ragged limits, and that will affect any card's longevity.
Read our full AMD Radeon RX 580 review.
AMD Radeon RX 570
Runner-up: Best graphics card
GPU: Polaris 20 | GCN cores: 2,048 | VRAM: 4GB GDDR5 | Memory bus: 256-bit
The RX 570 is finally a vaguely non-ridiculous price now that stock is starting to filter back into the channel and miners are holding off new purchases as difficulty rises and with new ASICs on the horizon. It’s still a lot more expensive than it was at launch, but it’s the most affordable AMD card you’d actually get decent gaming performance out of.
It’s only a little slower than the RX 580, but that’s still well over the $300/£300 mark right now, with the cheaper GTX 1060 still ruling the roost. You are missing out on the higher level of video memory you get with the 8GB version of the RX 580 or the GTX 1060 6GB, but 4GB is absolutely fine if you’re still rocking a 1080p monitor.
The RX 570, with its only slightly cut-down Polaris 20 GPU, has still got the gaming goods, and if you can’t stretch to the price of a GTX 1060, the second-tier Polaris card won’t disappoint.
Read our full AMD RX 570 4GB review.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Winner: Best 4K graphics card
GPU: GP102 | CUDA cores: 3,584 | VRAM: 11GB GDDR5X | Memory bus: 352-bit
The GTX 1080 Ti is the best 4K graphics card around right now, bar none. Nvidia have used the hyper-expensive Titan X as a shield for their new card, making the original ~$700 price tag seem remarkably reasonable in comparison to the $1,200 they asked for the Pascal-based Titan X. The fact they’re almost identical means the GTX 1080 Ti is an outstandingly fast graphics card with a frame buffer that chews through high-fidelity 4K content. Pricing is still unfortunate right now (read: unfeasibly high) but there are signs even the GTX 1080 Ti is dropping.
But if you want to be playing games at this Ultra HD 4K resolution then you’re going to need some serious graphics power to cope with the 8.3 million pixels you’ll be throwing around your screen. The step up from the two million pixels of 1080p, or even from the 3.7 million of 1440p, is massive, so you need something with the GPU juice of the GTX 1080 Ti to smooth out the jagged edges of 4K gaming.
This is the first sub-$1,000 card that’s able to consistently deliver around 60fps at 3840 x 2160 with the bells and whistles of PC gaming firmly on. There are still exceptions to that rule, the punishing DirectX12 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with everything turned on is still able to bring the GTX 1080 Ti’s performance down to a slow grind.
Gaming on a 4K monitor at native resolutions, especially on a sub 30-inch panel, means you can be a little more relaxed on such niceties as anti-aliasing. The tight pixel pitch of a 4K display means you shouldn’t experience too many obtrusive jaggies when running at 2x MSAA, as opposed to x4 or x8, for example. So even when tough game engines do out-muscle the GTX 1080 Ti’s GPU there will be some simple, non-invasive cuts to the graphics settings that will net you serious frame rate boosts.
Read our full Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti review.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
Runner-up: Best 4K graphics card
GPU: GP104 | CUDA cores: 2,560 | VRAM: 8GB GDDR5X | Memory bus: 256-bit
Nvidia’s inaugural Pascal-powered GPU was built to tackle gaming at 3840 x 2160 and was the first GeForce card to really be able to deliver on that promise. The Maxwell-powered GTX Titan X, and subsequent GTX 980 Ti, got close to delivering 4K gaming, but the GTX 1080 took that just a little further. Though we’re still not talking about nailing 60fps in every modern game at the top settings here – that’s the purview of the new GTX 1080 Ti in all its glory.
Across our testing suite the GTX 1080 is mostly operating in the range between 40fps and 60fps on average. Serious frame rate compulsives may baulk at such ‘low’ performance, but those results are with the post-processing and texture settings pushed pretty much as high as they’ll go in-game. When you’re paying this much for your graphics card the idea of compromising on image quality might be a painful one, but with some smart cuts here and there you’ll definitely be able to nail a solid 60fps.
The GTX 1080 Ti is now here, rocking the same GP102 GPU as the latest Titan X, making it the go-to 4K graphics card of today. But it still commands a more egregious price premium than the GTX 1080. Though I guess it all depends on how much you’re willing to spend in the pursuit of smooth Ultra HD gaming.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
Runner-up: Best 4K graphics card
GPU: GP104 | CUDA cores: 2,432 | VRAM: 8GB GDDR5 | Memory bus: 256-bit
The GTX 1070 Ti offers a little more bang for your buck than the GTX 1070. While it doesn't quite reach GTX 1080 potential, this Ti fare can offer even more performance for your budget with a little tweaking under the hood. Thanks to the near-full performance GP104 core at 2432 CUDA cores, this card only suffers at the hand of its cut-down GDDR5 memory, as opposed to the GDDR5X found on the GTX 1080.
The GTX 1070 Ti is more than capable of 4K gaming, although as with the GTX 1070, you may need to drop the graphic fidelity a little for to smooth out those stutters at times - especially in memory-intensive games.
While this graphics card offers great performance, it can be a little pricey once outfitted in third-party coolers - despite their lack of factory overclocks. If you can spare it, you may be better off pushing your budget just a little further and picking up a GTX 1080.
Read our full Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti review.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
Runner-up: Best 4K graphics card
GPU: GP104 | CUDA cores: 1,920 | VRAM: 8GB GDDR5 | Memory bus: 256-bit
The GTX 1070’s more reasonable cost makes it a much more wallet-friendly option for 4K gaming, though it still occupies the sort of price point the top end of graphics cards of yesterday used to call their own. Bemoaning Nvidia’s super-high pricing gets us nowhere though, so when this cheaper card is so close to the 4K performance of the GTX 1080, the GTX 1070 begins to look like the best Ultra HD value proposition.
You still get very playable 4K frame rates from the GTX 1070, though you’ll have to be more aggressive about the fidelity cuts when it comes to dialling back the graphics settings in-game to hit 60fps.
Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti
Winner: Best cheap graphics card
GPU: GP107 | CUDA cores: 768 | VRAM: 4GB GDDR5 | Memory bus: 128-bit
The Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti is a fantastic little card, slotting neatly in between the low-performance RX 460 and quicker RX 470 cards from AMD. That's maybe not a huge surprise given its relative pricing and specs, but what might be more of a surprise is just how capable the new GP107 GPU is when dealing with the latest games running at their highest 1080p settings.
With seriously GPU-taxing titles, like the DX12 variants of Hitman and Rise of the Tomb Raider, you'll need to knock back your in-game graphics settings a touch, but for something like Grand Theft Auto V you can hit just under 60fps comfortably. And it's pretty robust, too, maintaining comparatively high minimum frame rates.
Unfortunately, we're not yet looking at the sort of pricing the previous GTX 750 Ti was retailing for. If the GTX 1050 Ti was selling for closer to $100 (£100) it would be an absolute no-brainer as the ultimate budget graphics card, but the pricing is a bit higher than we were hoping for. That's even more evident when you see the price premium many manufacturers are putting on it with their mostly unnecessary overclocked editions.
Interestingly, we're also starting to see silent, passively-cooled versions of the GTX 1050 Ti, such as the one from Palit. For a noiseless gaming machine that would be a good shout. Though we did beat Palit to the punch by making our own passively-cooled GTX 1050 Ti...
Where the GTX 1050 Ti really stands out is in opening up PC gaming to a wider audience. Because its efficient GPU draws all its power from the PCIe bus, without needing an extra connection from the PSU, it can be an instant upgrade for any off-the-shelf office PC. For just $130 (£129), then, you can turn pretty much any ropey old PC from the last five years or so into a 1080p gaming machine to be proud of. You can't ask much more than that.
Read our full Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti review.
Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB
Runner-up: Best cheap graphics card
GPU: GP 106 | CUDA cores: 1,152 | VRAM: 3GB GDDR5 | Memory bus: 192-bit
The old AMD RX 570 was our cheeky second pick for a budget graphics card, seeing as it offered genuinely impressive performance at less than $190. But, as with all Radeon GPUs, they're now so expensive tagging the term 'budget' to them has become tough. Stepping into the breach is the cut-down GTX 1060 3GB.
It doesn't have the full GP106 of its bigger brother, and comes with half the VRAM too, but it doesn't lose out too much in terms of overall gaming performance... at least not yet. They've also remained remarkably resistant to the pricing increases with only a small premium added on at the moment.
Down the line that 3GB frame buffer might become an issue, but for a relatively low cost graphics card upgrade this lower-spec GTX 1060 is worth a punt.