It can be difficult choosing the best graphics card for you. While there are just two companies, AMD and Nvidia, responsible for all the GPUs out there, each company has a number of entries for each price point and graphical need. And, while it may seem like the first logical step is to choose a company, it’s more important to consider what you can afford and what resolution you plan on gaming at.
After all, a high-end GPU like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 may set you back quite a bit but, with that hefty price tag, the ability to keep up at 4K resolution. In general, AMD’s newest lineup of cards is going to run a little cheaper than Nvidia’s offerings – although that might not be for long with rumors about graphics cards possibly geting more expensive next year swirling around. But, when Nvidia released their newest GPUs, they dropped the price to be more competitive. So, the difference in price is not so stark, though it should still be a consideration. In fact, each company has a GPU that’s competitive for each level of gaming, whether it’s 1080p, 1440p, or 4K, at similar price points.
One important metric for finding out how powerful a GPU is how much memory it comes with. For example, a strong GPU for 1080p might have 8GB of GDDR6 RAM but one meant for higher resolutions, like the AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT, comes with 12GB.
Where the performance between the companies differ is in ray tracing - new rendering technology that improves reflections, shadows, and more realistically mimics light. With AMD RDNA 2, the company is just getting started on implementing this new tech. Whereas Nvidia Ampere GPUs are not Nvidia’s first entries, although developers have recently found a way to enable it in Quake 2 on older GPUs. In fact, the company has been at it longer so it’s better implemented.
Other considerations, particularly if you’re about to build your own PC or upgrade one of the best gaming PCs, is to make sure whatever GPU you end up with is compatible with that PC’s motherboard. After all, you won’t be able to play the best PC games if your desktop is having trouble recognizing the GPU you installed.
And, while you won’t be able to swap the graphics card out on a gaming laptop, these same considerations apply. You might be able to get a cheaper one with a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 or splurge on one with an RTX 3080.
- Protect your graphics cards. Upgrade to one of the best PC cases.
Is AMD no longer the king of great value GPUs? The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti certainly threatens that claim with its price to performance ratio. The newest arrival in the RTX 3000 line, this graphics card punches way above its weight class, delivering a performance that could rival that of the RTX 2080 Super while keeping its price tag incredibly affordable for most people. And, that’s with impressive ray tracing included. 1080p gaming has never been this good and this affordable.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
With the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, 4K gaming just became a lot more accessible. Before, you had to shell out more than $1,000/£1,000 to get playable framerates with the RTX 2080 Ti. However, with the next generation of Nvidia graphics cards, the price of 4K gaming has been cut nearly in half, thanks to the RTX 3080. It boasts one of the largest generational leaps in GPU history, delivering a 50-80% performance boost over the RTX 2080 and a 20-30% boost over the RTX 2080 Ti, all while keeping the same price point as the RTX 2080. This is both an absolute powerhouse of a graphics card and a great value, if you have a bit of extra cash lying around.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
There’s a new Nvidia champion in town, and it takes power and performance to an even more accessible price point. Delivering RTX 3090-level performance, an impressive feat in its own right, the long-awaited RTX 3080 Ti comes with an even better price tag, making all that sheer power more accessible than ever. It continues what the RTX 3080 has started – to take 4K gaming into the mainstream arena – with its breathtaking 4K at 60fps performance while slashing a few hundred dollars off the steep 3090 price. This is the best graphics card on the market right now, especially if you care about ray tracing.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
You can’t beat the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 when it comes to performance. With a whopping 24GB of RAM, no game or, more importantly, heavy graphics project will suffer performance issues. In fact, you can even get some 8K performance at 60 fps out of the 3090. It is an incredibly expensive unit, and quite large too, so it will probably be too much GPU for most users. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is, in essence, a replacement for the Titan so it’s meant more for the creative user tackling intensive 3D and video rendering than for the avid gamer. Even so, it comes with a massive reduction in price compared to the Titan, even if it’s still out of most people’s budget.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090
- We just tested the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super
If you’re looking for the best graphics card out there for 1080p gaming, you might want to look into what the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT has to offer. This AMD card beats the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with its more affordable price tag, delivering high frame rates and plenty of software features while requiring less power. Sure, it doesn’t have the competition’s ray tracing and deep learning supersampling (DLSS), but for raw performance and value, AMD’s contender comes out the winner.
Read the full review: AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT
The best graphics card on the market for most people, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 delivers excellent performance – on par with the RTX 2080 Ti even – without costing an arm and a leg. Before this card, 4K gaming was out of a lot of people’s budget. The RTX 3070, therefore, brings it to the mainstream for the first time, and that’s without you having to compromise on settings for most games. And did we mention the fact that this GPU is incredibly cheap? A cheap price tag plus 4K gaming on quality settings equals great value, and that’s why the RTX 3070 tops our list.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
Those comfortable messing with your BIOS and looking for a 1440p graphics card that’s slightly more accessible, price-wise, will appreciate AMD’s latest high-end offering. This Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti rival delivers a solid 1440p performance with ray tracing to boot. It comes at the right time as well, with 1440p gaming monitors’ growing popularity. Its price is a bit closer to the more powerful RTX 3070, but if you’re an AMD fan, it’s still an excellent contender.
Read the full review: AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
If you think AMD is still stuck in the budget and mid-range markets, think again. The AMD Radeon RX 6800 marks AMD's return to the high-end graphics card market, and it’s a premium ace without the incredibly premium price. This GPU delivers a solid 4K gaming performance and impressive ray tracing at 1440p, while being a better value than its direct rival, the RTX 3070, thanks to its VRAM. Plus, AMD's Smart Access Memory technology will make it even faster.
Read the full review: AMD Radeon RX 6800
If you're after the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090, you're going to want one with a cooler that's more than powerful enough to handle the full brunt of the power on offer. The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio has the cooling power not only to handle this GPU at its stock settings, but has enough oomph to overclock it to make it even more powerful. For a GPU that already laughs in the face of all PC games at 4K, this extra power is just icing on the cake.
Read the full review: MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio
Michelle Rae Uy has also contributed to this article.