A guide to some of the fastest graphics cards on the market. 🖥️ 💨
Now that AMD has confirmed the new Navi graphics card for 2020, knowing what GPU to choose for your ultimate PC build has become more of a challenge. The question is, do you really need a ridiculously expensive flagship to run the games you want to play? Or is it safe to opt for a budget-friendly video card like the GTX 1050? You can find a pretty decent graphics card under $300, but if you have enough funds, you should go big.
Aside from GPUs, getting the best SSD for gaming and the best RAM for gaming are two of the most important steps in upgrading your PC. It’s understandable why you’d want to look at your options before splashing the cash. For this exact reason, we have created a list of some of the best graphics cards for 2020, from affordable options to some bank-breakers that’ll last throughout the years.
So, what is the best graphics card for gaming in 2020?
Best Choice: EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC 3GB GDDR5
Pros & Cons
- Compact design
- No memory cooling
- GPU Cores: 1152
- Base Clock: 1607 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1835 MHz
- Memory Clock: 1607 MHz
- Memory: 3GB GDDR5
- Memory Bandwidth: 192.2 GB/s
EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC 3GB GDDR5 Review
Next up is another single-fan GPU powered by the revolutionary NVIDIA Pascal microarchitecture, the EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC. It's a small but mighty graphics card that holds the "best quality" title owing to the use of a double ball bearing fan that has a longer lifespan compared to its competitors.
Once you take a look at the specs, you'll notice that the 6.8 x 1.5 x 4.38-inch body packs in a lot of power for high-performance gaming. From 3GB of GDDR5 memory running at 192.2 GB/s to the 1,152 GPU cores and a base clock speeds of 1,607 MHz, there really isn't much that it won't run.
In addition to the specs, the GTX 1060 boasts four outputs which can be used together for multi-monitor configurations, alongside HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4 and dual-link DVI output connectors that match the outputs on most other Pascal-based cards.
Alas, single-fan models have less overclocking headroom, so we don’t recommend maxing out this graphics card unless you want it to get warmer than some hot cocoa on a cold winter's day. On the other hand, the GTX 1060 requires less energy to run thanks to the low power motor, plus it can sit cozy in a small form-factor PC case, perfect for traveling gamers.
Premium Pick: EVGA GeForce RTX 2080
Pros & Cons
- Smooth performance at 4k
- Ray tracing and AI support
- Ridiculously expensive
- GPU Cores: 4352
- Base Clock: 1350 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1545 MHz
- Memory Clock: 14 GB/s
- Memory: 11GB GDDR6
- Memory Bandwidth: 616 GB/s
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Review
The EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 is a performance powerhouse with specs that pass the other graphics cards on our list. With a massive 8 GB of GDDR6 memory, there's no wonder it's loved by avid gamers across the map, but what makes it our best graphics card for gaming in 2020?
Since 2080 is less than a year old, not many games benefit from these new and exclusive RTX features, so it's understandable as to why gamers are hesitant to upgrade to an RTX GPU. What this technology does mean, however, is that the size of the processor is significantly larger, adding to the cost of the RTX 2080 which comes with a price tag of around $800.
Exceeding 60 FPS in 4K, you'll also need one of the best processors and gaming monitors to use the NVIDIA RTX 2080 to its full potential. So, unless you have the latest computer hardware or a pocket the size of Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, I'd suggest waiting before you upgrade to the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080. Otherwise, you might experience CPU bottlenecks.
You may now be wondering, "with all of that power, surely the NVIDIA RTX 2080 needs a proper airflow system?!", and it does. NVIDIA used some third-party products, like the almost silent dual axial fans used to push air into your case, in order to keep everything cool.
The RTX 2080 also boasts a full-length vapor chamber to ensure thermal throttling doesn't kick in, and while it does get hotter than some of the other GPUs on our list, the fan coolers work at keeping temps below 80-degrees.
Best Value: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
Pros & Cons
- Supports up to 8k display at 60Hz
- Simple, one-click overclocking
- Lags behind modern GPUs
- GPU Cores: 768
- Base Clock: 1290 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1430 MHz
- Memory Clock: 7008 MHz
- Memory: 4GB GDDR5
- Memory Bandwidth: 112 GB/s
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Review
Who said a reliable graphics card had to break the bank? Definitely not us! This single-blade Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, though admittedly lagging behind flagship cards, is a great value GPU for AAA titles. It comes with a full 4GB of GDDR5 memory running at 112 GB/s, as well as 768 CUDA cores packed on the GP107 chip, all for just $200.
If you’re one to overclock your GPU you’ll love the simple, one-click super overclocking which raises the base clock speed from 1,290 MHz up to 1,430 MHz on our chosen version. The extra 140 MHz actually makes a pretty big difference in frame rate, increasing overall performance for an ultimate gaming experience at no extra cost.
What's more is that thanks to NVIDIAs built-in game-ready drivers, you'll be able to run games anytime, anywhere, at 60 FPS on ultra-high settings.
The back of the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti features a DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI connector for three different monitor types, perfect for a multiple monitor setup for immersive gameplay.
Not to mention that this video card can handle up to 8K graphics at 60Hz...I repeat, this thing is only $200! So, if you’re looking for a serious upgrade without breaking the bank, most agree that Gigabyte's version is the best 1050 Ti card.
Best Cooling: ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix
Pros & Cons
- Dual 4-pin GPU-controlled PWM fan headers
- VR friendly HDMI ports
- Expensive buy
- GPU Cores: 2560
- Base Clock: 1670 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1835 MHz
- Memory Clock: 1835 MHz
- Memory: 8GB GDDR5
- Memory Bandwidth: 320.3 GB/s
ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix Review
This matt-black ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce GTX 1080 is a GPU that comes equipped with a STRIX cooler and some sweet customizable AURA RGB LEDs on both the backplate and shroud, but the fun doesn't end there.
Spin this card around and you’ll notice a DVI port, two HDMI ports, and two DisplayPorts for all types of monitors. Dual HDMI 2.0 ports can be used for both a 4K display at 60HZ, as well as a top of the range VR system for a virtual experience outside of your four walls.
Unlike previous NVIDIA cards, this one actually supports 5K to a total of 8K (7680×4320) at 60 Hz owing to the updated DisplayPort (1.4) for a gaming experience like no other.
All three wing-blade fans keep this thing cool and quiet as you game on the highest settings, even on the most taxing games. It's an expensive buy, but if you can afford the ASUS ROG STRIX, we say go for it!
Best for VR: MSI AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB
Pros & Cons
- AMD FreeSync technology
- HDR compatible
- Loud fans
- GPU Cores: 3584
- Base Clock: 1181 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1471 MHz
- Memory Clock: 800 MHz
- Memory: 8GB HBM2
- Memory Bandwidth: 410 GB/s
MSI AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB Review
Armed with an aluminum core for high stability, the MSI Radeon RX Vega is a GPU that works well with Mac OS. Its performance-to-price ratio is superb despite inflation at $330 for a card that can run games at high frame rates and high resolution, all at max settings.
The use of AMD FreeSync Technology also helps prevent lag for fluid performance and high frame rates, and with true-to-life colors, games will almost pop out of the screen.
Like some of the other cards on our list, if you're looking to immerse yourself into the world of virtual reality, you'll be pleased to know that this MSI graphics card supports VR games with Radeon RX graphics powered by NVIDIA Polaris architecture. So for a budget-friendly cost you'll be able to have fun with modern technology with the RX Vega 56.
Due to the specs on this thing, once you push the MSI Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics card to its limits, the fans become quite noticeable. This is expected, so don’t let a bit of noise put you off this MSI GPU. After all, you could just use some high-quality headphones to block out external noise.
MSI AMD Radeon RX 560 4GB
Pros & Cons
- Compact size
- Affordable GPU
- Not great for GPU demanding titles
- GPU Cores: 1024
- Base Clock: 1175 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1275 MHz
- Memory Clock: 7000 MHz
- Memory: 4GB GDDR5
- Memory Bandwidth: 112 GB/s
MSI AMD Radeon RX 560 4GB
Another budget graphics card is the MSI Radeon RX 560, a compact form factor GPU suitable for small PC builds. Despite its size, it comes with 4GB of GDDR5 memory at 112 GB/s, 1,024 cores, as well as a base clock speed of 1,175 MHz that can be pushed to 1,275 MHz for smooth performance.
This isn't the most powerful GPU on our list, nor is it the best, though the selection of Radeon RX 560s won us over. Our chosen model comes with 4GB GDDR5 though we wouldn't suggest going lower to the 2GB variants as they simply don't have enough VRAM to be used in modern games at 1080p.
Since this is the most important aspect of a GPU, you should find out what is VRAM, in case you don't already know
So although this video card won't run the most demanding games on ultra-high settings, it will do the job at running most games on medium-to-high settings, which is expected for a great graphics card under $150.
ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2060
Pros & Cons
- Compact design is perfect for almost any PC case
- Up to date features for an affordable price
- Lack of a VirtualLink USB Type-C port
- GPU Cores: 1920
- Base Clock: 1365 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1680 MHz
- Memory Clock: 14000 MHz
- Memory: 6GB GDDR6
- Memory Bandwidth: 336 GB/s
ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2060 Review
Last but definitely not least is a GPU that was announced at CES earlier this year, the ZOTAC GeForce RTX 2060. It's a card that had plenty of gamers on the edge of their gaming chairs, and that's all thanks to the price.
At just $350 this twin-fan RTX graphics card has 6GB GDDR6 memory that runs across a 192-bit memory interface, as well as 1920 CUDA cores for efficient manipulation of large blocks of date.
Real-time ray tracing for under $400 is an absolute bargain, and as it’s a dual slot, 8.30-inch wide graphics card, it’ll fit into most systems. Regardless of what PC case size you have, the Ice Storm 2.0 cooling solution made up of two cooling fans, copper pipes, and an aluminum heatsink, will keep this bad-boy cool.
The lack of a VirtualLink USB-C port didn't bother us too much, and while its intended to simplify the setup of a VR system, a standard USB 2.0/3.0 port will do just fine. Besides, phone VR headsets are just as fun as PC-tethered systems.
Graphics Card for Gaming: Buying Guide
Here are some tips on how to choose the best graphics card for gaming that will meet your needs.
Video Memory (VRAM)
Video memory does not improve speed, but rather it allows for gaming at high resolution and high-quality settings, so how much graphics memory do you need? More importantly, what is VRAM?
In today's world, 4GB of VRAM is enough for casual, 1080p gaming. If you're more of a hardcore gamer who prefers to game in UHD and QHD, we recommend looking for a card with around 8GB of video RAM.
CUDA Cores (Nvidia) or Stream Processors (AMD)
Compute unified device architecture (CUDA) cores are especially important in gaming as the more CUDA cores or Stream Processors, the better the graphics card is at rending visuals.
If you're interested in buying the best AMD graphics card for gaming, you should check out our guide.
Tensor Cores and RT Cores
In our review of the Turing-based RTX 2080 Ti, we mentioned how it includes tensor cores for deep learning supersampling (DLSS) operations and RT cores for real-time ray tracing (RTX). There aren’t many games that support this technology right now, so it’s best to hold onto your money until more DLSS and RTX games are released.
The higher the clock speed on a graphics card, the faster the graphics processor operate, resulting in smoother and faster gameplay. If you know how to overclock a GPU, doing so will boost base clock speeds to improve performance further.
Another vital thing to consider when picking out a graphics card is the memory bandwidth of the video RAM. Ranging from around 100 GB/s to 600 GB/s, higher memory bandwidth can draw faster and higher quality images.
A graphics card that draws more than 75 watts requires supplemental PCIe connectors that come in six-and-eight pin varieties.
Some cards have these type of connectors, yet others don't. Therefore you might be in for an upgrade. If, however, you don't want to spend extra money on a new power supply, purchase an adapter that draws power from SATA or Molex connectors.
Note: Cards with one 6-pin power connector can supply 75 watts up to a maximum of 150 watts to the graphics card, while 8-pin power connectors can deliver a maximum of 150 watts.
Some of the most common types of monitor ports include a digital visual interface (DVI), high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI), video graphics array (VGA), and DisplayPort. Pay attention to the specific ports on your monitor and make sure the card has the connectors you require. Otherwise, you'll have to purchase a separate adapter to use the GPU with your monitor.
Graphics cards come in all shapes and sizes, so it's essential that you look at the product dimensions and make sure you have enough room in your computer case for your card. Take a look at the heatsink and fan shroud which can block adjacent slots, and remember that if you have a Mini ITX motherboard, you'll have to look for a mini graphics card which is around 8-inches long.
Both NVIDIA and AMD are known for their high-performance GPUs that balance quality-and-cost well, but how much should a GPU cost?
A graphics card that can handle high-end 1080p gaming will range anywhere from $200 to $400, while flagship cards that push detailed 4K gaming can cost as much as $1,000. If you want to get a decent video card for a reasonable price, you should check out our list of the best graphics cards under $200.
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Gaming GPUs
Which graphics card is the most powerful?
The most powerful graphics card currently available is the NVIDIA Titan V, a Volta-based card that comes with 12GB HBM2, 640 Tensor Cores, and a price tag of over $3,000. However, you might encounter availability issues when it comes to high-end graphics cards thanks to the GPU shortage phenomenon.
Which graphics card is best for PUBG?
According to PlayerUnknown's Battleground minimum system requirements, you can run the game on PC using an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 (2 GB) or AMD Radeon R7 370 (2 GB) graphics card. Furthermore, it is best that you have the hardware included in the recommended system requirements, in this case, you'll need an NVIDIA GTX 1060 (6 GB) or better.
Why are graphics cards so expensive?
It's easy to point the finger at cryptocurrency miners who buy a bunch of graphics cards for their mining rigs, but they aren't the only culprit here. In fact, you could even point the finger at DRAM (dynamic random-access memory) and GPU manufacturers (NVIDIA and AMD), as well as AIB (add-in board) partners for the massive increase in GPU prices.
When in reality, the reason why graphics cards are so damn expensive is that demand is higher than supply, so everyone's to blame.
What graphics card do I need to run Fortnite?
The graphics card outlined in the minimum system requirements for Fortnite is an Intel HD 4000. However, recommended specs suggest an NVIDIA GTX 660 or AMD Radeon HD 7870 equivalent DX11 GPU.
How long do graphics cards last?
The lifespan of computer hardware greatly depends on how heavy of a gamer you are and how much you max out your GPU. Generally speaking, graphics cards don't just degrade over time so that they won't wear out. That said, graphics cards can last over ten years if taken care of.
The beauty of our product guides is that you get to choose the right hardware from our list suitable for you and your gaming needs. That said, we have included a range of GPUs from best choice options, to value options that won't break the bank.
If you're on a budget and can't afford to fork out hundreds of dollars, why not check out our guide to the best graphics cards under $100? You might just stumble across a bargain. Also, if your PC supports Scalable Link Interface, check out our list that features some outstanding games that support Nvidia’s SLI.
- Mark Coppock, How to Choose a Graphics Card, Newegg Insider, May 10th
- What’s the Best Type of Video Card for Computer Gaming, How Stuff Works