“What graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck?”
That simple question cuts to the core of what people hunting for a new graphics card look for: the most oomph they can afford. Sure, the technological leaps behind each new GPU can be interesting on their own, but most everyone just wants to crank the detail settings on Far Cry and get right to playing.
Answering the question can be a bit trickier than it seems. Raw performance is a big part of it, but factors like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software all play a role in determining which graphics card to buy, too.
Let us make it easy for you. We’ve tested damned near every major GPU that has hit the streets over the past couple of years, from $100 budget cards to $1,200 luxury models. Our knowledge has been distilled down 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 slew of vendors. For example, you can buy different Radeon RX 570 models from Sapphire, XFX, Asus, MSI, and PowerColor.
We’ve linked to our formal review for each recommendation, but the buying links lead to models that stick 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.
- Cryptocurrency and sky-high graphics card prices
- Best budget graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050
- Best 1080p graphics card: AMD Radeon RX 580 (4GB)
- Best 1440p graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
- Best enthusiast card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
Cryptocurrency and sky-high graphics card prices
It’s impossible to buy most graphics cards at their suggested prices right now, with most models selling for hundreds of dollars over MSRP. That’s because Bitcoin-like cryptocurrencies that pay users for their graphics processing power are booming right now, prompting cryptocurrency miners to buy every graphics card from the $170 Radeon RX 570 on up in a quest for profit. It’s a major bummer if you’re just looking to game.
Only extremely high-end and extremely low-end graphics cards are available at reasonable prices. Hardware makers have rolled out mining-specialized graphics cards to combat the spiking demand, but until the current bubble pops, your buying options are limited. Unless you can afford the princely GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, our advice if you have to buy a right now is to snag a budget graphics card and ride it out until overall pricing returns to normal.
You might be tempted by used graphics cards but be wary. Miners ride graphics cards non-stop 24 hours a day, which can have a severe effect on the hardware’s expected lifespan. Caveat emptor.