It's sort of a given that the best graphics cards will be the center of attention for any gaming PC or build. However, the best graphics card going might not actually be the graphics card - for you. you'll come to see what we mean with great er clarity below, but the fact remains that the graphics card market is filled with such a range of such strong performers that you can find a happy gaming spot with many a graphics card.
Be it a build-your-own or pre-built version of one of the best gaming PCs or even one of the best gaming laptops, the best graphics cards will have that place on a pedestal. Not surprising given they are the (primary) thing that makes our games tick and how well they are presented to us and run. However, when searching for a new GPU it's wise to remember that the best graphics card, outright, is not necessarily going to be the right card for you, and for your build; while it might be tempting to follow the 'wine rule' - quality rising in line with larger prices - this is not always best practice case in finding the best graphics cards for you.
Thus, sometimes some careful planning, distribution of your wider budget, and forward-thinking means that the best graphics card that anyone can get for gaming isn't the best GPU for your build or for gaming overall. For example, an RTX 2080 Ti is a wonderfully mental and powerful thing to have.....if you're lucky enough to have a budget that allows you to spend north of $1,000 on a single component. That just won't be the case for most of us, and it'd be even harder to justify such a cost when the increase in performance isn't as eye-watering as the jump up in price tag. Luckily, with the release of the RTX Super graphics cards and AMD's RX 5000-series, prices of cards that are only a bit older have depressed recently.
So where do you start shopping for the best graphics card? On the high end, the best value is currently Nvidia's RTX 2080, particularly as that card starts to see big sales with the release of the 2080 Super tomorrow. On the more affordable end of the spectrum, Nvidia's GTX 1660 and 1660 Ti cards provide a fair amount of punch for a whole lot less money, or if you're an AMD fan, an older RX 580 may suffice to see you through the current era of 1080p gaming without sacrificing much in terms of frame rate. These cards won't give you blistering performance or push 4K, but they will be good value and mean you can spread your budget to other components and peripherals.
The brand new RTX 2080 Super is now the best card on the market now in terms of peak performance and price (not to be confused with the infamous $/frames ratio). While it's still an expensive proposition at a retail price of $700, Nvidia isn't charging a Founder's Edition tax for this latest refresh which means it's actually $100 less than it's predecessor (which it outperforms by 5-10%). While the step-up version, the 2080 Ti, remains more powerful, the additional $400-$500 isn't worth it for a relatively marginal increase in computing power (between 10 and 30 percent), especially considering the relatively limited use cases for ray tracing that exist at the moment. While we're seeing more ray-traced games out in the wild now like Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), and Control, the current pool of games with DXR or Vulkan RT support remains relatively shallow.
The RTX 2080 Super doesn't have any flashy new tricks up its sleeve. Instead, it feels like a mid-generation refresh, obviously targeted at taking the wind out of AMD's sails around the launch of Red Team's new RX 5000-series. While it's a counter-marketing success is a matter of much debate, one fact is undeniable: the 2080 Super is the best (borderline) mainstream graphics card on the market right now, delivering excellent 4K performance (and blistering QHD) for the best price point we've seen thus far for that level of performance.
If you're looking for a modern, entry level graphics card that provides reasonable performance at a sub $250 price point, the 1660 is the choice for you. Slotting into the space vacated by the GTX 1060, and providing something like 13-15% better performance at less cost, the 1660 takes advantage of the Turing architecture implemented in the RTX lineup but paired with the widely available (and thus inexpensive) GDDDR5 VRAM.
The 1660 is clearly Nvidia's play to get into that golden market below $250 where, according to Steam Hardware Survey results, the vast majority of PC gamers shop. It's a mainstream play, perhaps aimed in part at mitigating the slower-than-expected sales of the 20-series family, but it delivers exactly what you expect at a price you can live with.
AMD finally responded to Nvidia's RTX 20-series cards earlier this year in the shape of the Radeon VII, their most powerful consumer offering aimed at demanding gamers who are AMD diehards or remain skeptical of dedicated ray tracing cores. It's a great card that delivers extremely strong 1440p and reasonable 4k Ultra performance, and the first ever GPU manufactured with 7nm lithography. It's a powerful card at a reasonable price and, if you want a top shelf AMD card or favor their HMB2 memory solution, it's really your only choice.
A good thing, then, that they've delivered a competitive card. It's roughly analogous to the RTX 2080 in terms of horsepower and retails for a $100 less, though it doesn't come with any of Nvidia's much vaunted RT or Tensor cores for ray tracing and DLSS. If those aren't features that entice, however, the Radeon VII is a great alternative to Nvidia's growing stable, which now includes less expensive Super versions of three of the RTX cards.
Coming in as the mid-tier card of Nvidia's new RTX Super stack, the RTX 2070 Super is the best of the bunch in terms of sheer dollars-to-frames. With the vanilla 2070 (and 2080) being phased out, the new Super version will be the only 2070 part available, and it's a worthy replacement. With performance that approaches the RTX 2080 but priced at only $499 (Nvidia has opted against a Founder's Edition premium on the new Super cards), it's hard to argue with the 2070 Super as a value proposition.
This is a card that delivers incredible 1440p performance in triple-A titles, even with ray tracing enabled in the games that support it. While games with GPU intensive ray tracing techniques like Metro's global illumination may stagger a little at higher resolutions, the 2070 Super does an admirable job even at 4K in most cases. This is especially true in games that also support DLSS, which is actually a frame saving technique Nvidia developed to downsample rendered images and then using artificial intelligence (powered by the RTX's cards Tensor cores) to add the pixels back in, without putting so much strain on the card's main processing capability. The result is an excellent card at an attractive price point, and an easy recommendation if you can afford it.
If you have yet to make the leap to a 4K display, spending a tremendous amount of money on an overpowered GPU may seem like an act of excessive decadence. While you’re saving cash for a new 4K monitor/panel, the $200 the 580 shaves off the price of the next tier of cards is very significant, and AMD’s budget option can easily cope with the tail of the 1080p era.
For the budget-conscious and anyone looking to ensure your PC is keeping pace with current-generation consoles, the 580 is a great solution. And its 8GBs of GDDR5 is generous in comparison to Nvidia’s similarly priced 1060 line, overhead that will be greatly appreciated as rendering demands continue to escalate.
The tip of the spear alongside the 2070 Super, the RTX 2060 Super is the cheapest way to prepare your rig for our ray tracing, DLSS enabled future. As well as packing Nvidia's much touted new features, the 2060 Super outperforms the card it's meant to replace, the vanilla 2070. It gets you everything packed into the 2070 Super's stable, just slightly less of each, but if you're looking to grab a card to handle 1080p and 1440p gaming the 2060 is the least expensive way to get onboard the ray tracing bandwagon.
If you've already got a card in the GTX 1070 range, the jump to the 2060 Super might seem premature, especially around launch when they'll be hovering near full price. But if you're looking to step up from a 970 or lower card, the 2060 Super is your best bet for great performance that will, to some extent, future proof your setup for the inevitable proliferation of DXR and Vulkan RT.
With a dramatic, pro-wrestling-style last-second price cut just days before launch, AMD managed to slightly undercut Nvidia's new Super launch. By shaving $50 off the price tag, AMD can now confidently claim their card outperforms the RTX 2060 Super but retails for the same price.
Of course, what that kind of marketing jargon leaves out is that the RX 5700 XT lacks the RTX cards' ray tracing and Tensor cores. It's thus less well suited for games that employ ray tracing or DLSS, though in terms of pure horsepower, it jumps ahead of the 2060 Super by around 5-10%. It's also very power efficient as a result of AMD's 7nm process and the shiny new RDNA architecture. The RX 5700 XT also supports AMD's Radeon Image Sharpening, which AMD claims will sharpen graphics with almost no performance impact in games that support it. While at the moment it's more gimmick than feature, if it's adopted more broadly it could be a way for AMD to mitigate the lack of built-in RT and DLSS support on its parts.
Before anything awesome and new comes along maybe later this year to displace it, the 2080Ti is still the fastest graphics card going - and thus the best graphics card going in some eyes, if we are measuring things by sheer power and numbers. Basically, if you were an alien landing on earth and wanted to best CPU for gaming, as objectively speaking as possible, the 2080Ti would be the recommendation you'd get. And we all know it.
If you want to run your games at 4K and on as high settings as possible and with ray-tracing - though it will struggle a little, to display literally every single bell and whistle at that resolution, then this is it. The most powerful graphics card going. However, and with little surprise, it's seriously hard to recommend hard to friends or readers given you can build quite a competent gaming PC that'll give you years of enjoyment for the cost of this one component. If you have literally no budget problems or concerns, then this is it, otherwise, go for something that's above on this list.