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The best graphics card in 2019

The best graphics card in 2019
(Image credit: Future)

The best graphics cards aren't necessarily the ones that demand the biggest price tags. It's like wine: it's a general trend that quality follows bigger cost, but not always the case. However, sometimes some careful planning, distribution of your budget and forward thinking means that the best CPU for gaming for you might not be the best CPU for gaming overall. For example, an RTX 2080 Ti is a wonderfully sounding thing to have.....if you're lucky enough to have more than $1,000 to spend on one individual PC component. But, for most of us that won't be the case and it would be very hard to justify that expense 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 counterpunch, prices of GPUs have depressed quite a bit recently, and we expect that trend to continue as retailers and vendors get enough stock to match demand on the new cards - and they try to shift products that are now slightly older ahead of the peak trading season.

Best deal today

(Image credit: MSI)

MSI Geforce RTX 2080 Gaming X card is $649.36 at Walmart | save $250
With the release of the RTX 2080 Super, we're already seeing some price drops on the original 2080, including this excellent discount over at Walmart. At this price, this is a whole lot of card, loaded with dedicated ray tracing and machine learning cores.

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.

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Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Super Founders Edition

Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Super Founders Edition

(Image credit: Nvidia)

1. Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Super

The best graphics card

GPU Cores: 2,944 | Base Clock: 1,515MHz | Boost Clock: 1,800MHz | GFLOPS: 10,958 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14Gbps | Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Excellent 1440p and 4K performance
Same price as the original 2080
Outperforms the base 2080 and 1080 Ti
Dedicated ray tracing and DLSS cores
No headlining new features
Still fairly pricey

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 looming on the horizon, including Wolfenstein: Youngblood, the Call of Duty reboot, 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 counter-marketing success is a matter of a 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.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660

2. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660

Excellent performance at a sweet price

GPU Cores: 1,408 | Base Clock: 1,530MHz | Boost Clock: 1,785MHz | GFLOPS: 5,027 | Memory: 6GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 8 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 192GB/s

Very affordable
Turing architecture 
Excellent performance at 1080p Ultra
GGDR5 memory replaces GDDR6
Dips at 1440p

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 Radeon VII

AMD Radeon VII

3. AMD Radeon VII

The high-end of AMD's offerings

GPU Cores: 3,840 | Base Clock: 1,400MHz | Boost Clock: 1,750MHz | GFLOPS: 13,440 | Memory: 16GB HMB2 | Memory Clock: 2 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 1024GB/s

Solid 1440p and 4K performance
World's first 7nm GPU
Heaping helping of HMB2 VRAM
Short on features

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. 

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super

(Image credit: Nvidia)

4. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super

The best graphics card for solid 4K RTX performance and price

GPU Cores: 2,560 | Base Clock: 1,605MHz | Boost Clock: 1,770MHz | GFLOPS: 9,062 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Close to the original RTX 2080 for less
Packed with dedicated ray tracing and DLSS hardware
Amazing 1440p performance and solid 4K 
No new standout Super features

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/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 recommend if you can afford it.

AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB

AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB

5. AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB

AMD's best budget card

GPU Cores: 2,304 | Base Clock: 1,257MHz | Boost Clock: 1,340MHz | GFLOPS: 6,175 | Memory: 8GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 8 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 256GB/s

Excellent price and availability
Great match for current games
Starting to show its age

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.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super

(Image credit: Nvidia)

6. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super

The best graphics card for ray tracing on a budget

GPU Cores: 2,176 | Base Clock: 1,470MHz | Boost Clock: 1,650MHz | GFLOPS: 7,181 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Beats the RTX 2070 for around the same price
Lowest price point for ray tracing and DLSS
Solid QHD and great FHD performance
Still pricey for an 'entry level' card

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.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT

(Image credit: AMD)

7. AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT

The best graphics card for mid-tier AMD performance

GPU Cores: 2,560 | Base Clock: 1,605MHz | Boost Clock: 1,905MHz | GFLOPS: 9,754 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 14 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

Beats the 2060 Super for the same price
High efficiency RDNA architecture
No ray tracing or DLSS hardware

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 its adopted more broadly it could be a way for AMD to mitigate the lack of built-in RT and DLSS support on its parts.