The best graphic cards for gaming?

By that, I mean the graphic cards that offer the best performance in video games at a given price.

I do realize that you may not have the time to read reviews and to understand graphic card specifications.

Why I write this guide for you: To help you save your time and money by doing the research for you.

This list is based on the best prices for graphic cards at NewEgg, Amazon and B&H on November 3rd 2016.

December 2016 update: What’s new?

  • New lower priced Geforce GT 730 at Amazon and Newegg
  • New lower priced Radeon RX 460 4GB recommendations.
  • Price drop on the Radeon RX 480 4GB
  • The Radeon RX 480 4GB replaced the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB
  • The EVGA Geforce GTX 1060 went up in price, so it was replaced by the less expensive Zotac Geforce GTX 1060, a compact model.
  • The EVGA Geforce GTX 1070 went up in price, so it was replaced by the less expensive Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1070, a compact model.

Best Budget Graphic Cards:

Best Graphic Card Under $50:

Geforce GT 730 1GB 64-bit GDDR5

– Get the PNY GeForce GT 730 from Amazon
$51.99 – MSI GeForce GT 730 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$54.99 – PNY GeForce GT 730 (Newegg)

Radeon R7 240 vs Geforce GT 730:

The Geforce GT 730, equipped with GDDR5 memory on a 64-bit wide memory bus, offers a significant step-up in performance compared to the Radeon R7 240. At its current price point, it’s pretty much unmatched.

I specifically recommend the PNY and MSI Geforce GT 730, equipped with 1GB of GDDR5 memory on a 64-bit wide memory bus. It is one of the, if not the least expensive and offers what you want for the best performance on the Geforce GT 730: A 64-bit bus (models with a 128-bit bus have a significantly lower performance GPU) and GDDR5 (DDR3 significantly lowers performance).

Note that the GT 730 doesn’t need any additional power connector, it gets all the power that it needs from the PCI-Express 16x slot, so it’s a good choice if your PC’s power supply output is limited.

Is it for you? Only if:

  • You’re on a very tight budget and cannot afford to spend $100.
  • You only play older and not very demanding video games.
  • You play at a low resolution, such as a 1366 x 768 (monitor) or 720p (HD TV).

For those cases, the Geforce GT 730 is an entry level graphic card perfectly capable of matching your needs.

Otherwise, get a more powerful graphic card. Most people will need a more powerful graphic card to get a good gaming experience.

What video games can the Geforce GT 730 1GB GDDR5 run smoothly?

This graphic card will do the job if you run your video games at a resolution of 1366 x 768 or 720p (HD, not Full HD), although you might have to lower details in the most demanding games.

Avoid:
1- Models that come with DDR3 and 128-bit wide memory bus. The GPU in those models offers lower performance, so stick to models equipped with GDDR5 and a 64-bit wide memory bus.
2- Wasting your money on 2GB of memory, it won’t make any difference in performance at this level.

Best Graphic Card Under $100:

Radeon RX 460 2GB:

– Get the Radeon RX 460 2GB from Amazon
– $99.99 – MSI Gaming Radeon RX 460 2GB (Newegg)

With the recent price cuts, the Radeon RX 460 2GB can now be found for less than $100 and at that price point, there’s just no competition.

Consider how old its competition is in that price range; the Geforce GTX 750 Ti was launched in February 2014. The newer RX 460 has no problem outperforming it.

The Radeon RX 460 offers a significant step up in performance compared to the previously recommended Geforce GTX 750 Ti.

There’s also a 4GB version, but it’s currently priced around $120, at which point the Geforce GTX 1050 2GB, my next recommendation below, offers better performance.

What video games can the Radeon RX 460 2GB run smoothly?

This graphic card is capable of handling the vast majority of games if you run them at a resolution of 1600 x 900 or lower.

Best Graphic Card Under $120:

Geforce GTX 1050 2GB:

– Get the EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 SC GAMING 2GB from Amazon
– $119.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 SC GAMING 2GB (Newegg)
– $119.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 SC GAMING 2GB (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)

The Geforce GTX 1050 2GB was announced on October 18th and is now widely available.

The Geforce GTX 1050 2GB offers a significant step up in performance compared to the previously recommended Radeon RX 460, while consuming less power.

What video games can the Geforce GTX 1050 2GB run smoothly?

This graphic card is capable of handling the vast majority of games if you run them at a resolution of 1600 x 900 or lower.

Best Graphic Card Under $150:

Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

– Get the EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti SC GAMING 4GB from Amazon
– $149.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti SC GAMING 4GB (Newegg)
– $149.99 –EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti SC GAMING 4GB (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)

The Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB was announced on October 18th and is now widely available.

AMD doesn’t really have any competitive product at this price point: The RX 460 is less expensive but it’s no match for the more powerful GTX 1050 Ti. The RX 470 is significantly more expensive.

What video games can the Geforce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB run smoothly?

It’s capable of running newer games smoothly at a resolution up to 1600 x 900 smoothly with high frame rates.

It can run games at 1920 x 1080, but you’ll have to turn down visual quality and the game play might not be as smooth, with lower frame rates.

Best Mid range Graphic Cards:

For playing video games at a resolution of 1920 x 1080

Best Graphic Card Under $200:

Radeon RX 480 4GB

– Get the XFX Radeon RX 480 4GB from Amazon
– $229.99 – MSI Radeon RX 480 4GB (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
– $179.99 – Powercolor Radeon RX 480 4GB (Newegg)
XFX Radeon RX 480 4GB
– $189.99 – Powercolor Radeon RX 480 4GB (Newegg)
– $189.99 – MSI Radeon RX 480 4GB (Newegg)

Radeon RX 480 4GB V.S. the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB:
It’s difficult to choose. Both graphic cards trade blows: their performance is nearly identical. So why did I pick the Radeon RX 480 4GB over the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB?

It has 4GB of VRAM, compared to 3GB for the GTX 1060 3GB. Current games, such as Hitman and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided benefit from more than 3GB and this situation is just going to get worse with new video games.

Also, the Radeon RX 480 is better optimized for DirectX 12, which is replacing DirectX 11 as the API for modern video games.

In other words, as of now, the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB and RX 480 4GB offer similar performance, but the RX 480 4GB has more VRAM that’s starting to be useful and will be even more so in the future, same goes for better DirectX 12 performance. So in the long run, expect the RX 480 4GB to offer superior performance to the GTX 1060 3GB more often than not.

What video games can the Radeon RX 480 4GB run smoothly?

It’s capable of running newer games smoothly at a resolution up to 1920 x 1080.

It’s not recommended for running newer games at 2560 x 1440. While it is somewhat capable of that, the game play just won’t be as smooth, with lower frame rates.

Best Graphic Card Under $250:

Ideal for 1080p or entry-level 1440p

Geforce GTX 1060 6GB

– Get the Zotac Geforce GTX 1060 6GB from Amazon
– Get the PNY Geforce GTX 1060 6GB OC
– Get the $249.00 – Zotac Geforce GTX 1060 6GB (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
– Get the $239.99 – Zotac Geforce GTX 1060 6GB (Newegg)
– Get the $239.99 – PNY Geforce GTX 1060 6GB (Newegg)

 

Performance: Geforce GTX 1060 vs AMD RX 480, GTX 960/980
Compared to the last generation GTX 960, the GTX 1060 is significantly faster, almost as fast as the GTX 980!

Compared to the RX 480, the GTX 1060 more often than not has the performance edge. At 1080p, it’s on average about 10-15% faster than the RX 480. At 2560 x 1440, this performance advantage shrinks, but I’d still recommend the GTX 1060 over the RX 480. Also, you could argue that for gaming at 2560 x 1440, you’d be better served by a more powerful graphic card.

Geforce GTX 1060: Not SLI compatible!

Do note that the Geforce GTX 1060 is NOT SLI compatible.

Power consumption:
The Geforce GTX 1060 consumes very little power considering how powerful it is. Under gaming load, it uses 120-135W. This is less than AMD’s Radeon RX 480: The GTX 1060 consumes 5-7W less at idle and roughly 30-45W less at load.

What video games can the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB run smoothly?
This the ideal card if you want a card capable of handling games at 1920 x 1080 (1080p or Full HD), with details at or close to maximum settings in most games. 2560 x 1440 can be handled too, although you might have to reduce quality settings to get frame rates as high as you’d like.

Best High End graphic cards:

Best Graphic Card Under $400:

Ideal for 1440p

EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB SC GAMING Black Edition

– Get the Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1070 from Amazon
– $384.00 – Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1070 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
– $384.99 – Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1070 (Newegg)

Offering 80% of the performance of the Geforce GTX 1080 for 60% of the price!

Compared to the $650 Geforce GTX 1080, the $379 Geforce GTX 1070 offers roughly 80% of its performance for significantly less money.

Compared to last generation GTX 970, you get 55-60% more performance at 1440p.

For gaming at 1080p or 1440p with very high framerates, the Geforce GTX 1070 is ideal.

The GTX 1080 is ideal if you want even higher performance at 1440p or run games at 4K with decent framerates.

The GTX Titan X is what you want for solid 4K performance.

Geforce GTX 1070 vs AMD:

Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the GTX 1070. Simply put, they are one generation behind Nvidia in the high-end market.

AMD was expected to launch their new high-end graphic cards, based on the Vega 10 and Vega 11 GPUs, early in 2017.

Best Graphic Card Under $600:

Best for 1440p, good for 4K

Geforce GTX 1080 8GB

– Get the EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC GAMING ACX 3.0 from Amazon
$649.99 – EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC Gaming ACX 3.0 (Newegg)
$629.98 – EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC Gaming ACX 3.0 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
$620.26 – EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 ACX 3.0 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)
– Get the ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 Turbo from Amazon
$579.99 – ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 Turbo (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)

70% of Titan X performance for 55% of the price

The Geforce GTX 1080 offers on average 70% of the performance that the $1200 Geforce Titan X offers, while costing 45% less, making it a more valuable proposition than the fastest graphic card.

Compared to the GTX 980? You get roughly 65% more performance at 1440p and 70% more performance at 4K.
Compared to the GTX 1070? You get a 20% performance boost.

That said, the GTX 1080 offers borderline performance if you want to play at a 4K resolution. It’s doable, but you’ll most likely have to lower graphic settings to get decent FPS.

That said, for gaming at 1080p or 1440p, the GTX 1080 has absolutely no problem. Same goes for VR.

Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the GTX 1080. Simply put, they are one generation behind Nvidia in the high-end market.

AMD was expected to launch their new high-end graphic cards, based on the Vega 10 and Vega 11 GPUs, early in 2017.

Why do I recommend the EVGA GTX 1080?

1- EVGA customer support is the best in the industry. If you have any problem with your card, you can rely on them to get useful answers in a timely manner.
2- Their cards runs at higher frequencies than the reference Geforce GTX 1080, resulting in higher performance.
3- Double bearing fans, meaning it has a longer lifespan and is less likely to fail early like cheaper sleeve fans.
4- EVGA makes some of the most reliable graphic cards in the industry.

Best Graphic Card Under $800:

Two Geforce GTX 1070 in SLI

– Two – ASUS GeForce GTX 1070 8GB Turbo Edition (Amazon) in SLI
– $799.98 – Two ASUS GeForce GTX 1070 Turbo (B&H – Worldwide Shipping) in SLI
– $819.98 – Two ASUS GeForce GTX 1070 TURBO (Newegg) in SLI

Looking for more performance than what the GTX 1080 can offer?

The first step up is two Geforce GTX 1070 in SLI. When SLI is supported, they offer a lot of performance for the money.

Multiple graphic cards drawbacks:
But that’s the problem: Other than the obvious increase in noise, power consumption and heat from having multiple graphic cards, SLI won’t give you a 100% performance boost. Expect a 30 to 70% performance boost on average, depending on the game, resolution and SLI support. Worse case scenario? You only get the performance of a single card.

Also, on the release date of a new game, SLI profiles may or may not be ready. Usually available in a matter of days, you might have to wait weeks or months for SLI support.

Also, VR games don’t quite support SLI yet. After all, we’re still in VR’s early days.

Simply put, if you want more performance than the GTX 1080 without messing with multiple graphic card setup, move up to the Nvidia GTX Titan X recommended below.

Which cooling system works best for multiple graphic cards?
You’re better off with models that have a closed cooler, because they exhaust the heat outside of your case, keeping your other components cooler. This avoid situations where the hot air from the bottom card warms up the top card too much and might make it overheat, thus possibly reducing performance.

Make sure to use the new Geforce GTX SLI HB bridge to link them in SLI.

Best single GPU Graphic Card:

Nvidia GTX Titan X (Pascal)

$1200 – Nvidia Titan X

Do you want more performance and don’t care about the price? The Nvidia Titan X is the most powerful graphic card, offering about 30% more performance than the Geforce GTX 1080 at 4K.

If you’re looking for a graphic card that can keep up with 4K and high graphic details, the Nvidia Titan X is the answer to your needs.

At $1200, it’s anything but cheap, but if you’re willing to spend the get the best graphic card, this is it.

If you prefer to save money, the Geforce GTX 1080 offers 70% of the performance for 55% of the price.

Note that the Nvidia Titan X is currently only available directly from Nvidia.

Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the GTX Titan X. Simply put, they are one generation behind Nvidia in the high-end market.

AMD was expected to launch their new high-end graphic cards, based on the Vega 10 and Vega 11 GPUs, early in 2017, but there are now rumors that the launch has been set earlier, in October 2016. Those are rumors and in the meantime, the GTX 1070 is here.

Alternative:
Two Geforce GTX 1080 in SLI

– Two ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Turbo (Amazon)
– $1,159.98 – Two ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 (B&H – Worldwide Shipping)

Do you want more performance than what the fastest GPU can offer and don’t mind messing with SLI profiles, not getting a performance boost in VR and sometimes having to wait a bit for SLI support with newer games?

In that case, get two Geforce GTX 1080 and team them up in SLI for even more performance than a single GTX Titan X in games that support SLI.

Multiple graphic cards drawbacks:
Other than the obvious increase in noise, power consumption and heat from having multiple graphic cards, SLI won’t give you a 100% performance boost. Expect a 30 to 70% performance boost on average, depending on the game, resolution and SLI support. Worse case scenario? You only get the performance of a single card.

Also, on the release date of a new game, SLI profiles may or may not be ready. Usually available in a matter of days, you might have to wait weeks or months for SLI support.

Also, VR games don’t quite support SLI yet. After all, we’re still in VR’s early days.

Which cooling system works best for multiple graphic cards?
You’re better off with models that have a closed cooler, because they exhaust the heat outside of your case, keeping your other components cooler. This avoid situations where the hot air from the bottom card warms up the top card too much and might make it overheat, thus possibly reducing performance.

Make sure to use the new Geforce GTX SLI HB bridge to link them in SLI.

Best Graphic Cards for $2400:

Two GTX Titan X (Pascal) in SLI

– $2400 – Two Nvidia Titan X in SLI

Do you want even more performance? Take the Titan X, the current most powerful graphic card and buy a second one!

That’s right, get two Titan X and put them in SLI.

This is a very expensive but also very powerful setup, for those of you who want to game with very high framerates at 2560 x 1440 or 4K.

Just keep in mind the multiple graphic cards drawbacks too.

Make sure to use the new Geforce GTX SLI HB bridge to link them in SLI.

Note that the Nvidia Titan X is currently only available directly from Nvidia.

Note that I don’t recommend 3 or 4 graphic cards in SLI for the GTX 1070/1080/Titan X. Games won’t benefit from more than 2 cards, because Nvidia no longer support 3 or 4 way SLI outside of benchmarks such as 3D Mark Fire Strike.

Closing notes:

I hope that you enjoyed the latest edition of The Best Graphic Cards For Gaming article.

If you have a question or feedback, I invite you to leave a comment below this article.

A few important recommendations and notes regarding graphic cards:

1- Get the latest version of the graphic card drivers directly from AMD or Nvidia. This will ensure that you get the latest bug fixes and the best performance possible from your graphic card(s).

2- To confirm whether Crossfire or SLI is working or not, use GPU-Z which will show that information to you in the last field at the bottom of the program.

3- SLI Guide: How to enable SLI, check if SLI is enabled, actually working in your game and what to do if it’s not is a great guide from the Notebook Review forums.

4- When using two or more graphic cards in Crossfire or SLI, you want to connect your monitors into the top graphic card, i.e. the graphic card that is the closest to the CPU.

5- Most graphic cards require one or two PCI-Express 6 or 8 pin power connector(s) to be plugged into them to function properly. Make sure that your power supply comes equipped with enough 6 and/or 8 pin connectors for your graphic cards.