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The best graphic cards for gaming?

By that, I mean the graphic cards that offer the best performance in video games.

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.

Summary

Click on any of these links to jump to the section that interests you, or scroll down to see them all, in this order.

The Best graphic cards for gaming:

  1. Best Entry-level Graphic Cards
  2. Best Mid-range Graphic Cards
  3. Best High-end Graphic Cards
  4. Best Enthusiast Graphic Cards

Best Budget Graphic Cards:

Geforce GT 1030 2GB GDDR5

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $84.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $84.99 on Newegg

The Geforce GT 1030:

The Nvidia Geforce GT 1030: Is it for you? Only if:

  • You’re on a very tight budget and cannot afford to spend more.
  • Your case only supports half-height cards.
  • 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 1030 is an entry level graphic card perfectly capable of matching your needs.

Avoid versions with DDR4 memory:
The version that you want and that I recommend is equipped with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
Avoid the much lower performance versions with DDR4!

Note that the Geforce GT 1030 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.

The Geforce GT 1030 cards that I recommend are half size card and comes with a half-size bracket, if you want to use it in a smaller PC.

Limited outputs:
Note that outputs are limited to a single HDMI port and a single link DVI port.

What video games can the Geforce GT 1030 2GB 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.

If your case support full size cards and that you can afford a bit more, the Radeon RX 550 offers significantly better performance.

Radeon RX 550 2GB:

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $119.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $109.99 on Newegg

V.S. the Geforce GT 1030 and Geforce GTX 1050
The Radeon RX 550 offers significantly better performance than the Geforce GT 1030, but the Geforce GTX 1050 offers far better performance than the RX 550.

Note that the Radeon RX 550 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.

If you can afford to spend more, get the far better Geforce GTX 1050. Then again, if you want a FreeSync monitor, the RX 550 (or RX 560) makes more sense.

Avoid lower performance variants:
There is a variant of the Radeon RX 550 that offers significantly lower performance. It’s equipped with 512 stream processors instead of 640 of them, so avoid those.

What video games can the Radeon RX 550 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. Older and less demanding games will run at 1920 x 1080/1080p but you might have to lower visual settings.

Avoid wasting your money on a 4GB model, it won’t make any difference in performance, you’re better off getting the next recommendation below instead.

GeForce GTX 1050 3GB:

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $139.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $139.99 on Newegg

V.S. the Radeon RX 560
The Geforce GTX 1050 2GB and Radeon RX 560 trade blows, with the GTX 1050 offering slightly better overall performance compared to the Radeon RX 560, while consuming less power and costing less, so this is an easy recommendation.

That said, if you’re planning on using a FreeSync monitor (which are definitely less expensive than G-Sync monitors), then the Radeon RX 560 makes more sense.

Note that the Geforce GTX 1050 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 power supply output is limited.

What video games can the Geforce GTX 1050 3GB 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. Older and less demanding games will run at 1920 x 1080/1080p but you might have to lower visual settings.

Avoid wasting your money on a 4GB model, it won’t make any difference in performance, you’re better off getting the next recommendation below instead.

Best Mid range Graphic Cards:

For playing video games at a resolution of 1920 x 1080

Radeon RX 570 4GB
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $199.90 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $144.99 on Newegg

The Radeon RX 570 4GB is in a class of its own here. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti can’t deliver the performance to compete with it and the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB is significantly more expensive for similar performance with only 3GB of memory instead of 4GB.

What video games can the Radeon RX 570 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 will run games at 1920 x 1080, but you may have to turn down visual quality and the game play might not be as smooth, with lower frame rates, depending on how demanding the game is.

Best Mid range Graphic Cards:

For playing video games at a resolution of 1920 x 1080

Radeon RX 580 4GB

Radeon RX 580 4GB
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– B&H (Worldwide Shipping): Get the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB instead
– $189.99 at Newegg

Radeon RX 570 4GB V.S. Radeon RX 580 4GB V.S. the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB:
Which one should you pick?

The Radeon RX 570 4GB and Geforce GTX 1060 3GB trade blows: their performance is pretty much identical overall, but the RX 570 has more memory (4GB vs 3GB) which is a long-term advantage.

The Radeon RX 580 4GB is faster than both of those models.

As for the Radeon RX 570 versus RX 580: They are both great choices. Pick according to your budget. Although if you plan on playing more demanding games at 1920 x 1080 (1080p Full HD) and want high frame rates, I’d pick the RX 580 over the RX 570.

What video games can the Radeon RX580 4GB run smoothly?

It is capable of running games smoothly at a resolution up to 1920 x 1080 smoothly with high frame rates.

However, you might have to turn down visual quality down a notch or two in more demanding games to get acceptable frame rates.

Good for 1080p

Radeon RX 590 8GB V.S. Geforce GTX 1060 6GB

Geforce GTX 1060 6GB

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $229.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $209.99 on Newegg

Radeon RX 590 8GB V.S. the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB:
Which one should you pick?
Compared to the GTX 1060 6GB, the RX 590 8GB more often than not has the performance edge. At 1080p and 2560 x 1440, it’s on average about 9% faster than the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, according to AnandTech.

The Geforce GTX 1060 consumes very little power considering how powerful it is. Compared to the AMD’s Radeon RX 590, the Geforce GTX 1060 consumes roughly 110W less at load!

So if you have a smaller case with less airflow or a power supply with a limited output, the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB is a better choice.

My recommendation: Geforce GTX 1060 6GB
Considering the much lower prices, close enough performance, far lower power consumption, less heat exhaust and the availability of a smaller profile single fan model, the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB is what I recommend.

If the Radeon RX 590 8GB is available at similar or only slightly higher prices than the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB, then it’s a viable alternative.

GTX 1060: Single fan vs Dual Fan
A single fan model fits in smaller builds and has no problem cooling the card in most conditions. If you want to overclock and have the space in your case, pick a dual fan model that can handle the additional heat from overclocking.

Geforce GTX 1060: Not SLI compatible!

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

What video games can the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB run smoothly?
These cards are capable of handling games at 1920 x 1080 (1080p or Full HD), with details at or close to maximum settings in most games. For 2560 x 1440 (1440p), I’d upgrade to the next recommendation below.

Best High End graphic cards:

Great for 1080p

Nvidia Geforce GTX 1070 / GTX 1070 Ti V.S. AMD RX Vega 56

Geforce GTX 1070
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $329.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $334.99 on Newegg

Geforce GTX 1070 Ti
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– Blower fan: $358.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– Dual fans: $409.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $439.99 on Newegg

The Nvidia Geforce GTX 1070, 1070 Ti and AMD RX Vega 56 all trade blows when it comes to performance.

In order of slowest to fastest, we have the Geforce GTX 1070, the Radeon RX Vega 56 and the Geforce GTX 1070 Ti.

– The AMD RX Vega 56 holds a small advantage, of 8% on average, compared to the Geforce GTX 1070, according to AnandTech.
– The Geforce GTX 1070 Ti is 5% faster on average, compared to the Radeon RX Vega 56 and 13% faster on average than the Geforce GTX 1070, according to AnandTech.
– The GTX 1080? It’s only 8% faster than the GTX 1070 Ti, at a significantly higher cost.

With current prices, the Radeon RX Vega 56 being around the same price as the GTX 1070 Ti and difficult to find in stock, I’d say either save your money and go with the far less expensive GTX 1070 or if you want more performance, get the GTX 1070 Ti.

Dual Fan vs Triple Fans
Triple fans model have less trouble handling the heat of the GTX 1070, will probably offer slightly better performance in long gaming sessions, offering the best cooling and best overclocking potential, but are especially long, so make sure that they fit in your case. Dual fans models have cooling that’s fine for most users without heavy overclocking and will fit most cases.

Nvidia Geforce RTX 2070 8GB

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $479.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $499.99 on Newegg

While the GTX 1070/Ti bring great 1080p/1440p gaming performance, they aren’t powerful enough to run all games at 4K with high/maximum settings at 60+ FPS.

Launched in October 2018 and offering on average 36% higher performance at a 4K resolution than the Geforce GTX 1070. Ultimately, its performance lands between the old GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti (according to AnandTech). You get this performance at a lower price, making the Geforce RTX 2070 a fairly good value.

Compared to the RTX 2080, it offers about 82% of the performance at roughly 72% of the price.

If you’re looking for a graphic card that can keep up with 4K and high graphic details with decent frame rates, the Nvidia Geforce RTX 2070 is a good choice. If you want even more performance, look into the RTX 2080 or 2080 Ti below.

Which cooling system works best?
With a case that has a decent amount of cooling, the open air cooler will be more quiet. In a case with less fans or a small case, a closed cooler, is a better choice because it exhausts the heat outside of your case, keeping your other components cooler.

Geforce RTX 2070: Not SLI compatible!

Do note that the Geforce RTX 2070 is NOT SLI compatible.

V.S. AMD

Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the RTX 2070. Their best graphic card, the Radeon RX Vega 64, only competes with the Geforce GTX 1070 Ti.

Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 8GB

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $699.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $699.99 on Newegg

The second highest performance graphic card of the new RTX 20xx series from Nvidia, the Geforce RTX 2080 8GB offers on average 8-9% better performance than the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti or 18% more than the RTX 2070.

If you’re looking for a graphic card that can keep up with 4K and high graphic details, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 2080 is a good choice. Need the best? See the RTX 2080 Ti below.

Which cooling system works best?
With a case that has a decent amount of cooling, the open air cooler will be more quiet. In a case with less fans or a small case, a closed cooler is a better choice because it exhausts the heat outside of your case, keeping your other components cooler.

V.S. AMD

Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the RTX 2080. Their best graphic card, the Radeon RX Vega 64, only competes with the older Geforce GTX 1080 (Non Ti).

Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $1299.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $1329.99 on Newegg

While the GTX 1080 Ti brought good 4K gaming performance, it still wasn’t offering very high frame rates at 4K.

Offering on average 32-37% higher performance at 4K than the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti, according to AnandTech, the Geforce RTX 2080 Ti takes performance to the next level.

If you’re looking for a graphic card that can keep up with 4K and high graphic details, with higher frame rates, the Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 Ti is the fastest single-GPU graphic card currently available.

Note that seeing as it just launched, demand is high and you might need a bit of time to find one in stock.

Which cooling system works best?
With a case that has a decent amount of cooling, the open air cooler will be more quiet. In a case with less fans or a small case, a closed cooler is a better choice because it exhausts the heat outside of your case, keeping your other components cooler.

V.S. AMD

Unfortunately, AMD currently has no product that can compete with the GTX 1080 Ti. Their best graphic card, the Radeon RX Vega 64, only competes with the Geforce GTX 1080 (Non Ti).

Two Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB in SLI

Buy two: – Click here to see the price on Amazon
For two: – $2599.98 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
For two: N/A on Newegg

Do you want even more performance? Take the Geforce RTX 2080 Ti, the current most powerful graphic card and buy a second one!

That’s right, get two Geforce RTX 2080 Ti and put them in SLI.

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 RTX 2080 Ti and team them up in SLI for even more performance than a single RTX 2080 Ti in games that support SLI.

Remember that you’ll need a NVLink bridge to connect the two card together. Pick the correctly spaced one, depending on your spacing between the cards on your motherboard.

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.

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 also helps 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.

Note that I don’t recommend 3 or 4 graphic cards in SLI for the GTX 10xx or 20xx series. 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.