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

July 2018 update: What’s new?

As of July 2018, prices on many graphic cards have been dropping, with the Geforce GTX 1050, 1050 Ti, 1060, 1070, 1070 Ti and 1080 all at lower prices compared to June, with good availability.

Best Budget Graphic Cards:

Geforce GT 1030 2GB GDDR5

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $89.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $89.99 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)
– $119.99 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 2GB:

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $139.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $129.99 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 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 Ti 4GB

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $169.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $169.99 on Newegg

The Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti is in a class of its own. AMD doesn’t really have any competitive product at this price point, seeing as the RX 560 is less expensive but it’s no match for the more powerful GTX 1050 Ti, while the RX 570 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

Radeon RX 570 4GB or Geforce GTX 1060 3GB

Radeon RX 570 4GB
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $279.00 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $239.99 on Newegg

Geforce GTX 1060 3GB
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $229.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $229.99 on Newegg

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

Both graphic cards trade blows: their performance is pretty much identical overall. So which one should you pick?

At similar prices, I’d pick the Radeon RX 570 4GB over the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB.
At current prices, with the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB being available for less than the RX 570 4GB, I recommend the GTX 1060 3GB.

The Radeon RX 570 has 4GB of VRAM, compared to 3GB for the GTX 1060 3GB. Current games benefit from more than 3GB and this situation is just going to get worse with new video games.

Also, games tend to be more optimized for 4GB graphic cards, seeing as there is simply more of those compared to 3GB cards.

In other words, as of now, the Geforce GTX 1060 3GB and RX 570 4GB offer similar performance, but the RX 570 4GB has more VRAM that’s starting to be useful and will be even more so in the future, so in the long run, expect the RX 570 4GB to offer superior performance to the GTX 1060 3GB more often than not.

What video games can the Radeon RX 570 4GB or Geforce GTX 1060 3GB run smoothly?

It’s 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.

Ideal for 1080p

Radeon RX 580 8GB or Geforce GTX 1060 6GB

Geforce GTX 1060 6GB

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $279.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $279.99 on Newegg

Radeon RX 580 8GB V.S. the Geforce GTX 1060 6GB:
Which one should you pick?
Compared to the RX 580 8GB, the GTX 1060 6GB more often than not has the performance edge. At 1080p and 2560 x 1440, it’s on average about 7% faster than the RX 580 8GB.

The Geforce GTX 1060 consumes very little power considering how powerful it is. Compared to the AMD’s Radeon RX 580, the Geforce GTX 1060 consumes roughly 60-90W 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 better performance, 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 580 8GB is available for less 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 Radeon RX 580 8GB or 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:

Best for 1080p, Great for 1440p

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

Geforce GTX 1070
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $419.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $409.99 on Newegg

Geforce GTX 1070 Ti
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $449.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $449.99 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.

With current prices, the Radeon RX Vega 56 and GTX 1070 Ti are around 500$, so obviously go with the one that offers the most performance, the Geforce GTX 1070 Ti.

As of July 4th, the Geforce GTX 1070 can be found for roughly 30-60$ less, so it’s a worthy recommendation if the Geforce GTX 1070 Ti is too expensive, but from a performance/price ratio point of view, the Geforce GTX 1070 Ti is a better deal.

V.S. the GTX 1080 and previous generation GTX 970
Compared to the Geforce GTX 1080, the  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.

The GTX 1080 Ti is what you want for solid 4K performance.

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.

Best for 1440p

GeForce GTX 1080 8GB

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

70% of GTX 1080 Ti performance

The Geforce GTX 1080 offers on average 70% of the performance that the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti offers, at a lower cost.

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.
Compared to the GTX 1070 Ti? You get a 8% 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.

V.S. AMD:
AMD has the Radeon RX Vega 64 that offers similar performance to the Geforce GTX 1080. Unfortunately, its power consumption is far higher than the GTX 1080, consuming 110-150W more at load, resulting in a much noisier card that requires a more powerful power supply and that will exhaust significantly more heat. On top of that, current prices for the Radeon RX Vega 64 tends to be higher than for the Geforce GTX 1080, so I currently see no good reason to recommend the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64.

Best for 4K

Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $749.99 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $733.99 on Newegg

While the GTX 1080 brought decent 4K gaming performance, it still wasn’t powerful enough to run all games at 4K with high/maximum settings at 60+ FPS.

Launched on March 10th 2017 and offering on average 32% higher performance at 4K than the Geforce GTX 1080, 74% higher than the GTX 980 Ti and 154% higher than the GTX 780 Ti (according to AnandTech), the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti is the here to fix that.

If you’re looking for a graphic card that can keep up with 4K and high graphic details, the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 Ti is the answer to your needs.

Note that seeing as it just launched, demand is high and you might need a bit of time to find one in stock. Currently, all models are Founders Edition models, are all identical and offer identical performance, hence why I listed many different models, just buy whichever one you can find in stock.

Which cooling system works best?
The Geforce GTX 1080 Ti is an high-end card that exhaust quite a lot of heat, due to its high power consumption. So you must consider what kind of cooler is best for your PC.

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, such as the Founder Edition model, 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 GTX 1080 Ti 11GB in SLI

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $1559.78 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– $1499.98 on Newegg

Do you want even more performance? Take the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti, the current most powerful graphic card and buy a second one!

That’s right, get two Geforce GTX 1080 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 GTX 1080 Ti and team them up in SLI for even more performance than a single GTX 1080 Ti 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, such as the Founder Edition model, 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.

Make sure to use the new Geforce GTX SLI HB bridge to link them in SLI, to get better performance at 4K, according to Nvidia.

Note that I don’t recommend 3 or 4 graphic cards in SLI for the GTX 1070/1080/1080 Ti. 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.