The best graphics cards for PC gaming: Nvidia's new Ampere GPUs aren't for gamers yet

We'll help you find the best graphics card to fit your needs.

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Best 4K graphics card at 60Hz

Moving up into this range and higher, you might want to hold off on a graphics card purchase if possible. Fresh high-end GPUs from AMD and Nvidia are expected over the second half of the year, powered by new architectures. That said, there are several options available if you need a new graphics card right now.

The GeForce RTX 2070 Super and Radeon RX 5700 XT are decent value options for gaming at 4K/60 as well. Several of the games we tested surpassed 60fps at 4K even with Ultra settings, but about half of our testing suite fell shy of that golden standard. Bumping in-game graphics settings from Ultra down to High should send these cards’ frame rates soaring towards the mark.

Nvidia’s $699 GeForce RTX 2080 Super is a better option for 4K/60 gaming if you can spare the extra cash, however. It’s only about 12 percent faster than the RTX 2070 Super overall, but that tiny bump makes a big difference when you’re tinkering with graphics settings to achieve a smooth 60fps at such a demanding resolution. The Super variant is about 5 percent faster than the original RTX 2080, with much faster memory and core clocks than the original, but costs the same as its namesake at retail.

ray tracing Brad Chacos/IDG

The RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super include dedicated hardware for real-time ray tracing and AI-powered anti-aliasing tasks. Activating ray tracing on the GeForce GPUs in compatible games will drag frame rates back down to earth unless you enable Nvidia’s DLSS technology, however.

We recommend overclocking these graphics cards if you feel comfortable doing so and plan to game at 4K resolution rather than on a high refresh rate 1440p monitor. Both AMD and Nvidia’s board partners (like EVGA and MSI) offer software with automatic overclocking capabilities that take the headache out of the process.

You can’t go wrong with any of these cards. You can go wrong with the GeForce RTX 2080 non-Super and Radeon VII, both of which are still available for $700 or more. The RTX 2070 and Radeon RX 5700 XT deliver roughly similar performance for much less money, while the RTX 2080 Super is faster at the same price.

The best 4K, 144Hz graphics card

The gaming world finally blew past the 4K/60 barrier in summer, 2018. Between the release of 4K, 144Hz G-Sync HDR monitors like the Acer Predator 27 and the September 27 release of Nvidia’s monstrous GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, you no longer need to compromise on sheer face-melting speed to achieve maximum fidelity. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti surpasses the hallowed 60-fps barrier across our entire benchmarking suite, save for in Ghost Recon Wildlands, which designed its upper-tier graphics settings to melt even the most potent GPUs. If you disable anti-aliasing and drop the graphics options from Ultra to High—reasonable, common compromises at 4K resolution that sacrifice little in visual quality—then it clears 80 fps across the board. This puppy howls.

high no aa Brad Chacos/IDG

4K gaming performance with High graphics settings and no anti-aliasing. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is the green bar.

The card might get even faster in the future, too. Like the other GeForce RTX 20-series GPUs, it includes dedicated hardware for Deep Learning Super Sampling, which improves performance by a whopping 39 percent in Nvidia’s demos. If developers embrace DLSS, the RTX 2080 Ti could become even more fearsome, and while initial uptake has been slow, dozens of titles have lined up ray tracing or DLSS support. Our deep-dive into the Nvidia Turing GPU inside the GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti explains these new technologies in detail if you’re.

But be warned: This glorious future for gaming doesn’t come cheap if you want to buy in today. The first G-Sync HDR monitors go for a cool $1,300 on the street after debuting at $2,000. And while the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti ostensibly starts at $1,000—already a $300 increase over the GTX 1080 Ti—the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti costs $1,200 at Best Buy or GeForce.com in reality. Custom, overclocked models by the likes of EVGA and MSI cost even more in some cases. Living on the cutting-edge never comes cheap, but this generation, it’s truly luxury-priced.

If you can afford it, though, playing HDR games at 4K, 144Hz is nothing short of glorious.

What to look for in a custom card

If you want to shop beyond the scope of our picks, know that finding the right graphics card can be tricky. Various vendors offer customized versions of every GPU. For example, you can buy different Radeon RX 570 models from Sapphire, XFX, Asus, MSI, and PowerColor.

To help narrow down the options and find the right card for you, you should consider the following things when doing your research:

Overclocks: Higher-priced custom models are often overclocked out-of-the-box to varying degrees, which leads to higher performance.

Cooling solutions: Many graphics cards are available with custom coolers that lower temperatures and fan noise. The vast majority perform well. Liquid-cooled graphics cards run even cooler, but require extra room inside your case for the tubing and radiator. Avoid graphics cards with single-fan, blower-style cooling systems if you can help it, unless you have a small-form-factor PC or plan on using custom water-cooling blocks.

Length: Many graphics cards are of a similar size, but longer and shorter models of many GPUs exist. Double-check that your chosen graphics card will fit in your case before you buy.

Compatibility: Not all hardware supports a wide range of connectivity options. Higher-end graphics cards may lack DVI ports, while lower-end monitors may lack DisplayPorts. Ensure your graphics card and monitor can connect to each other. Likewise, make sure your power supply meets the recommended wattage for the graphics card you choose.

Real-time ray tracing and DLSS: While any graphics card can technically process real-time ray tracing, only Nvidia’s GeForce RTX graphics cards contain hardware dedicated to running the bleeding-edge tech at acceptable frame rates. They also include dedicated tensor cores for processing machine learning tasks such as Deep Learning Super Sampling, which uses AI to speed up the performance of your games with minimal hit to visual fidelity—in theory. In reality, image quality can take a hit under DLSS, although Nvidia has rapidly fixed games where the issue rears its head. That’s the beauty of machine learning. It can always get better.

Check out our recent reviews

Below is a list of our most recent reviews for individual graphics cards. We’ve kept it to the most current GPUs.

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At a Glance
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