Most people who are in the market for a new graphics card have one primary question in mind: Which card will give me the most bang for my buck? Obviously, the answer will vary depending on your budget. Beyond that, there are a number of factors to consider: Raw performance is important, but so are things like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software. And do you want to pay a premium to experience the gorgeous, but performance-intensive visuals possible with real-time ray tracing?
Let us make it easy for you. We’ve tested nearly every major GPU that’s hit the streets over the past couple of years, from $100 budget cards to $2,000 luxury models. Nvidia, AMD, Intel Arc, we’ve benchmarked them all. Our knowledge has been distilled into this article—a buying guide with recommendations on which graphics card to buy, no matter what sort of experience you’re looking for.
Note: There are customized versions of every graphics card from a host of vendors. For example, you can buy different GeForce GTX 3080 models from EVGA, Asus, MSI, and Zotac, among others.
We’ve linked to our complete review for each recommendation, but the buying links lead to models that hew closely to each graphics card’s MSRP. Spending extra can get you hefty out-of-the-box overclocks, beefier cooling systems, and more. Check out our “What to look for in a custom card” section below for tips on how to choose a customized card that’s right for you.
The best graphics cards for PC gaming
AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT – Best graphics card under $200
Prices may be relaxing, but currently, the much-maligned Radeon RX 6500 XT is still the only semi-reasonable sub-$200 option around. The Radeon RX 6500 XT is less appealing thanks to its nerfed memory, PCIe lanes, and limited ports, not to mention lower performance, but you can often find them going for around $170 on the streets these days. Those hardware limitations mean you’ll need to stick to Medium or High graphics settings at 1080p resolution in modern games in order to achieve playable frame rates, but if you do that, you’ll enjoy the experience. This card will get you by, but if it’s possible, save a bit longer and splurge on one of our favorite 1080p graphics cards for about $250 instead.
AMD Radeon RX 6600 – Best 1080p graphics card
AMD’s Radeon RX 6600 and Nvidia’s rival GeForce RTX 3060 both ostensibly carry the same $329 MSRP, but on the streets, there’s a much wider gap. You can find the Radeon 6600 regularly going for $200 to $250, while the cheapest RTX 3060 usually cost around $400. Those are both steep entry costs for 1080p gaming—at least compared to the GPUs of yesteryear—but with 8GB of fast GDDR6 memory, insanely good power efficiency, and AMD’s Radeon Super Resolution in tow, the Radeon RX 6600 is a great graphics card for people looking to game at 1080p resolution at 60fps or higher without compromising on visual fidelity. (Or breaking the bank.) It lags in ray tracing performance, however.
Intel Arc A750 – Best 1080p graphics card for ray tracing
Intel’s debut Arc graphics cards best even Nvidia’s vaunted RTX 30-series graphics cards at ray tracing in this price class, and the newly $250 Arc A750 does it for about $150 less than the popular GeForce RTX 3060. Why compare the A750 against that $400ish card rather than the $300ish RTX 3050? Because if you’re playing newer games running on modern DirectX 12 or Vulkan APIs—most triple-A games, in other words—the Arc A750 meets or beats the RTX 3060 there, too.
At launch, Intel’s GPUs were plagued by bugs and odd performance. Since then, the company worked diligently to improve its drivers at a torrid pace, unleashing exceptional performance improvements in DX9 games (read: esports and classics) while also squashing the most worrisome bugs. Performance remains hit-or-miss on older DirectX 11 titles, which is why the Radeon RX 6600 remains our top pick overall, but its definitely good enough—and still getting better. But if your focus is mostly on ray tracing and triple-A games, the Intel Arc A750 is a much better option at the same $250 price point as the 6600.
AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT – Best 1440p graphics card
In a sane world, Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 Ti would dominate 1440p gaming at its $400 MSRP. It’s that good, and it offers superior ray tracing performance to AMD’s Radeon rivals. But we still aren’t living in a sane world, and the RTX 3060 Ti is going for $500+ on the streets, and often $550 to $600. Nvidia’s RTX 3070, ostensibly $500, goes for $650 to $700 online.
Get AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT instead, for a whole lot less. It’s plenty fast for 1440p gaming at 60fps+ without compromise, while its beefy 12GB of GDDR6 memory provides plenty of headroom for flipping on all the most intense graphical features. The one downside? AMD’s card is only capable of playing ray-traced games at 1080p resolution unless you activate Radeon Super Resolution, or FSR 1 or 2 in games that support it. One the flip side, the Radeon RX 6700 XT can take advantage of AMD’s awesome performance-boosting Smart Access Memory feature if you’re running a modern Ryzen system that supports it.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Ti – Best high-end 1440p graphics card
Paying $800 or more for a 1440p graphics card is ludicrous. Our review called Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 4070 Ti “painfully overpriced.” But if you want exceptional performance at 1440p gaming—and only 1440p gaming, as Nvidia hobbled this $800 GPU to run slower at 4K—price be damned, the 12GB RTX 4070 Ti is a great option. It’s ultra-fast, ultra-efficient, excellent at ray tracing, and supports Nvidia’s killer new DLSS 3.0 Frame Gen technology. If you want still-solid 1440p gaming with the potential for dabbling in 4K, with less efficiency (but more memory) at a lower price, also consider the next option instead.
AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT – Best affordable 4K graphics card
The new generation is here, so it’s time for discounts on last-gen flagships—at least on AMD’s side. While older Nvidia’s RTX 30-series graphics cards remain priced near (or even above) MSRP over two years after launch, Radeon is cutting prices. And thanks to that, you can often score the ferocious Radeon RX 6800 XT for under $600 on the street. It cost $800 at launch and goes blow-for-blow with Nvidia’s popular RTX 3080—but now for hundreds less. And AMD supplied the Radeon RX 6800 XT with an ample 16GB of GDDR6 memory, which holds up a lot better for modern 4K gaming than the RTX 3080’s mere 10GB.
If you want to keep a 4K/60 monitor fed with all your game’s eye candy turned on—except ray tracing, which this card struggles with—the Radeon RX 6800 XT is a fantastic buy. So are the Radeon RX 6800 and step-up 6900 XT, which can also be found at steep discounts these days.
AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX – Best 4K graphics card
If you’ve got a 4K monitor and want to put all those pixels to work, the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070 are decent cheaper options—but they’re last-generation GPUs with still-inflated price tags that simply don’t make sense now that a new breed of graphics cards are here. Enter AMD’s flagship Radeon RX 7900 XTX. This $999 can keep a 4K/60 monitor maxed out without breaking a sweat, and often flirts with maxing out 4K monitors with higher refresh rates. Yes, that’s with all the graphics options enabled—except ray tracing. Long a losing battle for AMD, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX remains firmly behind the ray tracing prowess of Nvidia’s newer GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs, but still slings rays slightly better than Nvidia’s last-gen flagship, the monstrous RTX 3090 Ti. That’s pretty damned good.
If you do video editing or run Minecraft with tons of mods enabled, you’ll also appreciate the Radeon RX 7900 XTX’s ample 24GB memory capacity. The $800 GeForce RTX 4070 TI, $900 Radeon RX 7900 XT, and $1,200 GeForce RTX 4080 are all in a similar price class to the 7900 XTX, but offer atrocious value for the performance delivered. Get this, get a last-gen card…or splurge on our next option.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 – Best high-end 4K graphics card
Graphics cards that cost $1,000 didn’t used to exist, but now they’re commonplace. All of them offer a compelling 4K gaming experience. But if you want peak performance no matter the price, you’ll be spectacularly pleased with the GeForce RTX 4090 Founders Edition. This is the first graphics card capable of maxing out a 120Hz 4K monitor in many modern games—a monumental achievement. Its rivals can kept a 60Hz 4K monitor fed, but not a high refresh rate display. The GeForce RTX 4090 embarrasses all previous GPU contenders in all games, full stop—it’s so fast that games can become CPU bottlenecked even at 4K/Ultra when using this GPU. You’ll want a new Radeon 9 7950X or Intel Core i9-13900K to truly take advantage of it.
Beyond the raw speed, the RTX 4090 also offers an ample 24GB of GDDR6 memory for content creators, best-in-class ray tracing chops, and new DLSS 3 technology that uses AI to improve frame rates substantially—think twofold or even more, though responsiveness can take a hit in some games. The RTX 4090 is an absolutely sublime GPU for peak-performance gaming.
How we test graphics cards
We test graphics cards on a dedicated test system used only for this purpose, with minimal extra software involved. That ensures that any performance changes we see are generated solely by the graphics card being tested and new GPU drivers, without the variability of other hardware or software changes. Here is the configuration of our current testbed:
- AMD Ryzen 5900X, stock settings
- AMD Wraith Max cooler
- MSI Godlike X570 motherboard
- 32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo DDR4 3800 memory
- EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply
- 2x 1TB SK Hynix Gold S31 SSD
As far as games go, we use a fixed set of games to test every graphics card that comes out in a given generation, and update the suite when a new generation of GPUs is introduced. We test a variety of games spanning most major game types (tactics, racing, FPS, etc.), engines (Unreal Engine, Unity, Anvil, etc.) and underlying graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, Vulkan). We use the built-in benchmarks for each game, but only after validating the accuracy of the results by running the benchmarks and comparing the results to performance witnessed by third-party GPU measurement tools like OCAT. Each game is tested at least three times per resolution, generating an average from those runs, with additional tests run if we encounter any hiccups. We may also perform additional testing with tools like OCAT if any performance oddities are noticed. Power draw is measured on a whole-system basis, listing both idle and fully stressed states as measured via a Watts Up meter that the system is plugged into.
What to look for in a custom graphics 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 6700 XT 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 can lead to higher performance. Most modern custom cards offer the same essential level of performance,however.
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.
Size: Many graphics cards are of a similar size, but longer and shorter models of many GPUs exist. High-end graphics cards are starting to sport especially massive custom cooling solutions to tame their enthusiast-class GPUs. 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. Only the most modern Radeon and GeForce graphics cards support HDMI 2.1 outputs. 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, FSR, and DLSS: AMD’s Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards and all of Nvidia’s RTX offerings can play games with real-time ray tracing effects active. Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPUs hold a massive advantage over everything else though, propelled even further by 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. GeForce RTX 20-series GPUs also support DLSS, while AMD’s rival FSR 2.0 and Radeon Super Resolution technologies are gaining traction by the day.