Best graphics cards 2017 for 1080p, 1440p and 4K gaming

Best graphics cards 2017

There are almost too many top graphics cards to choose from, which is why this here article is all about identifying the single best GPU you can get for playing games at 1080p, 1440p and 4K. Read on for advice on what to pick and how to pick your next graphics card.

The plentiful supply comes after recent dark days for graphics. The explosion in cryptocurrency mining cleared out stockrooms, shunted prices skywards and made the process of buying a card for playing games an exercise in desperate Googling and unnecessary cash-wasting. Thankfully things do seem to be cooling down, with prices slowly returning to pre-boom levels and almost all of the factory-upgraded partner cards (from the likes of Asus, MSI, Zotac, Gigabyte etc) coming back into stock. That finally gives us a more-or-less full selection of cards to choose from.

Graphics card buying guide

To  clarify what I mean by ‘best’, it won’t just be the card that can get the highest frame rate regardless of all other factors – otherwise it’d just be the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti for every resolution. I’m more concerned, as I’m sure you are, with what cards can capably handle 60fps at each res for the least money.

At most price points and performance levels, you’ve essentially got a choice between Nvidia or AMD cards; these aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but generally, Nvidia’s tend to be more efficient (thanks to the current generation’s Pascal manufacturing architecture), while AMD’s tend to cost less. Less at the low- and high-end, anyway – mid-range Radeons got battered particularly hard by the aforementioned volatility.

That said, you should seldom actually buy one of the original reference cards. Partner cards are the way to go, especially if they come with an upgraded, open-air fan cooler. Nvidia and AMD’s designs use noisy, less efficient ‘blower style’ coolers. Partner cards also typically benefit from small, but factory-tested (and thus safe and stable) core speed overclocks, improving performance even if it’s just an extra few frames-per-second. Obviously, this raises internal temperatures, but that’s why it helps to have a good fan cooler.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the cards you should be considering for flawless 60fps gaming.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti

Best graphics card for 1080p: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

This souped-up GTX 1050 (souped-up in the sense Nvidia didn’t intentionally disable any of its processor cores) is about as close as you’ll get to a perfect budget card. Will it smoothly run every single game at its best settings on Full HD? Heavens no, but that’s a pipe dream even for parts costing twice as much.

Besides, for less (far less) than £200, this is easily as good as it gets. The modest-sounding 768 CUDA cores put in a surprising amount of work, pushing the GTX 1050 Ti to visibly better performance levels than you’d see from a regular GTX 1050 or AMD’s Radeon RX 560. As long as you stick to 1080p, many games actually will achieve a certain silkiness with maxed-out quality, and even the tougher ones can be tamed with Medium settings.

It comes equipped with 4GB of memory (the same as some mid-range cards), though at 1080p this alone won’t make much of a difference compared to the 2GB of cheaper options. Then again, it might be wise to have that extra VRAM on hand for the future, what with AAA games getting sharper and shinier all the time.

In any case, it’s not just price or performance that makes the GTX 1050 Ti so good. It’s also incredibly efficient, only requiring a 300W power supply to run (again, good news for cash-strapped budget builders), and unlike any of the other cards in this article, can go without any six- or eight-pin power cable. Instead, it simply drinks all the juice it needs directly from the mobo’s PCIe slot.

Right now there’s a lovely little Zotac model, the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini, going for £140. I’ve played with this specific card during my day job as a print hack, and it’s a fine component: only 145mm long and lightly overclocked, yet a brilliantly cool runner.

Read our full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti review.

AMD RX 580

Best graphics card for 1440p: AMD Radeon RX 580

Had I written this a month ago, back when the only way to get a proper mid-range Radeon card was to break into a Bitcoin miner’s house and steal one from their collection, you’d be reading about how the GeForce GTX 1060 is the best-value choice for 1440p play.

Nvidia’s card is still a good piece of hardware, of course, but the 8GB RX 580 has at least returned to sane pricing levels – to the point where it’s pretty much dead on with the GTX 1060, in fact – and it’s just ever-so-slightly better overall. Not so much in power efficiency, but the extra 2GB of memory it has over the GeForce makes for a teeny performance advantage when playing at resolutions above 1080p (except in VR, where the GTX 1060 wins out). Frame rates are typically close enough that you couldn’t tell them apart by eyeballing, but other telltale signs of a struggling card – like micro-stuttering in The Witcher 3 – are slightly less prevalent on the RX 580.

That’s true for the 8GB model, anyway. You can get a 4GB version on the (relative) cheap, but you’d be costing yourself in 1440p performance as well as futureproofing potential. We’re starting to see games launch with Ultra-quality graphics settings (mainly textures) that require 8GB, such as in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and unless you fancy dropping nearly twice as much on a GTX 1070, Vega RX 54 or better, this card is the cheapest way to get your hands on that particular spec.

The absolute wallet-friendliest 8GB RX 580 I’ve found is this £270 PowerColor model, though I’ve no experience with PowerColor hardware myself and the word online consists of qualified praise at best. This overclocked XFX GTS Black Edition is a good bet at £278, though, if you can live with the weird recessed positioning of the power connector.

Read our full AMD Radeon RX 580 review.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

Best graphics card for 4K: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

Again, this is almost a toss-up between two cards: the GTX 1070 and the GTX 1080. It’s incredibly tempting to suggest the former; it’s cheaper, with even overclocked, custom-cooled versions starting just below £400, yet still manages to run most games at 4K with reasonably high settings. Indeed, the GTX 1070 actually uses the same GPU as the GTX 1080, the GP-104, just with a chunk of its cores disabled. Both have 8GB of memory, too.

Why, then, go for the GTX 1080? Fundamentally, it’s more powerful, and not by an insignificant amount – at 4K specifically, it can make the difference between a game chugging along and it just finding enough frames-per-second to feel sufficiently playable.

This isn’t remotely surprising given the GTX 1080’s additional cores, but there’s also the VRAM. These two cards might have an equal 8GB apiece, but some memory is more equal and others, as the GTX 1080 employs GDDR5X-type VRAM to the GTX 1070’s older GDDR5. Basically, GDDR5X memory works faster while using slightly less power, allowing the GTX 1080 to access all that juicy graphics data – and get the results on your monitor – a little bit faster.

Naturally, this will all cost more, but it might be less than you think. Largely thanks to the GTX 1080 Ti (which we’ll address in a minute), which arrived well after Nvidia’s main Pascal launch, GTX 1080 prices have plummeted far further than those of any other 10-series cards, so what previously cost close to £700 is now more like £500-£600, depending on what kind of cooling and overclocking has been added.

The best deal online looks to be this mildly OC’d Gigabyte model for £496, which is only about £95 more than its GTX 1070 equivalent. I haven’t given this particular card the benchmark treatment, but Gigabyte’s Windforce cooler design is usually pretty decent, and you do get a full three fans and backplate for both structural sturdiness and tastefully understated looks. If £95 does sound like an unreasonable premium, keep in mind that this is very much a card for high-end rigs, which will probably include a premium CPU and 4K monitor. Once you’ve already cleared a grand on the key components alone (never mind the case, system RAM, cooling and storage), £95 for an altogether better video card is hardly a proportionally ruinous amount.

Read our full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review.

Speaking of money, here’s why Nvidia’s other 4K-ready options (AMD’s Vega cards are, if you’ll forgive the bluntness, not as good) can be safely passed over: the GTX 1070Ti only offers tiny improvements on the GTX 1070 for more cash than they’re really worth, and the top-of-the-line GTX 1080 Ti is just silly expensive. Sure, it’s got what purists would say is more of true high-end GPU, the GP-102, but this only translates into – again – marginally better performance than that of the GTX 1080. With prices starting at £700 and pushing £960 for some models, it’s not really worth the initial sense of luxury.

Now you know which graphics card to buy, head over to our Black Friday graphics card hub where you can find all the latest deals on how to pick one up on the cheap. Also check out our main Black Friday article for deals on other bits of hardware over the next few weeks. 

38 Comments

  1. marach says:

    Have… Have I entered a parallel universe without knowing it? RPS recommending an non NV/intel part? What kind of world is this!

  2. monkeybars says:

    A PCIe slot only provides 75w of power, so that’s all the 1050 ti uses. The power supply you require depends on the rest of a build. If someone’s running an old AMD FX 8-core chip (220w draw), then they’re going to need more than a 300w PSU.

  3. Sp4rkR4t says:

    You are bad at shopping, Gigabyte 1080 G1 varient, still with the same cooler, etc for £469.97 or are you so obsessed with pushing affiliate links you won’t show people a true bargain?

    link to ebuyer.com

    • TheBloke says:

      They link to EBuyer on several other articles, including their recent Black Friday deals (replete with affiliate links), so that won’t be the reason they didn’t link to EBuyer on this occasion.

      The one you linked is a different model: G1 ROCK vs Windforce OC, hence the £25 higher price. Presumably they think the ‘mild overclock’ is likely to be worth that extra price.

      I do agree though that also linking the cheapest card would have been prudent, if for no other reason than to squash silly conspiracy theories regarding affiliate links!

      • Ghostwise says:

        There will be silly conspiracy theories no matter what the affiliate link is, or even if there is no affiliate link.

  4. fray_bentos says:

    These recommendations are no use if they do not specify target framerate; if I wanted 30-60 fps gaming, then there are consoles that can do that for the same price as the graphics card alone. My own target for PC gaming is 120fps, so my recommendations would be RX580 or GTX 1060 for 1080p, GTX 1070 or Vega 56 for 1440p, and for 4K, nothing because even getting over 60fps/fast 4k monitor is beyond the limit of current technology.

    • TheBloke says:

      Yeah, target frame rates are vital. I was curious when they recommmended the 1080 for 4K – what FPS did this mean?

      Because I already have a 980Ti and while I can and do game at 4K (at least since last week when I finally got a suitable monitor), I am averaging around 40 FPS with medium-high settings. Wolfenstein 2 for example I set at Ultra (which is not the maximum – it’s two down), then turned AA right down, which gets me between 30 and 45 FPS most of the time, with occasional peaks to 55+ if I’m looking at the floor or a wall.

      I’ve been told the 1080 is pretty similar to the 980Ti, so I had assumed the 1080Ti was the only suitable upgrade. Unless the 1080 does get 4K/60fps? But I’m thinking it probably doesn’t, as it’d have to be much faster than the 980Ti to do that, and I’m almost certain it isn’t.

      So yes, it’s definitely vital in these discussions to state the required FPS, because not everyone will be happy with 30; in fact, probably a lot of people won’t. I’d certainly much rather have 60 fps, even though I’m finding 30-45 to be more playable than I expected. I can upgrade to a 1080Ti for £350-£400, including selling my existing 980Ti, which doesn’t seem *too* terrible. I might still wait a little longer though to see if I can get a better price.

      • hfm says:

        I play almost all my games at 4K with a 1080 (HiDevolution EVOC 16L-G-1080 notebook). Most of them run at or near 60FPS. There’s a few outliers that are a little more strenuous but everything is playable at good framerate and details.

        • Foonshanks says:

          I think your running at a lower resolution, and you think it’s 4k. The mobile 1080 in your laptop is slower than a desktop 1080. Do some poking around. There aren’t any serious tech sites that recommend a 1080 for 4k 60fps, especially a 1080m. The recommended gaming resolution for a 1080 is 2560×1600, 4k is 3840×2160, significantly more. You don’t somehow have an amazing 1080 that out performs all others. Likely your resolution isnt what you think it is. Watch some YouTube benchmarks comparing 1080ti to 1080, then knock a few fps off, because you have a 1080m and you’ll get your real results.

          • Foonshanks says:

            Look at the fps chart in this link I’m posting. It’s a 15 game average fps the green bar is 4k resolution. 1080 average is 45 fps. A 1080m is going to be a few lower frames than that.
            link to extremetech.com

    • Katharine Byrne says:

      Hello! This guide was written with 60fps in mind, but I’ll make that clearer in the introduction.

      • Anvilfolk says:

        That little 60fps bit in the intro makes a world of difference! Thank you, and please continue to do so! The last graphics card guide had the same issue for me, where I couldn’t quite make out what the target FPS is :)

      • Foonshanks says:

        The GTX 1080 is absolutely not a 4k 60fps card. Even the 1080ti barely gets you there.

        • hfm says:

          Not true. I have a 1080 and a 4K panel. I play everything at 4K and most of my library can hit 60FPS with good details.

          • Foonshanks says:

            I’d have to question your testing methods. There’s even a brand new Linus Tech video card buying guide that just got put up echoing exactly what I just said, and I’ve tested it myself, and I didn’t 60 fps true 4k on my Samsung big screen with a 1080 at good settings. My 1080ti can only do max settings at 4k 60fps in some games. Getting a to 60 is not the goal, a fully stable 60 is the goal. There’s only a 9 fps increase on average from 1070 to 1080. My 1070 could only get 35-40 fps at 4k

      • Foonshanks says:

        And I’m sorry, but your either misinformed, or completely insane when you say the 1080ti is only marginally better than the 1080. There’s a less than 9 fps average jump from the 1070 to the 1080 and there’s a 15 fps difference between the 1080 and the 1080ti on average, meaning there’s a 25+ fps difference from the 1070. There’s 3gb more vram in the 1080ti while the 1070 and 1080 are both 8gb. I’m not sure how you researched this article, or how you got your information, but any person that has watched benchmark tests on YouTube, or read card reviews that showed performance comparisons between the 1070,1080 and the 1080ti will show you the difference between the 1080 and it’s Ti counterpart, and it is significant. The tech reviewers were very surprised at what a beast the card turned out to be.

      • Foonshanks says:

        link to extremetech.com This comparison chart with a 15 game average says all you need to know. 1080ti is the only 60fps card and it has a 59.4 average barely getting it to 60fps arguably. Very soon with more graphical demanding games, that will drop. You should be recommending cards for frame rates, and resolutions that won’t have to change drastically in a year or less. According to your recommendations these cards won’t achieve a satisfactory 60fps at the recommended resolutions you’ve said they are capable of in the very near future. You should recommend a card that will give you the desired framerate at your desired resolution for 3+ years. No one wants to buy a card, and in 6 months to a year have to dial way back on settings or resolutions that the card was bought for, and expected to achieve. Card upgrades should be around 3-5 year cycle.

  5. Sakkura says:

    Please just check on pcpartpicker.com next time. There are cheaper options pretty much across the board here.

  6. banski83 says:

    Guess this is the best place to ask this sort of question:

    Is there a site someone can point me to that looks at your current build (either a list off PC PartPicker, or gathers the data itself, like SysReqLab does for games) and tell me info such as modern/up to date equivalents or possible upgrades?

    For example, my 2y/o machine is sporting a lovely NVidia GTX 980 with 4Gb, an i5-6600K, and 16Gb of DDR4 2666MHz RAM. I’d love to see what’s currently out there that my machine equates to. As in, what’s the equivalent of my GTX980 in the current NVidia and ATi line ups?

    • CMaster says:

      The 1070 is round about the 980 in terms of performance. The rest of your hardware is pretty modern in itself.

    • Wolfram86 says:

      Not that I know of, you have to just look at reviews of the newer hardware, since yours is still pretty new it’ll likely appear on some of the performance graphs.

      A GTX 980 should be around a 1070 or AMD 580 performance level.

      • fray_bentos says:

        In real-terms a 1070 is around 980 Ti performance, and a 1060 is nearer the 980. “Modern-equivalent” comparison is subjective, and mostly determined by what the manufacturers market as mid and top-range. The only way for fairly normalising such comparisons is to compare how much you spent in year X and see what you get for the same cash (adjusted for inflation if you like) at the present. I suggest this, because the prices of the top end of the market are being pushed ever higher (and out of step with inflation), particularly on the GPU front by marketing and crypto-mining.

        • Jabberslops says:

          Id just like to mention that the 1060 3/6GB is actually the “equivalent” replacement to the 970 with the 1060 being around 1-5% faster or same performance (sometimes actually slower on the 3GB). The 980 is around 15-20% faster and the 1070 is about as fast or slightly faster than the 980TI. For me going from my 970 to a 1070 was around a 70-80% increase in fps for quite many games.

          How do I know these things? I own a 970, 1060 6GB and a 1070. I get better fps on my 1070 than my friend had on his 980TI in the same games with close to the same performing hardware (my i7-2600k oc’ed vs his i7 3770).

    • akaks says:

      try at https://www.videocardbenchmark.net there a lots of benchmarks and info about gpus, hard drives and ram

    • Radiant says:

      link to logicalincrements.com Logical increments is the best for this I think.
      Tells you where you sit and what you can do to improve it and also gives you alternatives.

  7. Baines says:

    For that mid-tier slot, don’t benchmarks put the Radeon RX 580 nearly dead even with the GTX 1060 6GB, which is the same price?

  8. Foonshanks says:

    Wow… Whoever wrote this article is way off… First off I have several PC’s in my house. The beefiest has 32gb RAM,Gtx 1080ti Founders edition, and a i7 7700k. Next one is a 16gb RAM, GTX 1070, Ryzen 1600. Author quote, “1080ti is only marginally better than a 1080.” The 1080ti has been praised over, and over, and over for it’s massive increase in power, and capability over the 1080. Here’s just one link showing average fps differences link to extremetech.com. The 1080 is under 10fps better than a 1070. That’s what I would call closer to marginal, while the 1080ti has over 25 better fps than a 1070, and when we’re talking 4k that is a massive difference. My 1070 was terrible at 4k barely putting me over 35 fps range in most popular games. I still have to turn a few things down here and there to get a solid 60 fps at 4k with my 1080ti, and it’s overclocked. This is a terrible buying guide. You’ll be nerfing your graphical settings very soon if you listen to this author. In a year or less I’ll be turning down my settings drastically to keep 60fps at 4k with my 1080ti. You need a 1080ti for a good 4k experience for the next 3-4 years. 1070 is a 1440p card. 1060 6gb is your ultimate 1080p card. And 1050ti is your mid range 1080p card. You can throw a AMD card in to substitute some of these cards for a little cheaper, but there is your nvidia guide. Go-to linustechtips.com if you want real information, this article is a joke, and you’ll be very dissatisfied gaming in 4k with a 1080, without nerfed settings.

    • Foonshanks says:

      P.S.
      “Volta” NVIDIA’s next gen GPU tech should come out early next year. If you wanna do 4k and can wait, I would recommend holding off for a little while, and getting one of those cards. All rumors suggest a massive performance increase.

  9. mrjbarron says:

    For me it’s the GTX 1080ti or nothing. I can’t bear the thought of upgrading to mediocrity

  10. geldonyetich says:

    I ended up getting a 1070Ti. It’s a brand new card, occupying a rather strange spot. It’s essentially a cheaper 1080, with performance quite close to the 1080, rarely surpassing it, but for $50-$100 less. But if you’re shelling out enough for a 1070Ti, why not get a 1080 for slightly more, as it generally has more reliable performance? True, but the savings you find might be worth a few less frames per second.

    As I said, it’s an odd niche. It’s messing up everybody’s GPU hierarchy charts. Sure, you *could* put it in the same category of a 1070, but it’s quite a bit better. Or you could put it in the same category of a 1080, but it’s ever so slightly worse.

  11. Raoul Duke says:

    IMHO all of these recommendations are one notch too low.

    I.e. a 1060 is probably the minimum for all settings on, 60fps at 1080p (I have one of these, and it gets a solid 60+fps but only just).

    A 1070 for 1440p.

    A 1080Ti for 4k (and even then, not quite good enough).

    • Foonshanks says:

      Absolutely agree. I have tested a 1080ti, 1070, 1060 6gb, 1060 3gb, 970, and 1050ti. The most agregious is saying the 1080 is a 60 fps 4k card. This guide is not a good one, and the author is obviously uninformed.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        I’m not sure about uninformed.

        I think the problem here is the conflict between RPS’s laudable resistance to putting numbers on things, and the fact that analysing hardware by necessity means you must put numbers on things.

        There are many questions: what games are we talking about? What settings? Post-processing, in particular? Etc. You obviously can get 60fps out of the cards and at the resolutions mentioned in the article with appropriate settings, but I think most people when they shop for a “60fps card” would not want to immediately have to dial down graphics settings to achieve that goal.

        I think RPS needs to look at, at the absolute minimum, giving some general information about the empirical basis for these types of articles. Personally, I’ve got no great problem with the article being more impressionistic/conversational than a Tom’s Hardware analysis, though – it’s quite refreshing.

    • Foonshanks says:

      Actually saying there’s only a marginal difference between the 1080 and the 1080ti is probably the most uninformed, obvious lack of knowledge. There’s a bigger performance increase over the 1080 to 1080ti, than there is from a 1070 to 1080. Saying it’s a marginal performance gain with a 1080ti is completely ridiculous, and nonsensical.

  12. Jabberslops says:

    Honestly though, a GTX1070/Vega56 are the best 1440p cards if you are planning to play at 60+fps and with nearly all settings maxed in most games. I would even argue you are better off with a GTX1080 if you really wanted to make sure you always hit 60fps maxed out.

    I am currently in my first play-through of The Witcher 3 and I get up to 70fps at 1080p on my 1070 with everything maxed except Motion Blur and Blur. Although I am also still using an oc’ed i7 2600k, so I could potentially have higher fps with a newer CPU.

  13. Morte66 says:

    Video cards do not seem in any way cheap today. Cheaper than yesterday maybe, but not cheap.

    • mukuste says:

      True. If you want anything higher than a budget card, you can easily get an entire game console with some games thrown in for the price of a single GPU. It’s kind of crazy.

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