It’s been an exciting year for new graphics cards, and our best graphics card list has never seen so many changes in such a short space of time. With new cards from Nvidia and AMD alike, and our best GPUs for gaming at 1080p, 1440p and 4K have all been completely refreshed compared to this time last year.
And we’re likely to see even more changes over the next few months, too, as the first of the new AMD Navi cards is due to arrive this July. We’ll know more about their exact specs and release date on June 10 when AMD hold their E3 press conference, but it’s probably safe to say that the list of bestest best graphics cards you’re about to read below isn’t set in stone. I’d advise waiting to see what AMD have in store before buying a new graphics card, but if you really can’t wait until July for an upgrade the GPUs I’ve gathered together below are almost certainly the best graphics cards you can buy right now. Whatever your budget, we’ve got a best graphics card recommendation for you, whether it’s for playing games at 1920×1080, 2560×1440 or 4K.
Best graphics card 2019 guide
Here are the rules. For each resolution, you’ll find two best graphics card recommendations: the best graphics card for playing games at 60fps on max settings at said resolution, plus the card you should actually buy if you’d rather save a bit of money and aren’t that fussed about having the bestest best graphics. This way, our best graphics card list caters for both the budget conscious among you, and those who’d rather spend a little extra to max out their current monitor setup.
As for which particular brand of graphics card you should buy, a lot of that will come down to personal choice. More expensive cards tend to have superior cooling and faster factory overclock speeds, but in terms of performance increase, you’re probably only looking at a couple of frames per second difference – as my RTX 2080Ti benchmark showdown shows. My advice is to simply go for the cheapest one you can find, as I’m not overly convinced you’re really getting that much more for your money by opting for something more expensive.
It’s also important to think about the size of your case. If you’re building a mini-ITX PC, for instance, then you’ll want to look for ‘mini’ versions of your chosen graphics card. These often have a single fan and are slightly less powerful than their full-sized siblings, but they’re a great alternative for smaller PC cases, or those looking to save a bit of money.
Best graphics card for 1080p: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 or AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB)
If you want to play games at maximum settings at 1920×1080, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is definitely the way to go. Able to offer a smooth 60fps in pretty much every one of today’s biggest blockbusters on Ultra graphics quality (and even faster frame rates on High if you have a high refresh rate monitor), this card is fantastic value for money.
However, as we’ve seen in my GTX 1660 vs GTX 1660 Ti comparison piece, those looking to keep costs down closer to £200 / $200 will almost certainly do just as well with the non-Ti version of the card, the regular GTX 1660. After all, you’re still able to play games at 60fps on High most of the time, and still get a decent Ultra experience, even if it isn’t quite as nippy as the GTX 1660 Ti. The GTX 1660 is also a much better investment than my previous best graphics card for 1080p recommendation, the 6GB version of the GTX 1060, as it offers superior speeds for the same amount of money – just check my GTX 1660 vs GTX 1060 article to see what I mean.
If you want to keep costs down even further, though, the 8GB AMD Radeon RX 580 is arguably even better value for money. The RX 580 not quite as fast as the GTX 1660, but it’s still able to offer 60fps on High to max settings in most of today’s big games at 1080p, and you currently get two free games (The Division 2 and World War Z) with it, too.
In my eyes, the RX 580 is a much better buy than either of the next two cards down as well, the even cheaper Nvidia GTX 1650 or the 8GB version of AMD’s RX 570. As you can see in my GTX 1650 vs RX 570 article, the RX 570 is the clear winner out of these two identically priced GPUs, but that in turn isn’t actually that much cheaper than the RX 580, so you might as well spend the little bit extra and get a superior card in the process.
Read our Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti review for more info.
Best graphics card for 1440p: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
Nvidia’s new RTX 2060 is an absolutely stonking 1440p GPU. Previously, you would have had to have forked out another £100 / $100 for something like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070Ti or AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 56 to get proper 60fps perfection on maximum or high quality settings at this resolution, but now the RTX 2060 can do everything they can and more for a heck of a lot less. Plus, it can make use of all the new Nvidia RTX features such as its reflection-enhancing ray-tracing tech and performance-boosting DLSS.
If you’re looking for something a little bit cheaper (and really aren’t fussed about ray tracing or DLSS), then you should get Nvidia’s GTX 1660 Ti instead. As you can see from our GTX 1660 Ti vs RTX 2060 comparison article, the GTX 1660 Ti isn’t actually that far behind the RTX 2060 in a lot of cases, making it an equally good choice for those after a highly capable 1440p card.
There’s also a case to be made for AMD’s Radeon RX 590 as well if you’re not that fussed about having the best-looking polygons at this resolution and want a free copy of The Division 2 or World War Z, but with prices starting at £235 / $240, I’d argue the GTX 1660 Ti is still the superior GPU.
Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 review for more info.
Best graphics card for 4K: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080Ti
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 or AMD Radeon Vega 64
It’s ludicrously expensive, but if you’ve got the cash and are after the best of the best that 4K has to offer, then the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080Ti is the only card around right now that can do a silky smooth 60fps at 4K on max settings without compromise. You’ll also benefit from all of Nvidia’s best RTX features as and when developers eventually patch in support for all the confirmed ray tracing and DLSS games, and you probably won’t have to upgrade your graphics card again for a considerable number of years.
The thing is, you can still get a pretty damn good 4K experience for almost half as much money. With the GTX 1080 becomingly increasingly scarce, Nvidia’s RTX 2070 is now a much better proposition for would-be 4K-ers. The RTX 2070 is a smidge faster than the GTX 1080, plus it does all the neat RTX bits and bobs that the RTX 2080Ti can do. You won’t be playing on max settings unfortunately, but if you’re fine with somewhere between 45-50fps (or indeed 60fps in some cases) on either Medium or High, then the RTX 2070 is much better value for money than its ludicrously expensive sibling.
If that doesn’t sound quite good enough for you, then you can always opt for either the RTX 2080 or Radeon 7. Both of these offer much smoother frame rates on High at 4K, but they’re also a lot more expensive – around £650 / $700 at time of writing, with the RTX 2080 just edging out the Radeon 7 in terms of overall value – see our Radeon 7 vs RTX 2080 comparison piece for more info.
The main reason why I haven’t recommended either of these cards as the 4K cards to buy here, however, is because I’ve found they both seem to bottleneck when paired with my Core i5 CPU, which hinders their overall performance. The RTX 2070, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to suffer from such problems, and neither does my other recommendation in this category, the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. As a result, I’d only recommend splashing out on the RTX 2080 or Radeon 7 if you have a Core i7 or Ryzen 7 CPU at your disposal, otherwise you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
Indeed, the Vega 64 is a particularly enticing prospect at the moment, as prices have just been getting better and better. It’s not quite as powerful as the RTX 2070, truth be told, but its cheaper price (at least in the UK) plus the same two free games deal mentioned above all add up to make it another tempting offer for those looking to keep costs down.
Is now a good time to buy a new graphics card?
Not really. With the launch of the new AMD Navi cards just a few weeks away, I’d strongly advise holding fire on a new graphics card right now unless a) you really can’t wait to upgrade, or b) you really couldn’t care less about what AMD are bringing to the table.
That said, it’s probably fairly safe to buy a graphics card for 1080p gaming at the moment, as it looks like the first AMD Navi card will be more of a direct competitor to Nvidia’s high-end RTX 2070 than anything else. As a result, it may be a while before AMD unveil the rest of their lower-end Navi line-up, but it’s also possible they may still surprise us at on June 10 at their E3 press conference and unveil the whole family from low-end to high-end. We just don’t know.
As a result, I’d urge you to hold tight for a bit to see what’s going to happen. June 10 is less than a week away, after all, so we should have a clearer picture of AMD’s roadmap very soon indeed.
How we test:
Whenever a new graphics card comes in for testing, I put it through a number of gaming tests using both in-game benchmarking tools and real-world gameplay, where the aid of frame rate counters help me determine what kind of average frame rate you can expect at various different quality settings. Currently, I test each graphics card with the following games:
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Total War: Warhammer II
- The Witcher III
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Forza Horizon 4
- Monster Hunter: World
- Final Fantasy XV
- Metro Exodus
In each case, I see what’s possible at the highest graphics setting at 1920×1080, 2560×1440 and, if it can handle it, 3840×2160 (4K). Then I aim to get each game running at 60fps at each resolution, giving you the best case scenario for each one and an idea of what kind of compromises you’ll have to make.