We’re only just half way through 2019 and never before have I seen such a fierce fight in the world of best graphics cards. If the launch of two Nvidia RTX Super cards wasn’t enough, we’ve also had the first pair of AMD Navi cards arrive as well – all in the same week, no less. It’s a mad old time, but to help you cut through the noise and find the bestest best GPU for you and your budget, I’ve put together a brand new list of all the best graphics cards you can buy right now for gaming at 1080p, 1440p and 4K.
We’re likely to see more changes over the coming weeks, too, as we’ve still got the launch of Nvidia‘s RTX 2080 Super card to come at the end of July, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more AMD Navi GPUs on the way as well. As a result, it’s still a fairly volatile time to be buying one of our best graphics card picks, and the list you’re about to read below will probably end up changing quite a bit between now and the end of the year. Still, for those after a best graphics card right now, there are still plenty of great ones to choose from. 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 isn’t 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. Plus, you get a free three month subscription to Xbox Game Pass on PC with it, too, giving you access to over a hundred games for absolutely nothing.
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 and AMD Radeon RX 5700
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
Nvidia’s 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, albeit at the expense of some of that raw performance.
However, it also faces stiff competition from AMD’s new Radeon RX 5700, which currently costs exactly the same amount of money as the RTX 2060 and is just that little bit faster – just see my big RTX 2060 vs RX 5700 vs RTX 2060 Super vs RX 5700 XT comparison piece to find out more. The reason why the RX 5700 isn’t the outright winner here, though, is because you can only buy single blower-fan models of this particular card right now, making it a lot louder and less energy efficient than its Nvidia rival. As a result, I’d advise waiting until more third party versions of the RX 5700 with better cooling mechanisms start arriving before buying this card over the RTX 2060. It’s also worth pointing out that the RX 5700 XT doesn’t support ray tracing like the RTX 2060, so if you’re absolutely desperate to have the bestest looking shadows and reflections in your games, then you’ve no choice but to go for an Nvidia RTX card.
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, but with prices starting at £235 / $240, I’d argue the GTX 1660 Ti is still the superior GPU for those on a budget.
Best graphics card for 4K: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super
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 2080 Ti 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 decent 4K experience for literally half as much money – provided you’re not too fussed about playing on the best settings, that is. With the GTX 1080 becomingly increasingly scarce, Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super is now a much better proposition for would-be 4K-ers. Not only is it faster than the GTX 1080, but it will also only set you back around £500 / $500, which is much more palatable than shelling out over a grand for the RTX 2080 Ti. As I said, this card isn’t really cut out for playing games on max settings at 4K, but if you’re fine with Medium (and occasionally High) quality settings, then this is definitely the card to get.
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 a) they’re both a lot more expensive than either the RTX 2070 Super and b) because I’ve found the RTX 2080 in particular seems to bottleneck when playing games at 1080p when paired with my Core i5 CPU, which hinders its overall performance. The RTX 2070 Super, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to suffer from such problems. 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.
Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 review for more info.
Is now a good time to buy a new graphics card?
Yes and no. While you’re probably pretty safe buying a new graphics card for 1080p and 1440p gaming at the moment, there’s still the launch of Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Super card coming at the end of July for would-be 4K buyers. We also don’t know what the rest of AMD’s Navi plans are yet, either, and whether there will be more high-end and / or low-end cards following the recent launch of the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT.
I mean, I’d imagine there will be 1080p Navi cards coming, as well as higher-end ones on the way, but how long they’ll take to arrive and how much they’ll cost is currently anyone’s guess.
So, as I said, it’s probably safe to buy a graphics card for 1080p and 1440p gaming at the moment, but you have been warned. If you’re in the market for something further up the resolution scale, though, I’d recommend that you sit tight for now.
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: Three Kingdoms
- 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.