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Best graphics card 2019: Top GPUs for 1080p, 1440p and 4K

Playing your cards right

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It’s been a busy old time in the world of best graphics cards, what with Nvidia releasing another trio of RTX Super cards in July to combat the release of AMD‘s two Navi GPUs, but thankfully things seemed to have calmed down a bit now – at least for the time being, anyway. After all, we’ve still got the rest of the AMD Navi family to look forward to at some point, so it’s highly possible this best graphics card list will change once again as we head toward the end of the year.

For now, though, there are loads of brilliant graphics cards to sink your teeth into. So to help you cut through the noise and find the bestest best GPU for you and your budget, I’ve rounded up all the best graphics cards you can buy right now for gaming at 1080p, 1440p and 4K. Whatever your budget, we’ve got a best graphics card recommendation for you.

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. In the past, 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, and comes with free copies of Control and Wolfenstein: Youngblood.

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 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.

There are, of course, still some games where the RTX 2060 falls a bit short on max settings at 1440p, in which case you may want to consider spending a bit more to get, say, Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super or AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 XT instead. However, when the RTX 2070 Super costs closer to £500 / $500 and the RX 5700 XT closer to £400 / $400, that’s quite a lot more to spend on top of what’s already a pretty capable graphics card. Personally, the RTX 2060 and RX 5700 represent the best value for money in this category, but if you’ve got the cash and want the extra reassurance of definitely being able to hit 60fps on max settings, then by all means spend the extra money. For more info, have a look at my RTX 2070 vs 2070 Super vs RX 5700 XT article.

At the other end of the pricing scale, those looking for something a little bit cheaper (and really aren’t fussed about ray tracing or DLSS) should definitely get Nvidia’s GTX 1660 Ti. 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, especially now you can pick one up for £200 / $195. You also get a free three month subscription to Xbox Game Pass for PC, too, making it even better value for money.

Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 review and AMD Radeon RX 5700 review for more info.

Best graphics card for 4K: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti

What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 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, the RTX 2080 Ti is still crazy expensive right now, and you can still get a pretty decent 4K experience for a heck of a lot less – provided you’re not too fussed about playing on the bestest best settings, that is. Previously, I recommended Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super as the 4K graphics card you should actually buy, but now that the RTX 2080 Super has arrived, I think you’d be much better off spending the extra cash on that than settle for the 2070 Super. The RTX 2070 Super is still a decent card for entry-level 4K, but as you can see from my RTX 2070 Super vs RTX 2080 Super article, the RTX 2080 Super is much better equipped for dealing with higher quality settings.

The RTX 2080 Super is also a much better bet than the AMD Radeon 7, too. As you may recall from my Radeon 7 vs RTX 2080 comparison piece, AMD’s top 4K card struggled to keep up with the original RTX 2080, let alone its Super-charged successor.

Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review for more info.

Is now a good time to buy a new graphics card?

Yes. While we still don’t know the exact timeline for the rest of AMD’s Navi cards, I think we’ve seen pretty much everything that Nvidia will have to throw at us this generation – and as you’ve no doubt just seen, there are plenty of great graphics cards to choose from on that front.

I mean, there will almost certainly be more 1080p Navi cards to rival Nvidia’s GTX 16-series on the way at some point, as well as higher-end ones to challenge their RTX Super GPUs, but how long they’ll take to arrive and how much they’ll cost is currently anyone’s guess. As a result, you’re probably pretty safe buying a new graphics card right now, but if you’re not in desperate need of a new GPU then it may well be worth waiting a bit just to see what AMD have up their sleeves.

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:

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.

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Who am I?

Katharine Castle

Hardware Editor

Katharine writes about all the bits that go inside your PC so you can carry on playing all those lovely games we like talking about so much. Very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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