Just when you thought it was safe, the race for best graphics card is starting to heat up again. At least when it comes to best budget graphics cards, anyway. Not only do we have the launch of AMD‘s Radeon RX 5500 to look forward to, but there are lots of rumours doing the rounds that Nvidia are also prepping their GTX 1660 Super to steal AMD’s thunder.
As such, it’s probably best to hold off for a couple of months if you’re looking to get the best graphics card for the lowest possible price, as we may well see a few new entries in our best graphics card rankings below. For those looking for the best mid-range graphics card, or best 4K graphics card, on the other hand, there are currently loads of excellent GPUs available to upgrade your PC with. To help you find the right graphics card for you and your gaming PC, I’ve rounded up all the best Nvidia and AMD 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
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. Just have a look at my RTX 2070 Super benchmark showdown and my RTX 2080Ti benchmark results to see what I mean. 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 max settings at 1920×1080, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is definitely the way to go right now. 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 will stand you in good stead for many years to come. Anything more powerful is just overkill.
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: AMD Radeon RX 5700
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
With prices for Nvidia’s RTX 2060 edging ever higher, I can’t say in good conscience it’s particularly good value for money any more, especially when the AMD Radeon RX 5700 offers better performance for the same price. Of course, if you’re desperate about buying a graphics card that supports ray tracing, then obviously the RX 5700 won’t be much good as it doesn’t support for it. In cases like this, the RTX 2060 is still the way to go in this particular price category, as it’s currently the cheapest Nvidia RTX card that can do it – albeit at the expense of some of its raw performance.
If you’re not that bothered above ray tracing, though, then the Radeon RX 5700 is definitely the best value mid-range graphics card for top notch 1440p gaming right now – just see my big RTX 2060 vs RX 5700 vs RTX 2060 Super vs RX 5700 XT comparison piece to find out more. We’re finally also starting to see those long-awaited third party versions of the RX 5700 make their way onto shop shelves, too, which offer better cooling than the blower-style fans seen on the very first models.
There are, of course, still some games where the RX 5700 falls a bit short on max settings at 1440p, in which case you may want to consider spending a bit more to get, say, AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 XT or Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super. 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, I think the RX 5700 represents 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 also really aren’t fussed about ray tracing) 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.
Read our 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.
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.