With new game announcements coming thick and fast, it might be time to start thinking about upgrading your PC to one of today’s best graphics cards. It’s a decent time to buy one, too. Prices may be creeping higher and higher due to low stock levels caused by the coronavirus (which you can keep track of in our regularly updated Graphics card deals page), but we’ve finally seen the release of every major RTX and GTX 16-series card from Nvidia, and we’ve also had most of the new AMD Navi GPUs as well – all we’re really waiting for is AMD’s ‘Big Navi’ 4K graphics cards, which are due to arrive sometime at the end of the year.
Intel are also readying their first batch of graphics cards in absolutely ages, but we currently don’t know when their upcoming Intel Xe GPUs are due to arrive. Before the coronavirus, it was meant to be sometime this summer, but now it’s looking increasingly like the end of 2020, if not 2021. As a result, it’s still a two-horse race between Nvidia and AMD for best graphics card right now, and you’ll find all my best graphics card recommendations for playing games at 1080p, 1440p, 4K and ultrawide below.
Best graphics card 2020
While some people will no doubt just want the best graphics card money can buy, I find the best way to work out what graphics card you actually need is to start with your monitor, which is why I’ve ordered my best graphics card list by resolution, starting with the best graphics card for 1080p gaming, before moving up to 1440p, 4K and ultrawide monitors.
For those that just want a quick recommendation so they can be on their way, then you’ll find my top four recommendations below with a brief explanation on why they’re my best graphics cards for the job. Then, if you want a bit more detail, you can carry on scrolling down for a deeper dive into these particular graphics cards, as well as a few more alternatives if the graphics cards below are too expensive. And if you’re in need of more gaming components, then make sure you check out some of our best gaming CPU, best gaming monitor and best SSD for gaming articles as well.
In each case, my best graphics card recommendations can all do 60fps on max settings at their respective resolution, so you shouldn’t need to upgrade your graphics card again for a good few years. Of course, if you’re thinking about also upgrading your monitor fairly soon, then you’ll want to make sure you get a graphics card that has enough headroom to accommodate that new resolution as well.
The AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT offers excellent performance at both 1920×1080 and 2560×1440, for example, but the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super listed below aren’t really powerful enough for doing a bit of low-end 4K gaming, for example. As a result, you’ll probably want to save up for a more expensive graphics card such as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super if you don’t want to splash out on the RTX 2080 Ti, or wait until AMD announce their Big Navi GPUs later this year (or even hold off completely until Nvidia’s RX 3000 Ampere GPUs eventually pitch up, although when that will be is currently unknown).
As for what type or make 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 clock speeds, making them better suited for those who really want to get the most out of their graphics card through overclocking and the like, but in terms of performance, you’re probably only looking at an increase of a couple of frames per second. As a result, unless you’re going to set about overclocking them once you’ve got it out of the box, my advice is to simply go for the cheapest one possible.
Having compared several types of the same graphics card over the years, I’m just not convinced you’re really getting that much more for your money by opting for something more expensive – just have a look at my RTX 2070 Super benchmark showdown, RTX 2080 Super benchmark showdown and RTX 2080 Ti benchmark showdown to see what I mean. For what it’s worth, I always try to test graphics cards at the cheaper end of their respective categories to give a more accurate assessment of the type of performance you’ll get straight out of the box.
It’s also important to think about the size of your PC case. If you’re building a PC that’s only a mini-ITX system, for instance, then you’ll want to look for “mini” versions of your chosen graphics card. These often have a single fan and are marginally less powerful than their full-sized siblings, but they’re a great alternative for smaller PC cases or anyone looking to save a bit of money. Zotac make a lot of excellent mini cards, for example, but you’ll also see smaller models from Asus and Palit as well.
For more info on our best graphics card picks, click the links below:
- Why we chose the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT
- Why we chose the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super
- Why we chose the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT – the best graphics card for 1080p gaming
If you want to play games at max settings at 1920×1080, the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT is hands down the best graphics card for the job right now. Faster than our previous recommendation, Nvidia’s GTX 1660 Ti, the RX 5600 XT offers smooth, 60fps speeds 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 gaming monitor).
It’s also just as fast as Nvidia’s more expensive RTX 2060 card, too, producing nigh-on identical speeds for slightly less money, with prices starting from £260 / $270. It doesn’t support ray tracing, admittedly, but right now you’d need to spend considerably more money in order to do ray tracing well at this resolution. The RTX 2060 offers decent 1080p ray tracing performance, but it struggles to cope with it on higher fidelity settings. Instead, you’d need to pay almost double for something like the RTX 2070 Super before you started pushing into 60fps ray tracing performance at 1080p, which is a ridiculous amount of money if you just want something simple for your 1080p monitor.
As a result, the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT is a much better buy in my opinion, and until May 30th it also comes with two free games (Resident Evil 3 and Monster Hunter: World’s Iceborne Master Edition), plus three months of Xbox Game Pass on PC to boot, making it excellent value for money.
If you’re looking for something even cheaper…
That said, those looking to keep costs down to under £200 / $200 will almost certainly do just as well with the 4GB version of AMD’s Radeon RX 5500 XT. It’s also available in a more expensive 8GB model, but the 4GB version is still a fantastic graphics card in its own right, offering near-60fps speeds on High graphics in pretty much every big game going, and 60fps+ when playing on Medium.
What’s more, you don’t actually get any more for your money with the 8GB version of the RX 5500 XT on these settings, as my tests show they deliver nigh-on identical frame rates on Medium and High quality settings. The only area where the 8GB version really comes into its own is giving you a bit more room to play with on Ultra, as some games demand more than 4GB of memory for their fanciest texture packs. The 8GB version isn’t quite powerful enough to hit 60fps on max settings, though, so you’re not really gaining much overall. For 60fps hunters, then, the 4GB offers a nigh-on identical experience, for a much lower cost, with prices starting from £170 / $170.
AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT or Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super – the best graphics cards for 1440p gaming
Playing games at 2560×1440 takes a much bigger toll on your graphics card than 1920×1080, but thankfully we’ve got plenty of options when it comes to picking our best graphics card for 1440p category. For 60fps Ultra perfection, your best options are either the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super or the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT.
The RTX 2070 Super is a touch faster than its AMD rival, but as you can see from our RX 5700 XT vs RTX 2070 Super comparison article, there’s really not that much in it. Personally, I’d opt for the RX 5700 XT myself, if only because it comes with two free games until May 30th and prices start from a much more palatable £385 / $380, but if you’re desperate for a graphics card with built-in ray tracing support, then the RTX 2070 Super is the better, albeit significantly more expensive option, with prices starting from £500 / $500.
Admittedly, prices for the RTX 2070 Super are quite high right now, so if you’re desperate to buy a new GPU this second, then I’d probably recommend opting for the regular RTX 2070, which is a lot cheaper and delivers nigh-on identical performance. The Super is better for ray tracing, but in terms of raw, non-ray tracing speed you’d be hard-pushed to notice much of a difference. Alas, the same can’t be said of the regular RX 5700. In this case, the RX 5700 XT is noticeably faster, and the regular RX 5700 is so close to the RX 5600 XT in price that you may as well opt for the 5600 XT if you’re looking to save a bit of cash. For more info, have a read of my AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT vs RX 5700 article.
If you’re looking for something cheaper…
If the RTX 2070 Super or RX 5700 XT are too much for you, though, then your next best option is either the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT or Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060. Both of these cards offer excellent performance in nearly all of top’s top games on max settings, and can hit a steady 60fps on High or Medium. Again, I’d probably opt for the slightly cheaper AMD if it were me, as prices currently start from £260 / $270, but once again it depends on whether you want that extra ray tracing support, as prices for the RTX 2060 start from £300 / $300.
Personally, I don’t see ray tracing becoming an absolutely vital bit of tech for another couple of years – there are some ray tracing games available now, with more coming this year, but I wouldn’t say any of them (apart from maybe Remedy’s Control) are worth buying a ray tracing-enabled graphics card for right this second. Instead, ray tracing is only likely to really take off in a big way once developers have got to grips with it for Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, which aren’t coming out until the end of 2020. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up taking another year or two before we started seeing enough good and worthwhile ray tracing games to make it a viable proposition, by which point you’ll probably be in the mood to start thinking about upgrading your graphics card again.
Plus, there’s the current performance cost of ray tracing to take into account as well. As I mentioned earlier, while the RTX 2060 is one of the best graphics cards for general 1440p performance right now, it’s not really powerful enough to do 60fps ray tracing at that resolution. Instead, you’re more likely going to have to turn the resolution down to 1920×1080 if you want to play games with ray tracing switched on with the RTX 2060, which may not be to your satisfaction. In this case, the RTX 2070 Super would be a better choice if you’re determined to play everything you possibly can with ray tracing at 1440p, but you’ll have to pay considerably more for the privilege.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti – the best graphics card for 4K and ultrawide
With prices starting from £1100 / $1180, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is ludicrously expensive, but if you’ve got the cash and are after the best graphics card for 4K gaming, then this the only card around right now that can do a silky smooth 60fps at 4K on High to max settings without compromise. With one of these graphics cards inside your PC, you probably won’t have to upgrade your GPU again for a considerable number of years.
The thing is, the RTX 2080 Ti continues to be crazy expensive right now, and you can still get a pretty decent 4K or ultrawide experience for a heck of a lot less – provided you’re not too fussed about playing on the highest graphics settings, that is. Previously, I recommended Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super as my budget buy for these resolutions, but now that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super has arrived, I think you’d be much better off spending the extra cash on that instead of settling for the 2070 Super.
The RTX 2070 Super is still a decent card for entry-level 4K, but it’s really only suitable for playing on Low to Medium settings at best. It can also hit a steady 60fps on High graphics settings at ultrawide resolutions of 3440×1440 in a lot of today’s best ultrawide PC games, too. However, the RTX 2080 Super will let you push up to Medium and High on a much more regular basis at 4K, and it can also do a flawless 60fps on max settings at 3440×1440, too. Just have a look at my RTX 2070 Super vs RTX 2080 Super article for more information. The RTX 2070 Super is still a decent buy if your budget really won’t stretch that far, but I’d recommend saving up for the £700 / $730 RTX 2080 Super if you possibly can.
AMD, on the other hand, don’t have a current 4K contender in this space right now, making Nvidia the way to go here. That will likely change later in the year, but at time of writing AMD’s high-end RX 5000 graphics cards are still a way off yet. These, however, are rumoured to support ray tracing, so it may be worth waiting to see exactly what AMD have got planned here if your PC isn’t in dire need of an upgrade.
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.