With many of this year’s biggest games edging closer towards release, you may be thinking it’s finally time to upgrade your GPU with one of today’s best graphics cards. Before we dive into the best graphics card you can buy right now, though, I should warn you that not only are Nvidia prepping for the launching of their next-gen Nvidia Ampere RTX 3000 graphics cards at the moment, but we’re also expecting the second generation of AMD Navi graphics cards to launch before the end of the year as well. Most of these big graphics card launches will be centred around Nvidia and AMD’s new flagship graphics cards, but if you’re after the best 4K graphics card money can buy right now then I’d strongly recommend waiting until these new ones come out.
Thankfully, it’s a much safer time to buy a new graphics card for 1080p or 1440p gaming, as we’re not likely to see next-gen versions of Nvidia and AMD’s lower-end graphics cards until a good few months after their big 4K offerings. As such, it’s still a good time to buy my current best graphics card recommendation, the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT. Having tested all of today’s graphics cards, the RX 5600 XT is the one that, in my eyes, represents the best value for money, and you can find out more about why we’ve chosen the RX 5600 XT below. All prices are correct at time of writing, but you can also check our regularly updated graphics card deals hub for all the best prices.
Best graphics cards for gaming in 2020
While some people will no doubt just want the best graphics card money can buy, I find the best way to work out the best graphics card for your PC is to start with the resolution of 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. Happily, my current best graphics card recommendation, the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT, covers both bases when it comes to 1080p and 1440p gaming, offering top of the range speeds at 1920×1080 and superb 2560×1440 performance as well.
That’s my number one recommendation for those after the best graphics card to buy right now, but I’ve also included a couple more recommendations for those who want to play games at 60fps on max settings at 1440p, as well as our current pick for the best 4K graphics card as well (although as I mentioned earlier, this will likely get replaced by something else before the end of the year). You’ll find more detail on each graphics card further down the page, as well as a few more options if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper.
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.
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 dead set on 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 a more expensive model – 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.
- AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT – Best for 1080p gaming
- AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super – Best for 1440p gaming
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti – Best for 4K and ultrawide gaming
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 £250 / $260. 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 is the best graphics card to buy right now.
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 / $160.
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 prices start from a much more palatable £360 / $360, 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 £480 / $510.
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 £250 / $260, but once again it depends on whether you want that extra ray tracing support, as RTX 2060 prices start from £300 / $300.
Personally, I don’t see ray tracing becoming an absolutely vital bit of tech for another year or so. There are some ray tracing games available now, with more coming this year with the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, but I wouldn’t say any of the games available now are worth buying a ray tracing enabled graphics card for right now apart from Remedy’s Control. Instead, ray tracing is only likely to really take off in a big way once developers have got to grips with it for the 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 before we started seeing enough good and worthwhile ray tracing games to make it a viable proposition on PC.
Plus, there’s the current performance cost of ray tracing to take into account as well (although this may change with the launch of Nvidia’s RTX 3000 GPUs and AMD’s next-gen Navi cards. Right now, though, it takes quite a toll on your GPU. For instance, the RTX 2060 is one of the best graphics cards for general 1440p performance at the moment, 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 / $1160, 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 / $710 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 as we’ve got Nvidia’s RTX 3000 cards and AMD’s Big Navi RX 5000 graphics cards on the way, so watch this space.
How we test our graphic cards
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.