Graphics cards fall into two distinct classes: consumer cards meant for gaming and light content creation work, and dedicated cards meant for professional workstations and geared toward scientific computing, calculations, and artificial intelligence work. This guide, a Graphics Cards Advisor and our reviews, will focus on the former, but we’ll touch on workstation cards a little bit, later on. The key sub-brands you need to know across these two fields are Nvidia’s GeForce and AMD’s Radeon RX (on the consumer side of things), and Nvidia’s Titan and Quadro, as well as AMD’s Radeon Pro and Radeon Instinct (in the pro workstation field). As recently as 2017, Nvidia had the very high end of the consumer graphics-card market more or less to itself, and it still dominates there.
The best graphics card isn’t simply the fastest graphics card, or the cheapest graphics card. Instead, the best graphics card needs to balance performance, price, and features. There are many great graphics cards, but for a great GPU that won’t break the bank, Nvidia’s RTX 2060 is probably the best option. It delivers performance roughly equal to the outgoing GTX 1070 Ti, with a lower price, plus all the new RTX features.
Remember that the best graphics cards can vary wildly depending on what kind of PC you’re planning to build, so finding the best one can be hard. Luckily, we went ahead and gathered together all the best graphics cards on the market, at every price point and use case. So, before you go out to pick up one of the best graphics cards, we’ll help you find the perfect one for your rig.
If you’re looking at any given pre-built desktop PC on the market, unless it’s a gaming-oriented machine, PC makers will de-emphasize the graphics card in favor of promoting CPU, RAM, or storage options. Indeed, sometimes that’s for good reason; a low-cost PC may not have a graphics card at all, relying instead on the graphics-acceleration silicon built into its CPU (an “integrated graphics processor,” commonly called an “IGP”). There’s nothing inherently wrong with relying on an IGP—most business laptops, inexpensive consumer laptops, and budget-minded desktops have them—but if you’re a gamer or a creator, the right graphics card is crucial.
If your goal is a high-end graphics card (we define that, these days, as cards at $500 or more) for playing games at 4K, and you plan to use the card for three to five years, the upper end of the market is mostly Nvidia’s game at the moment. But that could shift as 2019 progresses, with AMD’s next-generation “Navi” cards expected later this year. Based on a new 7nm manufacturing process, these cards could change AMD’s fortunes in the graphics space. The Radeon VII, its first 7nm-built video card, is a competent offering for 1440p/4K play and content creators, but it doesn’t quite topple the RTX 2080 in most respects. (See our face-off AMD Radeon VII vs. Nvidia RTX 2080: Which High-End Gaming Card to Buy?)
If you’re on the market for one of the best graphics cards, and you’ve got some cash to burn, you might want to consider the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. Without a doubt, it’s the most powerful graphics cards on the market, as long as the price doesn’t scare you away. And, the first actual game with Ray Tracing is finally available, Battlefield V. While you can turn RTX On, just keep in mind that it’ll hamper performance a bit.
Over the last two years, at times buying a video card felt like dishing out for a rare flower bulb, not a PC component, amid some 21st-century tulip frenzy. The cryptomining crazes of 2017 and 2018 drove wild demand for graphics horsepower—the kind of computing muscle best suited to amateur and professional digital currency mining—and thus for certain video cards. Prices for even modest mainstream cards flew sky-high. For a time, the market went downright bonkers. Some cards traded for double or more than their list prices, if you could find them in stock at all.
In terms of best value, we’ve provided two different looks at what the cards offer, both in frames per second per monetary unit. The top charts show the graphics cards in isolation, which can be useful if you have a PC and you’re only looking to upgrade your GPU. The bottom charts look at framerates in terms of total system cost, using a decent (i7-8700K) build as a reference point. Neither approach is a perfect representation of value, but the two give a better view of how the cards rate.
Your computer’s graphics card (GPU) is the most important component when it comes to determining gaming performance. To help you choose the right graphics card for your rig, we thoroughly test and review all the major cards, ranking each platform in our GPU hierarchy and publish our list of specific make and model recommendations on this page.