In this post, I’m going to show you what are the best graphics cards depending on your budget and, more importantly, how to make a wise choice among the different models currently available in the market.
Choosing The Right GPU
First off we need to know what are we aiming for, what do we expect to achieve from our future graphics card. This can be a daunting task as the graphics cards’ specifications can vary a lot from year to year. In order to make things easier, I’m going to tell you EXACTLY what GPU do you need based on your needs/expectations:
- For 1080p / 30 fps / high settings: the RX 560 or the GTX 1050.
- For 1080p / 30 to 40 fps / ultra settings: the RX 570 or the GTX 1050 Ti.
- For 1080p / 60 fps / ultra settings: the RX 580 (either 4 or 8 GB) or the GTX 1060 (either 3 or 6 GB).
- For 1440p / 30 fps / ultra settings: the RX 580 8GB or the GTX 1060 6GB.
- For 1440p / 144 fps / ultra settings: the GTX 1070.
- For 4K / 30 fps / ultra settings: the GTX 1080.
- For 4K / 60 fps / ultra settings: the GTX 1080 Ti or 2x GTX 1080 (SLI).
Note that the mentioned models are just the minimum recommended to achieve certain performance levels. Anything above the recommended models will obviously give you better results.
Best Budget GPUs For Gaming
Note that all the following categories assume High/Ultra quality settings enabled.
720p & eSports @ 30 FPS
There are two similar models in this category, both in price and performance. My advice? Choose the cheapest one.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1030
GIGABYTE GT 1030 2GBlaunch
The cheapest Nvidia’s GPU of their 10xx series, the GTX 1030, can be a good choice for those who seek playing old games or basic eSports titles.
Mounting a GP-108 chip, the GTX 1030 has 384 CUDA cores working at a Base clock of 1227 Mhz and a Turbo clock of 1468 MHz on the stock model. The best feature of this graphics card is its super low power consumption of just 30 watts, being the GPU with the lowest TDP of the current generation.
AMD RX 550 2GB
Gigabyte RX 550 Gaming OC 2GBlaunch
Alternatively, we have the AMD RX 550 2GB, which is a little more expensive and powerful than the GTX 1030… but just a tiny bit, so tiny that you won’t note the difference between them. That’s why I recommend getting the one that you could find cheaper, which will vary from week to week.
This Polaris graphics card, based on the Polaris 12 chip, which is exactly one half of a Polaris 11 chip (used in the RX 560). It has 512 shaders and Base/Turbo clocks of 1100/1183 MHz, respectively, and it has a TDP of 50W.
720p & eSports @ +60 FPS
AMD RX 560 4GB
ASUS ROG Strix RX 560 OC 4GBlaunch
Whether or not you want to play low demanding games at +60 FPS or some of the current games at limited resolutions, the AMD RX 560 4GB is one of the best picks around.
You can see in the following video how this GPU performs on some AAA games, including:
- Driveclub: High / 1080p / 40 FPS
- Mass Effect Andromeda: Medium / 900p / 30 FPS
- GTA V: High / 1080p / 30 FPS
1080p @ 30 FPS
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
[ EVGA GTX 1050 Ti SC Gaming 4GBlaunch
EVGA GTX 1050 Ti SC Gaming 4GBlaunch
If you don’t want to spend a fortune to enjoy the latest PC games at decent quality settings, then the GTX 1050 Ti is your best bet. The Ti version is just like an “unrestricted” vanilla GTX 1050 + 2 GB extra vRAM.
With 768 CUDA cores and a Boost clock speed of 1392 MHz, paired up with 4GB of GDDR4 memory, this card allows you to play up to non-so-demanding AAA Games at 1080p + High settings + 30 to 40 FPS. This category includes games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Doom, Overwatch or Fallout 4 among others.
And of course, you will also be able to play at Ultra / +60 FPS on games like LoL, Dota 2 (or any other MOBA game), Counter Strike, Paladins, War Thunders, FIFA 17 and any Indie game with low graphics requirements.
The GTX 1050 Ti will outperform consoles in ALL games. And why I am so sure about that? The PS4 equivalent GPUs are the AMD 7870 / GTX 660. You can google “AMD 7870 vs GTX 1050 Ti” or “GTX 660 vs GTX 1050 Ti” to see for yourself if a PS4 is more powerful than this graphics card… I’m pretty sure this is what you will find: the GTX 1050 Ti is far better.
The alternative in terms of performance is the AMD RX 570 4GB. I will save you the search: the RX 570 is far more expensive and it’s an inferior product in almost every aspect.
1080p @ +60 FPS || 1440p @ 30 FPS
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
EVGA GTX 1060 Gaming Mini 6GBlaunch
*** Check out the best GTX 1060 6 GB Gaming PC here
Here we have the most versatile graphics card of 2017 to play current games at 1080p + 60 FPS. The GTX 1060 mounts the GP106 chipset, featuring 1280 CUDA cores, 48 ROPs and 80 TMUs. This is indeed a big step forward compared to its previous version, the GTX 960, which featured 32 ROPs and 64 TMUs.
Its compute performance is of 4.4 TFLOPS (remember than this value cannot be directly compared with AMD graphic cards as AMD’s architecture has a higher compute performance but it’s not expressed into a real advantage over Nvidia when tested on video games), with a 192GB/s of total memory bandwidth.
The Base clock of the founder’s edition is 1506 MHz and the Boost clock 1708 MHz, but depending on the manufacturer these values could vary a little. The power consumption (TDP) of 120W is lower than the 150W of the RX 580 and it is powered by a single 6 pin connector.
Compared to the previous Nvidia generation, the GTX 1060 6GB ($250) is as powerful as the old GTX 980 ($450). And for those who don’t believe it, it has been proved several times under different gaming conditions and hardware configurations.
Check the following video to see one of the best benchmarks of this graphics card:
1440p @ +60 FPS || VR @ 30 FPS
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
EVGA GTX 1070 SC Gaming 8GBlaunch
*** Check out the best GTX 1070 Gaming PC here
Do you want to max out your 1440p gaming? Looking for a graphics card to get a playable Virtual Reality performance on Oculus’ Rift or HTCs vive devices? Then the GTX 1070 is the way to go!
The first model in the Nvidia’s 10xx series mounting the GP104 chipset, features 1920 CUDA cores and a bandwidth of 256 GB/s, providing a brute force of 6.75 TFLOPs which will enable you to play all current games at max settings at 144 FPS.
Thanks to its low power consumption of 150 watts, this awesome GPU can be used in low powered builds with 500W – 550W power suupply units. As a reference point, the GTX 1070 is the former’s GTX 980 Ti reincarnation.
VR @ +60 FPS || 4K @ 30 FPS
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 G1 Gaming 8GBlaunch
Editor's Rating: 4.2/5
With the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 G1 you can run most of today’s modern games at stable 1440p@60FPS and 4k@30FPS with max settings. If you want higher frames per second, you may need to set the Antialiasing settings to the lower levels to enjoy higher FPS ar 4K resolutions.
The temperatures on the Gigabyte’s 1080 are slightly better than in the Founder’s Edition model, as well as the noise levels, which are not an issue at all.
Compared to the previous generation, one single GTX 1080 (180W) would be equivalent to an SLI of two GTX 980 (2x 165W) so, in other words, the GTX 1080 is twice as powerful as the GTX 980 while halving the power consumption.
4K @ +60 FPS
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Gigabyte GTX 1080 Ti GAMING OC 11GBlaunch
*** Check out the best GTX 1080 Ti Gaming PC here
The GTX 1080 Ti, released in March 2017, is the first graphics card capable of running 4K games at stable 50-60 FPS on its own, that is, without a multiple-GPU configuration (SLI, CrossFire).
The Nvidia’s flagship mounts the GP104 chipset, featuring 3584 CUDA cores, 88 ROPs, and 224 TMUs. It has a compute power of 11.3 TFLOPS (remember than this value cannot be directly compared with AMD graphic cards as AMD’s architecture has a higher compute performance but it’s not expressed into a real advantage over Nvidia when tested on video games), with a 484 GB/s of total memory bandwidth.
As you can see in the table at the end of this post, the Ti version improves the plain GTX 1080 performance around 40%… a huge beast indeed. As for the price, it also keeps the 1.4 ratio if we compare the average GPUs prices: $550 for the GTX 1080 and $780 for the 1080 Ti.
The GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition has a Base clock of 1480 MHz and a Boost clock 1582 MHz, but depending on the manufacturer these values could vary a little. The power consumption is (TDP) of 250W, just as the Titan X.
Compared to the previous Nvidia generation, the GTX 1080 Ti ($770) is as powerful as the latest GTX Titan X ($1200).
Check the following video to see this graphics card in action in several games:
Now that we covered all the GPU tiers it is time for you to figure out what GPU fits your needs best. I hope this post helped you to get the big picture of the available graphics cards in the market.
If you think I’ve missed something or you need more information just let me know in the comments and I’ll help you!