Picking up the correct GPU can be a tedious task. Manufacturers are always releasing new models every month. In this guide, I will show you the different options you have available depending on how much you want to spend.

 

If you see errors, misleading information, or you just don’t agree with me I would really appreciate your comments so we all can improve this post together. Try to be nice with each other and be collaborative.

How To Choose A Graphics Card

Before you start thinking about what graphics card suits you better, you should consider the following:

  • The best performance/price models are between the $150 to $250 range. Above that range, the power/price ratio will be considerably lower.
  • If you want a graphics card to be used for the next three to five years, playing games at ultra settings, you should consider the $300 to $400 price range models.
  • My personal advice is: buy a $200 to $250 card and renew it every two years. You will always have an edge-cutting graphics card, games at best quality settings and you will save a lot of money.

Now that all the new 2016 GPU models are available in the market, it’s time to know how to identify the successors or substitutes of the previous generation.

Unlike previous years, this current generation is much more colorful with the new Polaris architecture from AMD. We could say that Nvidia finally has someone to compete with and this is all good news for us, the consumers. And this means basically one thing: more competitive/adjusted prices.

Every time a new generation is released, the same questions arise once again: what’s the best model? How they perform compared to their respective previous version? Which one should I buy for {name your needs}?

New 2016 Generation VS Old 2015 Generation

In my opinion, the first thing you want to know is the equivalence between the old and the new generations. Follow the next directions to get the big picture of the current situation:

  • Entry level ($110 to $150): the RX 460 replaces the GTX 950.
  • Mid-tier ($200 to $240):
    • The RX 470 replaces the R9 380X and the GTX 960.
    • The RX 480 4GB and GTX 1060 3GB replaces the R9 390 and the GTX 970.
  • Mid-high tier ($220 to $300): RX 480 8GB and GTX 1060 6GB replaces the R9 390X and the GTX 980.
  • High-end ($450): the GTX 1070 replaces the GTX TITAN X 2015, R9 FURY and FURY X.
  • Enthusiasts (+ $640): the GTX 1080 and the new GTX TITAN X Pascal are the most advanced models of this generation and they currently don’t have any competitor, nor in this generation, nor in the previous.

** Learn more about the Nvidia’s Pascal architecture in this post:

Choosing The Right GPU That Fits Your Needs

Now, the next question is obvious: from all the models mentioned above, which one is the best for my needs? That’s probably the most difficult question to answer as the graphics cards’ specifications can vary a lot from year to year.

But, as always, no matter how complex any matter can be, it can be rewritten or summarized so anyone can understand it. So I will try to put it straight for you:

  • 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.

A Bit Of Theory: What Is A Shader?

You will see in this guide that one of the features that I’ve decided to include on each listed GPU is the number of shader cores included. And that is so for a reason: shaders are a reliable marker of GPUs power.

From a low-level perspective, a shader core is a computational resource that receives instructions and processes it in order to manipulate the pixels and polygon vertices within a scene, i.e. graphics rendering. AMD call these shaders cores Stream Processors while Nvidia names it CUDA Cores. Also, each manufacturer builds and configures the shader cores in their own ways, depending on the used architecture and performance goals. So, while there are some similarities, AMD and Nvidia shaders can’t be directly compared to each other.

Shaders are the the computational units used for rendering graphics. So, the more shaders, the better.

So, while there are some similarities, AMD and Nvidia shaders can’t be directly compared to each other. This does not mean that AMD is better/worse than Nvidia. They are just different and the best way to figure out which one is better is through performance tests. What you can actually do is compare GPUs within the SAME manufacturer: Nvidia vs Nvidia or AMD vs AMD.

Buying Guide

Casual – From $65 to $170

Cheapest models to play some games at 1080p. You will be able to play games at mid-high settings on two years old games and low-mid settings on recent titles.

GeForce GT 1030

GeForce GTX 1050

Here is the Gigabyte GTX 1050 OC 2GB with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, a base clock of 1404 MHz and 1518 MHz in OC mode.

Thanks to this little GPU, you will be able to play most of the current games at 1080p at 30 to 60 FPS, which is something pretty awesome given its price.

There’s no big difference Compared to the AMD’s RX 560, they both perform very similarly in most of the games and the price is also quite similar (around the $120).

With this GPU you can play all the current games at 1080p, medium to high graphics settings and stable 40 – 50 FPS and even it could hit 60 FPS on some games like FIFA’s, Borderlands’, CoD’s and others.

It also supports DirectX 12 and it is Vulkan ready, two 2016 new technologies that will be used shortly in new games.

GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

 

Radeon RX Series: 550 2GB, 550 4GB

Radeon RX Series: 560 2GB, 560 4GB

 

Standard – From $170 to $235

Recommended price range for most Gaming builds.

GeForce GTX 1060 3GB

 

Radeon RX Series: 570 4GB, 580 4GB

Ultra – From $235 to $330

Do you want to play all the latest games at Ultra settings? This is your price range then! In this price range, the GTX 1060 is the best you can get: almost like a GTX 980 for less than half of its price.

GeForce GTX 1060 6GB

The queen of 1080p gaming. The 6GB version of the GTX 1060 is the preferred model to play current games at 1080p and Ultra settings for the coming 2 or 3 years.

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.

The EVGA GTX 1060 Mini 6GB compute performance is of 4.4 TFLOPS (remember that 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.

  • Base Clock: 1506 MHz / Real Boost Clock: 1708 MHz
  • 6GB GDDR5
  • EVGA ACX cooling technology
  • DX12 OSD Support
  • Max Monitors Supported: 4

Compared to the previous Nvidia generation, the GTX 1060 6GB ($290) 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.

 

Radeon RX 580 8GB

The 8GB Radeon RX 580 is pretty similar to the GTX 1060 6GB in terms of performance. It is an excellent choice for those who want to play current games at 1080p and Ultra settings for the coming 2 or 3 years.

Master Race – From $330

Be careful here. The following graphics cards are the more powerful models, but the power/price ratio is dramatically lower compared to the previous price range.

GeForce GTX 1070

GeForce GTX 1070 Ti

GeForce GTX 1080

With this GPU, 4K gaming is possible but with some limitations. It will run games at 40 to 50 frames per second and in newer AAA games (2017 and forward) will struggle to keep a stable 30 FPS rate. Eventhough, the GTX 1080 is an awesome graphics card for 1440p at 144 FPS, not to mention 1080p…

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

The GTX 1080 Ti, released on March 2017, is the first graphics card capable of running 4K games at stable 50-60 FPS on its own, that is, wihtout a multiple-GPU configuration (SLI, CrossFire).

Changelog

Added Products

  • March 19, 2018: ASUS RX 550 2GB, Gigabyte RX 550 D5 2GB
  • December 27, 2017: MSI GTX 1060 Mini OCV1 6GB, PNY GTX 1060 XLR8 6GB OC
  • December 22, 2017: PNY GTX 1050 Ti 4GB, Gigabyte GTX 1050 Ti Windforce OC 4GB, MSI GTX 1050 TI GAMING X 4G
  • December 15, 2017: ASUS GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Dual-fan OC Edition, ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1070 Ti 8GB
  • August 7, 2017: GIGABYTE GT 1030 2GB, EVGA GT 1030 SC 2GB
  • August 1, 2017: EVGA GTX 1070 SC2 GAMING 8GB, EVGA GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 GAMING 11GB
  • June 23, 2017: MSI RX 560 AERO ITX OC 4G, Gigabyte RX 560 Gaming OC 2GB
  • June 20, 2017: MSI GTX 1060 AERO 6GB
  • May 9, 2017: Radeon 550, 570 and 580 models
  • May 7, 2017: Gigabyte GTX 1080 Ti GAMING OC 11GB

Removed Products

  • June 23, 2017: All remaining Radeon RX 4xx models
  • May 9, 2017: Outdated Radeon 4xx models
  • March 18, 2017 – All models from the following categories: AMD’s 390x, Nano, Fury and Fury X
  • December 23, 2016 – ASUS GTX 750Ti 2GB, Gigabyte GTX 750 Ti WindForce OC 2GB

How did you find this guide? How often do you upgrade your GPU? Do you think +$330 GPUs worth the money? AMD or NVIDIA?

Comment Below!

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*Amazon Affiliate Disclaimer: Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated in each product and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com or your Amazon's country specific site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of the product.


Adrian Benavides

I've been always an avid gamer with limited resources. This led me to learn how to build the best gaming computers within tight budgets. Now, I want to share the knowledge I've acquired over the years with the world!

4 thoughts on “The Best Graphics Cards by Price (March 2018)

  1. What is the difference between 1060 6Gb with 1 fan and 1060 6Gb 2 fans? The temperature with only one fan is too high? Is it worth having 2?

    1. Not much really (answering your question #1 and #3).

      Generally, the more fans it has the higher the clock. With higher clocks we also get higher temperatures, which takes us back to start.

      You will get a specific GPU size depending on your build needs (form factor basically).

      In my case, I usually mount ITX (1 fan) graphics cards and all I can say is that I never got any temperature issues.

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