Whether it’s snug in your tower of power’s PCI Express slot or soldered to the inside of your laptop, the discrete graphics card, or GPU, is an integral component when it comes to PC gaming. Without it, you’re given no other choice but to rely on weaker integrated graphics solutions from Intel and AMD.
That’s not to say AMD’s discrete graphics cards aren’t up to snuff, however. In fact, AMD not only inspired Asus’ creation of a GPU intended purely for cryptocurrency mining, but the company has even a Titan Xp-killing Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, available now. So while Nvidia isn’t exactly shaking in its pants, there’s clearly some heated competition out there.
There are a lot of options when shopping around for GPUs, but fortunately for you, we’ve sorted through all of them to bring you detailed recommendations of only the three best. For the best graphics cards on the high end, mid range and entry level, keep reading to crank up your settings higher than ever before.
If we’re being honest, the GTX 1080 Ti is exactly what the Titan X Pascal should have been. Thanks to its 11GB of GDDR5X VRAM, the 1080 Ti is wildly more capable than the GTX 1080 proper without costing an arm and a leg. Performance-wise, the GTX 1080 Ti can’t compete with dual-wielding 1080s, but it is cheaper and it does support a larger pool of games than two lesser cards with SLI. Aside from the mysterious absence of a DVI port, the GTX 1080 Ti is indistinguishable looks-wise from any of the other Pascal-series GPUs. Take a gander inside, however, and you’ll notice a sophisticated cooling system needed to keep all of your games running smoothly in resolutions up to 4K.
Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
More of a souped-up version of last year’s Radeon RX 480 than a brand-new graphics card, the Radeon RX 580 takes the Polaris architecture and amps it up to new levels of performance at the same affordable price point. Although it clings to the same 8GB of GDDR5 memory as the RX 480, there are still clear cut performance upgrades in tow. The boost clock, for instance, is now up to 1,441MHz, which you can compare to the 1,266MHz boost of the 480. It still struggles to maintain a consistent 30+ frames per second (fps) running most triple-A titles in 4K, but for 1080p and 1440p gaming, the AMD Radeon RX 580 rules even harder than its predecessor.
Read the full review: AMD Radeon RX 580
Like the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti from Nvidia, the RX 460 runs cheap. Versions of it can be had from XFX, Powercolor, Sapphire and other aftermarket card makers who have all sought out to accomplish the same task of producing a value GPU that can effortlessly run just about every game in your Steam library, so long as you don’t mind parting with the prospect of running The Witcher 3 at 60 fps on Ultra graphics settings. Capable and energy efficient, drawing all of its power straight from the motherboard without any 6- or 8-pin connectors required, the RX 460 is worth the money if you plan on spending a lot of time playing MOBA and RTS games. Otherwise, you’re better off saving for one of the other best graphics cards above.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article