The best graphics card for your gaming PC, from mega-budget Nvidia RTX cards to cheap but effective Radeons

 AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB

GPU Cores: 3,584 | Base Clock: 1,156MHz | Boost Clock: 1,471MHz | GFLOPS: 10,554 | Memory: 8GB HBM2 | Memory Clock: 1.6 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 410GB/s

Great performance
Suitable for 1440p
Can be quite power hungry
Architecture showing its age

We had high hopes for Vega prior to its launch, and ultimately it couldn’t live up to the hype. Instead of being the Titan-killer we hoped for, the Vega 64 and Vega 56 failed to take down even Nvidia’s year-old GTX 1080 / 1070. But they come close, often leading in DirectX 12 games, and at least prices are affordable these days. Plus you can make the argument of supporting the underdog to prevent an Nvidia monopoly.

Out of the Vega offerings, the RX Vega 56 is the better buy at current prices, and it will usually handle modern games at 1440p and maybe even 4k. Where it comes up short is in efficiency: the Vega 56 often uses as much power as a GTX 1080 Ti, with performance closer to the new RTX 2060. It’s not just about power and heat, but noise levels and longevity. More power on the GPU means more power on the PSU, which means both have fans that need to spin faster. We really want an RTX competitor from AMD, but unfortunately the Radeon VII isn’t it. Until AMD’s Navi ships in late 2019, the Vega 56 remains a good upper midrange value.

The best card for mainstream gaming right now

GPU Cores: 1,536 | Base Clock: 1,500MHz | Boost Clock: 1,770MHz | GFLOPS: 5,437 | Memory: 6GB GDDR6 | Memory Clock: 12 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 288GB/s

Excellent performance at 1080p
Very efficient design
Only 6GB VRAM
No RTX features

Nvidia’s latest GPU is the GTX 1660 Ti, sort of an odd departure for the new Turing architecture as Nvidia removed (or at least disabled) the ray tracing and deep learning hardware that has so far been the focus of a lot of hype, not to mention a little controversy. But along with dropping those features Nvidia delivers a lower priced and impressively efficient design. It mostly takes over from the previous GTX 1060 cards, with more bandwidth and better performance at a similar price. In fact, it’s almost a direct replacement in performance for the GTX 1070.

There are a few minor drawbacks, however, like sticking with 6GB of VRAM. Yes, the GDDR6 memory delivers 50 percent more bandwidth than the 1060 6GB GDDR5, but some newer games are starting to push beyond 6GB at some settings. There’s also the missing RTX features. Ray tracing and DLSS might not seem like such a big deal right now, but $70 more gets you the faster and potentially more capable RTX 2060. But if you don’t want to go about $300, the GTX 1660 Ti is a great graphics card.

 

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 6GB

GPU Cores: 1,408 | Base Clock: 1,530MHz | Boost Clock: 1,785MHz | GFLOPS: 5,027 | Memory: 6GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 8 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 192GB/s

Good price and performance
Efficient and quiet
Needs lower settings in some games
Not a massive improvement over the 1060

The arrival of Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 1660 has basically ended the era of the GTX 1060 as the most popular mainstream gaming solution. Or at least, the 1060 cards are no longer in contention, as they’ve been discontinued, though tens of millions were sold.

For roughly the same price as the outgoing 1060 6GB, the new 1660 boosts performance by about 10-15 percent. That puts it ahead of the RX 580 and tied with the RX 590, and it’s a more efficient card as well. You’ll typically only need a single 6-pin connection to power the GTX 1660.

The loss of 2GB VRAM relative to the RX 590/580 isn’t really a concern in most games, especially at 1080p, which is where these cards do best. 1440p is possible, but only at sometimes significantly lower quality settings. But while Nvidia wins on efficiency, the RX 580 and 570 remain exceptional values for budget minded gamers.

AMD Radeon RX 590

GPU Cores: 2,304 | Base Clock: 1,469MHz | Boost Clock: 1,545MHz | GFLOPS: 7,120 | Memory: 8GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 8 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 256GB/s

Good value and performance for 1080p
8GB of VRAM
Uses more power than GTX 1660
Same old Polaris architecture

Originally a $280 graphics card, the RX 590 now routinely sells for $220. That makes a world of difference in value, and performance is still good. The GTX 1660 is roughly tied with the RX 590, at the same price, and it’s a more efficient card. However, there are games where the 6GB on the Nvidia card can be a bit limiting. We rate the RX 590 just ahead of the 1660 for performance, though that’s splitting hairs.

Compared to the older RX 580 8GB, the new revision has higher clockspeeds that boost performance by 15 percent. That’s thanks to a refined ’12nm’ process, as otherwise the architecture remains effectively the same. The price is also about 20 percent higher, but if you’re looking at total system cost and not just the graphics card, we recommend faster GPUs even if they cost more. Just make sure you have a PSU with a the necessary 8-pin and 6-pin power connections that most 590 cards use.

AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB

GPU Cores: 2,304 | Base Clock: 1,257MHz | Boost Clock: 1,340MHz | GFLOPS: 6,175 | Memory: 8GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 8 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 256GB/s

Excellent performance at 1080p
Usually faster in DX12 games
Uses more power than GTX 1060/1660

Many gamers are on a budget, and while faster cards might make you envious, if you’re running a 1080p display they’re often overkill. Mainstream GPUs like the RX 570/580 and GTX 1660/1060 often have sales dropping below MSRP. Nvidia’s new 16-series cards might be faster, but the RX 580 8GB typically beats the GTX 1060 6GB for around $180.

That hits the sweet spot for mainstream gamers, undercutting both GTX 1660/1060 models as well as AMD’s own RX 590. The 590 mentioned above is certainly worth a look, but the 580 8GB remains one of the best values in graphics cards.

 

AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB

GPU Cores: 2,048 | Base Clock: 1,168MHz | Boost Clock: 1,244MHz | GFLOPS: 5,095 | Memory: 4GB GDDR5 | Memory Clock: 7 GT/s | Memory Bandwidth: 224GB/s

Good for 1080p gaming
Often faster in DX12
Uses more power than GTX 1660/1060
Only 4GB VRAM

AMD’s Polaris architecture has been around a while, and there are rumors circulating that we may see an updated architecture this summer (Navi), but we’ll have to wait and see. The RX 570 4GB has now dropped well below its original $169 target, and if you’re looking for a 1080p card you really won’t find a better bargain.

Overall, the RX 570 4GB typically comes out slightly ahead of the GTX 1060 3GB, and while it does use a bit more power, it costs less than Nvidia’s substantially slower GTX 1050 Ti. Most desktops are more than capable of running this 150W card without any difficulty, though you’ll need at least a 6-pin power connector, or possibly an 8-pin connector. As long as your PSU is up to snuff, the RX 570 pretty much kills off the market for anything lower.

Leave a Comment