The best graphics card sits at the heart of any gaming PC, but quantifying what is ‘best’ can be tricky. There’s no single solution that’s right for everyone: Some want the fastest graphics card, others the best value, and many are looking for the best card at a given price. Balancing performance, price, features, and efficiency is important because no other component impacts your gaming experience as much as the graphics card.
We test and review all the major GPUs, and we’ve ranked every graphics card in our GPU hierarchy based on performance. We’ve also done extensive testing of graphics card power consumption, using proper hardware, and we’ve looked at the broader AMD vs Nvidia GPUs breakdown. For those not running a top-end Intel CPU, we’ve also tested the top ten current GPUs on AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X and compared performance with the same GPUs running on Core i9-9900K. Here we cut things down to a succinct list of the best graphics cards you can currently buy.
We’ve provided 10 options for the best graphics cards, recognizing that there’s plenty of overlap. Is the RX 5700 XT better than the RTX 2060 Super? We think so, though it’s less of a decisive win when looking at RX 5600 XT vs RTX 2060. Individual preference definitely plays a role, and we’ve included many options on this list catering to all budgets.
Looking forward, Nvidia revealed its Ampere GA100 GPU on May 14, but it’s clearly a data center part. What does that mean for the rest of the Ampere lineup? Here’s everything we know and expect for the upcoming RTX 3080 and Ampere and GeForce RTX 3090, along with AMD’s Big Navi and Intel’s Xe Graphics. There’s a lot going on in 2020 with upcoming GPUs, so unless you absolutely have to buy a new GPU right now, waiting for the next GPU architectures to come out is a good plan. That’s particularly true of the high-end offerings, as it’s a terrible time to spend a lot of money on a GPU when faster solutions are right around the corner.
It’s not just upcoming GPUs, however. Prices are on the rise, likely related to COVID-19 shortages. Paying more today for hardware that’s soon to be outdated is a double whammy. Our current recommendations reflect the changing GPU market, factoring all of the above. The GPUs are ordered mostly by performance, but price, features, and efficiency are still factors so in a few cases a slightly slower card may be ranked higher.
Best Graphics Cards for Gaming 2020
1. RTX 2080 Ti Best Graphics Card
If you’re looking for the no-holds-barred champion of graphics cards, right now it’s the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. If you’re serious about maxing out all the graphics settings and you want to play at 4K or 1440p, this is the card to get — it’s mostly overkill for 1080p gaming, though enabling all ray tracing effects in games that support the feature makes 1080p still reasonable. Just look at Minecraft RTX performance to see how increased levels of ray tracing can bring even the 2080 Ti to its knees.
Nvidia’s Turing architecture is at the heart of the RTX 2080 Ti, boosting performance even if you don’t enable ray tracing or DLSS. Concurrent floating-point and integer execution means that even with only moderately higher theoretical performance compared to the previous generation Pascal (GTX 10-series) GPUs like the GTX 1080 Ti, in practice the 2080 Ti is 35-40 percent faster at higher resolutions and settings.
There are three main reasons to not buy the 2080 Ti. First is of course the price — with cards starting at well over $1,000, just the graphics card costs more than an entire mid-range gaming PC. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if money is really no object, there’s still the Titan RTX: Double the price for a meager 3-5% increase in performance! Yeah, no thanks. Perhaps most importantly, the RTX 2080 Ti is nearing its two year mark. If you didn’t buy one in 2019 or 2018, buying now doesn’t make much sense, what with Nvidia expected to launch later this year.
2. RTX 2080 Super Best Graphics Card
If your bank account is thinking about going on strike for eyeing the 2080 Ti, stepping down to the RTX 2080 Super might help. You’re still getting the second-fastest graphics card, saving about 35% on the price, and getting 85-90% of the performance. What’s more, 1440p and 4K gaming are totally possible on the RTX 2080 Super, just not necessarily at maximum quality (especially 4K). The good news is that the difference between ultra and high quality in many games is difficult to see, while the jump in performance can be significant.
There’s still the question of what will happen with ray tracing adoption in the future, of course. The first round of DirectX Raytracing (DXR) games has often seen performance drop by 30-40% when the feature is enabled. DLSS can often make up for that drop, but the implementations of both DXR and DLSS vary by game. If you take a game like Control, which features ray traced reflections, contact shadows and diffuse lighting — the most complete implementation of ray tracing in a game to date (not counting Quake II RTX and Minecraft RTX, which are special cases of porting an old/simple game to full path tracing) — performance dropped by half, and DLSS 2.0 only mostly recovers the lost fps.
When games in the future start using more ray tracing effects, even the 2080 Super may not keep up. That doesn’t mean you should ignore ray tracing hardware, however. Buying an RTX 2080 Super gets you a graphics card that will handle any current game, and out of the games we tested (see below), it stayed above 60 fps at 1440p ultra in every case. Just be careful about potential buyer’s remorse once Ampere shows up. Current rumors suggest the RTX 3080 will be 30-50% faster than the RTX 2080 Super, though at what price remains cloaked in mystery.
3. RX 5700 XT Best Graphics Card
Not counting Nvidia’s Titan cards, AMD’s RX 5700 XT sits in seventh place in our overall GPU hierarchy of performance, but it has other benefits. It’s nearly as fast as the RTX 2070 Super, trailing by just 4% overall, and pricing starts at $360 for the least expensive models. We’ve tested several custom 5700 XT cards, like the ASRock RX 5700 XT Taichi, Gigabyte RX 5700 XT, and Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Pulse. Performance typically falls in a narrow range, with aesthetics, cooler size, and price being the main differences.
AMD doesn’t support hardware or software ray tracing, which is certainly a factor, but in traditional rasterization techniques AMD’s RDNA architecture is very competitive. AMD’s GPUs also tend to do better in games that use either DirectX 12 or the Vulkan API, though DX11 games favor Nvidia. Overall, across our test suite, the 5700 XT beats the RTX 2060 Super by about 7% in performance (as well as the earlier RTX 2070 by 4%), and typically costs $30 less. There have been some concerns with AMD’s drivers since Navi launched, but the latest updates appear to have addressed the biggest problems.
Compared to AMD’s own previous generation products, the RX 5700 XT also puts up an impressive performance. It basically matches the Radeon VII at 1080p and 1440p, all while using 75W less power. That’s partly the benefit of the 7nm FinFET manufacturing process, something Nvidia will utilize in Ampere, but the foundational RDNA architecture definitely improved resource utilization over the previous GCN architecture cards. Our biggest concern is that AMD’s RDNA 2 will add ray tracing later this year, and apparently 50% higher performance per watt. That’s arguably worth the wait at this point.
These 3 were some of the best and top graphics cards for all usages. Let us know if you have bought any of these.