Best Graphics Cards

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

63 Models Considered
11 Hours Researched
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93 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best graphics cards

Last Updated December 2019

In the world of PC gaming, there’s one computer spec that matters more than all the others: the graphics card.

Your computer’s graphics card, often referred to as a video card, handles everything you see on your screen. It’s responsible for rendering everything from streaming video to video games to your desktop. If you’re a gamer, that means that you need a graphics card that can keep up with the visual demands of your games, especially if you’re into 4K gaming or virtual reality.

The graphics card market is full of models ranging from adequate to incredible, so you’ll have a lot of options as you shop. But that’s what we’re here for – to help you decipher all of the tech specs and pick out the perfect graphics card for your perfect gaming experience. We’ve also included some of our favorites that we think stand out from the rest. So let’s dig in!

If you have a laptop, consider buying an external video card. These come in their own enclosures and connect via USB. They’re usually a lot more expensive than their internal counterparts, but they’re portable and useful for machines that are otherwise difficult to upgrade.

Key considerations

Before you start comparing video cards, answer these questions. You’ll be able to eliminate a lot of options this way and find the right card more quickly.

How much room do you have in your PC case?

Video cards are fairly bulky, and the more powerful models are larger than the basic ones, so if you want a high-end video card, you’ll need plenty of space inside your computer’s case. Peek inside your PC to get a sense of how much room you have, and if things look cramped, get a tape measure to determine exactly what size card you can accommodate, then make sure the card you buy fits the space.

What type of games do you play?

High-end graphics cards are made for graphics-intensive games, typically first-person shooters like Overwatch or Counter-Strike, but if you’re more into platformers, puzzles, or retro games, you don’t need as much power. Our general rule of thumb is if you play a lot of games that offer 3D perspectives, you’ll need a better-than-average video card, and you should plan on spending at least $150. If you play 2D games or games that don’t have a lot of motion, you’ll be fine with an entry-level graphics card.

How many monitors do you use at once?

All video cards include multiple outputs, so it’s typically easy to add a second monitor to your gaming setup. However, it takes a lot of GPU effort to support multiple monitors when gaming, so it’s common to find video cards that perform at a faster frame rate or higher resolution when connected to a single monitor (cards like this can support multiple monitors but do so at lower frame rates or resolutions). The bottom line: if you have multiple monitors and you play 2D games, almost any video card will do. If you want to play graphics-intensive games (or even massive multiplayer games like World of Warcraft) at their highest settings on two monitors, you’ll need at least one high-end video card or possibly two (more on multi-card setups in a moment).

The perfect gaming video card isn’t playing around

If you’re a serious gamer – or on your way to becoming one – there’s no better video card than this. It’s an absolute beast of a graphics card: it’s got NVIDIA’s Pascal GPU, 8 GB of dedicated video RAM, dual-BIOS support, and it even handles VR gaming. It’s one of the priciest video cards we’ve ever seen, but it’s also the most powerful.

Graphics card features

Video card manufacturers often try and distinguish themselves by adding unique features or funky cosmetics, but when it comes down to it, there are three features that are critical to your purchase decision: GPU, dual-card support, and VR support.

GPU

The heart of every video card is its graphics processing unit (GPU). The GPU is responsible for doing the work of how video is handled, from the resolution to the frame rate and everything in between. There are two major GPU manufacturers – AMD and NVIDIA – and while both companies manufacture their own cards, in most cases they license out their GPUs to other manufacturers.

While you’re shopping, you’ll likely bump into AMD’s Radeon line of GPUs as well as NVIDIA’s GeForce brand, and what matters most is the actual GPU from that brand. For example, the NVIDIA GeForce 1080 Ti is their most popular GPU, and you’ll find GeForce 1080 Ti cards made by a variety of manufacturers. Similarly, you’ll see cards from different manufacturers based on the Radeon brand. In general, the higher the number, the more powerful the GPU. If you’re not sure which to get, search gaming user forums to see what other gamers are using with your favorite games.

Dual-card support

A new video card can be a literal game changer, but there’s definitely something better than just one: using two at the same time. Many video cards are compatible with dual-card setups so long as you use two identical cards. Using two video cards is useful for multi-monitor setups and running games at their highest settings.

VR support

A new video card can be a literal game changer, but there’s definitely something better than just one: using two at the same time. Many video cards are compatible with dual-card setups so long as you use two identical cards. Using two video cards is useful for multi-monitor setups and running games at their highest settings.

EXPERT TIP

Graphics cards generate heat, so make sure you take that into account when looking for one that will work well in your computer case. Look in the case and see where your graphics card will go, then make sure the card has fans that push air in the direction of the case fans.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Different graphics cards have different power requirements, so you’ll need a power supply that can keep up with both your video card and your other PC components. Search online for a “power supply calculator,” which can give you an idea of the amount of power your computer will use with your new graphics card installed.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Video cards don’t usually include cables, so make sure you have the right ones to connect your graphics card to your computer. In most cases, a single HDMI cable will do, but you can also use displayPort cables with most graphics cards.


Staff  | BestReviews

Graphics card prices

Inexpensive: Graphics cards for casual gaming cost between $50 and $150. Cards in this price range offer solid support for standard HD games (1080p) and multiple monitors. If you’re running a single-monitor setup and you haven’t yet made the leap to 4K, you don’t need to spend more than this.

Mid-range: If you’re interested in 4K gaming or running multiple graphics cards in parallel, you’ll need to spend between $150 and $250. Video cards in this price range will satisfy the majority of gamers – they’re powerful and reasonably ready for the demands of future games, and they include software that allows you to fine-tune the card’s settings.

Expensive: If you need absolutely the most powerful graphics card available, plan on spending between $250 and $500. Video card standards evolve quickly, so the most expensive models on the market usually only stay that way for 12 to 18 months, but if you like gaming on the bleeding edge, it’s the only way to go.

The best value in HD gaming

If you’re not yet into 4K gaming, now is a great time to grab a graphics card like the XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS. It’s got 8 GB of RAM, supports VR, and plays triple-A titles in 1080p HD. It’s even got its own customizable LED lights, so you can light up your computer case while you game.

Tips

  • Buy a card that gives you room to grow. While it’s important to make sure the graphics card you buy is powerful enough to support your current games, it’s crucial to keep the future in mind as well because future games will inevitably require more resources. If you have the budget for it, buy a graphics card that’s more powerful than you need so you’ll be able to play new games as they’re released (without having to buy a faster video card).

  • Stick with brands you know. It’s easy to get confused on the video card market, because no-name manufacturers can license well-known GPUs. For example, you might see multiple cards based on NVIDIA’s 1080 Ti chipset, but not all of them will come from reputable manufacturers. Stick with brands like Gigabyte, ASUS, Zotac, MSI, Sapphire, XFX, PNY, or EVGA.

  • Consider buying two graphics cards for an even better experience. Most video cards can be run in pairs, so you can install two and double your graphics processing power. Running two graphics cards lets you run games at higher frame rates and provides better performance at higher resolutions. If you’re building a gaming rig with multiple 4K monitors, you’re going to want a dual-card setup. Just make sure that the cards you buy are identical and that you have room for two cards in your computer case. If you buy cards based on an NVIDIA chipset, look for cards labeled “SLI compatible.” If you buy cards based on an AMD chipset, look for cards that list support for CrossFire.

Other products we considered

We love the Zotac GeForce GTX 1660 Graphics Card because it offers high-end performance in a svelte form factor. Its ultra-compact design means it can fit in any computer case, and it’ll leave plenty of room for airflow, too. It’s powerful enough for both 4K and VR gaming, and it’s dual-slot ready, so you can buy two and get twice the rendering power. If you want to get into high-end gaming but don’t want to pay a high-end price, this is the graphics card to buy. If you need an even smaller video card, Zotac also makes the GeForce GT 710, a card based on NVIDIA’s GT 710 chipset. It’s a low-profile video card, so it can fit in PCs with a slim form factor. It’s even got an old-school VGA output, so you can use it to game with older monitors. If you need the most affordable video card around for your 1080p games, this is one of your best options.

Before you buy a new graphics card, buy some plastic zip ties for cable management. By tying your cables together (and keeping them out of the way of the case’s airflow), you can keep your internal components nice and cool – and stable.

FAQ

Q. Is it hard to install a graphics card?
A.
No, so long as you follow a few safety precautions. Installing a video card usually just means opening up your PC case, removing the current video card from its slot, and sliding the new one in (usually there’s also a single screw that holds it in place). Before you do, however, it’s important to unplug your computer – touching your computer’s internals while it’s on can result in serious injury. Once you’ve purchased a graphics card, search the web for installation videos so you can see how other gamers went about setting up theirs.

Q. If I buy a graphics card with multiple video outputs, can I use them all at once?
A.
Yes. All video cards are built to push video from all of their ports, so you can connect multiple displays. Just keep in mind that with each additional monitor you connect, you’re asking your graphics card to do more work, so it will generate more heat. In some cases, connecting multiple monitors is possible, but the video card will need to run at reduced settings when connected to more than one display.

Q. Some graphics cards are built with one fan and others are built with two. Which is better?
A.
It depends on your computer case and how everything is laid out. Ideally, your video card’s fans should push air in the direction of your computer’s exhaust fans to keep the card from running hot and malfunctioning. In some cases, a graphics card with a single fan will be better for airflow, while in others, a two-fan card can be more effective. In general, the number of fans on your video card isn’t as important as picking one that can push heat in the right direction.

The team that worked on this review
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    Amos
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    Bob
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    Videographer
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    Editor
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    Digital Content Producer
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    Jaime
    Writer
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