What’s the best graphics card?

The graphics card is the beating heart of any gaming PC, so it’s imperative you pick the right one for your specific needs. 

But with there being so many on the market, each with spec sheets that make VCR manuals look like compelling reading, determining which is the best graphics card for your money is a tricky task, even for seasoned buyers.

This is particularly true in 2021, where ongoing supply chain issues resulting from the global pandemic have caused a global shortage of current generation GPUs. This in turn has led to a surge in scalpers, eager to take advantage of desperate PC builders in need of the cards.

Here to help make sure you pick the right GPU for your specific needs and budget we’ve created this guide detailing the best graphics cards we’ve tested. Every card on this list has been thoroughly benchmarked and tested by an expert in Trusted Reviews Lab, ensuring our advice is accurate.

Editor’s note: Select graphics cards may be missing from this list as the unexpected Covid 19 lockdown has cut off access to our test samples. We’ll also be updating this list frequently in the next few months as review samples come our way. 

1. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080

The best value graphics card for 4K gaming

Pros:

  • Excellent 4K performance
  • Ray tracing is awesome
  • Far cheaper than the RTX 2080 Ti
  • HDMI 2.1 support

Cons:

  • Very power hungry
  • Not massively overclockable

Why we liked the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080

The Nvidia RTX 3080 is the first card to feature Nvidia’s new Ampere architecture. It brings with it a number of improvements that make it THE best value graphics card on the market for 4K gaming.

Highlights include an improved, more efficient 8nm manufacturing process, new RT Cores, third-gen Tensor cores and Micron G6X video memory (VRAM).

The combination of factors make the RTX 3080 the first card we’ve ever tested to consistently offer 4K ray tracing at frame rates over or around 60fps and some of the best performance per watt stats we’ve ever seen.

Costing nearly half what as much as an RTX 2080 Ti, this makes it the RTX 3080 a no-brainer choice for any serious gamer looking to build a top-notch, no-compromise rig in today’s market. The only slight downside is that it’s not massively overclockable, and there are more powerful cards available.

Read the full review

  • Nvidia RTX 3080 review

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2. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070

The best value graphics card for 1440p gaming

Pros:

  • Excellent 1440p and 1080p performance
  • Amazing value
  • Smaller than the RTX 3080

Cons:

  • Little room for overclocking

Why we liked the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070

If you’re after a current-gen, ray tracing card that won’t require a re-mortgage then the RTX 3070 is a more affordable alternative that excels at Full HD and Quad HD gaming.

While it’s not exactly cheap, retailing for £469, it offers fantastic performance for your money. The card matches and, at times, beats the older RTX 2080 Ti’s performance across the board. This makes it a perfect choice for 1080p and 1440p buyers looking to enjoy high-end ray tracing graphics.

Featuring a dual-fan design, it’s also a lot smaller than the RTX 3080, making it a better choice for small builds. There are even cheaper options now available in Nvidia’s new Ampere generation, but we reckon this card hits the performance and pricing sweet spot better than any other card on the market.

Read the full review

  • Nvidia RTX 3070 review

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3. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti

The best entry point to Ray Tracing

Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti

Pros:

  • Solid 1080p Ray Tracing performance
  • Lowest power consumption of all Ampere cards
  • Cheapest current gen’ card on the market

Cons:

  • Still not massively overclockable
  • Only 20% cheaper than an RTX 3070

Why we liked the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti

The RTX 3060 Ti is the cheapest current-generation Ampere card on the market. Without a direct rival from AMD, this makes it the most affordable new graphics card you can buy. However, the Ti labelling means that it is still a mid-range level GPU.

Nvidia’s marketing it as offering 2080 Super-level performance, which means it should blitz through 1080p and 1440p gaming with ray tracing turned off, while offering a solid FHD performance with it turned on when supported by DLSS.

With real-world testing, we found the performance claims rang true, which is a serious achievement. This coupled with the 3060 Ti’s lower TDP (power consumption) makes it the best card for buyers looking to enjoy entry level 1080p ray tracing.

The only downside is that, like all RTX cards, there’s not an awful lot of room for overclocking. It’s also only 20% cheaper than the RTX 3070, which remains Trusted Reviews’ recommended card for the majority.

Read the full review

  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti review

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4. AMD Radeon RX 6800

Best alternative to RTX 3070

AMD Radeon RX 6800

Pros:

  • Solid 4K performance
  • First AMD card to support Ray Tracing
  • Good value

Cons:

  • Ray Tracing performance lags behind Nvidia
  • No DLSS equivalent at launch

The Radeon RX 6800 is AMD’s answer to the RTX 3070. This means it’s the second cheapest card on the market featuring AMD’s swish new RDNA2 architecture, which adds a number of cool new features.

Highlights include things like ray tracing support, AMD’s custom Infinity Cache and Smart Cache Memory. As cards go, it gives great value 4K performance. During testing, it blitzed through every game we threw at it, running them at 60fps with their graphics maxed hassle free. If that wasn’t enough to tempt you, it’s also much more overclockable than the Nvidia RTX 3070.

The only minor issue is that, with AMD being new to the race, the RX 6800 can’t match Nvidia RTX 3070 when it comes to ray tracing performance. This is in part because AMD doesn’t have a DLSS solution. But if you’re not too fussed about ray tracing right now, this card is every bit as good as Nvidia’s RTX 3070, albeit a little bit more pricey.

Read the full review

  • AMD Radeon RX 6800 review

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5. AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT

The best for AMD ATX mini builds

AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT box

Pros:

  • Solid 1440p performance
  • Small twin-fan design makes it suitable for smaller builds
  • Power-efficient, with reasonable headroom for overclocking

Cons:

  • Ray tracing performance limited to 1080p resolutions
  • Lack of DLSS puts it behind Nvidia rivals for ray tracing

Why we like the AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT

The AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT is AMD’s newest RDNA 2 graphics card. It’s being pitched as the ultimate option for gamers looking for blisteringly fast 1440p performance.

During testing we found that it can’t match the ray tracing performance of its Nvidia RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti rivals due the ongoing lack of an AMD rival to DLSS. But its small twin-fan design makes it one of the only current generation AMD cards suitable for smaller ATX mini builds.

It is also a generally impressive card for 1440p gaming with ray tracing turned off. During testing it delivered post-60fps speeds in every test and game we threw at it. As an added treat, it supports the same Smart Access Memory feature as AMD’s more expensive RX graphics cards, maximising the performance when used with a Ryzen 5000 processor.

Read the full review

  • AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT review

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6. AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

Best graphics card for overclockers

Pros:

  • Great 4K performance
  • Very overclockable
  • Lower TDP than competitors

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Ray tracing behind Nvidia rivals
  • Lacks big lead on RTX 3080 for some games

Why we liked the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

The Radeon RX 6900 XT is AMD’s flagship graphics card at the moment. It comes with a hefty $999 price tag and is being marketed as the ultimate option for “enthusiasts”. It aims to specifically entice buyers away from the more expensive GeForce RTX 3090 and slightly cheaper RTX 3080 by offering tweakers a lot of headroom for overclocking – a key feature missing on all the current Ampere architecture cards we’ve tested from Nvidia.

Having benchmarked the card, we can confirm it delivers on this promise and is currently the best option for tweakers that like to overclock their components to the absolute limit. During testing, it offered over 10% improvements in clock speeds and 5% VRAM boosts. This netted up to 5-10 jumps in FPS counts running games like Borderlands 3 in 4K. With it offering roughly 5% more graphical grunt in 4K than the Nvidia RTX 3080 in most of the titles we tested, this isn’t to be sniffed at.

But like with all of AMD’s current cards, the lack of a DLSS solution means it can’t compete with Nvidia’s top GPUs when it comes to ray tracing performance, which is a major issue considering its high price and target market. It’s also facing stiff competition from the RTX 3090, which we’ll be reviewing shortly. 

Read the full review

  • AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT review

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7. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060

Cheapest ray tracing graphics card

Pros:

  • Solid 1080p and 1440p performance
  • Future-proof with Turing
  • Decent value when compared to the 1070

Cons:

  • Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti only slightly more expensive

Why we liked the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060

The Nvidia RTX 2060 was championed as the cheapest graphics card option for ray tracing last generation. That accolade still holds up, but its value isn’t quite as impressive since the RTX 3060 Ti turned up.

The RTX 3060 Ti arguably offers better value since it features a significantly superior performance for 1080p gaming, but if you want to save as much money as possible, the RTX 2060 remains a worthwhile option, hitting around 60fps for the majority of AAA games.

That said, if you want to run the likes of CyberPunk 2077 with ray tracing activated, you’re best off looking elsewhere as this card doesn’t quite have the performance chops for such intensive workloads.

Read the full review

  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 review

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7. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660

The best GPU for buyers on a very strict budget

GTX 1660 Best graphics card

Pros:

  • Decent value for Full HD gaming
  • Adaptive shading gives modern games a performance boost
  • Incredible optimisation for battle royale game

Cons:

  • The slightly more expensive GTX 1660 Ti offers better value

Why we liked the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660

If you have basic gaming needs, then the GTX 1660 is the most affordable card on the market we can recommend. The card is aimed at MOBA and battle royale gamers who don’t want to break the bank.

Our tests prove the GTX 1660 is capable of running modern AAA games in 1080p, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, at a +60fps performance. But it’s battle royale games where this card really shines, hitting an impressive 100fps for Apex Legends at the same resolution.

The GTX 1660 admittedly doesn’t match the performance of its Super sibling, but with it costing £100 less there’s no denying it’s still cracking value.

Read the full review

  • Gigabyte GTX 1660 review

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Best Graphics Card Round Up

  1. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080: The best value graphics card for 4K gaming
  2. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070: The best value graphics card for 1440p gaming
  3. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti: The best entry point to Ray Tracing
  4. AMD Radeon RX 6800: Best alternative to RTX 3070
  5. AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT: The best for ATX mini AMD builds
  6. AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT: Best graphics card for overclockers
  7. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060: Cheapest ray tracing graphics card
  8. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660: The best for buyers on a very strict budget

How to choose the right card for you

Third-party cards:

Whenever you buy a GPU, consider which manufacturer you want to opt for since the  the specs will differ accordingly. Nvidia’s cards include so-called ‘Founders Edition’ designs, which are the models we review. Third-party models tend to be more expensive and perform slightly better. Common brand names include EVGA, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, XFX, Zotac and many more.

With prices constantly shifting and special offers appearing daily, recommending a specific model purely on its price is difficult. As such, this guide will offer each card’s usual price range and the sort of performance you can expect.

A manufacturer’s cooler designs will also affect performance, but only by single-digit percentage points – this is especially true of cheaper cards. With more expensive GPUs card manufacturers push the boat out, throwing clever fans and software into the mix and offering up higher clock speeds, which can make a difference.

Ray tracing: 

Ray tracing is a recent graphics card feature that enables video game developers to create more realistic reflections and light simulation. Traditionally a very processor intensive operation, the new cards ensure reflections in puddles and light shining through a window will look far more impressive than with traditional rendering methods.

DLSS: 

DLSS is an RTX exclusive feature that uses artificial intelligence to help the GPU render frames more efficiently, resulting in a juicy frame rate boost. This feature is very important for offsetting the performance loss caused by ray tracing.

AMD currently does not offer its own take on DLSS, which gives Nvidia a huge advantage when it comes to ray tracing performance.

The post Best Graphics Card: Top 8 AMD and Nvidia GPUs for every build and budget appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

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