The Best Graphics Cards in 2021
The performance of graphics cards is continuously improving. Nowadays, even an integrated graphics card can satisfy most users, especially for office work, browsing, social networking, and even some light gaming. Because of that, dedicated graphics cards are mostly reserved for more serious gaming, mining and usage of demanding applications such as CAD and the similar.
With that in mind, you should first decide about the type of requirements a card needs to fulfill so that you can purchase the best graphics card for you. You won’t spend more money than you have to and, at the same time, you’ll be satisfied with the performance – it’s the jackpot. It is not that easy to reach this goal, but with a bit of exploration and a little bit of our help, it is achievable.
How to Choose the Best Graphics Card
AMD or Nvidia
Some things never change, and the “war” between AMD and Nvidia graphics cards is one of them. From the moment you buy a graphics card, you will be pulled to one of the sides that claim that their choice is the right one.
It’s a fact is that right now the race is so tight it is impossible to declare the winner. It is important to know what games you need the graphics card for, and what resolution or frame rate you are going to play them at. Since today cards are more optimized for certain games, they perform better at specific frame rates, resolutions, etc. Therefore, do your homework and find out which card best suits your preferred games.
When deciding for the memory size, don’t be fooled with the larger values, keep in mind that GDDR5X memory is two times faster than GDDR5, while GDDR5 is twice as fast as GDDR3, and GDDR3 doubles the speed of DDR3. Also, be aware of the fact that every new generation of memory has a larger bandwidth than its predecessor.
For this reason, 1GB of GDDR5 is always better than 4GB of DDR3. You will get the same speed, but double the size of bandwidth, which will surely show in your overall gaming experience.
Another thing that might confuse you is an AMD’s HBM and HBM2 memory type. While GDDR has high clock speeds that require a lot of power and space, HBM works at lower speeds and asks for less space and power, and allows for higher bandwidth. In theory, HBM is better than the GDDR5, but it has a drawback: it is much more expensive, and therefore less attractive for use. It’s similar with HBM2 when compared to GDDR5X.
An HBM stack and a GDDR5 chip comparison
GPU Clock Speed
If the graphics cards use the same architecture, 3GHz of clock speed will surely show better performance than the 2GHz one. In other cases, the situation may vary. Sometimes 2GHz cards can be superior to 3GHz if they are newer, or use upgraded technology. Benchmark tests can prove to be very significant in this kind of situations, so don’t hesitate to use them.
There are a few more things you should take into a consideration before you make a purchase, and they are related more to your PC configuration then the graphics card itself. Will your graphics card fit into the case? Does your PSU have the proper connectors for the card or the proper wattage? What is the resolution of your monitor or the type of the CPU, does your monitor have the same connectors as your card?
All these things can help you make a proper decision. For instance, if you have an outdated CPU, there is no reason for you to buy the card at all, because its performance will be pour. On the other hand, if you buy a card that cannot be connected to your PSU or monitor, or your PSU power is not enough for the card, you will be forced to buy another PSU or monitor in addition to your new graphics card.
Just like CPU, GPU also needs cooling. In this case, there are both reference and aftermarket coolers. Reference coolers will do the job, and properly cool your GPU, but the aftermarket ones will just do it better. If you are into overclocking, go for the aftermarket cooler. They pull the heat much better and you will have fewer chances that your GPU will overheat.
You should keep in mind that there is one downside of aftermarket coolers – they pull the heat from the card to the case. In other words, you need more than a good fan positioning and an optimized air flow in order for everything to go smoothly.
Price is always an issue. The best graphics cards are expensive, but the increase in price between two cards doesn’t necessarily go head to head with their performance boost. Nvidia Titan XP, for instance, is more expensive than the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti for almost a double, but by different benchmark tests its performance is only 10%- 20% better.
Also, there are cards like Nvidia Quadro that are great but are built for workstations and don’t work that well with the games. Although its price can be compared with the prices of the best graphics cards, the fact is that their gaming performance can’t and is in the range of a couple of times cheaper cards. In other words, the price is not the definite quality proof.
9 Best Graphics Cards
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra Gaming
Nec Plus Ultra
If you’re looking for a little bit of the “old ultra-gaming”, to quote from classics, the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 UG would make for a sensible choice, as it makes for the ultimate GPU money can buy. You know, the ultra-gaming thing is aimed at making any respectable gamer’s blood boil, but there’s also top-notch hardware to back that up. Check this out: you’ll get 11 GB of RAM (DDR6), iCX2 & adjustable RGB LED, real Boost Clock: 1755 MHz and so forth and so on. Just don’t look at the price, alright? Just kidding, but truth be told, this monster is for hardcore gaming aficionados only. For almost fifteen hundred bucks (as we’re writing this review), you’ll get a lot of unholy GPU power: 16-phase VRM for the GPU, a dual BIOS feature, a fan header in sync with the GPU’s fan speed, a triple fan cooler, a boost in power of up to 300 Watt (this may be a record of sorts), and everything is built on the Turing architecture.
What else should we say? To make a long story short, the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra Gaming is the ideal choice if you’re looking to dramatically boost your gaming experience, especially if we’re talking about the Ray Tracing capabilities of this high-end GPU. If you want to learn more, just check out the Pros and Cons section.
- stellar gaming performance
- RTX technology with 16 phase VRM
- the power limits are boosted up to 300 watts, yet the GPU is energy efficient, and the fans stop in idle mode
- the GPU is overclocked out of the box
- RGB header, Dual Bios feature
- comes with DisplayPort 1.4, 8K support, HDMI 2.0b
- features no less than 9 extra iCX sensors
- deep-learning feature
- the redesigned thermal solution achieves amazing temps
- twice the performance of AMD’s RX Vega 64, 61 percent faster than RTX 2070
- best choice for gaming in 4K resolution if you want playable FPS
- there’s no other consumer-level GPU that can beat the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra Gaming, enough said
- ridiculously expensive
- fan noise can get on your nerves during heavy gaming sessions
- RTX feature requires Windows 10 -Fall 2018 update respectively, and there’s no support for Windows 7, which is kind of a bummer
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 XC2 Ultra Gaming
Best Bang for the Buck in 4K
Here comes yet another gaming-centric GPU, the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 XC2 Ultra Gaming respectively. This time, the price tag is halved compared to the RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 UC, but the good news is that you’ll still get obscene performance for your hard earned buck, as this beast boasts impressive specs, i.e. real Boost Clock: 1815 MHz, 8 GB of DDR6, Dual HDB fan and iCX2 technology, which is now 14 percent cooler and 19 percent quieter; if you’re not into “geek parlance”, these features translate into stellar gaming performance, doubled-down by top-notch cooling and quieter acoustic noise compared to previous generations.
On top of that, the RTX 2018 XC2 UC comes with adjustable RGB LED (via software) to suit every gamer’s lighting needs. What you need to know about this high-end GPU is that it’s based on the Turing architecture, and it’s engineered to meet and exceed gamers’ graphical demands in 4K resolution while bringing you real-time ray tracing and AI as the cherry on top.
- excellent 4K gaming performance
- Ray Tracing technology, Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS) via artificial intelligence
- game ready drivers
- G-Sync compatible
- VR Ready
- supports up to 4 monitors, adjustable RGB LED, 240 Hz max-refresh rate
- Max Digital Resolution: 7680×4320 makes it ideal for video-editing/professional applications besides heavy gaming
- top-notch customer support from EVGA
- not much of an upgrade in terms of speed compared with 1080Ti (not really worth the stretch)
- RTX performance relies heavily on the game developer’s optimization
XFX Radeon Rx Vega 56
Both a Great Miner and a Full HD Gamer
The AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 is one of the best graphics cards for mining on the market right now and at the same time a great solution for Full HD gaming. Its users won’t be disappointed with either its 1440p experience where it shows great results or its mining capabilities and Full HD gaming are where it demonstrates its full potential.
Because it is so interesting to miners, RX Vega 56 is hard to find and its price is known to reach the skies. Therefore, if you can find it for the recommended retail price or close to it, you will get yourself a good deal since it’s close to RX Vega 64 according to its performance, but with a drastically lower price tag.
This one can also be compared to the Nvidia GTX 1070 by both performance and price, which makes RX Vega 56 even more attractive gaming solution, putting it among the best AMD graphics cards.
RX Vega 56 owes its good performance to its 8GB of HBM2 memory at 800MHz and boost clock of 1471MHz, which proved to be more than a good combination for this Full HD “killer”.
- Great Full HD performance
- Gaming performance is close to Titan X cards
- It gets very hot
- Requires a lot of energy
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming Z 8G
RTX for the Masses
Here we go again, down the rabbit hole, with a high-end gaming-centric GPU, this time coming from one of the best hardware manufacturers in the world, and yes, we’re talking about the MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming Z 8G. We know, there’s a little bit of a tautology here, but it’s ok. The thing about this GPU is that it makes for MSI’s flagship RTX 2070, running at 1830 MHz out of the box, i.e. it’s overclocked beyond FE specs. Despite all these cool features, the MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming Z 8G is retailing at basically the same price as the NVIDIA Founders Edition, which is cool from a gamer’s point of view.
Obviously, this graphics card is built on the famous Turing architecture, has 8 GB of DDR6 RAM, and it comes with a dual slot/fan design. As an interesting factoid for our readers, the effective clock rate of the GPU’s DDR RAM Micron ICs stands at 14 GHz stock, yet you can bump the figure upwards at the “flick of the switch”, towards 16 GHz actually, which means…well, you’ll see for yourself. But it must be mentioned that speaking of gaming performance, you’ll be looking at GTX 1080 levels (and above). Some testers put this monster very close to a GTX 1080 Ti, and if you check the price tag, you’ll understand you’ll be in for a real treat.
- stellar gaming performance: 9 percent faster than a GTX 1080 at 1440p, and 13 percent faster in 4K resolution
- amazing value for money
- awesome design
- cool and quiet in gaming, fans stop at idle
- RTX technology
- excellent for overclocking enthusiasts
- supports DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, 8K
- annihilates the Radeon RX Vega 64 in any scenario
- none really at this price
ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2060 Twin Fan
Perfect Choice for Budget Conscious Gamers
Next in line we have a more affordable GPU, the ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2060 respectively, which sports 6 GB of GDDR6 and it’s built on the Turing architecture, just like all its counterparts. One of the most important features of this gaming-centric GPU is the Real-time Ray Tracing in Games thing, which provides life-like effects in terms of reflections, lighting and shadows, along with a level of realism never thought possible before.
If you’re looking for more than adequate gaming performance in a budget-oriented GPU, it doesn’t get much better than the ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2060. Considering the price tag, this GPU is the definition of the “best bang for the proverbial buck”, as it manages to beat the $400 VEGA 64 in benchmarks by approximately 7 percent, and that’s not bad at all.
- excellent gaming performance considering the price asked
- looks stealthy, as it lacks RGB (we actually hate RGB to be honest) and there’s no DVI (we also hate DVI)
- amazing thermal performance and great noise profile
- punches way above its weight (30 percent less expensive than the RTX 2070 yet just 10 percent slower)
- 1,920 CUDA cores vs 1,280 in the GTX 1060 6 GB; you basically get 30 RT cores and 240 tensor cores
- better in terms of gaming performance than both Vega 64 and GTX 1080
- great versatility: VESA Adaptive-Sync, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4, 8K support
- nothing serious, except from noise coming from the fans during heavy loads, and the usual problem with no Windows 7 support for RTX, requires Windows 10 Fall 2018 Update
GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Windforce OC
The Best Budget Graphics Card Money Can Buy
Here we have another affordable yet powerful gaming-centric GPU, the GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Windforce OC respectively. The OC thing is going to make every gamer’s blood boil with joy, as it stands for overclocked from the factory, which is nothing short of awesome.
Now, considering the price tag, the GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Windforce OC can be best described as the bang-for-buck-king, and we mean that literally. This budget-oriented graphics card uses the specially designed TU116 GPU, which offers 24 SMs and 1536 CUDA cores, along with 6 GB of GDDR6 memory, running at 12 GBPS, which is slower than RTX variants, but rest assured, this issue can be remedied by a little overclocking. If you take a look at this little monster real-life performance, it’s quite unreal, i.e. Nvidia actually released an affordable Turing based graphics card.
Even if this GPU lacks fancy features, such as Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) or RTX, it performs great in games, making for an excellent mid-ranger that’s actually affordable for most people. It’s worth mentioning that the OC thing refers to the GPU’s 1,845MHz factory overclock.
- compact, runs cool, works great in most games
- solid performance in 1080p/1440p
- excellent temperatures
- quiet under load
- no support for NVLink / SLI
XFX RX-590P8DFD6 Radeon Rx 590 Fatboy
The Best Budget Gaming GPU
Here comes the Fatboy, also known as the Radeon Rx 590; if you’re shopping for an affordable “pedal to the metal” GPU, this is the “droid” you were looking for, provided you’re not into Nvidia stuff. What is it, you asked? Well, the Fatboy is basically a faster RX 580 with a cool sounding name. 200 Mhz faster that is, and the only important difference between our “boy” and the RX 580 is clock speed. That’s all there is to it, basically. However, there’s more to the Fatboy than 200 Mhz, i.e. a GPU which is shipped factory overclocked.
According to XFX, you can safely boost the speed to 1,600 Mhz, vs the stock 1,580 Mhz, and that’s due to the Fatboy thing, which refers to the GPU’s cooler. To describe it succinctly, think along the lines of XFX RX 580’s GTS cooler on steroids, and you’ll understand the Fatboy reference. This is a massive cooler for a triple-slot GPU (DisplayPorts, HDMI port, and DVI-D). Bottom line, if you are looking for a solid GPU in 1080p/even QHD, the Fatboy is definitely worth considering.
- amazing value for money
- all the ports in the world
- good 1440p gaming performance, excellent in 1080p resolution (some call the Fatboy the 1080p king)
- free games and FreeSync
- you can choose between quiet and speed via Dual Bios
- better gaming performance than Nvidia’s 6GB GTX 1060
- power hungry
- runs hot when pushed hard
- the Fatboy is an absolute unit, i.e. very large and fat (hence the name), and may not fit well in smaller cases
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
The best way to describe this MSI-made GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card is “Turing for everyone”. In terms of performance, this gaming-centric GPU is similar to a GTX 1070 (a tad faster actually) or the now-famous Radeon Vega 56, but the price is everything, right?
In terms of value for money, this MSI-made GPU is hard to beat. It’s true that you won’t get fancy RGB lightning, nor bling like RTX and the like, but the good news is that you can overclock it by up to 10 percent, and the cooling system will not curse at you, while the acoustic levels will stay “kosher”. Basically, if you’re looking for a no-nonsense everyday gaming GPU, this GTX 1660 Ti is the way to go.
- amazing value for money
- very good performance in 1080p resolution and especially for eSports Gaming Titles
- decent thermal/acoustic performance
- the overclocking potential is great
- makes for a worthy upgrade from GTX 960 and GTX 1060
- makes for the quintessential Turing GPU at a reasonable price tag
- efficient power wise and comes with NVIDIA Adaptive Shading Technology
- supports VESA Adaptive-Sync and G-Sync Compatible Monitors
- No RT/Tensor cores for Ray Tracing/DLSS support
ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060 Overclocked 6G
Join the Dark Side
This ASUS ROG product is the definition of factory overclock, making for a premium GPU which ticks most of the right boxes for avid gamers. It’s true that performance doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re a fan of the Republic of Gamers, this Strix GeForce RTX 2060 OC makes for one of the best best-built RTX 2060s on the market today, and we’re not mincing words here.
To make a long story short, this ASUS ROG is an impressive GPU by any metrics, and the fact that it’s factory tweaked translates into RTX 2070 performance levels in both FHD and WQHD resolution, i.e. you’ll benefit from more than decent gaming performance in 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 resolution. However, if you’re looking for 4K/UHD performance, look somewhere else; yet, we must admit that the Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060 OC offers class-leading performance while adding some cool features in a well-priced gaming-centric GPU like no one else does.
- great gaming performance in FHD or QHD resolution
- runs quieter and cooler compared to Founders Edition due to GPU-controlled cooling via fan headers onboard
- factory overclocked
- cool matte black design
- comes with Aura Sync RGB lighting
- the Quiet Bios feature makes it practically inaudible
- lacks support for SLI via NVLink
To Sum Up
Even the cheapest graphics cards today will give you more than a decent performance, which wasn’t the case in the past. Whatever your preferred price tag is, and whatever you need them for, we’re sure you’ll be able to find your graphics soulmate on this list. Good luck!
Table of Contents
- How to Choose the Best Graphics Card
9 Best Graphics Cards
- EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra Gaming
- EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 XC2 Ultra Gaming
- XFX Radeon Rx Vega 56
- MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming Z 8G
- ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2060 Twin Fan
- GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Windforce OC
- XFX RX-590P8DFD6 Radeon Rx 590 Fatboy
- MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
- ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060 Overclocked 6G
- To Sum Up