Replacing your graphics card is the number one upgrade you can make for your PC and the most profound in terms of improving gaming performance, so it makes sense to spend some time researching your options. Choosing the right card depends on many factors, so we’ve streamlined that process for you. Right here, you’ll find strong graphics card recommendations for budget 1080p gaming PCs all the way up to 4K and high refresh rate beasts, based on our extensive testing of every graphics card on the market.
If you just want our direct, no-nonsense GPU upgrade recommendations, that’s not a problem.
- Right now, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is our top pick for the best graphics card. If you want the highest possible frame-rates in games, plus support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing and other modern techs, then the RTX 2080 Ti stands head and shoulders above any other consumer card from Nvidia or AMD.
- If you’re looking to maximise your performance per dollar, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 offers excellent 1080p and 1440p frame-rates and is the cheapest card with hardware-accelerated ray tracing. That makes it our pick for the best value graphics card.
- In terms of our lower tier picks, we’ve targeted a degree of longevity and better-than-console throughput for our best budget graphics card – in this case, the old but still powerful AMD Radeon RX 570.
While these are our top picks, we’ve also highlighted a few alternatives for each category, so look out for those after each major recommendation.
Graphics card buyer’s guide
While gaming desktop PCs tend to be last longer than the average games console or gaming laptop, the graphics card is one component you’ll need to replace regularly if you want to keep getting good performance in the latest games. Where processors might get faster by only a few percentage points every few years, graphics cards can see gains of 25 per cent from one generation to the next – and sometimes, the increase in performance is even more substantial. For example, the Intel Core i7 2600K launched back in 2011 and still holds up pretty well in modern games, yet graphics cards of a similar vintage will struggle even at low quality settings.
Choosing the right graphics card is important because this is the component that does most of the heavy lifting that brings your games to life. Graphics hardware capable of easily running triple-A titles starts at around the £110/$110 mark, with Nvidia’s GTX 1050 and AMD’s RX 560 offering (on paper at least) significantly more graphics processing horsepower than the base PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That means that every major multi-platform title should run at least with ballpark equivalent performance. From there, it’s all about paying more and scaling up, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti sitting at the current top of the pile.
Of course, it’s also important to avoid building a bottle-necked system, so you should aim to pair your video card of choice with a suitably powerful CPU, RAM and other components. We generally recommend system builders plump for at least 8GB of system RAM, with 16GB being a worthwhile upgrade. If you’re using an AMD Ryzen or a mainstream Intel CPU, using two RAM modules in dual or even quad-channel mode ensures you’re not handicapping your performance. Your choice of processor is also crucial to building a balanced system. AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Intel’s Core i5 are the price/performance champions for 60fps gaming, but if you’re looking to run the latest games at the highest possible frame-rates, particularly on a high refresh rate display, we would recommend the Intel Core i7 8700K or its ninth-generation successors.
Thankfully, we’ve reached the point where even the cheaper end of the discrete GPU market offers some good results if you’re prepared to put just a little effort into tweaking your in-game graphical settings. Beyond that, there’s seemingly a graphics card for every kind of use-case – and that’s where this guide comes in. Every GPU worth considering is included in this exhaustive guide, and if you’re looking for more detailed performance metrics, we can link you through to the some of the most detailed gaming benchmarks around so you can see exactly what kind of performance you should expect.