What’s the best graphics card for the money right now? 2021 has been a rough year for GPUs and PC enthusiasts as a whole. While the GPU shortage situation hasn’t improved yet, things are expected to get better in a few months.
Despite the lower price tag, a lot of the new budget graphics cards don’t skimp on performance. The best budget graphics cards on the market come equipped with plenty of power to help you push through even the modern titles at 1080p with decent graphics settings. It’s true that the best graphics cards on the market get all the attention, but you don’t necessarily have to spend upwards of $1000 on GPUs for gaming or even content creation. So let’s get started with the list and check out the available options.
With GPU prices finally dropping, it’s time to get in the market for one of the best graphics cards. After testing the leading options from AMD and Nvidia, we rank Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 as the top GPU you can buy right now thanks to its excellent 4K gaming performance and wealth of additional features.
But it’s not the top graphics card for everyone. There are a ton of options from AMD and Nvidia in 2022, making it easy to find a GPU for 1080p, 1440p, or 4K gaming. We’re mostly focusing on Nvidia’s Ampere and AMD’s rDNA 2 graphics cards here, which are the latest generations that offer the best performance and features these companies have to offer.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 – The overall best graphics card
- Why should you buy this: Although almost half the price of the 3090, Nvidia’s 3080 delivers near-comparable performance at 4K.
- Who’s it for: Gamers with a 4K display who want to play the latest AAA games at high frame rates.
The RTX 3080 is best suited for the 4K gamer who doesn’t want to compromise. It outpaces the last gen’s RTX 2080 Ti by a significant margin while launching at about half of the price. It can maintain above 60 frames per second for 4K gaming in titles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, offering smooth gameplay in even the most demanding games.
Its features shouldn’t go unnoticed, either. This Nvidia graphics card comes packed with the latest ray-tracing cores for accurate gaming lighting, and you can leverage the Tensor cores for dynamic upscaling through Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS). The RTX 3080 offers enough performance to warrant a purchase, and these two features push it over the edge.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 is the best graphics card for 4K gaming. It hits a sweet spot in the high-end market, delivering enough power to handle the most demanding AAA titles without bogging down the card with extra memory that isn’t useful for the majority of gamers. Just try to save some money by avoiding the 12GB RTX 3080.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti – The best mid-range graphics card
- Why should you buy this: The RTX 3070 Ti is the sweet spot in Nvidia’s current line-up, offering up enough power to push some games to 4K without the price of an RTX 3080.
- Who’s it for: Mainstream PC gamer that wants a lot of power at a reasonable price.
The RTX 3070 is a great graphics card, but we’d recommend the upgraded RTX 3070 Ti for most people. It’s only slightly faster than the RTX 3070; about 8% based on our testing. But you’ll typically find the Ti and non-Ti models in stock for around the same price, making the Ti model effectively a free upgrade.
Although the RTX 3070 Ti is a 1440p graphics card, it can manage 4K in a lot of titles. The extra boost over the base model allows you to play games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 60 fps if you tweak a few graphics settings. With DLSS on offer, you can even play games like Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K.
The RTX 3070 Ti is for the reasonable gamer. It might not last as long as the RTX 3080, and you might have to turn down a few graphics settings, but the RTX 3070 Ti balances price and performance, unlike any graphics card you can buy right now.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti – The best 1440p graphics card
- Why should you buy this: The RTX 3060 Ti punches well above its weight class.
- Who’s it for: 1440p gamers who want all of the visual bells and whistles.
The RTX 3060 Ti is an extremely powerful graphics card, considering its spot in Nvidia’s Ampere gaming lineup. Below the RTX 3070, the 3060 Ti still delivers 8GB of GDDR6 memory on a 256-bit bus and features only a slight reduction in clock speed — 1.67GHz on the 3060 Ti versus 1.72GHz on the 3070. It’s best suited for 1440p gamers that want high frame rates without the high price.
In benchmarks, the RTX 3060 Ti scores above last gen’s GeForce RTX 2080 Super. The card can deliver above 70 fps in demanding titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 with Ultra settings at 1440p. In games like Control, you can take advantage of features like DLSS to boost your performance, too.
The RTX 3060 Ti shines as the best graphics card for 1440p. It’s incredibly capable, offering frame rates north of 60 fps in demanding AAA titles, even with all the sliders turned up. Ray tracing would normally be a problem for a card like this, but thanks to DLSS, you can still hit performance marks with all the visual bells and whistles.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super – The best budget graphics card
- Why should you buy this: The GTX 1660 Super can still hold up today, even with how far graphics cards have come.
- Who’s it for: 1080p gamers looking for a bargain.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super looks quaint compared to the Ampere cards of today, but don’t underestimate it. The Nvidia GTX 1660 Super is the best budget GPU option in 2021. It performs excellently at 1080p, delivering a frame rate above 30 fps in highly demanding games like Metro Exodus. If you’re willing to turn down a few settings, you can hit much higher frame rates.
Although the GTX 1660 Super can hold up in the games released today, it can’t use visual features like ray tracing. The card isn’t an RTX card like the other Nvidia options on this list, so it doesn’t come with dedicated ray-tracing cores or support for features like DLSS. Still, for a budget option that can annihilate most games at 1080p, it’s hard arguing with the GTX 1660 Super. Don’t get tripped up by the PCIe version or other specs, either. The GTX 1660 Super is a fine fit for a modern gaming PC.
We recommend sticking with the GTX 1660 Super. The GeForce GTX 1650 is close in the lineup, but it’s far off in terms of performance. The Nvidia GTX 1660 Super is above the minimum specs for the Oculus Rift S, too, so it’s a great option if you’re interested in VR gaming.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 mobile – The best mobile graphics card
- Why should you buy this: It offers great performance without adding undue bulk to modern laptops.
- Who’s it for: Power gamers on the move.
Nvidia’s RTX 3060 is one of the latest iterations of its leaner mobile gaming solutions, but that doesn’t mean it lacks power. It offers a greater number of CUDA cores than previous generations of Nvidia graphics card mobile chips and delivers a sizable performance improvement over the past generation.
Although the GeForce RTX 3060 falls behind its full-scale desktop and mobile counterparts, its real strength lies in not outputting anywhere near the level of heat generated by big-scale GPUs. That means you’ll still find the RTX 3060 in laptops that are sleek and thin and don’t weigh too much. You can see the results in this older Razer Blade that we previously used in testing that weighs just 4.5 pounds and offers performance that in years gone by you’d only find in chunky gaming machines that weigh close to double that.
There are some solid alternatives in this space, with both AMD and Nvidia offering mobile options with greater and lesser performance depending on your needs. In our opinion, RTX 2070 Max-Q offers all the performance most users could want, all in a low-profile chipset. It’s a great solution for those who want optimal video performance from a smaller laptop. If you’re a gamer or just want some enhanced graphics on your small form factor laptop, this is a great choice.