How We Choose And Test Our GPUs
When it comes to finding the best GPUs, there are a lot of different variables to take into account.
While some may look at only the highest-end graphic card and call it a day, we take our search a little further than that. We examine as many graphics card deals as we can, to ensure that you’re not only getting excellent performance but also excellent value as well.
We thoroughly test every card we recommend. Not only do we put these cards through rigorous benchmarking, but we also use the cards in our work machines and stress-test them to their limit. You can be sure that every card in this guide will not only perform for you but will last you a lifetime too.
Whether you’re looking for 1080p or 4k gaming, you’ll find a perfect card for you here.
Our Best Graphics Card Top Picks
If you didn’t see this coming, then you’ve probably had your head buried in the sand for the past few years. Nvidia’s RTX series of cards has been one of the most sought-after cards in the world thanks to their advanced ray-tracing abilities. While the RTX 3090 is certainly more powerful, it’s also more of a workstation card and comes with the associated price tag. The RTX 2080 has a much better performance to value ratio, and you won’t need to remortgage your house to get one, assuming you can find it at the retail price right now that is.
Obviously, with MSI’s take on the RTX 3080, you’ll get access to one hell of a card. You’ll be able to handle 4K gaming on any game with Ultra settings and high framerates. You’ll also get the ability to enjoy the latest takes on VR gaming as well. It should go without saying that you’ll also get Nvidia’s unparalleled ray-tracing technology too. You couldn’t ask for more.
ASUS AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT ROG Strix LC OC 16GB
If you’re more Team Red than Team blue then the RX 6800 XT might be more your style. While the RX 6800 just about loses out to the RTX 3080 where it counts, at 4K resolutions, if you’re more of a 1080p or 1440p gamer then Radeon’s cards will actually give you marginally better performance in those areas.
Even with the slightly weaker 4K performance, the RX 6800 XT is a stellar card, and the sheer amount of VRAM on this puppy means you’ll never have to wonder about high-resolution textures being too much to handle. The card is based on the RDNA 2 architecture, which also powers the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, so you can be 100% sure you’re well-prepared to handle the next generation of gaming.
If you’re looking for a mid-range card, rather than a high-end one, you’ll find nothing better than the RTX 3060 Ti. While it lacks the 4K performance of the other RTX 30 series cards, the 3060 Ti is great value for the performance you get from it and is a better option if you’re on a bit of a tighter budget too.
You should find yourself perfectly suited to manage pretty much every modern PC game at either 1080p or 1440p. If you’re into the idea of overclocking, you should be able to squeeze around a 1700 MHz clock speed out of the card, which brushed up on the capabilities of the more expensive 3070.
Considering the sheer power that you get from an RTX 3090, you might wonder why this card isn’t higher up the list. The honest answer is that this extra power is complete overkill for most gaming scenarios. Unless you’re a content creator or have another reason to process a lot of videos, you just don’t need this level of power.
Having said that, the RTX 3090 is nothing to be sniffed at when it comes to sheer performance. If you do go for this as your primary gaming card, it should go without saying that you’ll be able to play any game at 4K with this card and expect the best performance around. There’s a reason that the RTX 3090 is currently considered one of the most powerful graphics cards in the world right now.
Budget GPU Picks
If resolution isn’t that important to you, or you just want a card for under $300 RRP, then the RX 5600 XT is a great choice. Not only does it offer performance similar to the RTX 2060 at the fraction of the price, but it’s got a great value to cost ratio as well.
You shouldn’t struggle to play most modern games at 1080p and can expect pretty stable framerates as well. Even at 1440p, you can get at least 60fps out of this card on mid settings. You might even be able to push the card to 4K, but only if you care more about resolution than you do about graphics quality for some reason.
The successor to the 1060 6GB, the GTX 1660 Ti, is a great choice if you’re looking for a budget card and would prefer an Nvidia card to an AMD one. You’ll be able to squeeze some decent 1440p performance out of the card, although you probably shouldn’t expect triple-digit framerates or ultra settings on your games.
At 1080p things are smooth pretty much across the board, you’ll struggle to find a game that doesn’t work with this puppy at full HD resolution. Even with modern games on Ultra settings, the 1660 Ti performs admirably and should be able to handle anything you throw at it.
When it comes to the art of the true budget build, you’ll not find a better companion than the RX 590. It’s a great card if you’re looking to get started in PC gaming, or even if you’re building a living room PC and want a small, cheap card to run indie or couch co-op titles with your friends and family.
If you don’t care about having the highest quality for your graphics, the RX 590 will even play games that were released over the past few years at a solid 60FPS. Titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call of Duty: Warzone work excellently, and you can have a solid amount of fun playing them on this card.
Things to Think About
Buying a new graphics card is a big decision for a PC gamer. Whether you’re completely new to the scene or are a hard-bitten veteran who hasn’t bought new components in a while, there are a few things that you need to make sure you think about before making any decisions.
Performance Vs Price
The most important thing to consider with any component, especially a GPU, is how much power you need, and how much money you’re willing to spend. If you’re aiming for the highest possible performance and money is no object, you’re going to be aiming for a different card from someone who doesn’t have much of a budget, but still wants decent gaming performance above all else.
Take a look at the budget you’ve got to spend, and consider if you’re spending the right amount. There’s not much point in buying that 3090 you’ve heard about if you’re playing Microsoft Solitaire Collection and writing documents all day. Similarly, there’s no point in trying to buy the card for your dream gaming PC if you don’t have enough money yet.
Cases and Cooling
It’s all well and good buying a fancy new graphics card, but you need to make sure that you’ll actually be able to use the damn thing when it arrives. Make sure you measure the space you’ll have inside your case and check the dimensions given by the manufacturer. One of the worst feelings as a PC builder is buying a powerful graphics card for your rig, and discovering that it’s too long or thick to fit inside your chosen case.
Another important question is cooling. It should be well-known to you by now that a hot graphics card isn’t going to run as well as a cool graphics card will. A case with good airflow is a great start, but if you’ve got a compact build you may need to consider getting extra case fans or other cooling systems to ensure you get the best performance.
If you’re still new to PC gaming, you may not realize that your monitor is an incredibly important part of your setup. If you’re paying for a high-end graphics card to enjoy those triple-digit framerates, you’ll be disappointed if you’ve got it plugged into a 1080p 60 Hz television.
You need to make sure that your monitor has a high enough refresh rate for your graphics card. The standard for a true gaming monitor is typically 144 Hz, allowing you to enjoy up to 144 frames per second. You’ll also want advanced features to prevent screen-tearing and give you great color reproduction if you’re paying through the nose for a next-gen gaming experience.
Your Power Requirements
If you’re building your own PC, you should probably already be familiar with your power supply, but if not you should look into it before purchasing your GPU. All of the components in your machine have different power requirements, and your power supply, or PSU, can only handle a certain amount of wattage.
When you’re buying your graphics card, use a calculator tool to ensure that your current power supply can handle the new addition to your machine. If you go for a really powerful graphics card, the chances are that you’ll need to upgrade your PSU as well to ensure that you’ve got the power you need. You’ll also want extra power if you intend on overclocking any of your components.
And There You Have It
This guide to the best Graphics Cards in 2021 should have you more than prepared to make a decision on your next GPU. Whether you’re building a budget machine to get started or you’re aiming for a next-gen upgrade, you should find all the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision.
All the graphics cards on this list have been personally selected by us here at SPCR, and you can be sure that you’ll get great value and great performance for the price out of each one of the GPUs we’ve shared with you here. We should know, we’ve tested them all ourselves.
If you’re looking for more build advice, feel free to check out our other build pages, as well as our guides on various other PC components that you might feel useful. Not only have we covered a wide variety of different price points, but our guides can help you no matter if you’re building a PC for the first time, a returning veteran catching up on the latest tech, or even someone just looking for a decent prebuilt.
No matter your needs, SPCR has got you totally covered.