Best graphics card under 200
Five awesome graphics cards that won’t break the bank
A discrete graphics card isn’t really a choice for modern gaming, it’s a must. Sure there are integrated graphics in selected CPUs, and it’s a nice gesture, but if you’re serious about gaming, they just don’t cut it.
Without a powerful GPU chugging out framerates left and right, you’re in for a laggy experience if the game even runs at all. Gaming should be immersive, and your graphics card is a huge part of that, but these days you could sell your car and still come up drastically short for a high-tier GPU.
But we’re here to tell you that you can keep your keys because there are some awesome GPUs out there that you can buy for less than $200 and still run your system to the standards you desire and deserve. So, without further ado, let’s get you a new graphics card!
Our Top Picks
How We Choose
Believe it or not, we’re not all filthy stinking rich at WePC, so even though we may get to test a lot of the top-tier new releases in a professional capacity, the idea of us actually taking home some of these graphics cards upward of $1000 isn’t all that realistic. We’d love to, but most of the time, we settle for something much more modest, so over the years, we’ve picked up a few things about budget graphics cards.
Of course, we research and test all our products, but the chances are at least a few of us have at some point or another incorporated every one of these graphics cards in our personal builds. These are the graphics cards that gave the most and asked for very little in return. These are the cards that democratize gaming, giving everyone a chance to own them and enjoy their favorite games in high quality.
Things to Consider
Although all of the listed graphics cards are awesome bits of tech, you’ll need to consider a few key factors before you know which is best for you and your system.
AMD vs Nvidia
As you must be aware by now, AMD and Nvidia have been duking it out in the GPU arena for more than a decade now, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to see a resolution any time soon.
Generally speaking, Nvidia is thought to produce the higher-performing GPUs of the two companies, especially as they cracked real-time ray tracing first, but AMD has a lot going for them too. Known as more of a consumer-friendly brand, AMD GPUs always arrive at a lower price point than their Nvidia equivalents.
Each new generation of GPU is based on a different architecture. Architecture refers to the general blueprint of construction. Each architectural advancement is given a codename and exhibits increased performance across the board while simultaneously reducing equivalent power consumption.
As well as general performative upgrades, new architecture may bring completely fresh features to the table such as Nvidia’s variable-rate shading as found in their RTX GPUs. Nvidia’s latest microarchitecture is known as Ampere, while AMD’s is known as RDNA 2. To stay within the $200 budget, we’ll mostly be focusing on cards based on Nvidia’s Turing and Pascal architecture and AMD’s RDNA architecture.
The cooling abilities of your GPU are essential. The hotter GPUs get, the lower their performance potential becomes.
There are two main types of GPU cooling, axial and blower. Axial or open-air cards feature two or more fans that blow air into the enclosure. The air is exhausted out both sides of the card into your case. Axial cards tend to run cooler but place more of a burden on your other hardware.
Blower-type cards have a singular fan that blows air over the heat sinks, down the length of the card. Blowers tend to run hotter, but vent hot air directly out of your case.
Dimensions are arguably the most important thing to consider when shopping around for a new GPU. If it doesn’t fit in your case, it’s not going to be all that much use to you. Graphics cards come in a range of sizes, but pretty much all modern designs have a 2-slot width, by which we mean it takes up two expansion slots on your motherboard.
You’ll need a minimum of roughly 10.5 inches of clearance to accommodate a quality graphics card, so micro towers may not be up to the task. Mid towers, on the other hand, are normally capable of accommodating large graphics cards.
Resolution and Frames Per Second
This is the exciting part…gaming performance. When choosing a graphics card, you should focus on what would suit your gaming habits. The higher the resolution you like to use for gaming, the more powerful Your GPU will need to be.
The desired goal in any resolution is 60fps or above, enough to facilitate some smooth and immersive gameplay. The minimum is around 30fps. Anything lower than that isn’t really considered playable.
VRAM is your GPU’s dedicated fast access memory cache. It holds all the information your graphics card needs to smooth out on-screen transitions. It stands as a buffer between your processor and GPU. Expressed in the GDDR format, the baseline for gaming is generally seen as GDDR4. If you play in 1440p resolutions or above, a large VRAM capacity and efficient configuration can really help boost your frame rates.
The Best graphics card for under 200
- Current generation card with the latest tech
- Benefits from Radeon driver upscalers for even better performance
- GDDR6 memory and PCIe gen 4 for faster bandwidths
- Features infinity cache
- Weaker than some second hand older picks
- Suffers on Gen 3 slots
For a solid entry into the current generation, AMD has the RX 6500 XT to offer. And the ASUS TUF design on top will provide you with one of the best implementations for the card. As with a robust and thought-out compact design you get the full force of the card. With plenty of opportunities for top-end performance out of the GPU.
The chip itself is the Navi 24 XT variant built on the RDNA 2 architecture. With the use of TSMCs 6 nm process it creates a die 107mm² in size, containing 5.4 billion transistors. Along with 1,024 shaders, 64 TMUs, 32 ROPs, 16 compute units and 16 RT cores.
For its clock speeds, the ASUS card offers an overclock of the base spec. With a base clock of 2,420 MHz, a game clock of 2,685 MHz, and a boost clock of 2,825 MHz. In terms of VRAM, it contains 4 GB of GDDR6 memory, across a 64-bit bus. Clocked at 18 Gbps it has a bandwidth of 143.9 GB/s.
For its connectors, you get one HDMI 2.1 and one DisplayPort 1.4a port. Along with one 6-pin power connector for the 107 W TDP card. Even if it may not have the most powerful core, there are benefits to the Radeon card. With RSR you can upscale any game to achieve higher performance at the cost of some quality.
- Thermals - Multi-focus cooling keeps this card very chill.
- OC + - You can push this card well beyond the limits of RX 580 reference specs.
- 8GB GDDR5 - Use this card to dabble in some quality 1440p gaming.
- Comparative Price - Much cheaper than the Nvidia equivalent.
- Garish Design - Some might not appreciate the very angular enclosure.
This is a dual-fan axial card, with multiple cooling focus points. It doesn’t just center on the GPU, but the memory unit as well, making this one of the coolest running cards at this price point. It’s this advanced thermal headroom that enables such intensive overclocking.
Featuring the OC+ reimagining of XFX’s True Clock technology, it doesn’t just support hardware-level high speeds, but an extra boost on top, giving your frame rate averages that support they need to run demanding titles fluidly.
Built using the Polaris microarchitecture blueprint, the RX 580 boasts a whopping 2304 cores. This ensures flawless shader performance and realistic gameplay even in the absence of ray tracing technology. Polaris brings large 2MB L2 caches to the table for loads of super-fast visual data transfers and buttery smooth gaming.
This is an amazing card for gaming at 1080p in ultra settings, hitting averages of 60fps and beyond across a huge array of titles. Thanks to that 8GB GDDR5 memory, you can even run some titles in 1440p.
- GDDR6 - Higher memory bandwidth, lower power consumption. It’s all good.
- Factory OC - Faster out the box, with more thermal headroom for manual overclocking.
- Dimensions - Should fit in most cases.
- VRAM Capacity - 4GB VRAM isn’t ideal for high-resolution gaming.
The Asus TUF 1650 OC arrives on your doorstep overclocked and ready to tear up the 1080p arena! The factory OC means it has faster clock speeds out the box and greater thermal headroom for some manual tinkering too. What shocked us the most about this card is the 1440p clout it brings to the desk. We managed to hit fps averages between 40 and 60fps on most games, and that’s on ultra settings as well.
The reason this 1650 surprised us with its power is that it’s a very unassuming card. Measuring just over 8 inches long, it will fit in any mid-tower and even some micro setups. The dual fan axial shroud design does a magnificent job of keeping things cool. You’ll only ever really hear it during 1440p gameplay.
Another reason the 1440p performance dropped our jaws is that it only has 4GB VRAM capacity, which usually isn’t sufficient for densely pixelated resolutions, but the GDDR6 configuration gives it that extra oomph required, amounting to a truly formidable card.
- Low profile to fit any build
- Current gen and latest tech used
- Part of the Radeon family it has access to great upscalers and preformance enhancers
- Very low performance for current gen and price
- Only has an x4 lane that will slow it down on older slots
The Radeon RX 6400 is the lowest entry into AMD’s lineup. It may not be the most powerful card but it doesn’t cost much to try it. But it does benefit from Radeon drivers, and with RSR it can achieve much more. Pushing the performance higher and getting the most out of the card at the cost of some quality.
It is built upon the Navi 24 XL GPU variant built upon the RDNA 2 architecture. Which in turn uses TSMCs 6 nm process. Creating a 107mm² die size containing 5.4 billion transistors. This just fits in it 768 shading units, 48 TMUs, 32 ROPs, 12 compute units and 12 RT cores.
For its VRAM it utilizes 4 GB of GDDR6 memory, across a 64-bit bus. Clocked at 16 Gbps it gives it 128 GB/s of bandwidth. While the rest of the cores have a base clock of 1,923 MHz, a game clock of 2,039 MHz, and a 2,321 MHz boost clock.
For its connectivity, you also get only two ports, with one HDMI 2.1 and one DisplayPort 1.4a port. And does not require a power connector to worry about, as it only has a 55 W TDP that can be provided by the port.
- Turing Architecture - Full of neat features that iron out any visual kinks.
- MSI Frozr Cooling - High-performance fans keep temperatures low and performance quiet.
- G-Sync - Sync up your frame rates to your monitor’s refresh rate for tear-free gameplay.
- GDDR5 Memory - Very efficient configuration that reduces the chances of lag.
- Build Quality - It’s a plastic-heavy design.
This MSI card loaded with Nvidia’s GTX 1650 GPU is the most affordable way to get your hands on Turing microarchitecture. It doesn’t have all the RTX bells and whistles such as RT or Tensor cores, but it does feature variable-rate shading, improving acuity in essential areas of the screen, a whole new mesh shading technique, and other goodies like improved NVENC encoders for smooth streaming.
With 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, it’s not primed for high res gaming, but for 1080p in ultra settings and even some titles in 1440p on low to medium settings, it reaches the 60fps zone, which is generally the desired rate for some silken visuals. It has no problem running three monitors simultaneously either, a very impressive feat for a little card.
The enclosure is predominantly plastic, but the design is appealing and neutral, allowing it to sit nicely in any case without jarring the feng shui, so to speak.
We’re assuming MSI’s Twin Frozr thermal solution’s reputation precedes this review. This dual-fan system combines traditional and dispersion blade-design to minimize air turbulence and keep things lovely and quiet.
Best graphics card for under 200 frequently asked questions
What GPU can I get for 200?
There are still a few graphics cards you can buy for less than 200, even from the current generation. You can grab yourself an RX 6500 XT, RX 580, GTX 1650, RX 6400, or a GTX 1650. Although they may not be the most powerful they still have benefits to be used.
What is the best cheapest graphics card?
The best cheapest graphics card is the ASUS TUF Radeon RX 6500 XT OC. It offers a good entry into the Radeon family and can benefit from upscalers on the driver level, so even without the most powerful chip you can get a high framerate with it. Although there will be some drawbacks to the lower entry card.
It’s easy to get caught up in the arms race that is graphics card production, and while it would be nice to be able to afford the latest and greatest, the truth is, you really don’t need it. Unless you’re a competitive player, any one of these budget graphics cards will be enough for some silky smooth gaming. Or at least can work with some upscalers from their software.
The best all-rounder in our opinion is the MSI GTX 1650. Even without hardware ray tracing and advanced deep AI learning, the Turing architecture makes a noticeable difference to gameplay. For a 1440p monitor, on the other hand, we’re torn between the XFX cards. They both have impressive VRAM and pristine thermals, both of which are essential for snagging that 60fps average in higher resolutions. That said, the Asus card can handle itself in 1440p as long as the game isn’t too demanding.
If 1080p is your arena and you see no reason to upgrade any time soon, we’d suggest you go for our budget pick, the Zotac 1050 Ti. It’s not flashy, but it’s all you’ll ever need for high fps AAA 1080p gaming.
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