There are a number of different scenarios in which a person might need to upgrade their GPU. Perhaps your graphics card isn’t producing the performance levels you desire in the latest games, or maybe you just bought a new monitor and your old GPU doesn’t support 4K output.
Whatever the reason, purchasing the right GPU for your needs can be quite stressful. Here at WePC, we like to take the stress of product research and comparison away. Our team of dedicated PC enthusiasts is constantly reviewing, benchmarking, and comparing the latest graphics cards so you don’t have to.
With that in mind, the following article will be a closer look at only the best graphics cards the market has to offer. We’ll be comparing price, performance, aesthetics, and cooling, ensuring our selection are the best overall value for money products on the market.
So, with all that in mind, let’s waste no further time and dive into the best graphics cards for 2021.
Our Top Picks
Best Graphics Cards: First Look
For gamers playing at 4K or utilising ray-tracing, the GeForce RTX 3080 is the best graphics card available, offering superb performance improvements over the previous generation.
The GeForce RTX 3080 inches ahead of the competition, offering the best of the new Ampere architecture outside of workstation graphics cards like the RTX 3090. It’s DLSS AI-enhanced graphics and improved Real-time ray tracing over the older Turing GPUs, as well as superior 4K performance mark it out as something special. See our where to buy the GeForce RTX 3080 page for a list of all the major global stockists of the graphics card in its different AIBs.
AMD’s true flagship gaming GPU, the Radeon RX 6800 XT is a close contender for the best graphics card for gaming, and has the edge over Nvidia at 1080p and 1440p resolutions.
Although not quite up there with the RTX 3080 on the highest resolutions, the 4K performance of this AMD graphics card is still very impressive. Besides the advantages of the new RDNA 2 architecture, the card comes with 16GB GDDR6 VRAM and a boost clock of between 2155 – 2360 MHz depending on which AIB you go with. Check out our where to buy the Radeon RX 6800 XT guide for a full list of retailers globally selling the various variants of the card.
The Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti is the best mid-tier graphics card currently available, offering great value for money for those looking to play at 1080p and 1440p.
Despite the relatively low number of CUDA cores at 4,864, the card has very respectable boost frequencies of between 1,665-1890 MHz depending on the AIB, which makes it punch above its weight in silicon terms – not too far behind the more expensive RTX 3070. Have a look at our where to buy the RTX 3060 Ti page for different retailers stocking the cards.
The AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT is a great value graphics card that offers good performance at 1080p for significantly less than the competition.
The AMD card offers near RTX 2060 levels of performance for a fraction of the price of its Nvidia rival. If you’re looking for a graphics card that RRPs at under $300, then the RX 5600 XT is the best GPU you’ll get in the current market. Take a look at our where to buy the RX 5600 XT page for the best chance of getting hold of one of these GPUs from major global stock holders.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is the most powerful GPU on this list, and indeed currently available, however it’s a hugely expensive card that’s only really worth it if you’re a content creator that requires a great deal of visual rendering power, for whom quicker rendering equals more work and more money.
This graphics card has the most impressive VRAM capacity, speed, and bandwidth you will find, and AMD doesn’t really have an answer to it. Ultimately though, for gaming, it’s not that much better than the much much cheaper RTX 3080. If it’s the right card for your needs however, or you simply must have the best of the best then see our where to buy the RTX 3090 page for a full list of global retailers.
If you’re looking for great performance at a reasonable price tag then look no further, the 1660Ti sits 5th in our best graphics cards list this 2019. It mostly takes over from the 1060 but with 15% better performance benchmarks, all this for a very affordable price makes it our top value for money card.
While more expensive than the 1080p pick, definitely the most value-oriented pick overall. Straddling the line between perfect 1080p gaming and strong VR/1440p gaming, the 1660Ti is easily the most value-tailored GPU out there right now.
The price of the 590 for what you get is outstanding. This GPU lets you enjoy 1080p gaming without the need for investing thousands!
The perfect companion for that budget build, the RX 590 offers high FPS counts in glorious detail too! Whilst being an absolute workhorse this GPU goes a long way to give you a great experience for less.
This is actually a lot simpler than you might think. With other products, like monitors, there’s a lot more to take into account when making lists like these. When it comes to graphics cards, though, selection will pretty much always boil down to the following two questions:
- How well does it perform?
- How good is the value for that level of performance?
We also took into mind popular searches around the Internet, including:
- What is the best AMD/Nvidia graphics card?
- What is the best 1080p/1440p graphics card?
Our goal is to answer these questions to the best of our ability while still providing you with a selection of high-quality GPUs that you won’t regret purchasing. We like to think we succeeded in this goal.
Now, how should you pick from this list, since we’ve done most of the work already?
How You Should Choose
Also pretty simple! Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my target resolution: 1080p, 1440p, or 4K?
- Do I need to push frame rates higher than 60?
- How much can I afford to spend on a graphics card?
As long as you know the answer to those three questions and read our detailed descriptions of each of the graphics cards listed, you shouldn’t have any problems picking the right card for your needs. You can also choose to leave a comment below if you need our direct assistance.
MORE: Best Graphics Card Deals
Testing the products we recommend is a huge part of the overall selection process in our best of guides. It’s a way to make sure what we recommend is, without a doubt, the best option in its specific category.
To be sure a product is “the best,” it must show excellent performance in our tests, and display better qualities and features than the competition it faces.
Most of the products we recommend here at WePC have gone through a strict testing process that involves everything from the price and performance, to build quality, efficiency, and aesthetics. Each product is pushed to the limit to see how it performs under intense stress to make sure it warrants our coveted top spot.
Doing this enables us to provide you with the most accurate review of how the product performs and, ultimately, whether it’s worth your hard-earned cash.
Ultimately, it comes down to your requirements and specific needs.
If you’re on a budget and can’t buy tech often, you’ll likely be looking for either the best value pick or the cheapest card you can find. In this situation, we recommend going for value, even if it’s a bit more expensive than entry-level. That way you can make the most of your purchase and enjoy it for the longest time.
If budget isn’t a concern, you should still probably be smart and do your research. You wouldn’t want to drop $1K on a last-gen or overpriced GPU, for instance. You also wouldn’t want to buy super high-end when there’s a new generation of GPU around the corner… unless there’s a significant discount or trade-up program, of course.
If you’re somewhere in between, just make sure your needs are being met. If you only game at 1080p, for instance, you’re best with going for a mid-range card that will satisfy your needs. If you need to push a high refresh rate or high resolutions, you may want to consider a higher-end option, you get the idea.
The resolution you want to play at has a major impact on the graphics card you should choose. Because higher resolutions utilize more pixels, you are literally increasing the demand that’s put on your GPU by increasing the resolution. If you currently play on 1080p but want to increase to 1440p, you will almost certainly need a much more powerful GPU.
The monitors refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz) and tells us how many times the monitor refreshes the image it’s displaying per second. The refresh rate has a major impact on the quality of your gaming experience and requires similar (if not higher) frame rate output to see the best results. There’s no point in getting a 144Hz monitor if your GPU can only push 60FPs.
Depending on what you’re doing, the graphics card’s cooling can be very important. If you plan to overclock or use a case with poor airflow, you’re going to want the best possible cooling you can afford. Cooling solutions come in many forms, so choosing the right one for your needs is essential.
Remember, a hot GPU will work less efficiently than a cool one. It will also run the risk of having a reduced life-span too.
So, with everything in mind, it’s time to take a closer look at the 7 best graphics cards for 2021.
You can check out our GPU Hierarchy right here.
- Clock Speed – Measured in MHz, clock speed represents the “speed” of the GPU core within the graphics card. These alone don’t determine relative performance, but boosting your core clock speed via overclocking can give you some free performance bonuses.
- VRAM – Stands for Video – Random access memory and acts as a buffer between your CPU and GPU. The more VRAM your GPU has the more efficiently it can process graphics.
- GDDR6 – The latest VRAM available, it has more capacity and increased bandwidth making it the most powerful VRAM on the market.
- GDDR5 – The most common modern VRAM standard. Decently fast, shouldn’t bottleneck in most situations.
- GDDR5X – An amped-up version of GDDR5 used by Nvidia for their high-end cards.
- HBM2 – AMD’s go to VRAM standard, as quick as anything on the market however much more expensive thanks to production methods.
- Memory Bus – In massively-simplified terms, the wider the memory bus, the faster the core and VRAM are able to communicate with one another. The HBM2 cards use this to their advantage to greatly increase speed across the board.
The Best Graphics Cards in 2021
Superb performance compared to the previous gen
Ray Tracing and DLSS support
The best 4K performance
High power draw
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 is quite simply the best gaming GPU on the market right now for 4K gaming. AMD’s competing card, the 6800 XT, has slight advantages at 1080p and 1440p, but it doesn’t come with the features of the RTX 3080. Although both the AMD RX 6900 XT and Nvidia’s own RTX 3090 are more powerful cards than the RTX 3080, the former card is $300 more expensive with inferior ray-tracing performance, and the latter card is geared more towards high-end workstation users with a price tag to match (expect to pay at least $800 more for the RTX 3090). In some cases the RTX 3080 can actually compete with these higher price cards on certain games and at certain settings, particularly the AMD RX 6900 XT which does not justify such a big markup.
At an RRP of at least $699, the RTX 3080 is not cheap, but when you consider that it can beat the older gen RTX 2080 Ti by a substantial margin (around 30% in some cases), and that card originally retailed for $1,200, then this shows the superb generational uplift that this card represents on a power to price basis.
Besides the raw power generated by the 8,704 CUDA cores, with a boost clock of between 1,710 – 1,815 MHz depending on the AIB you go with, the thing which just about separates this card from the competing AMD RX 6800 XT is the superior ray-tracing and DLSS technology. With their latest 30-series GPUs, Nvidia have really nailed ray-tracing technology, and the RTX 3080 is capable of running games at a better FPS performance with ray-tracing turned on compared to what the 2090 Ti could do, even with the feature switched off! The only real downside of all this gaming power is the high electrical power required to run it – the GeForce RTX 3080 requires a 850W PSU at a minimum.
All in all, if you have a definite interest in playing games that come with ray-tracing, and you can handle the additional $50 price markup over the competing AMD RX 6800 XT card, then the RTX 3080 is the best gaming GPU currently available (although the upcoming release of the RTX 3080 Ti may change this). We’ve selected the MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G as our favourite AIB of this model card, though you can have a look at our best RTX 3080 GPU page to see if there’s a different variant you might prefer.
Superb performance compared to the previous gen
Very good 4K performance
The best 1080p and 1440p performance
Cheaper than the competition
Inferior Ray Tracing compared to Nvidia
For the first time in years, 2020 saw AMD try and take on Nvidia at not just the middle range of GPUs, but also the higher end of the price and performance spectrum. With the Radeon RX 6800 XT they almost, but not quite, succeeded in knocking Nvidia’s RTX 3080 off the top spot, nevertheless, for certain consumers the 6800 XT may actually be the better option.
AMD’s ray tracing functionality exists but it doesn’t yet match Nvidia’s at all, but if this isn’t a feature you particularly care about (it is after all still limited to a relatively small amount of games), then the $50 cheaper RX 6800 XT might be a better choice. Although it depends on the title, overall the RX 6800 XT actually performs slightly better than the RTX 3080 on 1080p and 1440p titles, but the RTX 3080 has the edge on 4K performance.
Equally, if you’ve got one of the latest AMD CPUs, the Smart Access Memory feature which synergises the performance of the two might also sway the RX 6800 XT in your favour. In reality the much vaunted Smart Access Memory has been fairly underwhelming – on some titles making no difference, on others actually reducing performance – however there are certain games you can get a 10%+ FPS uplift on, so if you identify these titles you can easily switch on the feature as and when it is needed.
Although the RTX 3080 might have the edge in terms of software features and pull ahead slightly in 4K gaming performance, the RX 6800 XT has its advantages on lower resolutions. Ultimately the fight between the AMD RX 6800 XT and Nvidia RTX 3080 is a close race, and whichever card you pick you will end up with one of the best on the market. It may be that the cheaper price of the AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT and its somewhat greater availability make it more favorable for your needs. We have picked the ASUS AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT ROG Strix LC OC 16GB variant for this article, but check out our guide on the best RX 6800 XT to see which AIB of this card would be right for you.
Superb Performance For The Price
Solid 1080p and 1440p performance
Ray Tracing and DLSS support
Not powerful enough for 4K
The Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti is below the RTX 3070 in the GeForce hierarchy as you’d expect, but shares many features with the more powerful card, including the same 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM and the same 256-bit memory bus. Despite having a lower core count than the RTX 3070, depending on the game you can expect FPS to fall behind the more expensive card by only around 15%-1% less. Considering the RTX 3060 Ti has an RRP $399, $100 less than the RTX 3070, this is great value.
In fact we’d say that the RTX 3060 Ti currently offers the best power-to-price of any card on this list. It actually beats the previous-gen 2080 Super across all resolutions, despite retailing for less money. The card offers respectable FPS at 1080p and 1440p, making it a great option for those with a 1440p monitor not looking to break the bank, although 4K gaming is beyond its power (unsurprising at this price point).
Finally, the RTX 3060 Ti comes with the same ray-tracing technology as the more expensive cards in the series, giving it an edge over similarly priced AMD cards.
If the RTX 3060 Ti seems the right card for you, have a look at our guide on the best RTX 3060 Ti variants to see which AIB of the card would suit you best. Here we have listed the ASUS GeForce RTX 3060 TI ROG Strix Gaming OC but a cheaper variant might suit you better.
Solid 1080p performance
Relatively power efficient
Weaker 1440p performance
Only 6GB VRAM
No ray tracing
Before the recent price hikes driven by supply shortages, the RX 5600 XT had an RRP of $279. This compares very favorably to Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060, which barely inches ahead of the Radeon card in most titles, but has a retail price of $339. Although the RTX 2060 has an advantage in terms of coming with ray-tracing, the capability of the technology in 20-series cards leaves something to be desired – leading to significant FPS drops unlike with later 30 series models. On balance then, the RX 5600 XT is a much better value card.
Although the VRAM is limited to 6GB GDDR6 the card still comes with a respectable 2,304 stream processors and a boost clock of 1,560 MHz. Ultimately this translates to very solid performance at 1080p on medium-high settings on the latest games, though at 1440p you’ll potentially need to turn things down a notch on the presets, depending on the title.
All-in-all the RX 5600 XT is a great value graphics card from AMD. See our best Radeon RX 5600 XT guide to find the right variant of the card for your needs.
The most powerful GPU available
Terrific 4K performance
Not really a gaming GPU
Despite the ‘GeForce’ prefix, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 isn’t really a GPU designed for gamers, and it should be seen more as akin to the earlier Titan series: built for use by creative professionals, 3D visual artists, and others in need of a powerful and fast graphical rendering machine for their particular line of work, and who can afford the $1,499 RRP.
That being said, if you fall into this category but also enjoy gaming – the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 will certainly give you more FPS on any game, at any resolution (though especially 4K), compared to any other retail graphics card on the market. However, the $800 premium you would pay for the RTX 3090 over the next most powerful Nvidia GPU currently available, the RTX 3080, is a frankly insane markup for what amounts to not that great a difference in gaming performance.
The closest competitor to the RTX 3090 is AMD’s RX 6900 XT, which is $500 cheaper but ultimately doesn’t have the memory capacity, speed, or bandwidth to compete as a high-level workstation graphics card. The 6900 XT is essentially a gaming GPU only, one which is overpriced relative to the RTX 3080. The RTX 3090 therefore basically has no real competition in its specific workstation niche.
So, if you’re a person for whom quicker rendering means a quicker working output, and you can pick one up for as close to RRP as possible, then the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 may be the right graphics card for you. Have a look at our best RTX 3090 page to see which AIB of the card you should go for.
Excellent performance at 1080p
Very efficient design
Only 6GB VRAM
Limited on features
For us, the 1660 Ti has been one of the most exciting cards we’ve got our hands on in a good while. You’re probably wondering why an entry-level card is so exciting to us when we have access to the best cards on the market. Well, we like to give consumer advice and a product which houses excellent value for money is always very exciting to us!
The 1660 Ti slots nicely into the space vacated by that of the GTX 1060, providing roughly 15% better performance at a lower price. Nvidia made sure the 1660 took full advantage of their Turing architecture which has been implemented in the RTX range whilst only housing GDRR5 memory.
However this is not a bad thing as it comes to shelves much cheaper than anything on this list whilst still boasting excellent 1080p and 1440p performance. Ultimately this card is considered our top budget pick for 2019 so far and would be a great purchase for a mid-range build.
Outperforms the RX 580 and GTX 1060
Great for the budget builder
Strong 1080p performance
Relatively hot and noisy
The RX 590 is a worthy upgrade to its older brother the 580 and is considered an excellent choice for the budget builder. This is an excellent card for gamers that operate with 1080p resolutions and gives builders the chance to create a special gaming rig at very low prices. This GPU surpasses the likes of Nvidia’s GTX 1050 Ti and 1060 and even has a small amount of 1440p potential.
Of course, the price is the most attractive feature to the card with it offering some great value for an 8GB GPU. The card has filled the gap between AMD’s 580 and VEGA 56 cards, with its 8GB of memory. This is an older card now though with the next lot of entry-level cards getting GDDR6 memory and higher base clock speeds.
Despite this cards drawbacks, it serves a purpose, especially for those price conscious gamers out there. Not long ago we would have suggested the RX 580 as the better value in the budget category but with how much the 590 now costs, it’s a great option.
And that’s it!
We hope our guide helped you pick out the best graphics card for your needs.
Feel free to comment below and let us know if you need any assistance: we’re always ready and willing to help!
Otherwise, do you agree with our selections? Is there anything you would add or change? We’re welcoming any and all feedback, so feel free to sound off!
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