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Best Graphics Card 2017: 8 best GPUs for 1080p, 1440p, 4K and VR gaming


GTX 1080 pile

Best graphics card list and buying guide: We take you through the decisions you need to make when buying a GPU, based on the games you play and your budget. These are the best GPUs from AMD and Nvidia in 2017.

Your graphics card is the most important consideration to make when building a gaming PC. It's no surprise, really, since for most people it'll also be the most expensive. But in order to pick the best graphics card for your money, you have to know what they're capable of.

In the drop-down list above, we've ordered the best graphics cards in order of their performance. We've started with cheap cards for 1080p gaming, and then move up through 1440p and 4K, and also give a nod to VR as well, since many people are now considering GPUs that will handle VR gaming in the future.

Related: Best gaming PC specs to build yourself

Of course, it's not quite that simple. Not only do you have to consider the types of games you play, but also what sort of monitor you play them on. If you only play low-impact games such as CounterStrike or League of Legends, you don't need to spend hundreds of pounds on a GPU. Conversely, if you're a fan of VR or have a 4K monitor, you'll need a pricey GPU to keep up with them.

Things have got even more complicated thanks to Nvidia's launch of its 10-series 'Pascal' graphics chips in gaming laptops. You can now get desktop gaming performance in a laptop with no performance compromise from £1,200. if that's more your bag, check out our Best Gaming Laptop guide.

Over the next few pages we’re going to tell you everything you need to know when choosing your next GPU and exactly which cards are the best of the bunch right now.

Related: Best desktop PCs

Use the dropdown menu above to navigate the list, or read on for more advice for buying the best graphics card for you.

Latest graphics card news

It's always worth paying attention to what's happening in the world of graphics cards before buying. Normally there are enough rumours floating around about impending product launches to at least give some pause for thought before buying a GPU.

We're waiting for new launches from both AMD and Nvidia, with the latter due to launch its new GTX 1080 Ti very soon. Indeed, ahead of the launch the firm has massively cut the price of its GTX 1080 GPU, and you can find loads in the UK for £500 and under, which is a stonking deal.

Elsewhere, there's AMD Vega. The company's new graphics architecture is looking to take on the high end that's currently dominated by Nvidia. We don't have any word on what the actual products will look like, or exactly how powerful they'll be, or indeed how much they'll cost. You can find out more details in our AMD Vega explainer, and it's worth keeping an eye out as the year wears on.

Watch: Your graphics card questions answered – #AskTrusted

Related: Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive

Do I need a graphics card?

The first thing you need to consider is whether you do actually need a graphics card or whether the built-in graphics of your machine will suffice.

Both AMD and Intel now make CPUs that include decent graphics chips built right into them. The vast majority of laptops and PCs can run all the usual desktop stuff without a separate graphics card and can play some games too.

Related: Best CPU coolers

Indeed, Intel’s latest proessors can play the likes of Battlefield 4 and Bioshock Infinite (1080p, medium detail settings) at around 20fps – just about bearable.

For more basic games like Minecraft, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and World of Warcraft that’s enough power for a reasonable experience.

MinecraftIf you only play Minecraft you probably don't need a graphics card

For reference, even ultra-slim and light laptops such as the Toshiba Kira can score 752 in 3DMark FireStrike (Skylake scores 1,112) so you technically can play most games, it’s just that you’ll really have to lower the resolution and detail settings, and still only just hit a less-than-satisfactory 30fps.

But if you’ve just invested in a nice 1080p or even 1440p monitor and want to play serious games at their best and running at as smooth a framerate as possible (consistently above 60fps is the ideal) then you’ll need to splash the cash on a graphics card.

Can I install a graphics card?

Another key consideration if you’re looking to get a boost in gaming performance is if your system can actually accommodate a graphics card.

If you’re using a laptop then you can’t just upgrade your graphics, but will instead have to buy a whole new system with a better graphics chip built into it.

Likewise, if you’re running an iMac or Mac mini, or any other all-in-one or mini PC. Nearly all these machines are not upgradable when it comes to graphics, though there are a few exceptions.

hitmanGames like Hitman on PC require a powerful graphics card

Instead we’re talking about full-size PCs that you can get inside and tinker around with.

You’ll need your PC to have at least one free PCI-E x16 expansion card slot, as pictured below.

Best Graphics CardNearly all modern motherboards will have at least one PCI-E x16 slot

For some graphics cards that’s all you’ll need but for larger, more powerful ones you’ll also need to make sure your PC’s power supply has enough extra cables to power the card. As you move up the performance ladder, cards will require up to two extra eight-pin cables to power them fully.

You also need to make sure your case is big enough. Some smaller cases may struggle to fit larger, more powerful cards however we've got a couple of options for you in the best graphics card list.

Related: Best GTX 1080

Beyond that the world is your oyster – it just comes down to how much you are able or willing to spend.

Which brand of GPU should you buy?

AMD and Nvidia are the companies that make the chips that power the graphics cards you’ll be looking to buy. These are then incorporated into graphics cards by a number of other ‘board partners’, and it’s these that you buy.

Most offer identical specs to the ‘reference design’ that AMD or Nvidia specifies, but some include alternative cooling solutions, video output options and some are overclocked (the speed and voltage of the chip is increased) for better performance.

Best Graphics CardThe likes of the AMD Radeon R9 290X require two extra cables to get enough power

How much should I spend on a graphics card?

With the explosion of large, widescreen monitors in the last few years, the demands on graphics cards have increased, but you can still get ample performance at decent resolutions for not too much money.

If your budget is less than £75 / $100 you really should do a little more saving as the performance you get from cards this low down the pack is not much better (if at all) than modern integrated graphics. Only consider these cards if you’re running an older system with very slow integrated graphics (or none at all) and if you need the extra video output options they provide.

At around £100 / $130 you can get a card, such as the AMD Radeon RX 460 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 that'll manage the latest eSports titles such as Overwatch in Full HD resolutions. They'll even be able to handle more complex AAA games at lower detail settings or lower resolutions.

At around £150 / $190 you can comfortably game at 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) at around 40fps, which is fine for single-player games and slower paced titles but may still not be enough for competitive games. For those you’ll have to drop in-game details settings to reach the desired 60fps and over you’ll need to compete.

The AMD Radeon RX 480 is a good, compact card for budget buyers

For around between £200 and £260 / $220 and $300 you’ll get the likes of the Nvidia GTX 1060 and AMD Radeon RX 480, which will give you around 60fps performance in many games at 1440p (2,560 x 1,440) at high detail settings. This is also the price point we'd expect Nvidia's yet-to-be-announced GTX 1060 to appear in.

In many ways this is the sweet spot where you're getting plenty of performance to play competitive games at over 100fps but still have the option to crank up the resolution and detail settings for slower paced games where you want to take in the view a bit more. It's also the point where you get the most performance for your money, before you start to get diminishing returns on the more expensive cards.

Next we’re looking at spending another £150, which will get you the likes of the AMD Radeon R9 Nano Fury and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 and enough performance to start gaming at 4K resolutions – that’s 3,830 x 2,160 pixels. You won’t hit 60fps at this resolution, but comfortably get over 40fps in most titles.

The GTX 1070 is a large card, but it's the best card for 1440p

Next is the over £500 zone in which the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 is the all-dominant force. Here, you'll get performance of 60fps in most games at 4K at High or Ultra settings, and you'll also get the best VR performance (see below) currently available.

Graphics cards for virtual reality

A new element that you should factor into your graphics card purchase is whether it's ready to run the latest virtual reality (VR) games. This never used to be a problem because the technology was such a niche prospect, but with the likes of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR all launching this year, we're expecting a huge surge in the number of titles available with some kind of VR element.

Related: Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive

Both AMD and Nvidia have their own VR certification badges, although these should be taken with a pinch of salt because they don't appear to take much into account other than the official minimum specifications for the various headsets about to go to market. Still, it's worth considering.

AMD VR Ready Premium Nvidia VR Ready

Nvidia's VR scheme is called GeForce GTX VR Ready, and the following cards currently get the seal of approval: the GTX 970, GTX 980 GTX 980Ti, Titan X, GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 are all listed.

AMD one-ups Nvidia when it comes to the name of its certification scheme, calling itself Radeon VR Ready Premium. Not catchy, but it's at least a clear piece of marketing that up until recently the firm did not have. Of its current rage, the R9 290, 290X, 390, 390X, Fury, Fury X and Nano and Radeon RX 480 are all stickered up and ready to go with the latest VR challenges.

The graphics card isn't he only resource a VR headset will hammer, so you should pay special attention to each piece of hardware's minimum system requirements, too. For example, the HTC Vive's overall system requirements include a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB system RAM in addition to the high-end graphics card you'll also need.

Related: Best gaming PC to build yourself

Your best resource, however, will be to look at individual games' system requirements as they will explicitly say what's required.

AMD or Nvidia?

Perhaps the biggest decision to make when buying a graphics card is whether to opt for one made by AMD or Nvidia.

We're currently in a state of transition where the latest generation of cards don't actually compete directly with each other. Nvidia has the high-end and AMD dominates the mid-range.

When the market shakes itself out, it's likely one card or the other that will narrowly grab the performance crown or offers the best balance of features, performance and power consumption and of course it’s these cards that we’ll be picking out as our top choices at each price level.

Nonetheless, as a general point there are a number of key features that may swing the decision for you.

The first thing is that generally Nvidia’s cards use less power to get their results – its current GPU architecture, Pascal, is just more efficient. The real world consequence of the extra power consumption of the AMD cards will be minimal for most users – a handful of pounds a year on your electricity bill at most – but it’s worth bearing in mind. Also worth considering is your choice of power supply inside your gaming rig, although if you're buying pre-built you won't have to worry.

Features-wise, both companies offer comprehensive DirectX 12 support, which is the new standard used in Windows 10 and the Xbox One. There are some slight differences in exactly what level of support they offer, but nothing that will really affect your experience, right now at least.

Both also offer a means of getting the smoothest possible gameplay even at low framerates via a technique for syncing the framerate of your monitor to the output of the graphics card. These are called AMD Freesync and Nvidia G-Sync, and although both offer essentially the same experience, we do prefer the former. This is because it’s an open standard and is available on a greater range of monitors. However, it really depends if you’re in the market for a new monitor any time soon as to whether this will be a concern.

Another consideration may be the free games that you can get with a new graphics card. For a while AMD had the clear advantage here as it offered a range of games depending on the price of card you bought, but Nvidia also occasionally has a decent special offer.

These deals vary from country to country to, so there's no reliable way to say which offers the best deal. Plus, in only matters if it's a game you actually want to play.

How we test graphics cards

All the cards mentioned here have been run through the same set of tests, with performance measured during a short section of the game that demonstrates typical performance. Measurements are taken either with Fraps or using an inbuilt benchmark with the minimum and average framerates noted down.

Aside from the canned benchmarks, 3DMark and Unigine Heaven, all the games are run at very high details settings to give the cards the maximum stress. As such this is the worst case scenario for these games run at these resolutions – you can easily get 50% or more performance by reducing the detail settings.

Our test system is consists of an Asus Z170-Deluxe motherboard, an Intel Core i5-6600K processor, Corsair H60 water cooling, 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR4 memory, a Corsair 750W power supply and a 256GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD.

Matthew Bunton

October 31, 2015, 4:18 pm

EVGA 980ti classified you won't need anything else. I am using 2 in SLI at 4K 60hz and it's stunning.


July 3, 2016, 3:42 am

Give me a break nvidia fanboy...

Shaun Connelly

July 16, 2016, 2:26 pm

I only use 1 GTX Titan X , and run games like Doom at 4k @60+ frames ps , and its also a beast for other graphically challenging tasks .


July 16, 2016, 4:40 pm

So what? Right now I'm using a rx 480 at a fraction of price @ 4k 80+ fps in DOOM... so, what's the deal m8? BTW I've managed to oc this card to 1,43 Ghz and I must tell that is a beast of a card. (My rig: AMD FX 8350, Corsair 2x4 Gb @ 1,9 GHz, OCZ SSD, etc.)

David Cole

July 19, 2016, 5:50 pm

GTX 1070 comes with 8 Gig of GDDR5 Memory, Not 6 Gig as listed..


August 5, 2016, 4:56 am

Why there is no 970 and 390 those were the most popular cards last year.


September 7, 2016, 5:03 pm

'This is also the price point we'd expect Nvidia's yet-to-be-announced GTX 1060 to appear in.' Appear!!! Yet to be announced!!!!!, they've been out a while now and they start at ~£185. How hard is it to write a current article about current hardware and how much it costs?!?!?!?!?!?

Barry Diggins

September 30, 2016, 9:50 pm

problem is ur probably cooking eggs on ur tower case while pulling the electrical power the size of a small city...


October 12, 2016, 11:08 am

You'd make someone a great housewife!


October 12, 2016, 11:31 am

I haven't had my operation yet.


December 26, 2016, 8:53 pm

amongst peasants, sure

Dirty Dog

December 27, 2016, 4:04 am

Now you have missed his point...!!
Seriously, like you, he too has a really good sense of humor...


January 7, 2017, 3:27 pm

Us peasants like VR too Ken ;)


January 7, 2017, 8:59 pm

lol, you made me feel bad. i was a peasant (am one finacially) too for many years, but, fuggit. i dropped everything i had to have a 980ti and 4k. it was worth it!

Boris Chan

January 18, 2017, 8:11 pm

RX 460?? $120 and i can play games at 1080p 40fps

Matthew Hauserman

March 2, 2017, 5:00 am

Can't even read the article due to the IBM Cloud ad on the left side covering up half the article.

Tobias Claren

March 6, 2017, 8:00 pm


What is actually the best used graphics card for his price, with HTC Vive?
To use software and games like VRChat (GTX 960, horrible slow), and perhaps Graphics like Robo-Recall.
Not high end filters etc., but the software should run smoothly.
Some (or most?) VR SW do not have a graphics menu to set a lower niveau.

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