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Best Graphics Card 2017: 8 best gaming GPUs from AMD and Nvidia

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Best graphics card 2017: We run you through what to look out for when buying a GPU (graphics processing unit) and list our recommend our top choices for each budget and gaming scenario, from 1080p eSports to 4K AAA gaming.

Picking a graphics card for your PC doesn't have to be difficult; you simply have to work out your overall budget and what sort of games you want to be playing. The graphics card you buy should fit into a balanced gaming PC, so it's worth checking our Best Gaming PC build guide for examples of balanced specifications that prioritise gaming at each price point.

Related: Best gaming PC

In this guide, we provide a top-line look at which cards to consider. That is to say, we’re choosing the model numbers from the two big GPU manufacturers: Nvidia and AMD (GTX 1080, RX 570, and so on).

Also part of the decision will be the custom cooler design. Common brand names include EVGA, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, XFX, Zotac and many more. Together, you get a combined name that includes the brand name, GPU part number and cooler design. For example: Asus ROG Strix GTX 1080 Gaming, Zotac GTX 1080 Amp Extreme, XFX Radeon RX 480 GTR Black Edition.

Nvidia’s latest 10-series cards also include so-called ‘Founders Edition’ designs, which are the models we review. Third-party models tend to be more expensive and perform slightly better.

With prices constantly shifting and special offers appearing daily, recommending a specific model purely on its price is hard, so this guide will offer each card’s usual price range and the sort of performance you can expect.

Related: The best CPUs for gaming, tested

Manufacturer’s cooler designs will also affect performance, but only by single-digit percentage points – this is especially true of cheaper cards. With more expensive GPUs card manufacturers push the boat out, throwing clever fans and software into the mix and offering up higher clock speeds, which can make a difference.

Things to look out for on each card include (in order of importance):

  • Length of warranty
  • Price
  • Overclocking
  • Fan noise
  • Visual flare
  • Extra cooling fans

We're also now waiting on AMD's latest RX Vega graphics cards, which still haven't made an appearance. These high-end GPUs are set to take on Nvidia, but without a firm launch date for anything other than an ultra-expensive early-adopter model, Nvidia remains the GPU maker of choice at the top end.

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the best graphics card at each price and performance point to discover which one is best for you.

GTX 1050
Key features:
  • PCI-E bus powered
  • Great Full HD performance in basic games
  • 2GB memory
  • Review price: £110

The best card for eSports

We weren't expecting the GTX 1050 to be particularly good value, but at the time of review – and up against AMD's excellent RX 460 – it just about did enough to stay ahead. With prices starting at £110, it's £20 more expensive than the cheapest RX 460s. However, the benefits are that you get a much smaller board, lower power consumption and better performance. If your budget will stretch to the GTX 1050, it's worth it for that.

It performed well in our benchmarks, topping 250fps in CS:GO, 112fps in Overwatch, and it even managed 46fps in Hitman at Medium settings. For eSports players who like to dabble in a bit of AAA gaming, it's a good card.

The limitation is memory: in this day and age 2GB is probably too little, so be sure to check out the minimum requirements of new games carefully before you buy.

It's interesting to note that you'll find GTX 1050 in various mid-range gaming laptops such as the £900 Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming, where it gets 4GB of memory instead of 2GB. This should improve performance if you dare turn up the graphics settings in the latest AAA games.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
Key features:
  • Low power consumption
  • 1080p gaming at Medium and High
  • 4GB GDDR5 memory
  • Review price: £139

Best AAA gaming card for under £150

If the brilliant-value RX 480 is too expensive for you, the GTX 1050 Ti is the next best thing. It may not possess the outright power of its more expensive rivals, but if you're simply after a card that can play games at Full HD then you've little reason to look elsewhere.

With such low power consumption, it will slot into practically any PC with a spare PCI-E slot and provide an instant boost to gaming power, taking your average pre-built office PC from dull to epic in a matter of seconds.

Don't expect the world, though. You'll need to tweak graphics settings in some games (or use Nvidia's GeForce Experience software to find the ideal graphics settings) down to Medium, as we found in our review. But for the money, it's hard to complain.

Look out for this GPU inside some of the latest mid-range gaming laptops from around £1000. Keep watch for cheeky configurations that cut the memory from 4GB to 2GB, as this might prove to be a bottleneck especially in games like Ghost Recon: Wildlands, which uses over 2GB of video memory when played at Medium settings in Full HD.


AMD Radeon RX 570
Key Features
  • Capable Full HD performance
  • 4GB or 8GB GDDR5 memory
  • Same GPU as RX 470
  • Review price: £214
  • Starting price: £170

Best AAA gaming card for under £200

The RX 570 is a minor improvement to the RX 470 we reviewed in 2016. It has slightly higher clock speeds and lower power consumption when not in use. It’s largely identical to its predecessor, however, so anyone running a 470 needn’t worry.

In terms of performance, expect to run the latest games in Full HD at High and Very High settings. We saw 90+fps in the likes of Battlefield 1 at High settings in Full HD.

It’s now on a level with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 in some benchmarks, and with 4GB and 8GB models available as well as loads of different cooler designs, it’s a great buy if you can grab one for under £190, you’ll be getting a decent deal. But if you can spend a little more, consider an RX 580 instead as the two are priced very closely.

RX 580
Key features:
  • 8GB or 4GB of GDDR5 memory
  • Same GPU as RX 480
  • Full HD and 1440p gaming
  • Starting price: £190
  • Review price: £270
A minor update to the RX 480, the 580 is the new graphics card of choice for those with a budget of between £190 and £220. It’ll play the latest games at maximum settings in Full HD, and you can drop to High if you fancy some 1440p action. It’s very similar to the RX 480, and is based on the same GPU. So don’t eliminate AMD’s 400-series GPUs from your shortlist.

There’s a variety of third-party GPU options available, with various levels of overclocking and lots of different cooler designs. It’s a bit of a power hog, however, and you’ll seldom find a compact version of the RX 580.  It’s here, where the more efficient GTX 1060 rules the roost, with near-identical performance at a competitive price, Nvidia’s mid-range offering is better for that Mini-ITX build you’ve always wanted to do.

For pure bang-for-buck, though, the RX 580 is hard to beat.

Key features
  • Smooth Full HD and 1440p performance
  • 6GB GDDR5 memory, 3GB available
  • "VR-ready"
  • Review price: £275 (6GB)

Also consider: Full HD and 1440p for under £250

Nvidia's third-tier GPU is very competitive, going toe-to-toe with the AMD Radeon RX 580. It has slightly less memory, with 6GB of GDDR5 on board instead of AMD's 8GB, but the GPU itself is slightly more powerful. Prices have stabilised in recent months and the GTX 1060's pricing is almost on a par with the 8GB RX 580. Considering it's it's a little faster in some games, the raw bang-for-buck figure is quite appealing, especially when picking the 6GB model.

Picking the cheaper 3GB model is a bit of a risk; our tests show performance is slightly lower than the 6GB version, and with AAA games becoming so demanding, it seems short-sighted to short-change yourself on memory, especially if you're planning on playing at resolutions higher than Full HD.

In our benchmarks, the GTX 1060 performed fantastically well at Full HD resolutions, consistently delivering over 60fps in our challenging benchmarks. It's also capable at 1440p, although at the highest settings it rarely hit 60fps, so you'll have to tone down the graphical settings if you want ultra-smooth gaming.

It's neck-and-neck between the GTX 1060 and the RX 480 and 580. The 1060 is much more efficient, so if you're building a compact gaming rig, it's the absolute best choice.


Key features:
  • Perfect for 1440p gaming
  • Ideal for VR
  • 8GB GDDR5 memory
  • Review price: £400

Best value GPU for 1440p

The GeForce GTX 1070 might look like it's lost in the middle-ground between the GTX 1080 and AMD Radeon RX 480; but at this price it offers what's probably the best price/performance compromise if you have a little more cash at your disposal.

With 8GB of memory and Nvidia's impressive Pascal architecture, which includes excellent VR performance and low power consumption, the GTX 1070 is a card that will satisfy even two or three years down the line.

If you only have a 1440p monitor, it undoubtedly offers better value than the GTX 1080; if you'll be playing only Full HD, though, the Radeon RX 480 is the one to opt for.


Key features:
  • 4K and VR-ready
  • Quiet and cool
  • 8GB GDDR5X memory
  • Review price: £649

Cheapest option for smooth 4K gaming

The GTX 1080 was the performance king until March 2017, at which point the GTX 1080 Ti took over. But seeing a huge price drop to £500 and under, the GTX 1080 remains stunning value.

If you only have a 1080p monitor, it's overkill: the Radeon RX 480, GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 are better options respectively, although future-proofing is never a bad idea if you have the money right now.

However, in dropping the price Nvidia has made the GTX 1080 a tempting prospect for someone with a 1440p monitor who wants to crank up the graphics settings. It will also handle 4K, although if you want everything maxed out, the GTX 1080 Ti is a better bet.

It's also a great choice if you're getting into VR right now.




Key features:
  • 11GB GDDR5X memory
  • Smooth 4K gameplay, 5K possible
  • Most powerful card you can buy for under £1,000
  • Review price: £700

The ultimate GPU for 4K gaming

The GTX 1080 Ti comfortably re-handed Nvidia the performance crown when it launched in March 2017. Offering unbeatable performance in 4K, chief rival AMD has a lot of questions to answer as we await its next generation of top-specification GPUs.

4K performance at maximum settings was delivered at beyond 60 and 70fps; the GTX 1080 Ti is ready for anything. It's even capable of handling 5K gaming (yes, really) – if you happen to have a monitor with that high a resolution; if you play on multiple monitors then this is a great card too.

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.

Rares

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 .

Rares

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..

Sizzor

August 5, 2016, 4:56 am

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

Mark

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...

PhuxAche

October 12, 2016, 11:08 am

You'd make someone a great housewife!

Mark

October 12, 2016, 11:31 am

I haven't had my operation yet.

Slackaveli

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...

thoiter

January 7, 2017, 3:27 pm

Us peasants like VR too Ken ;)

Slackaveli

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

Hi.

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.

Ozbloke36

April 25, 2017, 7:12 am

Reviews like this need to be kicked in the teeth. I'm so over them claiming 4k gaming is this when it struggles to get above 60hz. ANY decent gamer will want 144fps to go along with their 144hz monitor. That means a 1080 Ti and not even at 4k. IT struggles at 2k with everything max (ultra settings) in a lot of games to get near 100fps let alone above. So the video cards STILL have a huge way to go.

ngonidzashe dzindimu

May 6, 2017, 6:24 pm

i dont know whats wrong with your setup but the GTX 1080ti is spot on when it comes to 4k ultra gaming. i run all the latest games on ultra and they are deadlocked at 60fps and not even dipping once. and if i could get my hands on 4k 144hz monitor im sure it would handle just fine.... 6700k @ 4.6ghz gtx 1080ti 16gb ddr4

Teszter

May 10, 2017, 2:27 pm

All for the highest gaming satisfaction. :)

Andy Lovette

May 15, 2017, 12:55 am

please tell the various testing sites how you get 80fps @ 4K in Doom, they seem to get less than half that

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