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

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.

Some folk like to overcomplicate the process of buying a graphics card, but in today’s highly competitive world, it’s hard to pick a complete lemon. The only two things you need to know before we begin are your budget, and the games you intend on playing. Take a look at our Best Gaming PC at the link below to get an idea of the type of PC you can buy for your budget, then come back here to look at the GPUs that fit into that range.

It’s rare that a modern GPU simply won’t play any of the latest games, it’s purely a matter of resolution and graphics settings. If you’re playing the latest AAA games at High settings in Full HD, you’ll normally want to spend at least £250 to get excellent performance. But you can spend less, and your graphics card provider’s software (AMD Crimson or Nvidia GeForce Experience) will tune your games to ensure they run smoothly.

We’ve updated this piece to reflect huge market instability caused by increased GPU demands caused by the rise of crypto-currency mining. Mid-range cards have suffered massively, and it’s not clear when the crazy pricing will end.

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

There’s one more thing to consider, and something we’ll discuss in the later entries in this round-up: AMD RX Vega. AMD’s top-spec cards have arrived very late to the scene, and look to undercut the Nvidia competition in terms of pricing, while still offering 1440p and 4K gaming performance. The jury’s still out on whether these will meet expectations; we wouldn’t hold off on buying a different GPU unless there’s something about AMD’s other technologies (such as FreeSync) that get your juices flowing.

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.

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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 AMD Radeon RX 460s and £10 more than RX 560 cards. 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.


Read the full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 review

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Key features:

  • Low power consumption
  • 1080p gaming at Medium and High
  • 4GB GDDR5 memory
  • Review price: £139
  • Starting price: £128

Best AAA gaming card for under £150

If the brilliant-value RX 580 (below) 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.


 

Read the full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti review

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Key Features

  • Capable Full HD performance
  • 4GB or 8GB GDDR5 memory
  • Same GPU as RX 470
  • Review price: £214
  • PRICE CURRENTLY INFLATED

Best AAA gaming card for £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.

Things have now got a little more complicated, because the rise in crypto-currency mining has resulted in huge demand for these mid-range GPUs. This has sent the price of 8GB models sky-rocketing to over £300 in some cases. It’s not clear when or if this trend will end, but for now it’s making life very hard for the average gamer on a budget.


Read the full AMD Radeon RX 570 review

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Key features:

  • 8GB or 4GB of GDDR5 memory
  • Same GPU as RX 480
  • Full HD and 1440p gaming
  • Review price: £270
  • PRICE CURRENTLY INFLATED

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.

Like the RX 570, the price of the 580 is suffering at the hands of increased demand due to crypto-currency mining. Some models cost well in excess of £350, especially those with 8GB of memory. Hopefully the demand will die down soon, but right now it’s not showing much sign of slowing

Read the full AMD Radeon RX 580 review

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Key features

  • Smooth Full HD and 1440p performance
  • 6GB GDDR5 memory, 3GB available
  • “VR-ready”
  • Review price: £275 (6GB)
  • Starting price: £290 (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.

Due to the crypto-currency demand described above, prices for 6GB models are fluctuating wildly.


Read the full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 review

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Key features:

  • Perfect for 1440p gaming
  • Ideal for VR
  • 8GB GDDR5 memory
  • Review price: £400
  • Starting price: £420

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.


Read the full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 review

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Key features:

  • 4K and VR-ready
  • Quiet and cool
  • 8GB GDDR5X memory
  • Review price: £649
  • New price: £490

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. The 1080 briefly dropped in price to under £500, but huge demand in the market has put prices onto a rollercoaster ride. At the time of this update in August 2017, you can find a GTX 1080 for around £490, which is decent.

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.

AMD’s RX Vega 64 looks like it could be a solid rival, but priced at around $499 (perhaps around £450) and with a lot more power consumption and heat to contend with, it’s not yet clear whether Vega is going to be properly good value or a false economy.


Read the full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review

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Key features:

  • 11GB GDDR5X memory
  • Smooth 4K gameplay, 5K possible
  • Most powerful card you can buy for under £1,000
  • Review price: £700
  • Starting price: £770

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.

Prices have increased since we first reviewed the 1080 Ti, and although you can still pick up a few models for around £700, most are closer to £800.  That’s a wince-inducing amount of money, even for the best GPU on the market.


Read the full Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti review

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