Best Graphics Card 2018: Nvidia’s RTX 2080s become the new GPU kings

Your graphics card, or GPU, is the single most important component when it comes to delivering a great gaming performance for your PC, so we decided to round them up so you can but the very best graphics card for your money.

 

best overall graphics card

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC Black Edition

The GeForce GTX 1080 offers the absolute best performance compared to rivals. So if only the best graphics will do, this is the card you want. It'll even stretch as far as 5K resolution gaming.

£925

The hardest decision to make is about how much to spend to find the best graphics card for you. If money’s no problem, then the new RTX 2080 Ti is the absolute best graphics card you can buy right now, offering 4K visuals at 60fps and real-time ray tracing. For those of you hunting for a bargain, though, the GTX 1050 is a great affordable option

Before you settle on a new card, you should know that we’re still waiting to get our hands on the rest of the new generation of Nvidia’s Turing architecture-based RTX graphics cards. While we’ve already reviewed the RTX 2080 Ti, we’re hoping to test both the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 in due time. The RTX 207o is will launch on October 17.

best value graphics card

Gigabyte Nvidia GTX 1050 GDDR5 2GB PCI-E

The GTX 1050 is our choice for best value for anyone looking to game on a budget. Keeping your expectations in check image quality-wise, you can expect very respectable frame rates in many top games. The small form factor and low power consumption are the cherry on top.

£119.99

In the meantime, here’s what else you can buy right now.

Related: Nvidia RTX 2080

How we test graphics cards

Each new card is plugged into Trusted Reviews’ test rig, which uses a set of uniform components that we believe is representative of most PC gamers at the time. Next, we use a series of synthetic and gaming benchmarks to discover the frame rate at which the card will play modern triple-A games at varying resolutions. We then checkout the potential for overclocking and a card’s power efficiency using the FireStrike benchmark and an external consumption monitor. Throughout benchmarking we retest all previous-generation and competing cards to ensure that frame rates are accurate, and that cards have been tested using the latest drivers available.

Best Graphics Card Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti

Pros:

  • Capable of 60fps in 4K with the majority of games
  • Future-proofed with exciting features such as ray tracing
  • Super-overclockable
  • Keeps cool and quiet all of the time

Cons:

  • Incredibly expensive
  • Ray tracing and DLSS support unavailable at launch

Part of Nvidia’s new Turing lineup, the RTX 2080 Ti is the most powerful graphics card that consumers can buy with amped up specs and potentially revolutionary features.

While the GTX 1080 Ti struggles to achieve 60fps in 4K for some of the most technically demanding games, the RTX 2080 Ti hits that golden standard for almost every title you throw its way.

Even more lust-worthy, the RTX 2080 Ti features brand new tech including real-time ray tracing and DLSS. The former will help to simulate more realistic light in video game environments, while the latter uses artificial intelligence to make image rendering slicker and more efficient. Sadly, neither feature is currently available with the required updates expected to drop later this year. On a more positive note, plenty of games are confirmed to be offering support including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Battlefield 5 and Metro Exodus.

The only significant negative thing about the RTX 2080 Ti? It costs a whopping lot. At £1099, it’s almost double the price of the ultra-powerful GTX 1080 Ti. But if you’re desperate for the best 4K performance possible, as well as the forthcoming ray tracing, then the RTX 2080 Ti is still a worthwhile investment.

Best graphics card - Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

Pros:

  • Epic 4K performance
  • Very overclockable
  • One of the fastest consumer cards you can buy

Cons:

  • Power hog
  • Price-cut GTX 1080 could be a better buy for 1080/1440p gamers

No longer the king of the graphics cards, the GTX 1080 Ti has been overtaken by the RTX 2080 Ti in terms of power and specs. That’s not to say it’s not a fantastic option anymore though. The GTX 1080 Ti still offers an impressive performance, especially at that affordable price compared to the RTX 2080 Ti.

4K performance at maximum settings was delivered at beyond 60 and 70fps with select games; the GTX 1080 Ti is still a powerhouse card. It’s even capable of handling 5K gaming, 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.

Price-wise you can currently expect to pick up a GTX 1080 Ti for around £600, though most are closer to £800. That’s still a big ask, but by the time the Founders Edition GTX 2070s – priced at £569 – hit the market in October, prices could drop sharply.

To get the full breakdown on the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti vs GTX 1080 Ti, you can follow the link for our side-by-side comparison.

Buy Now: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti for £949.99 / $956 from Amazon

Best Graphics card - GTX 1050

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050

Pros:

  • Great eSports performance
  • Can play AAA games at Medium settings
  • Lots of compact cards available
  • Very low power consumption

Cons:

  • More expensive than some AMD rivals
  • 2GB memory limits future potential

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 decent 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.

With Nvidia’s RTX 2080 and the rest of the 20-series now out of the gate, we note that no update for the 1050 appears to be forthcoming. As a result, for now, low-end gamers will be best off sticking with the 1050, especially with a price cut expected.

Buy Now: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 for £119 / $139 from Amazon

Best graphics card - Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

Pros:

  • Handles all games at Full HD
  • Ridiculously low power consumption
  • Quiet design

Cons:

  • Some games need to be dropped to Medium settings

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 Express 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, since this might prove to be a bottleneck. This is especially true in games such as Ghost Recon: Wildlands, which uses over 2GB of video memory when played at Medium settings in Full HD.

Buy Now: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti for £149 / $199 from Amazon

Best graphics card - AMD Radeon RX 570

AMD Radeon RX 570

Pros:

  • Excellent Full HD performance
  • Wide range of designs available
  • Quiet cooler on this model

Cons:

  • Blurred lines between RX 580 and GTX 1060 pricing
  • Power hog when overclocked

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, 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.

Buy Now: AMD Radeon RX 570 for £299 / $319 from Amazon

Best graphics card - AMD Radeon RX 580

AMD Radeon RX 580

Pros:

  • Brilliant Full HD performance
  • Decent 1440p performance
  • Cheapest cards are great value

Cons:

  • Power hog
  • No compact cards

A minor update to the RX 480, the RX 580 is the new graphics card of choice for those with a budget of between £190 and £220. It will 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 as the best graphics card for the money with near-identical performance. Nvidia’s mid-range offering is better for that Mini-ITX build you’ve always wanted to do.

Buy Now: AMD Radeon RX 580 for £389 / $339 from Amazon

Best graphics card - GeForce GTX 1060

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060

Pros:

  • Excellent FHD and 1440p performance
  • Quiet running
  • Incredibly low power consumption

Cons:

  • More expensive than rivals
  • 4GB RX 480 is better value

Nvidia’s third-tier GTX 1060 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 a little faster in some games, the raw bang-for-buck figure is quite appealing, especially when picking the 6GB model.

Opting for 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 then it’s the absolute best choice.

Buy Now: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for £262 / $320 from Amazon

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070

Pros:

  • Excellent 1440p gaming performance
  • Fantastically overclockable
  • Very power efficient
  • Super-quiet while running

Cons:

  • Limited SLI capabilities

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 graphics card 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.

The only issue is that, if you have a little extra cash to burn, the slightly more powerful GTX 1070 Ti offers noticeable fps performance improvements at 1440p. The RTX 2070’s appearance this month also means the 1070’s time in the sun may set in the very near future. You can read our Nvidia RTX 2070 vs GTX 1070 piece to see how the two GPUs compare.

Buy Now: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 for £518 / $547 from Amazon

Best graphics card - GTX 1070 Ti

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti

Pros:

  • Plays AAA games at 60fps in 1440p
  • Solid VR performance

Cons:

  • A little late to the party

The GTX 1070 Ti is one of Nvidia’s weirder cards. At first glance it looks like it’s been cobbled together using spare parts from the more premium GTX 1080 and slightly cheaper GTX 1070. Its specs sit between the two cards, with the 1070 Ti featuring 2432 CUDA Cores. The GTX 1080 has 2560 and the GTX 1070 has 1920, by comparison.

The big differentiator is the 1070 Ti’s 1607MHz clock speed, which puts it far closer to the 1080 than the 1070, and means it should offer significantly better performance than the basic 1070. The only serious compromises you’ll find between it and the 1080 are the 1070 Ti’s slightly slower memory and boost clock speed.

But if you look past its weird position in Nvidia’s portfolio, the 1070 Ti is actually a great choice for gamers yet to make the jump to the company’s new Pascal architecture. Offering noticeably better 1440p performance than the regular 1070, the 1070 Ti is worthwhile if you’re looking to break the 1080p threshold, and it’s our current recommended mid-range card.

If you haven’t upgraded to 1440p and just want a powerhouse 1080p card that will last more than a few years, the regular 1070 remains a great choice, however. With 2070 incoming you’d also do well to see how that card performs before parting with your cash.

Buy Now: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti for £539 / $509 from Amazon

Best graphics card - GTX 1080

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

Pros:

  • Fantastic performance
  • Great design
  • Highly overclockable

Cons:

  • Doesn’t hit 60fps in our 4K benchmarks
  • More expensive than previous generations

The recent release of the RTX 2080 doesn’t seem to have had an impact on prices for the GTX 1080 just yet – at the time of this update, the price is still hovering around the £490 mark, which is how much you could expect to pay for one last August.

The fact remains that 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 isn’t yet clear whether Vega is going to be properly good value or a false economy.

If you’re not in a rush we’d also suggest waiting to see how Nvidia’s new RTX 2080 card performs. Have a look at our RTX 2080 vs GTX 1080 comparison piece to find out which is the best graphics card for you.

Buy Now: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 for £597 / $599 from Amazon

Those are our top picks of the best graphics cards. If you want to know more about about the different types of graphics cards and what to look out for when buying one then read on.

Third-party cards
Whenever you buy a GPU, consider which manufacturer you want to opt for since the  the specs will differ accordingly. 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. Common brand names include EVGA, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, XFX, Zotac and many more.

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

Related: The best CPUs for gaming

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 roundup: 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 is still out on whether these will meet expectations. We wouldn’t hold off buying a different GPU unless there’s something about AMD’s other technologies (such as FreeSync) that gets your juices flowing.

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