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Best Graphics Card 2020: Should you go Nvidia or AMD?

What’s the best graphics card?

Looking for the best graphics card in your budget to take advantage of the wealth of awesome games hitting the market this Christmas, but not sure which to get?

You’re not alone. Both AMD and Nvidia have released more new graphics cards than you can shake a stick at. With so many arriving with new never-before-seen features, even the most tech savvy of buyers may justifiably be struggling to know which is best.

Plus, many of the latest biggest games aren’t exactly easy going on a graphics card. If you want to play a big triple-A like Cyberpunk 2077 in 4K, then you’re going to want to invest in a top-end card. But, if you just want to play casual games and do a spot of lightweight picture and video editing, then you’ll be better off going for something a little cheaper.

Here to help make sure you get the exact right card for your gaming needs, we’ve created this guide detailing the best graphics cards we’ve reviewed that are still on sale. Every card on this list has been thoroughly benchmarked in our test rig to gauge its performance, power consumption, thermals and overclockability.

Editor’s note: Select graphics cards may be missing from this list as the unexpected Covid 19 lockdown has cut off access to our test samples. We’ll also be updating this list frequently in the next few months as review samples come our way. 

Related: Nvidia Ampere vs AMD Big Navi

1. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080

The best value graphics card for 4K gaming

Pros:

  • Excellent 4K performance
  • Ray tracing is awesome
  • Far cheaper than the RTX 2080 Ti
  • HDMI 2.1 support

Cons:

  • Very power hungry
  • Not massively overclockable

The Nvidia RTX 3080 is the first card to feature Nvidia’s new Ampere architecture. It brings with it a number of improvements that make it THE best value graphics card on the market for 4K gaming.

Highlights include an improved, more efficient 8nm manufacturing process, new RT Cores, third-gen Tensor cores and Micron G6X video memory (VRAM).

Related: What is DLSS? 

The combination of factors make the RTX 3080 the first card we’ve ever tested to consistently offer 4K ray tracing at frame rates over or around 60fps and some of the best performance per watt stats we’ve ever seen.

Considering the fact it costs nearly half what as much as an RTX 2080 Ti, this makes it a no brainer choice for any serious gamer looking to build a top-notch, no compromise rig in today’s market. The only slight downside is that it’s not massively overclockable, and there are more powerful cards available.

2. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070

The best value graphics card for 1440p gaming

Pros:

  • Excellent 1440p and 1080p performance
  • Amazing value
  • Smaller than the RTX 3080

Cons:

  • Little room for overclocking

If you’re after a current gen, ray tracing card that won’t require a remortgage then the RTX 3070 is a more affordable alternative that excels at Full HD and Quad HD gaming.

While it’s not exactly cheap, retailing for £469, there’s no getting round the fact it offers fantastic performance. Specifically, the card matches, and at times beats the older RTX 2080 Ti’s performance across the board. This makes it a perfect choice for 1080p and 1440p buyers looking to enjoy high-end Ray Tracing graphics that haven’t made the jump to 4K yet.

Featuring a two fan design it’s also a lot smaller than the RTX 3080, making it a better choice for small builds. There are even cheaper options now available in Nvidia’s new Ampere generation, but we reckon this card hits the performance and pricing sweet spot better than any other card on the market.

Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti

3. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti

The best entry point to Ray Tracing

Pros:

  • Solid 1080p Ray Tracing performance
  • Lowest power consumption of all Ampere cards
  • Cheapest current gen’ card on the market

Cons:

  • Still not massively overclockable
  • Only 20% cheaper than an RTX 3070

The RTX 3060 Ti is the cheapest current-generation Ampere card on the market. Without a direct rival from AMD, this makes it the most affordable new graphics card you can buy. However, the Ti labelling means that it is still a mid-range level GPU.

Nvidia’s marketing it as offering 2080 Super-level performance, which in layperson’s terms means it should blitz through 1080p and 1440p gaming with Ray Tracing turned off and offer solid FHD performance with it turned on, if you use DLSS.

With real-world testing we found the performance claims rang true, which is a serious achievement. This coupled with the 3060 Ti’s lower TDP (power consumption) makes it the best card for buyers looking to enjoy entry level 1080p Ray Tracing or pick up a card that’ll run most AAA games for at least a few years.

The only downside is that, like all RTX cards, there’s not an awful lot of room for overclocking. It’s also only 20% cheaper than the RTX 3070, which remains Trusted Reviews’ recommended card for the majority.

AMD Radeon RX 6800

4. AMD Radeon RX 6800

Best alternative to RTX 3070

Pros:

  • Solid 4K performance
  • First AMD card to support Ray Tracing
  • Good value

Cons:

  • Ray Tracing performance lags behind Nvidia
  • No DLSS equivalent at launch

The Radeon RX 6800 is AMD’s answer to the RTX 3070. This means it’s the cheapest card on the market featuring AMD’s swish new RDNA2 architecture, which adds a number of cool new features.

Highlights include things like Ray Tracing support, AMD’s custom Infinity Cache and Smart Cache Memory. Infinity Cache is a particularly unique bit of tech that improves how the card and compatible AMD Ryzen CPUs communicate, in a bid to boost performance.

As cards go it gives great value 4K performance. During testing it blitzed through every game we threw at it, running them at 60fps with their graphics maxed hassle free. If that wasn’t enough to tempt you it’s also much more overclockable than the 3070.

The only minor downside is that, with AMD being new to the race, the RX 6800 can’t match Nvidia RTX 3070 when it comes to Ray Tracing performance. This is in part because AMD doesn’t have a DLSS solution. But if you’re not too fussed about Ray Tracing right now, this card is every bit as good as Nvidia’s RTX 3070, albeit a little bit more pricey.

5. AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

Best graphics card for overclockers

Pros:

  • Great 4K performance
  • Very overclockable
  • Lower TDP than competitors

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Ray tracing behind Nvidia rivals
  • Lacks big lead on RTX 3080 for some games

The AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT is AMD’s flagship graphics card at the moment. It comes with a hefty $999 price tag and is being marketed as the ultimate option for “enthusiasts”. It aims to specifically entice buyers away from the more expensive GeForce RTX 3090 and slightly cheaper RTX 3080 by offering tweakers a lot of headroom for overclocking – a key feature missing on all the current Ampere architecture cards we’ve tested from Nvidia.

Having benchmarked the card, we can confirm it delivers on this promise and is currently the best option for tweakers that like to overclock their components to the absolute limit. During testing it offered over 10% improvements in clock speeds and 5% VRAM boosts. This netted up to 5-10 jumps in FPS counts running games like Borderlands 3 in 4K. With it offering roughly 5% more graphical grunt in 4K than the Nvidia RTX 3080 in most of the titles we tested this isn’t to be sniffed at.

The biggest downside is that, like all AMD’s current cards, the lack of a DLSS solution means it can’t compete with Nvidia’s top GPUs when it comes to Ray Tracing performance, which is a major issue considering its high price and target market. It’s also facing stiff competition from the RTX 3090, which we’ll be reviewing shortly. 

6. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060

Cheapest ray tracing graphics card

Pros:

  • Solid 1080p and 1440p performance
  • Future-proof with Turing
  • Decent value when compared to the 1070

Cons:

  • Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti only slightly more expensive

The Nvidia RTX 2060 was championed as the cheapest graphics card option for ray tracing last generation. That accolade still holds up, but its value isn’t quite as impressive since the RTX 3060 Ti turned up.

The RTX 3060 Ti arguably offers better value since it features a significantly superior performance for 1080p gaming, but if you want to save as much money as possible the RTX 2060 remains a worthwhile option, hitting around 60fps for the majority of AAA games.

That said, if you want to run the likes of CyberPunk 2077 with ray tracing activated, you’re best off looking elsewhere as this card doesn’t quite have the performance chops for such intensive workloads.

PNY GTX 1660 Ti best graphics card

7. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

Best budget graphics card Full HD gaming

Pros:

  • Fantastic value Full HD performance
  • Intelligent shading improves efficiency for modern games
  • Small enough for mini-ITX cases

Cons:

  • Limited overclocking potential

If the 2080 Ti and 30-series sound like complete overkill and you just wanna play basic games at 1080p, then the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is the card to go for right now.

It doesn’t support ray tracing or DLSS, and its specs sheet isn’t very exciting, but you won’t find a better card for the money. During testing we were able to get a 120fps Full HD performance on the likes of Fortnite, PUBG and Apex Legends, with minimal fuss. And even if you’re not fussed about big online brawlers, the GTX 1660 Ti is still the best value 1080p graphics card you can currently buy.

It’s also fairly small and has lower power consumption than its 20 and 30-series siblings, making it a better choice for small, affordable lounge PC/media builds.

GTX 1660 Best graphics card

8. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660

Decent Full HD performance at a low, low price

Pros:

  • Decentvalue for Full HD gaming
  • Adaptive shading gives modern games a performance boost
  • Incredible optimisation for battle royale game

Cons:

  • The slightly more expensive GTX 1660 Ti offers better value

If you really, really, really have basic gaming needs then the GTX 1660 is the most affordable card on the market we can recommend. The card is aimed at MOBA and battle royale gamers who don’t want to break the bank.

Our tests prove the GTX 1660 is capable of running modern AAA games in 1080p, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, at a +60fps performance. But it’s battle royale games where this card really shines, hitting an impressive 100fps for Apex Legends at the same resolution.

The GTX 1660 admittedly doesn’t match the performance of its Ti sibling, which we’d see being a better fit for most buyers, but with it costing £100 less there’s no denying it’s still cracking value.

How to choose the right card for you

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: Best gaming monitors

A 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

Ray tracing: Ray tracing is a recent graphics card feature (although an older technology) that enables video game developers to create more realistic reflections and light simulation. Traditionally a very processor intensive operation, the new cards ensure reflections in puddles and light shining through a window will look far more impressive than with traditional rendering methods. Currently, only Nvidia’s RTX cards are fully optimised for this technology.

DLSS: DLSS is a another RTX exclusive feature that uses artificial intelligence to help the GPU render frames more efficiently, resulting in a juicy frame rate boost. However, our testing has shown activating DLSS will negatively impact the display quality, with detail becoming more fuzzy and less pronounced.