Graphics cards are the most important PC component when it comes to building your gaming rig. They’re also the most expensive. Given the importance of such a buying decision, we’ve created this guide so you can buy the very best graphics card for you.
It’s no easy task finding the right card though, with the range of prices and features greater than ever before. Not only do you have to consider raw performance and what resolution you plan on playing at, but you also need to determine whether you fancy exciting new features such as ray tracing and DLSS.
Ray tracing is a new feature that enables video game developers to create more realistic reflections and light simulation. This means 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 support this technology, but Nvidia will be rolling it out this month to GTX cards, but at a far lower quality.
DLSS, meanwhile, is a another RTX exclusive feature which use artificial intelligence to help the GPU render frames more efficiently, resulting in a juicy frame rate boost.
If you’re keen to get access to these features and money is no object then the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is the best graphics card you can buy right now. This card can play most triple-A games in 4K at 60fps and supports real-time ray tracing.
If you’re after a bargain and only care about Full HD gaming then the newly launched GTX 1660 Ti is the best value graphics card we’ve tested at just £260. And while this card doesn’t have RT Cores and Tensors Cores, it will still be capable of ray tracing from April – as will every other GTX graphics card – thanks to an upcoming Nvidia driver update.
Of course, RTX cards will still likely be supremely better at ray tracing than their GTX counterparts, so if you want a quality performance for light effects and reflections you’re going to need to upgrade. The cheapest RTX card available is the RTX 2060, offering fantastic value given its kick ass performance.
Before you go investing in a Nvidia graphics card though, bear in mind that reports indicate we’ll soon see the reveal of AMD Navi. This is AMD’s next-gen GPU with (reportedly) 7-nanometre architecture. Little else has been confirmed so far, but expect an official reveal during Computex 2019 in May.
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.
1. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Best for performance and ray tracing
- Capable of 60fps in 4K with most games
- Future-proofed with exciting features such as ray tracing and DLSS
- Keeps cool and quiet all of the time
- Incredibly expensive
- Limited games support ray tracing and DLSS
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 exciting tech including real-time ray tracing and DLSS. The former helps to simulate more realistic light in video game environments, while the latter uses artificial intelligence to make image rendering slicker and more efficient. Sadly, only a few games currently support these features, 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 ray tracing, then the RTX 2080 Ti is still a worthwhile investment.
- Read our full Nvidia RTZ 2080 Ti review
2. PNY GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
Best value for Full HD gaming
- Fantastic value Full HD performance
- Intelligent shading improves efficiency for modern games
- Small enough for mini-ITX cases
- Limited overclocking potential
The GTX 1660 Ti represents fantastic value for money for 1080p gamers. It beats the GTX 1060 for frame rates considerably, and pushes both the GTX 1070 and RTX 2060 hard too. At £260, it’s also cheap.
Aimed squarely at buyers who want a new GPU, but can’t afford, or won’t appreciate the full strength of the ray tracing and DLSS features of Nvidia’s flagship 20 Series cards, the GTX 1660 Ti is only available from a number of third party manufacturers – no Founders Edition version of this card is in the works.
The GTX 1660 Ti version we’ve tested is a XLR8 OC from PNY. Despite its name, there’s not much potential for overclocking here; we were able to get a 130MHz overclock during testing, but not much more than that.
That said, you’ll be able to get a 120fps Full HD performance on the likes of Fortnite, PUBG and Apex Legends, with minimal fuss. For battle royale shooters, you couldn’t ask for a smoother experience.
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.
- Read our full PNY GeForce GTX 1660 Ti review
3. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
Best value for ray tracing
- Solid 1080p and 1440p performance
- Future-proof with Turing
- Decent value when compared to the 1070
- Ray tracing and DLSS still not widely supported
The RTX 2060 is the cheapest 20-Series card available which gives you all the benefits of Turing’s architecture. This means it’s the only semi-affordable way to take advantage of the full compliment of Ray Tracing and DLSS technologies.
This is a big deal as, from what we’ve seen testing Ray Tracing on Battlefield 5 and Metro Exodus, the tech is pretty awesome. Ray Tracing improves how games render lighting effects, shadows and reflections, making them look super realistic. It’s also being touted by Nvidia as the future of gaming, which given the number of titles confirmed to support it this year the claim could well be accurate.
Ray Tracing aside, the RTX 2060 offers impressive grunt performance that easily matches the older GTX 1070. This means most triple-A titles will run at 60 fps or above with their graphics settings maxed at 1080p. This makes this GPU the best value RTX graphics card currently available.
- Read our full Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 review
4. Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660
Great Full HD performance at a low, low price
- Superb value for Full HD gaming
- Adaptive shading gives modern games a performance boost
- Incredible optimisation for battle royale game
- The slightly more expensive GTX 1660 Ti offers better value
The Gigabyte GTX 1660 is one of the cheapest mid-range Nvidia-powered graphics cards on the market, offering a superb Full HD performance for just £2o0. Thanks to the new Turing TU116 architecture and new efficient shading methods, the GTX 1660 card offers a big bump on performance compared to its similarly priced Pascal siblings.
Our tests prove the GTX 1660 is capable of running modern AAA games, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, at high frame rates, while even being able to achieve a respectable Quad HD performance for titles released a few years ago. Fortnite and Apex Legends fans will certainly benefit, with the GTX 1660 optimised specifically for battle royale games.
The only drawback to the GTX 1660 is that the GTX 1660 Ti offers a noticeably better performance at a slightly more expensive price. We’d recommend going for the latter, but if you’re on a super strict budget, the GTX 1660 will still serve you well.
- Read our full Gigabyte GTX 1660 review
5. Asus ROG Strix RTX 2070 O8G Gaming
Stellar Quad HD and ray tracing performance
- Excellent value Quad HD performance
- Ray tracing and DLSS support
- Remains cool no matter how hard you push it
- Very poor overclocking potential
- Just shy of a good 4K performance
The Asus ROG Strix RTX 2070 O8G Gaming suffers the middle sibling syndrome. This isn’t the cheapest 20-Series graphics card available, and it’s performance is dwarfed by the more expensive 4K-ready RTX 2080 Ti GPU.
What it does offer, though, is great value for its Quad HD performance. The Strix RTX 2070 can handle all but the most power-draining video games at a super-sturdy 60fps, even after activating ray tracing to revel in Battlefield V’s realistic reflections.
The only caveat with this Asus ROG graphics card is that it can’t muster much from an overclock, leaving the additional fan feeling like a wasted expense. On the bright side, you do get customisable RGB lighting, excellent heat dissipation and an improved boosted clock speed when you plump for ROG’s offering instead of Nvidia’s.
- Read our full Asus ROG Strix RTX 2070 O8G Gaming review
6. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080
A cheaper alternative to the RTX 2080 Ti
- Offers ray tracing and DLSS for cheaper price than RTX 2080 Ti
- Capable of running most games in 4K
- A sizeable upgrade from the last-gen GTX 1080
- Offers the same 4K performance as the cheaper GTX 1080 Ti
- Limited game support for ray tracing and DLSS
The middle sibling of Nvidia’s new 20 Series graphics cards, the Nvidia RTX 2080 hits the sweet spot for performance and price.
The RTX 2080 offers a significant frame rates boost compared to its Pascal predecessor, the GTX 1080, most notably for modern games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Ghost Recon Wildlands. We’re talking enough power here to play these games in 4K. It’s not quite beefy enough to hit the 60fps target for such ultra-intensive games, with only the RTX 2080 Ti boasting the power for such a task, but if you fancy saving a few hundred quid the RTX 2080 is a very good compromise.
The RTX 2080 claims a very similar performance power to the GTX 1080 Ti. The only significant difference between the two cards is the former’s far better and more efficient when it comes to ray tracing and DLSS. These features have limited game support right now, but you’ll at least know this GPU is as future-proofed as they come if you do decide to invest.
- Read our full Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review
7. AMD Radeon RX 570
Budget Full HD option
- Excellent Full HD performance
- Wide range of designs available
- Quiet cooler on this model
- 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.
- Read our full AMD Radeon RX 570 review
8. AMD Radeon RX 580
Budget Quad HD option
- Brilliant Full HD performance
- Decent 1440p performance
- Cheapest cards are great value
- 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.
- Read our full AMD Radeon RX 580 review
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.
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
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
- 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 Radeon VII . 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.