Written by Jon Martindale
Buying a graphics card is the most important step when building or upgrading a gaming PC. While the CPU, memory, and storage all have their part to play in making your games look their best, the graphics card does the bulk of the heavy lifting. A high-powered GPU will give you all the options, resolutions, and gaming feature support you could want, while a weak one will leave you frustrated at its poor performance.
That’s where a GPU buying guide can be invaluable. Just which is the best graphics card to buy in 2023? What’s the best GPU for your budget? That might depend on the games you’re trying to play and the monitor you’re trying to play them on, but both AMD and NVIDIA have some incredible options available, whether you’re playing at 4K with ray tracing enabled, or gunning for high frame rates at 1080p. And, of course, Intel is the newcomer with some impressive, budget-friendly cards.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best graphics cards you can buy right now.
Don’t forget the CPU: While the graphics card is likely to make up most of your gaming PC budget – and it should – the CPU is still important. You’ll find games stuttering with poor 1% low frame rates if your CPU is underpowered, and without a powerful chip, you won’t be able to hit high frame rates at lower resolutions, either. It’s less important at 4K, but the CPU sill plays its part. For anything else, a good CPU goes hand in hand with a great graphics card.
Match your monitor: Are you looking to game on a 4k 144Hz monitor? Then you’re going to need one of the most powerful graphics cards available. More interested in hitting 240Hz at 1080p? You won’t need something quite so powerful – although higher-end GPUs will make hitting those higher frame rates easier. Make sure that your graphics card is powerful enough to play the games you want to play at the resolution and refresh rate you’re targeting.
Check your power: Power supplies aren’t the most exciting part of a PC build, but they’re super important. Not only can a bad power supply risk the life of your other components, but if you don’t have a high-enough wattage, there are some graphics cards you just won’t be able to power. Especially the latest and greatest high-end options, which can pull well over 300W when gaming. If in doubt, replace your PSU first.
Memory matters: VRAM requirements in games have exploded in recent years, with some needing over 12GB now for the top settings. Fortunately, most of the best graphics cards have more than you’ll need, but if you want to future proof your system, get a graphics card with lots of graphics memory. It’ll need to use all of it before long.
Buy the model, not the brand: There are many different graphics cards from many different brands. While some are better than others, with enhanced cooling and higher clock speeds, they are rarely, if ever, better than the GPU one model up. Even when prices are pretty close. If you want the best performance for your money, make sure you’re buying the best model you can afford, rather than the best version of a card. It can be worth it to spend extra for a quieter, faster GPU, but only if it’s still the best model for your money.
Buy recent: Where most PC components see incremental upgrades every year or two, graphics card generations regularly make major leaps in performance, and that’s been especially true for the past few. That means that your focus should really only be on buying a GPU from one of the latest generations.
For AMD, that’s RX 6000 or RX 7000. For NVIDIA, that’s RTX 3000 or RTX 4000. For Intel, it’s Arc 700 or newer.
With Intel’s launch of its Arc graphics cards in 2022, there’s now a third player in this historic head to head, but which graphics card is right for you?
Although there are some cards that win out in direct head to heads, you can find an amazing GPU within each company’s catalogue of hardware. It’s just about finding the right card for you, at the right price.
Intel’s GPUs are best represented in the mid-range, making them hotly competitive with AMD and NVIDIA’s best. They offer support for the impressive XeSS upscaling standard, and have some models with lots of video memory, making them a great pick for future proofing your system.
NVIDIA’s latest RTX 4000 series of Ada Lovelace graphics cards are its most impressive yet. The RTX 4090 sits at the top of the pile with a monstrous array of CUDA cores and 24GB of some of the fastest video memory ever made. It’s joined by the RTX 4080, 4070 Ti, and 4070, all of which sport new-generations of RT and Tensor cores, unlocking faster ray tracing performance, and better deep learning super sampling than ever before. They all support DLSS 3 frame generation, which can enhance frame rates more than upscaling alone, and offers some of the best performance in the most demanding games.
AMD also has a new generation of exciting graphics cards: RX 7000. These RDNA 3 GPUs offer amazing performance at any resolution and refresh rate, but its RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT are particularly designed with 4K in mind. They have the kind of raw power needed to game at high frame rates even with all settings turned up to ultra, and ray tracing acceleration is much greater with this generation of AMD GPUs. Their support of Fidelity FX Super Resolution upscaling means that you can further enhance frame rates in demanding games, too.
Both AMD and NVIDIA have impressive last-generation GPUs worth considering, as well, especially at the mid-range. NVIDIA’s RTX 3060 and 3060 Ti are some of the best affordable graphics cards available today, with the higher-end RTX 3070 Ti and 3080 Ti still offering competitive performance with the top new-generation cards.
AMD’s RX 6400 is the cheapest 1080p gaming GPU available today, but it also offers impressive higher-end options, like the RX 6750 XT, and the 6950 XT. Both of those cards are great for 1440p and 4K gameplay, and offer more impressive ray tracing support than lower-end models.
Casual gaming, whether it's the occasional esports multiplayer bash, or a low-fi indie game, doesn't need ultra-high-end graphical power. That means you can save a lot of money by opting for one of the most affordable GPUs, and there are several great options to choose from.
The king of the ultra-budget GPUs in 2023 is AMD's RX 6400. It's around $175 and is far more capable than onboard graphics, making it a great pick for playing classic games like League of Legends, CS:GO, and Rocket League. NVIDIA’s GTX 16-series GPUs, like the GTX 1650 and 1660 Ti, are great options for affordable entry-level gaming, too.
If you want to play newer esports games like Fortnite, you'll really benefit from more power, though. In that case, the NVIDIA RTX 3050 is a great option, giving you access to DLSS for added performance.
There's a reason 1080p resolution is still the most popular among Steam gamers: it still looks great. It's not super demanding, though, so the best graphics cards for 1080p are about maximizing frame rates, making your games look smoother, and feel more responsive.
The AMD RX 6650 XT is one of the best 1080p GPUs available today. It has plenty of VRAM, and full support for FSR. Alternatively, the NVIDIA RTX 3060 and 3060 Ti are pretty competitive and give you DLSS support.
Intel's Arc 750 and 770 are worth considering here too. Intel is constantly improving their GPUs with regular driver updates, so keep your drivers as up to date as possible to really get the best performance.
Even if you're playing esports or more casual games, 1440p resolution is much more demanding on your graphics card, so for steady frame rates and high detail settings, you need a more capable GPU.
NVIDIA's RTX 3070 and 3070 Ti are awesome options with all the performance you need for playing at ultra-detail settings. You can even enable ray tracing if you don't mind playing at a more cinematic frame rate. AMD’s equivalent is equally impressive, with the RX 6750 XT offering stellar performance at 1440p. The higher-end 6800 and 6800 XT are options too, and will give you much higher frame rates, though they are a little more expensive.
If you're playing a game that supports DLSS 3, like Hogwarts Legacy or Cyberpunk 2077, then you might want to opt for an RTX 4070 or 4070 Ti. They will get you comparable performance to those top cards from the last-gen, but with the added support for frame generation, you'll get much higher framer rates in supporting games. The only downside is that they’re much more expensive.
Playing games at 4K resolution is one of the most demanding things you can do with a gaming PC. Let alone throwing ray tracing into the mix. For that you want the best of the best. At the more affordable end of that narrow band of top cards, the AMD RX 6950 XT is still an amazing graphics card that offer real top-tier performance.
If you'd rather stick to the latest and greatest, though, the AMD RX 7900 XT and 7900 XTX are the best graphics cards AMD has ever made. They offer awesome general gaming performance and even good ray tracing performance. NVIDIA’s RTX 4080 is an awesome option, too, with impressive performance and that added support for frame generation.
NVIDIA’s top card is the RTX 4090. It delivers incredible frame rates at any resolution and detail setting, but really shines when you put it under pressure with 4K resolution and ray tracing. If you’ve got the budget for it, it’s the best GPU NVIDIA has ever made.
Great guide! 1440p is amazing.
I've also found that the new AMD cards are looking like viable options these days.
I will be referencing this in the future.. i've needed this
AMD keeping the pressure on NVidia is good for everyone. Kudos.
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