Welcome to the highly-requested Graphics Card buying guide from the team at GPUnerd. We’re sorry it took so long to be written but we wanted it as helpful as possible, something other buying guides just don’t provide. We have had so much demand to get this published and i’m pleased to say after countless all-nighters, endless cups-of-coffee and mountain dew, we have finally got it ready for you guys to read, explore and use for choosing the graphics card for your next PC build. We have done a silly amount of research (forums, reddit, benchmarking, you name it we’ve done it..) compared to give you a good idea on what would be the best graphics card for your next awesome PC build. After all, we at GPUnerd think the GPU is what can make or break a great gaming PC build, or separate the insane-builds from the mediocre-looking builds, although as you can guess we are always going to be slightly biased (GPU is in our name after all!).
We have spared you the effort and time by finding the best graphics card for a number of different requested categories. This includes, but is not limited to:
Best graphics card for Performance, budget, PC applications, customizability, 4k, Virtual Reality, Compatibility with popular PC components, best aftermarket brand of Nvidia and AMD cards, as well as the best graphics card for non-gamers.
Whatever your criteria is when buying your next Graphics Card, we (should) have it covered! So without further ado, lets get started with what we think is the best graphics card buying guide of 2017!
(This guide will be regularly updated throughout 2017 as well as new content being added, so watch this space if you’re interested)
GPUnerd “What is the Best Graphics Card for…” Buyers Guide
…Best 4k graphics card?
4k gaming will be the standard for gaming in the next few years, and you will need a graphics card to play this demanding resolution at a smooth and playable frame rate. The best 4k-capable graphics right now on the market is undoubtedly the Nvidia GTX 980 Ti, and with this card being on sale for under $490 it is now quite a bargain, too. Our favorite GTX 980 Ti is the EVGA ACX 2.0+ Classified, featuring their great ACX 2.0+ cooling, base clock of 1000MHz and boost clock of 1190 MHz, 2816 CUDA cores and over 6Gb of GDDR5 memory. A highly powerful card which can handle even the most demanding 4k titles.
…Best 5k graphics card?
If 4k gaming isn’t hardcore enough for you, then 5k is the one to go for. To play 5k titles you will need a very powerful and capable graphics card with a high bandwidth and es
pecially GDDR5 memory. When It comes to picking a graphics card that is capable of playing these 5k games, we would recommend going for the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW, with over 8GB of GDDR5 memory, 1800MHz of boost clock and plenty of connectivity.
Best graphics card for 1080p gaming?
1080p is still king, at least for the next 5 years. Most gamers prefer to run 1080p at a far higher FPS than 4k at a mid rate performance. If you are on a low-to-mid range budget for building a desktop PC, then don’t even consider building a 4k machine (at least for a few more years). That being said, the recommended graphics card for optimum gaming performance at 1080p resolution has to be the GTX 1060. Affordable, powerful with over 6GB of memory, and more-than-capable for playing any AAA title running at 1080p, the GTX 1060 from Nvidia is one to seriously consider. If you’re looking for a particular aftermarket GTX 1060, we personally love the Gigabyte WINDFORCE OC GTX 1060 card.
Best graphics card for PC gaming?
It is very rare to see a graphics card that is fully capable of performing exceptional over a wide range of games and PC titles, so when you have graphics card come onto the market and it just seems to handle everything you throw at it, its important to take note. These handful of graphics cards with these capabilities come and go from one generation to the next, but right now the best value graphics card that exceeds and creating an immersive PC gaming experience is, you’ve guessed it, the GTX 1070 by Nvidia, specifically the MSI GAMING GeForce GTX 1070 8GB version. It really is great value, and although its not better performing than the GTX 1080, it does come in at slightly lower price point but still offers plenty of performance.
Best graphics card of 2016?
What is the best graphics card of 2016? Many people have been asking us this and it is for sure a hard question to answer. One graphics card can rarely do everything and satisfy everyone’s requirements such as 4K, performance whilst on a budget. We think the graphics card that can do all of this whilst being good value for money is the ASUS Rog Strix GTX 1080. Although priced at just under $700, this is the crème de la crème when it comes to graphics cards, and no other GPU can compare, for now… This GPU boasts over 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and can be factory clocked to over 2000MHz out of the box. It is a truly special card, and definitely claims the title of the best graphics card of 2016.
Best graphics card for streaming
Perhaps you are an occasional gamer but rather wants to use your graphics card mainly for streaming, then you don’t necessarily spend to get one of the most juiciest cards on the market. Instead, go for a card such as the ASUS ROG STRIX Radeon RX 460, a perfect fit for streaming with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM for a seriously good price.
Best graphics card for Linux?
The best graphics card for Linux is the GeForce GTX 750 Ti using Nvidias proprietary driver (v340.96). See here why this is the only sensible option.
Best Nvidia graphics card?
The best graphics card offered by Nvidia is their flagship Titan Z, a monster of a card with unsurprisingly a monster price tag! The Nvidia Titan Z is Nvidia’s fastest GPU with over 12GB of GDDR5 VRAM, a base clock of 1000 MHZ and boost clock of 1075 MHZ. This is only a card built for the most extreme, graphics intense applications, resoultions or PC builds.
Best AMD graphics card?
AMD enthusiasts have been raving about the AMD RX480 GPU, and with good reason too.. This mega-performance graphics card is at the top of AMDs lineup, but is incredibly reasonably priced given its performance. The RX480 (ROG STRIX OC Edition from ASUS) offers 8GB of DDR5 SDRAM, which kills any game we have thrown at it, showing way over 60FPS on max settings on a wide range of graphics-intense titles. The cooling is surprisingly quiet, too, with average temperature in the mid 70s and reaching 80s at load.
Best graphics card for non gamers?
If you’re not into gaming but still want a high-performing graphics card for applications such as to perform video editing or rendering, a solid option which offers good performance whilst at great value is the EVGA GTX 1050 Ti SC Gaming with a impressive 4GB of GDDR5 RAM.
Best Graphics Card by budget
Best graphics card for the money?
Many gamers are looking for a graphics card which provides the best bang for your buck. Theres plenty to choose from, either from AMD radeon or GeForce GPUs, but our favorite graphics card, for that who want the performance at a great value, the EVGA GTX 1070 FTW is the graphics card to go for. Why? This is a super capable graphics card, with 8GB of GDDR5, supporting anyone looking to upgrade their machine to be 4k and VR ready. The FTW edition of the GTX 1070 also provides a level of guarantee to work at its absurdly high clock speed and also is backed up by a healthy warranty. We think it is the top graphics card for the money for sale today.
Best graphics card under $100?
It used to be impossible to find a half-capable graphics card for under $100. Nowadays, it is becoming ever-so easy to find a budget graphics card which doesn’t necessary mean its slow. We had plenty to choose from when picking the top card under $100, but we had to give it to two different graphics cards. Go for the AMD R9 270 if you have a PSU with a 6-pin PCIe connector, however if you do not have PCI power in your gaming system, go for the GeForce 750 Ti by ASUS. They are both great value graphics cards, although the 270 is not always available for under $100, so if you see one under $100 grab it without thinking twice!
Best graphics card under $150?
Picking a capable graphics card can be difficult for under $150, but then again if you are setting a budget under $150 for a graphics you shouldn’t be expected to play Battlefront on 4K at Ultra settings! Right now, the top graphics card in the $100-150 price bracket has to be the EVGA GTX 950 SC, with 2048MB of GDDR5 memory, 768 CUDA cored and an impressive boost clock of 1342 MHz. In addition to the GTX 950’s impressive performance for its price, it also is only 6.8 inches in length, allowing for much needed space without sacrificing performance.
Best graphics card under $500?
Many often set a budget of $500 when looking for a high performance graphics card without spending all of your PC build on just the video card! Many gamers are looking for a graphics card which provides the best bang for your buck, even when around the price point of $500. Thre’s plenty to choose from, either from AMD radeon or GeForce GPUs, but our favorite graphics card, for that who want the performance at a great value, the EVGA GTX 1070 FTW is the graphics card to go for. Why? This is a super capable graphics card, with 8GB of GDDR5, supporting anyone looking to upgrade their machine to be 4k and VR ready. The FTW edition of the GTX 1070 also provides a level of gurantee to work at its absurdly high clock speed and also is backed up by a healthy warranty. We think it is the top graphics card for the money for sale under $500 today.
Best graphics card under $1000?
You can get a highly powerful graphics card for way under $1000 in 2016, which will be capable to perform excellently in every 4k title and stress test you throw at it. Right now, our recommended card to buy under $1000 actually comes in around $700, and is one of the most powerful cards you can buy on the market for any budget. This card is the ASUS Rog Strix GTX 1080, with over 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and boasts an insane overclock of over 2000MHz right out of the box!
Best graphics card under $3000?
When you have plenty of money to spend on a top-tier graphics card, you want to make sure you still want to squeeze every last ounce of performance of every dollar spent. There are a few options to go for, you can go for an SLI dual or triple card setup, although the more cards you have in conjunction the more problems that can arise. Alternatively, you can go for a massive, absolute top-of-the-line single graphics card setup, accompanied with a high-end cooling system to keep the GPU frosty cool. The ultimate graphics card that will provide you with the most performance for under $3000 is without question the GeForce GTX Titan Z by EVGA. This behemoth of a card has over 12GB of GDDR5 memory, and over 672GB/s of bandwidth. Absolutely absurd. I do have to confess, at the moment this is only slightly over $3000, but it is by far the best GPU graphics card you can possibly buy on the market in 2016.
Remember if you are considering the Titan Z, you will need a minimum of a 700W or greater power supply to hook up to this card. Here’s our recommended PSU for the Titan Z, the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200W Power Supply.
Best Nvidia Graphics Card (by Model)
Best GTX 1080?
The GTX 1080 is a great and highly capable card, with 8GB of GDDR5X and a base clock on 1607 MHz, this card will be able to cope with almost anything you throw at it. There are plenty of aftermarket GTX 1080s being offered from various manufacturers, including Asus, EVGA, gigabyte and MSI, to name a few. We have heard great things about the GTX 1080 SC ACX 3.0 by EVGA, which is why we are recommending it as the best overall GTX 1080 card on the market. This card is extremely quiet, and boosted natively to above 2000Mhz. The GTX 1080 SC ACX 3.0 is a truly capable card for playing at a 4k resolution, we could play Battlefield 4 on this card for hours on end on ultra settings through a Dell 4K IPS monitor, the frame rate never dropped and it felt like the GTX 1080 was being held back by the 60Hz refresh rate of the Dell 4K monitor! Did we mention it looks great, too?
Best graphics card for Oculus Rift/Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is just around the corner, and its time to either build a VR-ready desktop or upgrade your desktop system so its ready for all the upcoming Oculus Rift and HTC Vive titles! The best bang for your buck system to future-proof your system for virtual reality is definitely the GTX 970 graphics card. Any GTX 970 will provide you with the juice needed to run the VR systems, but we would personally go for the EVGA GTX 970 ACX 2.0 for its premium cooling system, sleek design and great customer support.
Best Graphics Card by Game
Best graphics card for Battlefield 1?
Hate it or love it, it is hard to argue against Battlefield 1 being the biggest gaming title release of fall 2016, Battlefield 1 will demand the most from many of current-gen graphics cards. If you are looking for a graphics card capable to running Battlefield 1 buttery smooth on 1080p we would recommend going for the Gigabyte GTX 1060, but if you plan on jumping onto the 4k bandwagon and play BF1 at 4K resolution you are going to need a meatier card with more VRAM and the ability to handle higher resolutions. The best card we recommend for playing Battlefield at 4k resolution is the MSI GTX 1070 GPU.
Best External Graphics Card (eGPU)
This is a space to keep a watch on as i’m sure it will change hands very often, but right now the best external GPU available on the market for 2017 is the BizonBOX Thunderbolt 3 eGPU. Why? Its thunderbolt 3, has a great design and doesn’t cost more than it should do for an eGPU.
Best Thunderbolt 3 eGPU?
The best overall eGPU of 2016 simply has to be the Akitio Node announced in November 2016. It brings the thunderbolt 3 connectivity seen only before in eGPU setups costing north of $500, now available for a much more reasonable price of $299 with the Akitio Node. If you didn’t know already, Thunderbolt 3 offers twice the speed of Thunderbolt 2 technology, of up to 40Gb/s bandwidth speed. The Akitio Node features a durable, simple design with a handy carry case and a built in 400W PSU, which will power even the most extreme graphics cards such as the GTX 1080 or Titan X. It is for sure the best all-around eGPU available for sale in 2016, along with the BizonBOX Thunderbolt 3 eGPU. Link to the BizonBOX here.
No word on availability yet but expect this to be shipping from early 2017.
Best Graphics Card by Monitor Setup
Best graphics card for dual monitors?
If you are looking to hook up your desktop to two monitors, you should be looking for a graphics card with Dual DVI, dual displayport or dual HDMI ports. You will need a GPU with enough VRAM size (>2GB will do the job) to handle the extra resolution using 2 monitors. The best all-around graphics card that works flawlessly with dual displays is the EVGA GTX 1060 ACX 2.0 3GB, which supports a max screen resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels.
We wouldn’t recommend going for dual monitors if you are primarily looking to game with this setup. This is due to the bezel in the middle blocking everything whilst gaming! The best multi-monitor setup is going for a three-monitor set up – that way the crosshairs or central view of the game isn’t blocked out by the bezel.
Best graphics card for three monitors / triple monitor setup?
PC gaming with three monitors is one of the ultimate desk setups, and if you’re thinking of gaming at this ultra-high resolution this you’re going to need an ultimate graphics card, too. The most-recommended graphics card for an ultra-high resolution for a triple monitor setup is hands-down the Nvidia GTX 1080 card with over 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Our favourite aftermarket GTX 1080 card is the ACX 3.0 GTX 1080 by EVGA.
Best graphics card for ultra wide monitors?
Ultrawide monitors are becoming more popular and there is good reason why.. The 21:9 screen aspect ratio is replacing the common trend of dual monitors and is replacing this with a single, ultra-wide display which looks awesome and immerses you in your gaming experience. Don’t skimp on the choice of GPU when playing at this resolution, be safe and enjoy the capability of the GTX 1080 by Nvidia. For ultra-wide monitors, we would go for the Asus ROG Strix 1080 GPU.
Best Graphics Card by Desktop Type
Best graphics card for compact PC?
If you want to get a graphics card for an compact PC such as a Mini ITX PC, you’re going to need a graphics card which is small in length (under 6.8 inches) and is compatible with your small motherboard such as an Mini-ATX motherboard or Micro-ATX motherboard. The best card which is small in size, compatible with a micro-ATX motherboard and does not compromise on performance has to be the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 ACX 2.0, with its tiny profile but impressive 4GB of GDDR5 memory! Did we mention it’s overclocked out-of-the-box with warranty?
Best graphics card for Dell Optiplex 760?
We had to include the Dell Optiplex 760. We love it, and it will always have a place in our hearts here at GPUnerd. Hence, it is necessary for us to keep them alive as long as possible by giving them a fresh GPU upgrade.
If your Dell Optiplex 760 is started to show its age and limitations, it’s probably a good idea to give it a new lease of life and upgrade its graphics card. After all, the graphics card could likely be the bottleneck that is holding back your Optiplex 760. On a number of hardware forums such as Overclockers, the most recommended graphics card upgrade for the Dell Optiplex 760 is the Radeon HD 7750.
Best graphics card for Hackintosh?
When choosing a graphics card for a Hackintosh build it is extremely important to consider driver compatibility when building a fully working mackintosh out-of-the-box. The most powerful graphics card, which is highly recommended and often used in hackintosh builds, is the Nvidia GTX 950 SC from ASUS, offering 2GB of GDDR5 memory and a base clock of 1127 MHz (boost clock up to 1317 MHz).
Graphics Card Buying Guide For Beginner GPUnerds
What should you look for in a Graphics Card?
There are number of factors you need to consider that makes a good, capable graphics card. The main factors you should look at when comparing graphics card include.. We will go into each factor in more detail in what to look for in a graphics card.
Know your systems bottlenecks
The graphics card is the most crucial component in making a decent gaming PC, although other components do play a factor, too. Don’t waste your money on a top of the line graphics card such as the GTX Titan X, if you are running a dated single or dual-core CPU processor, such as Intel Pentium or Celeron. You won’t get the most out of your graphics card if any of your other components cannot keep it, they will become the bottleneck to increasing your desktop PCs performance. If you do know your bottlenecks of your gaming PC, for example you do have a dual-core CPU, then instead of investing in a top-range GPU instead go for a mid-range graphics card and invest the rest of money you saved on a beefier, more modern processor that has four or even eight cores.
The display is another example of a gaming system bottleneck, for example if you are running on a 1280×1024 monitor then there is no need to invest in a graphics card that can run smooth frame rates on a 4k UHD monitor. It applies the other way around, too. If you are planning to run a dual or triple monitor setup then you will need to get the appropriate graphics card to run at smooth rates at such a high resolution. Therefore, it is good to plan ahead and know where you want to expand your desktop PC capabilities into the future, and know what upgrade you need to prioritize next.
Compatibility is Key
Always check the compatibility of the graphics card with your hardware, there’s nothing worse getting your new graphics card installed only to find out it doesn’t actually work on your system! Therefore, before you click the ‘add to cart’ button on your next graphics card, take a step back and tick off some compatibility checklists.
Is your graphics card compatible with your power supply? What is the recommended wattage for your new graphics card, and how big Is your current power supply unit? How many PCIe power connectors does your graphics card have? These questions need to be answered to sign off your new graphics card as compatible for your new desktop gaming system.
Don’t Ignore The Cooling System
Graphics cards can get hot, real hot when under intense load. When you push your performance graphics card to the limit they like to consume a lot of power, and this in turn causes the graphics processing unit (GPU) to heat up. Without a cooler, the GPU would overheat and essentially fry! Cooling systems are always found on graphics cards to prevent this from happening in desktop systems.
There are two types of coolers you may come across when looking at graphics cards; these are reference coolers and aftermarket coolers. Reference coolers are often the coolers to go for if you are on a budget, they work by channeling heat through an exhaust found on the back of the graphics card, out of the case. Reference coolers are often cheaper but are often tend to be slightly noisier than aftermarket coolers.
Aftermarket coolers are often more expensive, and these are produced from manufacturers you probably have heard of before, such as EVGA, Gigabyte, Asus or MSI. The aftermarket cooler found on the graphics card is different depending on which brand graphics card you have chosen. This means certain graphics card coolers do a better job of keeping you graphics card nice and cool compared to reference coolers, and even other aftermarket coolers!
Memory Bandwidth… What About It?
If you are making the decision to buy a certain graphics card based on the amount of RAM it has, you are making a big mistake. This is one of the greatest, and misunderstood factors when selecting a graphics card, its just like choosing an high performance car based on how many miles it can do per tank!
You do not need to worry about the size of RAM in the graphics card if you are planning to run games at an extremely high resolution such as a 4k display or an ultra wide monitor.
What you do need to worry about is the bandwidth of the graphics card. Firstly, if you are reading this in 2016 or later, the first thing you make sure your new graphics card has is GDDR5 or greater. For reference, GDDR5 has 2 times greater bandwidth than DDR3 RAM at the equivalent clock rate. Its an obvious choice to go for GDDR5 in a new graphics card.
Design, Major Key
I know that the design of the GPU isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when looking for the best-performing Graphics Card, but you can’t disagree that the design is an important factor when looking to buy a graphics card. After all, you would want your custom PC build to finished off with a great looking, sleek graphics card, rather than an bad looking graphics card in the view of everyone that looks at your desktop PC?
The $64k Question: Should you go for an NVIDIA or AMD graphics card?
The great debate that’s been going on for years in computer hardware forums, should you go for an Nvidia or AMD graphics card? It really does come down to your individual needs and requirements for your desktop PC, whether it be for gaming, graphics-intense applications such as Photoshop or CAD, or it could come down to which graphics card has the best compatibility with your motherboard and CPU.