Our graphics cards comparison and advice 2017 brings an overview when comparing the countless GeForce and Radeon models with benchmarks from popular PC games. The many different model numbers at AMD and NVidia are rather confusing than helpful; here, our graphics cards advice for PC gamers provides an overview and make the selection easier. However, the range you cards that we have compared are limited to top ones only.
If you are building a completely new computer, you need to set a budget. Here, you can roughly follow the formula that the graphics card should account for about a third of the total value of a gaming PC. This ensures that individual components do not decelerate each other.
In general, when upgrading a graphics card, you should make sure that the performance of the graphics card is not limited by a possibly too weak processor; the monitor should also fit in well. If you only play on a full-HD screen, then it does not need a sinfully expensive graphics card, except if you want games to run at more than 60 fps.
Graphics cards ranking
To create the graphics card ranking, an Intel Core i7 7700K runs in our benchmark system, which we run with the maximum standard clock rates. Thanks to the high clock speed of its four cores and the ability to process eight threads at the same time, the processor becoming bottleneck is out of the question. The i7 7700K is cooled with a CRYORIG A80 Hybrid Water/Liquid Cooler.
The Gigabyte K5 Gaming with Z270 chipset is equipped with 32 GB of DDR4 memory from Corsair, which we operate with the clock of 3,000 MHz indicated by the manufacturer. Electricity supplier is a quiet Corsair 950 Watts PSU. On the software side, we are running Windows 10 (64-bit), while the applications and games are installed on a 480 GB Corsair SSD.
For the game measurements, the graphics card must prove itself in four DX11, a DX12, and a volcano benchmark game (Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Watch Dogs 2.) We test all the titles mentioned with the highest preset, including edge smoothing and sixteen-fold anisotropic filtering.
The measured power consumption refers to the entire system, the temperatures are determined with the MSI Afterburner under typical game load. We perform our volume measurements in a sound-proofed room. The meter is placed at a distance of 50 cm, at an angle to the graphics card in an open test system.
Graphics cards up to $140
The cards in the price range up to $140 offer sufficient performance, especially at lower resolutions. For casual players, for older titles or simply for a very limited budget, the price class up to $140 is a good option. For graphically demanding current titles, however, you often have to play without high details or image enhancements such as edge smoothing.
Radeon RX 460 (2 GB)
If you want to spend as little as possible when you buy a new graphics card for playing games then the $95 AMD Radeon RX 460 is still the best choice.
The Radeon RX 460 offers more than enough performance for a 95 dollars card at resolutions up to 1920×1080 pixels in graphically less demanding games and without edge smoothing. It uses the Polaris 11 chip, which has over 896 shaders, 56 texture, and 16 ROP units. By default, the GPU clocks at 1,090 MHz; the 3D performance is sufficient for mid to partially high settings in Full HD, it is true also for slightly more demanding games. Due to the fact that only 2.0 GB of VRAM is used, you often have to accept tangible cuts in performance.
The RX-460 model with 4.0 GB is available at around $110, in this price range the GTX 1050 is the more recommended model, despite only 2.0 GB of VRAM. Maybe this will change with the soon to be available Radeon RX 560, which is in a similar price range as the RX 460 – but we have no benchmarks of the RX 560.
At around $115, you can get the new Geforce GTX 1050, which belongs to the Pascal generation; it is in the lower price segment with neat performance against its rival RX 460.
With the Geforce GTX 1050, NVidia brings the Pascal architecture into the low-priced entry-level range, which is reflected above all in the very good energy efficiency of the GTX 1050. It consumes roughly as much power as the Radeon RX 460 (20 GB,) which is $15 cheaper, but is about 30% faster. The GTX 1050 is only available with 20 GB of video memory, but it still can run most current titles in medium to high details in Full HD.
However, there are some games, which with 2.0 GB VRAM run very jerky (if at all,) and only by disproportionately lowering the details. In the future, the trend towards more required video memory will increase, but at the moment, the GTX 1050 is a good offer for a tight budget.
Geforce GTX 1050 Ti
From $140, you can get good performance with GeForce GTX 1050 Titan to play the latest games in high details and Full HD with high refresh rates.
If 2 GB mem is not enough for anyone, then GeForce GTX 1050 Ti offers the best alternative in this price range. The GTX 1050 Ti has the advantages of NVidia’s current Pascal generation, making the RX 460 a strong competition with 4 GB mem. Because GTX 1050 Ti is about 40 percent faster in Full HD than the RX 460 and also has 4 GB of memory, this practically eliminates performance problems due to insufficient memory in some of the latest titles.
The GTX 1050 Ti, which is priced at around $140, is positioned exactly between the cheaper, but also noticeably slower RX 460 4GB and the approximately 55% faster RX 570, which costs about $180.
Graphics cards up to $290
In the range between $140 and $290, there are the graphics cards that are sufficient for most players and are still affordable. In this price range, all graphics cards are already fast enough to run current games in 1920×1080 and usually with maximum details. Depending on the game, image-enhancing options such as higher resolutions, edge smoothing, and anisotropic text-filtering can also be used.
Radeon RX 570
Starting at $185, AMD’s Radeon RX 570 offers a lot of 3D performance and provides a full HD performance in any game. Direct competitor is the GTX 1060 3 GB version.
The Radeon RX 570 is based on the slightly revised Polaris 20 GPU. Compared to the faster RX 580, the graphics chip has been trimmed somewhat and the RX 570 is similar to the RX 470 with 2,048 shader and 128 texture units. The increased clock rates compared to the predecessor are 1168 MHz/1244 MHz (with boost,) the graphics card is sold with 4 or 8 GB GDDR5 video memory. However, there is no reference model from the RX 570 and the individual manufacturers offer correspondingly adapted variants of the card. The RX570 ROG Strix OC from Asus, tested by us, is in demand, but it is a bit too loud and with a price of currently around $230, it is one of the most expensive custom designs.
Direct competition from NVidia is the GTX 1060 with 3 GB of video memory, which you can also buy from $185. Compared to the 6 GB model of the GTX 1060 ($240,) they have halved not only the memory, but the 3 GB version of the GTX 1060 also has slightly less shader units; thus giving a slightly less 3D performance. Compared to the RX 570, the 1060 3GB in DX11 titles is about the same, but in DX12 games, it is noticeably slower. In the smaller memory configuration, we recommend the RX 570 with 4 GB or the GTX 1060 with 3 GB.
Radeon RX 580
For around $250, the Radeon RX 580 delivers a lot of performance per dollar and also is in front in the of the more expensive GeForce GTX 1060 in DirectX 12 games .
AMD also has redesigned Radeon RX 580, which replaces its predecessor RX 480; officially clocked at 1257 MHz/1,340 MHz (with boost) and is available with 4/8 GB of video memory for about $225 (4 GB) and $250 (8 GB) respectively. Due to the relatively low price difference, we advise in any case to go with the 8GB version. In the case of the Radeon RX 580 Nitro + Limited Edition from Sapphire tested by us, the performance increases slightly compared to the RX 480 due to the higher clock rate and is ahead in Full HD and WQHD from GeForce GTX 980.
Sapphire has done it again with the Nitro L.E. It is very reliable and makes some noise, but not annoying loud. The power requirement compared to the RX 480 is further increased by the clock plus under load considerably higher than with NVidia’s Pascal graphics cards of the 1000 series. The Nitro + Limited Edition is relatively expensive at $320; the view of this custom designs is definitely worth it.
GeForce GTX 1060
Although the GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB, in some DX12 titles, is ahead of the RX 580, it works best under DX11 usually faster and consumes less power.
Compared to the RX 580, the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB delivers lower fps numbers in DX12 games such as Hitman. For this reason, it is quite ahead in most DX11 games from the AMD card and the overclocked manufacturer models such as the Palit GeForce GTX 1060 Super Jetstream push themselves further forward. In addition, the GTX 1060 benefits from the current Pascal architecture and has excellent energy efficiency. Compared to the RX 580, it needs significantly less power under load despite better performance. The GTX 1060 can be cooled down efficiently and quietly, and many of the manufacturer models work almost silently.
However, the GTX 1060 has 2 GB of video memory less than the RX 580 (8.0 GB). 6GB should still be sufficient for future titles, but we prefer the lower 3Gbyte version of the GTX 1060 as it has a better performance per dollar.
Graphics cards over $290
You only need a card above $290, only if you want to play on multiple monitors, in high resolutions, or for achieving high refresh rates. Although systems with two graphics chips on a board often provide the highest (benchmark) performance, they cannot play their full potential in all games because of the compatibility issues in Crossfire/SLI mode; some of these games solve this issue by updating their drivers or releasing game patches.
GeForce GTX 1070
Anyone who wants to play current titles in very high details fluently in high resolutions as full HD needs an enormous amount of 3D performance. This is exactly what the GeForce GTX 1070 offers at an acceptable price.
NVidia’s GeForce GTX 1070, like the GTX 1080, uses the GP104 graphics core based on the Pascal architecture. Compared to 1080, however, it has less shaders (1920 instead of 2560) and has 8 GB of GDDR5 memory. The clocks with 8 GHz is very fast, but it cannot compete with the 10.0 GHz GDDR5X that the GTX 1080 records.
In our game benchmarks, the GTX 1070 was defeated in comparison only by the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti. Against the remaining graphics cards, however, it wins clearly and is more than ten percent ahead of the GTX 980 Ti as the top model of the predecessor generation. In the test, the performance of expensive GTX 1070 Founders Edition was not convincing. Although the card is not overly loud under load, but it is clearly audible and the GPU heats up to over 80 degrees.
The Palit GeForce GTX 1070 GameRock Premium Edition is significantly quieter and cooler.
Geforce GTX 1080
Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 costs at least $480, but in comparison, it also offers about 25% more graphical power than a GTX 1070 and still remains relatively economical in terms of power consumption.
With its GP104 graphics unit, the GeForce GTX 1080, together with the GTX 1070, is the first graphics card based on the Pascal microarchitecture. The GTX 1080 achieves extremely high clock frequencies and performance thanks to the optimization and the structure width of the chip, which has shrunk from 28 to 16 nanometers; Leaving most single-GPU cards behind, except the 1080 Ti and Titan Xp. Compared to the GTX 980 Ti, the GTX 1080 operates about 30 percent faster and sets itself over 60 percent ahead of the GTX 980.
Despite the brute performance, it consumes less than the GTX 980 and remains relatively quiet. Manufacturer cards like the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 GamingX 8G offer even better cooling systems and a boosted power supply. As a result, the MSI card operates almost silently under load, keeps the temperatures low, and clocks higher gains.
NVidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is based on the Pascal GP-102 graphics chip and it has 3584 shader, 224 texture and 88 ROP units. This makes it 21 percent under Full HD and WQHD, and under 35 percent faster in 4K compared to a GTX 1080. The performance extends the most in 4K with maximum details, in some cases it even cracks the 60 fps mark. The clearly audible and hot-headed Founders Edition of the GTX 1080 Ti clocks at 1480 MHz/1582 MHz (with boost) and has 11 GB of GDDR5X video memory clocked at 11000 MHz.
More expensive custom designs like the Aorus Xtreme Edition 11G from Gigabyte or the Gaming X 11G from MSI show that the GP-102 graphics chip can be cooled quickly, making them pleasantly quiet. But this comes at a price. The Founders Edition is currently sold for around $700. The high-speed customized designs with powerful cooling cost at least $50 to $100 more!