Best Graphics Cards (GPUs) for Gaming Windows Central 2020

The graphics processing unit (GPU), often referred to as the graphics card, plays an integral role in your gaming PC. Sure, you can run a PC with nothing but integrated graphics, but for real performance — the kind that nets you smooth framerates in modern games — you need something dedicated. If you're wondering exactly where to start, with either a fresh build or an upgrade project, we've collected the best GPUs available now for a number of different performance thresholds.

Budget AMD hardware: ASUS ROG Strix RX 570

The ASUS ROG Strix has up to a 1,310 MHz clock speed, 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, and dual fans to help keep everything cool when you're pushing it. If you don't need a ton of graphics performance and mostly play less-intensive games, this should do a good job. The addition of some RGB lighting is a nice bonus for such an affordable GPU.

$158 at Amazon

Budget NVIDIA hardware: MSI Gaming X GTX 1050 Ti

You won't get the same performance here as from the Radeon RX 570, but this GTX 1050 Ti from MSI is still a contender for low-impact gaming. It delivers 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM and has a dual-fan setup for enhanced cooling, plus it works with any G-Sync enabled monitors for smoother visuals.

$180 at Amazon

Best AMD for 1080p: Sapphire Nitro+ RX 580

Sapphire's Nitro+ lineup of AMD GPUs is usually regarded as the best, thanks to superior cooling and not much noise output. If you plan on gaming at 1080p with high framerates, this Radeon RX 580 with 8 GB of GDDR5 VRAM will easily get the job done, especially if you're using a FreeSync monitor for a smoother picture.

$258 at Amazon

Best NVIDIA for 1080p: EVGA SC GTX 1060

EVGA's SC GTX 1060 has 6 GB of GDDR5 VRAM and a single fan that manages to keep everything cool, all contained in a compact build great for smaller PCs. Performance compared to the Radeon RX 580 is very similar, so between the two, the decision will likely hinge on what type of monitor you're using or previous allegiance to NVIDIA or AMD.

$286 at Amazon

Best AMD for 1440p: PowerColor Red Dragon RX Vega 56

If 1080p isn't a high enough resolution, stepping up to smooth framerates at 1440p can be achieved with the Red Dragon Vega 56. It has 8GB of HBM2 VRAM with high memory bandwidth, a boost clock speed up to 1,478 MHz, and three fans to keep it cool. Compared to NVIDIA's GTX 2060, you should get slightly better performance here.

$400 at Amazon

Best NVIDIA for 1440p: MSI Ventus RTX 2060

The 20-series GPUs from NVIDIA offer some serious power, including ray tracing and deep learning super sampling (DLSS), which uses AI to help deliver the right level of performance at all times. MSI's RTX 2060 has 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM, a boost clock up to 1,680 MHz, and two fans for adequate cooling. If you want to game comfortably at 1440p, this GPU will do.

$380 at Amazon

Best AMD for 4K: Sapphire Nitro+ Vega 64

You won't get the same performance as NVIDIA's RTX 2080, but the Nitro+ Vega 64 from Sapphire will get you gaming at 4K. It also costs a couple hundred less, while delivering 8GB of HBM2 VRAM, quiet three-fan cooling, a 1,611 MHz boost clock, and FreeSync compatibility for a smoother picture.

$629 at Newegg

Best NVIDIA for 4K: EVGA XC Ultra RTX 2080

If you'd like the biggest and baddest GPU without spending more than $1,000, the RTX 2080 from EVGA will deliver. It has a boost clock up to 1,815 MHz, 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM, dual fans with RGB lighting, and it includes all the perks of 20-series NVIDIA cards, like ray tracing, DLSS, and G-Sync compatibility.

$850 at Amazon

If we're making some suggestions …

Which GPU you finally decide on really comes down to price, what type of performance you'd like to achieve, what type of monitor you have or would like to get (with either G-Sync or FreeSync compatibility), and any brand allegiance to NVIDIA of AMD. Be sure you don't buy too much GPU for the rest of your hardware, as you'll only see bottlenecks and wasted graphics performance, but also don't buy too little GPU and hope that you'll scrape by. A comfortable gaming experience is all about smooth framerates, and anything less just won't do.

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