To keep your PC up-to-date, you need to upgrade a few components here and there over time, and for gamers, the very best upgrade you can make year-to-year a new video card. That's because they offer the biggest benefit by far in terms of a raw performance increase, and just about anyone can install one. But with the frequent product releases, refreshes, and outright re-brandings, how's a PC user supposed to know what the best upgrade option is? To help our readers out, we've created this guide, which we update on an annual basis, generally following a major product launch from either Nvidia or AMD. It lists nearly every model released since 2007, ranking them using our proprietary "Speed Rating" system, which starts at a baseline "1x" Speed Rating, represented by the venerable and very popular Nvidia GeForce 8800GT. As of Fall 2018, there's a video card that goes all the way to 20x, the new $1,200 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, based on Nvidia's latest and greatest "Turing" architecture, released in September 2018.
On the next page, you can see how all this shakes out with over 50 cards plotted starting in 2007 and ending in late-2018. Nvidia has released all its cards for 2018 (and likely through at least mid-2019), and while rumors suggest AMD may release a new mid-range card before the end of 2018, it will likely simply be a refresh of the existing RX 480/580 design, which has been around since mid-2016. Thus it won't make any waves unless AMD prices it absurdly low, which we're guessing it won't. In other words, things are going to remain very much the same in the video card world for at least nine months, if not a year.
Note that we don't necessarily recommend all the cards in our rankings - the purpose here is to map out the video cards currently on the market and their relative performance per dollar ratios. If you'd like to know which video cards are actually worth buying, just flip over to our Video Card Buyer's Guide, which is updated quarterly. It provides recommendations on the best products for the money at every pricepoint.
We determine the Speed Ratings of each card based on both our own testing of dozens of cards over the years, along with our analysis of the professional reviews of each card listed. We group cards together as long as their performance is within 10 percent of the Speed Rating in which they appear. We do not consider factory-overclocked cards, although we give some minor consideration to potential overclocking headroom, as some model lines are truly superior in that regard (take, for instance, the Radeon HD 7900 series and the GeForce GTX 900 series). Models that fall evenly between Speed Ratings are ranked as such.
And now, witness the rankings:
Cards in each speed class are listed chronologically by release date, and we've included the actual release date and price for all cards at or above the 6x Speed Rating. One critical note in this age of the increasingly-fictional MSRP, we are listing the GeForce RTX 2070 at its $500 MSRP, as it has actually been listed for sale at that price. We have not done the same for the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti, however, instead listing the "Founder's Edition" pricing. Base models of these GPUs did not exist at launch, and still do as of our publication date. The RTX 2070 may end up being the only Nvidia Turing-based GPU to actually be available at MSRP...ever! Note that this also has implications for the Speed Rating slightly, as the FE models are pre-overclocked by about 7%. We ranked them based on the models we specified (base or FE, respectively).
To learn more about how price/performance has changed over time, just jump to the next page of this article!