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 is a new video card. That's because they offer by far the biggest benefit 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? Ask The Tech Buyer's Guru, of course! 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 (or as is the case in 2019, both!). It lists nearly every GPU model released since 2007, ranking them using our proprietary "Speed Rating" system, which starts at a baseline "1x" Speed Rating, represented by the venerable Nvidia GeForce 8800GT. As of Summer 2019, there's a video card that goes all the way to 20x, the $1,000+ GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, based on Nvidia's latest "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 mid-2019. AMD has likely released all its cards for 2019 (represented by the Radeon Vega VII and the RX 5700 and 5700 XT based on the newer Navi architecture). Nvidia has so far released its RTX 2060 Super and 2070 Super to counter these insurgents, and has plans to release a 2080 Super, but it didn't make it to market in time for our 2019 ranking, and won't really make much of a difference in the overall picture (Update: the RTX 2080 Super landed on July 23, 2019, 4 days after we published this article, and indeed, it offered nothing new in terms of price/performance). In other words, everything you need to know is here in one place!
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). Newer models typically have boost modes that much more readily tap into available headroom, meaning overclocking potential is dropping rapidly with each new generation of products. Because there were so many older GPUs that were packed into a few speed ratings, we've broken out models that fall between Speed Ratings in the chart.
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 actually was available at that price shortly after launch, while the RTX 2080 took a while to come down from its $800 release price, and the RTX 2080 Ti has essentially never been widely available at $1,000, so we use a $1,200 pricepoint for it. For those who are curious, the $700 RTX 2080 Super, which was released a few days after we originally published this article, would land at the 17x Speed level, not even coming close to replacing the RTX 2080 Ti.
It's a bit hard to decipher exactly how much performance increase you're getting per dollar just by looking at the Speed Rankings, so on the next page, we'll show you how price/performance has changed over time, and it may just blow your mind!