best video card buyer's guide

If you're a PC gamer or HTPC enthusiast looking for the best graphics cards on the market at every price point, you've come to the right place! Our list profiles every card worth buying, starting at under $100 for a simple drop-in upgrade for older systems, through low-profile cards favored by Home Theater enthusiasts, and going up to the fastest gaming cards on the market!

For Winter 2021, Nvidia continues to dominate the ultra-high-end with its RTX 3000 series, which includes the RTX 3080, perhaps the most game-changing release in a decade based on its performance and MSRP at launch. AMD also has some great offerings at the high end, which is a market AMD hasn't catered to since the early 2010s, but it's had even more trouble than Nvidia getting these into gamers' hands. Stock issues abound, and likely will continue to be a challenge through Summer 2021.

Products shown in this guide will link to Amazon or Newegg in the US, and our Amazon links will auto-convert for our readers in Canada, the UK, and parts of the EU. If you decide to purchase one of the cards we profile, please use the links we provide, which helps support continued development of this guide.

And keep in mind that once you start throwing a lot of GPU power at existing systems, you'll quickly reach the limits of older CPUs, which are taxed more heavily at higher settings. Feel free to check out our Builder's Guides to get a sense of what we consider to be balanced systems in terms of CPU and GPU power. 

Video Cards - Winter 2021

  • Video Card:

    MSI GeForce GT 1030 2G LP OC

    Nvidia offers up some serious performance with the single-slot, low-profile GeForce GT 1030. While it isn't a big deal when it comes to gaming, it is a very big deal when it comes to HTPC use. And there's one simple reason: HDMI 2.0, which allows 4K/60Hz output for an excellent home theater experience. Note that anything less expensive than the GT 1030 at this point isn't worth buying, as it would be slower than the built-in video processing on most modern CPUs.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model also has a Displayport output, which is extremely rare in budget cards. It can drive a monitor at resolutions up to 4K, meaning this card can actually support dual 4K monitors!

  • Video Card:

    MSI GeForce GTX 1650 4GT LP OC

    After a wait that felt like forever, a low-profile version of the GTX 1650 has finally arrived, and it absolutely blows away the previous best low-profile GPU, the GTX 1050 Ti, offering gaming performance that's a full 35% faster! And guess what else? It's cheaper too! Yes, indeed, if you're a low-profile PC fan, this is your dream come true - it's by far the fastest low-profile card ever released! Plus, it doesn't need additional power connectors, meaning it uses less than 75W at maximum load. That makes it a safe bet for just about any power supply. It's not the best value in terms of performance/dollar, but it's the only true gaming card that can fit where standard-sized cards can't!

    The Guru's Tip:

    A card like this isn't just good for gaming - it's also a fantastic addition to any low-profile Home Theater PC or content creation box, thanks to its HDMI 2.0 output and impressive application acceleration capabilities!

  • Video Card:

    Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660 Super OC 6G

    Step up to a true gaming GPU with the GTX 1660 Super, which pulls well ahead of the RX 580 listed above. If you're willing to spend over $200 on a GPU, this is what you should buy! Just note that there are still many 1660 "non-Super" models floating around, and they are typically just $10-$20 cheaper despite being much slower.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This GPU in fact offers the best performance per dollar of any GPU in history!

  • Video Card:

    ASRock Radeon RX 5600 XT Phantom D3 @Newegg

    Offering the best performance you can get for under $300, the RX 5600 XT 6GB is capable of driving nearly any game at resolutions up to 2560 x 1440.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The 5600 XT is likely the only card you'll find in this price range going forward. AMD has plans for an RX 6700 12GB, but it will compete in the $400+ price range.

  • Video Card:

    EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti 8GB XC @EVGA

    It's a whole new world, and in the critical sub-$500 market, Nvidia is now king. The RTX 3060 Ti matches the last-gen RTX 2080 Super for hundreds of dollars less, and with lower power consumption too!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The 3060 Ti originally launched with a $400 MSRP, but that has been long forgotten. It's a $470+ card today.

  • Video Card:

    MSI GeForce RTX 3070 Ventus 2X OC

    The RTX 3070 8GB is the card you want for true 4K gaming capability. It will easily drive any game on the market to 4K with all settings maxed out! The 3070 matches the last-gen RTX 2080 Ti for half the price!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model has an MSRP of $500, but we expect it to sell for around $600 when stock returns. That MSRP will not return.

  • Video Card:

    Gigabyte GeForce RTX 3080 Master @B&H

    If you want the ultimate gaming card, the RTX 3080 is your best option. It beats the previous king-of-the-hill RTX 2080 Ti by around 30%, and is more than capable of running any game today at 4K with max settings. It can even hold its own at 4K/120Hz, which is going to be the new standard to beat going forward!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The RTX 3080 is going to be hard to come by until Summer of 2021 due to its immense popularity among crypto miners, on top of its popularity with gamers. Also, while the original MSRP of the 3080 was $700 at launch, there will never again be a $700 RTX 3080. We consider the base price to be $800.

  • Video Card:

    EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 FTW3 Ultra 24GB

    OK, so if you actually need the fastest gaming setup in the world, what you want is the RTX 3090 24GB. Massive computing power, massive VRAM. It's the GPU of the future here today!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while in the past you could get even more power by going with dual cards in SLI, Nvidia has officially killed off support for SLI, and we consider it ancient history at this point.