To keep your PC up-to-date, you'll probably want to upgrade components over time, and there's typically no better upgrade year-over-year than installing a new video card. They offer the biggest payoff in terms of a raw performance increase, and just about anyone can install them. 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 both Nvidia and 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 Summer 2017, there's a video card that goes all the way to 16x, the $1,200 Nvidia Titan Xp!
Note that we don't necessarily recommend all the cards in our rankings - the purpose here is to map out the current video card market and relative performance per dollar ratios. On the next page, you can see how all this shakes out with over 50 cards plotted starting in 2007 and ending in mid-2017. Our companion Video Card Buyer's Guide is updated quarterly, and provides recommendations on the best products for the money.
Quick note on timing - we've been waiting (and waiting... and waiting...) for AMD's Radeon RX Vega to arrive before updating the rankings for 2017, and now that Vega is here (launched on August 14, 2017), we have all the data we need to complete the rankings for 2017. If you're looking for the next big thing, check back in early 2018, when we anticipate Nvidia will release a new generation of products!
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, as well as what we consider the most groundbreaking video cards of the past 10 years: the 8800GT in 2007, the HD 4870 in 2008, and the GTX 460 in 2010.
To learn more about how price/performance improves over time, just jump to the next page of this article!