Best Video Cards for Gaming: Q3 2018by Nate Oh on July 30, 2018 11:00 AM EST
In our series of Best Video Card guides, here’s the latest update to our list of recommended graphics cards for gaming PCs. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing (Jul 26th).
Best Video Cards for Gaming: Q3 2018
For gaming PCs that push the pretty pixels on the screens, the video card is the most important component. And given the sheer amount of custom options, choosing the right graphics card for your budget can be very difficult. In our Video Cards for Gaming guides, we give you our recommendations in terms of GPU models and current prices representative of an affordable non-blower custom card. Our guide targets common gaming resolutions at system-build price points similar to our CPU guides.
Given the price increases of last six months, this summer has seen a welcome respite, with video card prices essentially returning to Holiday 2017 levels.
Update (8/2/2018): The guide has been modified to reflect the latest price per performance. Of note, the RX 580 8GB is now recommended for the "1080p+ PC" tier.
|AnandTech Gaming Video Cards Recommendations: Q3 2018
(Prices are July 27th, 2018)
|The $300 Video Card
|The $2000 4K PC||-||GeForce GTX 1080 Ti||$750|
|The $1600 1440p PC||GeForce GTX 1080||$510||Radeon RX Vega 64||$590|
|The $1300 1440p PC||GeForce GTX 1070||$410||GeForce GTX 1070 Ti||$480|
|Radeon RX Vega 56||$480|
|The $1000 1080p+ PC||Radeon RX 580 8GB||$280||GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
|The $800 1080p PC||Radeon RX 570 4GB||$240||GeForce GTX 1060 3GB
|The $600 "1080p" PC||Radeon RX 560 4GB
|$140||GeForce GTX 1050 Ti||$180|
|Ones to Watch||Next generation GeForce cards|
Click the category links to jump to the appropriate section. For an MSRP table, click here
The majority of our recommendations aim to hit the performance/price curve just right, while considering power consumption and graphics/monitor ecosystems.
The Price of a 2018 Video Card:
Cryptomining Settles Down - For Now
In last year's video card buyer's guide, we began by discussing how cryptomining inflated prices to such an extent that the the upper performance/price sweet spot around $300 had disappeared, a space that was once occupied by the stalwart Radeon R9 390 and popular GeForce GTX 970. Since then, prices peaked in January, then dropping 20% around the time of our previous video card buyer's guide. The impact was severe enough that it prompted NVIDIA to make a small announcement in May when GeForce 10-series cards were back in stock at original prices. As for today's guide, prices have 'normalized' back to late 2017 prices.
In what is now well-documented, cryptocurrency mining demand for graphics cards caused prices to skyrocket earlier in 2017. Primarily driven by Ethereum mining, demand first affected RX 480s in late 2016, before spreading to the rest of AMD and NVIDIA’s mid-range offerings earlier this summer. Ever since, video card prices have been all over the place, finally hitting a peak a couple of months ago, hopefully for the last time. During those dark days, both the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti were well beyond $1200.
In recent weeks, the latest speculation is all about NVIDIA's upcoming successor to the GeForce 10-series, which has been a bit of a poorly-kept secret. Inventory-wise, the GeForce 10-series cards will naturally be winding down ahead of the launch, though in May NVIDIA did release a GTX 1050 variant under the same model name but with a different GPU configuration, lower memory bandwidth, and 3GB memory.
|July 2018 Estimated Video Card Prices|
|Model||Q3'18 Price||Q2'18 Price||Q4'17 Price|
|NVIDIA Titan V*||$2999||$2999||-|
|NVIDIA Titan Xp*||$1299||$1299||$1299|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti||$750||$1000||$730|
|AMD Radeon RX Vega 64||$590||$860||$570|
|AMD Radeon RX Vega 56||$480||$690||$470|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080||$510||$660||$520|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti||$480||$580||$480|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070||$410||$560||$430|
|AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB||$280||$370||$290|
|AMD Radeon RX 580 4GB||$270||$350||$250|
|AMD Radeon RX 570 8GB||$260||$350||$240|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
|AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB||$240||$320||$240|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti||$180||$220||$160|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (2GB)
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 3GB
|AMD Radeon RX 560 (16 CUs)||$140||$160||$130|
*Only sold directly from NVIDIA
Under normal circumstances, the $300 “Sweet Spot” is of greatest value for gamers looking to min-max their PC builds, where the bulk of the budget goes into the highest performing graphics card priced right before diminishing returns. Pre-cryptomining frenzy, it tended to be a good price/performance match for a variable refresh monitor or higher-end VR headset, especially as VR headset and FreeSync/G-Sync monitors are becoming more affordable. The variable refresh technologies themselves are capable of providing smoother gaming experiences, in particular enabling mid-range cards to punch above their traditional weight. The kicker is that only AMD cards support FreeSync and only NVIDIA cards support G-Sync.
So if you want a variable refresh monitor, your choice of video card locks your options. NVIDIA charges a premium for G-Sync, which is reflected in higher monitor prices. But because AMD does not have a strict certification program outside of FreeSync 2, there are some questionable FreeSync monitors, and annoyingly, some without support for Low Framerate Compensation (LFC). If you are looking to purchase a FreeSync monitor, LFC is almost mandatory as it maintains the variable refresh experience when the refresh rate dips below the monitor’s minimum, which for many monitors is still 40Hz+.
Returning to you, the consumer, this means that min-maxing for a VR build or new monitor has become that much harder. Particularly if your game tastes veer towards either DX11 or DX12/Vulkan games; as a rough rule of thumb, GeForce cards tend to perform better on DX11 games while Radeon cards tend to perform better (or at least punch above their weight) on DX12/Vulkan. We will keep these complications in mind when we list our recommendations.
The $2000 4K Gaming PC: Wait And See
In light of NVIDIA's impending GeForce 10-series successor cards, purchasing a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti card might be setting yourself up for buyer's remorse, given the roughly $240 difference between the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti currently. The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti remains priced at a flagship premium, but that level of performance might be just around the corner, not unlike considering the GTX 980 Ti before the release of the GTX 1070.
In terms of performance, the reference GTX 1080 Ti is able to push around 40 to 50fps at 4K on maximum settings for the most demanding games, with custom cards offering even higher performance. At 1440p, this often translates to high fps suitable for high refresh rate monitors (96Hz and above), and so a good match for high-end G-Sync monitors. In the case that 4K or multi-monitor gaming starts to push past 8GB VRAM somehow, the GTX 1080 Ti's 11GB GDDR5X frame-buffer has you covered.
This high performance is also coupled with relatively reasonable power consumption, though the card's price here is pushing well past $700. Compared to the pricier reference-only Titan Xp and Titan X (Pascal), prosumer cards that don't come with professional driver support anyway, the GTX 1080 Ti is close enough or superior in gaming performance to be the better purchase.
Beyond this point, you will have to opt for the Titan Xp, Titan V, or 2-way SLI configurations. Of note, the NVIDIA Titan Xp remains at its standardized value of $1200, being sold direct by NVIDIA. The NVIDIA Titan V is set at $2999, but for all intents and purposes is a workstation-grade compute and deep learning card that happens to be the fastest single GPU graphics card for gaming, at least for the moment.
The $1600 1440p Gaming PC:
Wait and See, or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 ($510)
At around the $500+ price point, the GeForce GTX 1080 is still a strong card despite being over two years old, and given that time on the market, quite a number of custom cards are available, with a slight refresh in the form of 11Gbps GDDR5X models. With a new generation of cards just around the corner, the GTX 1080 is also subject to being pipped in terms of bang-for-buck, but NVIDIA's pricing model for their next generation cards remains to be seen.
Depending on the successor card base prices and Founders Edition premiums, the GTX 1080 could be significantly undercut. In that sense, it would be smarter to wait and see how the launch pans out.
Of course, performance-wise, the reference GTX 1080 is capable of pushing around 60fps or more on 1440p on high or maximum settings for the most demanding games. In turn, performance will be sufficient for high refresh rate gaming on 1080p and less demanding 1440p titles. By adjusting graphics settings, the GTX 1080 is also able to handle 4K, particularly with a G-Sync monitor, as it may not be optimal for single-card 4K on the latest AAA titles.
As for AMD, the GTX 1080 competitor Radeon RX Vega 64 is priced around $590, a $90 premium over the $500 launch price, though the models are now all custom add-in board designs. At launch around a year ago, the reference RX Vega 64 traded blows with the reference GTX 1080 Founders Edition, at the expense of much higher power consumption, and in turn noise. Otherwise, the reference RX Vega 64 would work fine to match a FreeSync monitor for high quality 1440p and dialed-down 4K gaming.
While the GTX 1080 stands to be superseded by a direct successor in the near future, AMD's current Vega offerings do not appear that way. In that case, current Vega cards will remain in production, ideally resolving any inventory issues.
The $1300 1440p Gaming PC:
Wait and See, or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 ($410)
Like its older brother, the GeForce GTX 1070 has been around for some time, offering GTX 980 Ti+ performance at much lower power consumption levels. In terms of performance, the reference GTX 1070 is up to the task of 1440p60 for most games, though being in the realm of 20% behind the GTX 1080, the most demanding games will need settings adjustments. Similarly, 1080p performance should be suitable for high refresh rate monitors on many, though not all, games. And with 8GB of GDDR5, the GTX 1070 is generally set for increased VRAM requirements.
Again, the NVIDIA cards in this bracket would presumably be the ones directly replaced by the next generation GeForce products, so the caveat of 'wait and see' stays.
Runner Up: AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 ($480) or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti ($480)
A half step up from the GTX 1070 is the GTX 1070 Ti; reference-to-reference, the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti is around 13% ahead of the GTX 1070 and 8% behind the GTX 1080, with custom cards pushing the envelope further. Generally meant to be a proportional option between the GTX 1080 and 1070, the GTX 1070 Ti cards have standardized clocks, negating some of the out-of-the-box advantage for custom cards. However, as the newest model of the desktop GeForce 10 series, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti appears to be one that is restocked more often at the moment. With the GTX 1070 Ti edging closer to the GTX 1070 in price currently, the comparative price/performance is better than both the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080.
In terms of AMD's counterpart with the Radeon RX Vega 56, despite the release of custom cards the price matches GTX 1070 Ti level at $480.
The $1000 1080p+ Gaming PC:
AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB ($280)
The cryptomining demand originally hit hardest on this tier of video cards, and again have yet to recover. While the AMD Radeon RX 580 lagged behind the GTX 1060 6GB (1280 cores) by around 7% at 1080p and 1440p at launch, since then, RX 580 performance is more-or-less on par or better in most scenarios, though certain games will give the 1280 core GTX 1060 6GB the edge. The RX 580 does have higher power consumption, and along with the RX 480 has been the poster child of the excesses of cryptomining demand (reaching around $370 during our last guide), but being $20 cheaper cements its lead over the 1280 core GTX 1060 6GB.
While 8GB is indeed more future-proof friendly, stepping down to the RX 580 4GB may also be an option, which currently runs for around $270. Saving $10 in exchange for losing 4GB of framebuffer may not be good value in the long run, of which history tells us that 'more than enough VRAM' has always turned into 'not enough VRAM,' but this should also be judged on what types of games you would realistically play, especially if your ever-lengthening game backlog is split between AAA-level intensive games or less-demanding indie titles.
Runner Up: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB (1280 core) ($300)
In practical terms, the 1280 core GTX 1060 6GB offers very similar performance to the RX 580: around 60fps on maxed out 1080p settings, which may include more anti-aliasing. This also translates into decent 1440p performance, though well shy of 60fps in more demanding games. While this would suit a wide range of G-Sync monitors, the high prices of these mid-range cards makes a G-Sync monitor purchase a difficult proposition.
The $800 1080p Gaming PC:
AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB ($240)
Generationally, the RX 570 performs about 7% over the RX 470 thanks to core and memory clockspeed increases, translating into strong 1080p and playable 1440p performance.
Runner Up: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB (1152 cores) ($230)
With the GTX 1060 3GB (1152 cores), There is the caveat that 'unlimited video memory' graphics settings could cause unpredictable performance in certain games (as seen in Tom's Hardware's RX 570 review), where VRAM requirements would outpace the 3GB frame-buffer.
The $600 "1080p" Gaming Toaster:
AMD Radeon RX 560 4GB (16 CU) ($140)
At the lowest end of builds with discrete graphics card, reasonable graphics horsepower begins around the $100 mark. Or at least it did, back in the days before Ethereum and other trendy altcoins. Such a situation now sees the Radeon RX 560 (16 CUs) being the cheaper option over the GeForce GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti.
While the GTX 1050 offers low power consumption, a factor that matters when budget concerns include PSU capacity, this end of the market is traditionally very price-sensitive to the video card itself. Performance-wise, the difference between the GTX 1050 and Radeon RX 560 largely comes down to game selection (i.e. DX11 vs DX12/Vulkan), price, and power consumption; the RX 560 may get the nod here for more VRAM but the GTX 1050's 2GB frame-buffer doesn't necessarily make a strong impact at this level of performance.
To note, the RX 560 comes in two variants: the standard model with 1024 streaming processors (16 CUs), and the slower 896 SP/14 CU model (equivalent to an RX 460). This was originally a silent change, and etailers/board partners did not communicate the adjustment to consumers; while this has been rectified, it would behoove anyone in the market for an RX 560 to double-check the specs. The RX 560 (16 CUs) offers somewhere in the region of 5 - 10% performance over the RX 560 (14 CUs)/RX 460.
Overall, both the RX 560 and GTX 1050 can power reasonable framerates at 1080p with medium settings, or in other words performance typically more suitable in less demanding eSports titles and 720p.
Runner Up: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti ($180)
The next step up is the GTX 1050 Ti (4GB), offering faster performance over the GTX 1050 and RX 560, but not very compelling in terms of performance/price beyond the GTX 1050. But it may be applicable to those in a desperate need for a slightly higher performing option but are unwilling to look at integrated graphics.
As mentioned in the beginning, news for upcoming consumer discrete graphics has been dominated by rumors and speculation over NVIDIA's next generation GeForce cards. No official information has been disclosed, but the cancelled Hot Chips talk suggests a Q3/Q4 launch, which would roughly align with NVIDIA's recent consumer cadence (Maxwell 2 in late 2014, Pascal in mid 2016). So these months would be the closing chapters for Pascal, though right now the succeeding architecture has not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, AMD has not mentioned any changes to their consumer graphics roadmap, which would suggest that current Radeon RX 500 and Vega series will compete with NVIDIA's upcoming GeForce products through this year. In practice, the company will presumably have some type of competitive response, which should be beneficial for consumers and buyers.
As a reminder, all the previously mentioned video cards in this guide have the following MSRPs:
|2018 MSRP/SEP Comparison
(aka Where Things Should Be)
|Radeon RX Vega 64 LC
(Radeon Pack pricing)
|$699||GeForce GTX 1080 Ti|
|Radeon RX Vega 64||$499||GeForce GTX 1080|
|$449||GeForce GTX 1070 Ti|
|Radeon RX Vega 56||$399|
|$379||GeForce GTX 1070|
|$249||GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
|Radeon RX 580 8GB||$229|
|Radeon RX 580 4GB||$199||GeForce GTX 1060 3GB
|Radeon RX 570||$169|
|$139||GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB|
|$109||GeForce GTX 1050 2GB|
|Radeon RX 560||$99|