When it comes to graphics cards, we go in-depth. Year in and year out we test dozens of GPUs from Nvidia, AMD (and also Intel) to see which are worth your money, and which are dead on arrival.
To make the process of choosing a new graphics card a little easier, TechSpot's Best GPUs guide is intended to answer one simple question: Given a specific budget, which is the graphics card you should buy?
In the past year we've seen a lot of new graphics card releases, but very few of them have been exciting, resulting in a situation where the product that sucks the least is the winner. There are a few models that have fallen below MSRP to finally become decent deals, while others are still massively overpriced, but, can offer incredible performance.
So depending on your perspective, you could argue you're getting what you paid for. We'll start from the bottom and work our way up the food chain...
Entry-level: Around $200
AMD Radeon RX 6600 or Radeon 6650 XT
For $200 or less there aren't that many GPU options, and certainly very few good ones. A truly bad example would be the Radeon 6500 XT, which launched in January 2022 with a 4GB model that was supposed to be $200, but due to the supply and demand issues began life closer to $300+.
Today it can be had for $160 and sometimes less than that, but in reality this GPU frankly belongs to a sub-$100 segment. That's because for $60 more you can get yourself an Radeon RX 6600 and although that's a ~40% price premium, the 6600 is on average 80% faster at 1080p.
The Radeon RX 6600 also supports video encoding, more than two display outputs, twice the PCIe bandwidth, and can produce more than 60 fps in modern AAA titles using reasonable quality settings at 1080p. So for around $200, the Radeon RX 6600 is your best value graphics card option.
If you can push the budget closer to $300, the Radeon 6650 XT is also a great option, for an extra 20% than the vanilla model, you get another 20% more performance.
There's no GeForce alternative worthy of consideration at this price point. The RTX 3050 still costs at least $260, pricing it closer to the 6650 XT which is an issue considering the plain RX 6600 straight up destroys the 3050, delivering over 20% more performance on average, while costing less.
Mainstream GPUs at $400:
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti or Radeon RX 6750 XT
For those of you with around $400 to spend on a graphics card, Nvidia starts to become competitive. In this price range the best options include the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti and Radeon RX 6700 XT and 6750 XT.
The Radeon 6750 XT is ~5% faster than the 6700 XT, so if pricing is similar you might as well go with the refreshed model. Right now the 6750 XT is typically ~10% more expensive, making the original better value, so our recommendation then would be for the 6700 XT, then you can overclock it and get 6750 XT performance for free.
Alternatively, the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti can be had for a little over $400, which is similar to the 6750 XT in terms of pricing, but worse when it comes to the value equation as it costs 15% more than the 6700 XT and is ~5% slower on average. You're also looking at around $330 for the standard RTX 3060, resulting in a similar cost per frame as the 3060 Ti. The problem with the RTX 3060 though is that if you spend 10% more on the 6700 XT, you'll receive around 35% more performance.
In other words, the RTX 3060 Ti is the first GeForce product where we'd start entertaining the idea of purchasing it. The advantage Nvidia has over AMD at these lower performance tiers is limited. In our opinion ray tracing performance isn't terribly useful here, so the only key selling point would be DLSS, but the upscaling options for Radeon GPUs are improving all the time.
Mid-range Performance: $600+
Radeon RX 6800 XT or ???
The price range between $500 and $800 is a tough one at the moment and the time to buy has temporarily expired. The release of the GeForce RTX 4070 Ti is imminent and this new GPU could break the segment if it becomes available close to $800, potentially driving all older models' pricing down, which would be great.
By now most of the good deals on Radeon RX 6800 and 6800 XT graphics cards have been snapped up. As of writing, retailers list multiple 6800 XTs for between $540 and $550, but none are in stock, while some local retailers have removed 6800 XT listings entirely. If you can land a Radeon 6800 XT for ~$500, that's a good deal, but much over that and we wouldn't bother.
Meanwhile, the GeForce RTX 3070 starts closer to $600 but we'd pass on those. In our opinion, RTX 3070s should be closer to $400 at this point. The same applies to the RTX 3070 Ti, which has an asking price of $700, which makes no sense for a number of reasons -- possibly none bigger that the terrible value Radeon RX 7900 XT costs just $200 more -- shy of a 30% price premium, for over 60% more performance.
It's the same story with RTX 3080 -- it's too overpriced, so basically the only GeForce 30 series GPU worth investing in right now is the 3060 Ti, everything else is dead outside of a few limited deals here and there. The best value you could find on a high-end GPU were the 6800 XT, 6900 XT or 6950 XT, but sadly though those deals have run out to make way for next generation GPUs. We just have to hope they don't suck nearly as much as the 7900 XT and RTX 4080.
The Terrible $1,000+ Mark
GeForce RTX 4080 vs. Radeon RX 7900 XTX
Speaking of next-gen GPUs, if you are willing to spend $1,000, or a bit more than that, here are your options: the Radeon RX 7900 XT at $900, a price that isn't currently in stock at, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX at $1,000 which would be kind of decent but can't be found outside of scalper prices, and the GeForce RTX 4080 which can sometimes be found at the $1,200 MSRP, but is often closer to $1,300.
We tend to believe the Radeon RX 7900 XTX is the best deal here, assuming you can find it at the $1,000 MSRP. Frankly, we're not terribly impressed with any of the options... the RTX 4080 is poor value and the 7900 XTX might seem like a better deal -- and depending on your preferences it might be -- but the weaker RT performance, inferior upscaling in terms of image quality and game support, along with the higher power consumption and numerous driver bugs means the XTX has to cost at least $200 less.
What you do here is hard to say. You can't really buy the 7900 XTX anyway and the RTX 4080 is above MSRP, so you might as well wait. Let the early adopters and fanboys snap these up, let the market cool off and then nab yourself a deal. We don't feel strongly about any of these GPUs at the current prices and don't care to argue which is the best out of the bad bunch.
$1,600+ for a Flagship GPU
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
The king of the bad bunch is the GeForce RTX 4090, a product we can't decide if we love or hate. Yes, at $1,600 it's super expensive, but the market sets the price and Nvidia has worked out gamers are willing to pay that and more for top end performance, so here we are...
We can complain about the price of high-end GPUs all day, but ultimately it's going to change nothing if people keep buying them, and buying them they are, on mass it seems. Right now there isn't a single RTX 4090 to be found at most retailers, with most stores showing several different makes and models and none of them are in stock -- even the Asus ROG Strix one that sells for $2,000.
The RTX 4090 wins the ultimate high-end GPU category by default. There's no competition from AMD, it does offer ~25% more performance than the 7900 XTX, and while it might cost 60% more at MSRP, gamers who want the best there is appear more than happy to pay the premium. With both the 4090 and 7900 XTX out of stock right now, it's hard to imagine top GPU pricing tumbling any time soon.
As we begin a new year, we are coming off from a period where gamers rejoiced over the fact they could finally buy graphics cards again, only to end up disappointed once they could.
At least that's the story of the mid to high-end value conscious shopper. For those seeking the best of the best, then it was a pretty exciting one with the release of the breathtakingly fast RTX 4090.
We've also seen a number of affordable Radeon GPUs such as the Radeon RX 6600 drop well below their MSRP as a positive takeaway. In the coming weeks and months we're expecting to see next generation mid-range to high-end parts arrive, such as the heavily leaked RTX 4070 Ti and hopefully AMD's counter with something like a Radeon RX 7800 XT, so the GPU war looks set to heat up in 2023.