Best graphics card 2019: Top GPUs for 1080p, 1440p and 4K
We’ve seen a lot of changes to our best graphics card list over the last couple of months. With new graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD arriving every few weeks, our best GPUs for gaming at 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions have been shuffling about left, right and centre. Thankfully, the dust seems to have settled a bit now, although there are still rumours of yet another graphics card coming from Nvidia (the entry-level GTX 1650) at the end of April that could very well upset things even further in the 1080p category.
Personally, I think most people will be perfectly happy with our best graphics card choices that are currently available, but I will be updating this article once the GTX 1650 makes an appearance. Until then, though, these are the best graphics cards you can buy in 2019. Whatever your budget, we’ve got a best graphics card recommendation for you, whether it’s for playing games at 1920×1080, 2560×1440 or 4K.
Best graphics card 2019 guide
Here are the rules. For each resolution, you’ll find two best graphics card recommendations: the best graphics card for playing games at 60fps on max settings at said resolution, plus the card you should actually buy if you’d rather save a bit of money and aren’t that fussed about having the bestest best graphics. This way, our best graphics card list caters for both the budget conscious among you, and those who’d rather spend a little extra to max out their current monitor setup.
As for which particular brand of graphics card you should buy, a lot of that will come down to personal choice. More expensive cards tend to have superior cooling and faster factory overclock speeds, but in terms of performance increase, you’re probably only looking at a couple of frames per second difference – as my RTX 2080Ti benchmark showdown shows. My advice is to simply go for the cheapest one you can find, as I’m not overly convinced you’re really getting that much more for your money by opting for something more expensive.
It’s also important to think about the size of your case. If you’re building a mini-ITX PC, for instance, then you’ll want to look for ‘mini’ versions of your chosen graphics card. These often have a single fan and are slightly less powerful than their full-sized siblings, but they’re a great alternative for smaller PC cases, or those looking to save a bit of money.
Best graphics card for 1080p: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 or AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB)
GTX 1660 Ti – From £260 / $280
GTX 1660 (6GB) – From £200 / $220
RX 580 (8GB) – From £185 / $190
If you want to play games at maximum settings at 1920×1080, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is definitely the way to go. With its ability to offer a smooth 60fps in pretty much every one of today’s biggest blockbusters on Ultra graphics quality (and even faster frame rates on High if you have a high refresh rate monitor), this card is fantastic value for money.
However, as we’ve seen in my GTX 1660 vs GTX 1660 Ti comparison piece, those looking to keep costs down closer to £200 / $200 will almost certainly do just as well with the non-Ti version of the card, the regular GTX 1660. After all, you’re still able to play games at 60fps on High most of the time, and still get a decent Ultra experience, even if it isn’t quite as nippy as the GTX 1660 Ti.
The GTX 1660 is definitely a much better investment than my previous best graphics card for 1080p recommendation, the 6GB version of the GTX 1060, as the GTX 1660 offers superior speeds for the same amount of money – just check my GTX 1660 vs GTX 1060 article to see what I mean.
It’s also a faster card than the 8GB AMD Radeon RX 580, which is roughly on par with the GTX 1060 in terms of performance, but the RX 580 has the handy added extra of coming with two free games (out of Devil May Cry 5, the new Resident Evil 2 remake and The Division 2) and being slightly cheaper than the GTX 1660, arguably making it better value overall if you’re not too fussed about graphics quality. This is more of a Medium to High settings kind of card, but is still a good buy until AMD’s free games offer runs out on April 6th 2019.
If even these are too expensive, then your next best bet is the 8GB AMD Radeon RX 570 – at least if you’re in the UK. With prices starting at just £150, this not only comes with a healthier 8GB of RAM compared to Nvidia’s 4GB GTX 1050 Ti, but you still get those two free games as well. US prices, on the other hand, are so similar to the RX 580, that you may as well just get that instead, or settle for the GTX 1050 Ti.
Read our Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti review for more info.
Best graphics card for 1440p: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
RTX 2060 – From £329 / $349
GTX 1660 Ti – From £260 / $280
Nvidia’s new RTX 2060 is an absolutely stonking 1440p GPU. Previously, you would have had to have forked out another £100 / $100 for something like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070Ti or AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 56 to get proper 60fps perfection on maximum or high quality settings at this resolution, but now the RTX 2060 can do everything they can and more for a heck of a lot less.
Even better, Nvidia are currently doing a game bundle with the RTX 2060 that gets you a copy of either Battlefield V or Anthem, both of which can make use of the card’s fancy Nvidia RTX features such as its reflection-enhancing ray-tracing tech and performance-boosting DLSS (although in Anthem’s case, its DLSS support is yet to be implemented in-game).
If you’re looking for something a little bit cheaper (and really aren’t fussed about ray tracing or DLSS), then you should get Nvidia’s GTX 1660 Ti instead. As you can see from our GTX 1660 Ti vs RTX 2060 comparison article, the GTX 1660 Ti isn’t actually that far behind the RTX 2060 in a lot of cases, making it an equally good choice for those after a highly capable 1440p card.
There’s also a case to be made for AMD’s Radeon RX 590 as well if you’re not that fussed about having the best-looking polygons at this resolution, especially when this one gets you all three of AMD’s free games, but with prices starting at £235 / $240, I’d argue the GTX 1660 Ti is still the superior GPU.
Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 review for more info.
Best graphics card for 4K: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080Ti
What you should actually buy: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 or AMD Radeon Vega 64
Vega 64 – From £399 / $515
RTX 2070 – From £460 / $500
RTX 2080Ti – From £1000 / $1200
It’s ludicrously expensive, but if you’ve got the cash and are after the best of the best that 4K has to offer, then the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080Ti is the only card around right now that can do a silky smooth 60fps at 4K on max settings without compromise. You’ll also benefit from all of Nvidia’s best RTX features as and when developers eventually patch in support for all the confirmed ray tracing and DLSS games, and you probably won’t have to upgrade your graphics card again for a considerable number of years.
The thing is, you can still get a pretty damn good 4K experience for almost half as much money. With the GTX 1080 becomingly increasingly scarce, Nvidia’s RTX 2070 is now a much better proposition for would-be 4K-ers. The RTX 2070 is a smidge faster than the GTX 1080, plus it does all the neat RTX bits and bobs that the RTX 2080Ti can do, and comes with a free copy of Battlefield V or Anthem to show them all off as well. You won’t be playing on max settings unfortunately, but if you’re fine with somewhere between 45-50fps (or indeed 60fps in some cases) on either Medium or High, then the RTX 2070 is much better value for money than its ludicrously expensive sibling.
If that doesn’t sound quite good enough for you, then you can always opt for either the RTX 2080 or Radeon 7. Both of these offer much smoother frame rates on High at 4K, but they’re also a lot more expensive – around £650 / $700 at time of writing, with the RTX 2080 just edging out the Radeon 7 in terms of overall value – see our Radeon 7 vs RTX 2080 comparison piece for more info.
The main reason why I haven’t recommended either of these cards as the 4K cards to buy here, however, is because I’ve found they both seem to bottleneck when paired with my Core i5 CPU, which hinders their overall performance. The RTX 2070, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to suffer from such problems, and neither does my other recommendation in this category, the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. As a result, I’d only recommend splashing out on the RTX 2080 or Radeon 7 if you have a Core i7 or Ryzen 7 CPU at your disposal, otherwise you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
Indeed, the Vega 64 is a particularly enticing prospect at the moment, as prices have just been getting better and better. It’s not quite as powerful as the RTX 2070, truth be told, but its cheaper price (at least in the UK) plus the same three free games deal available with the RX 590 (and Radeon 7, I might add) all add up to make it another tempting offer for those looking to keep costs down.
Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 review and AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 review for more info.
Is now a good time to buy a new graphics card?
With AMD’s Radeon 7 and Nvidia’s RTX 2060, GTX 1660 and GTX 1660 Ti cards now out in the wild, there are currently no more big graphics card releases on the horizon that we know about at the moment. We still haven’t had a proper GTX 1050 Ti successor yet out of Nvidia’s new crop of graphics cards – even the GTX 1660 was only meant as a replacement of the GTX 1060 – but right now there’s very little information on what that card might look like, how much it will cost, or when it’s coming out. Personally, I think most people will be fine opting for the GTX 1660, but those holding out for something closer to £150 / $150 may do well to hang on just a little bit longer if the RX 570 doesn’t appeal to you.
We also don’t really know what’s going on with AMD’s next-gen Navi cards either. They could be another bunch of high-end cards like their recently released Radeon 7, or they could be an entire suite of budget to mid-range cards. We just don’t know. It’s possible we may see some more announcements in June when Computex takes place over in Taiwan, but we may well have to wait until Gamescom in August like Nvidia did with their original RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti launch last year. It’s just too early to say.
Personally, you’re probably fine buying a high-end graphics card at the moment, but if you want to be 100% sure that something isn’t about to come along and replace it, then I’d say the only truly safe bet right now is the 1440p category. I’d be very surprised if AMD come up with an RTX 2060 competitor any time soon, so anyone after something at the border between mid-range and high-end should be able to buy a new graphics card right now with relative confidence.
How we test:
Whenever a new graphics card comes in for testing, I put it through a number of gaming tests using both in-game benchmarking tools and real-world gameplay, where the aid of frame rate counters help me determine what kind of average frame rate you can expect at various different quality settings. Currently, I test each graphics card with the following games:
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Total War: Warhammer II
The Witcher III
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Forza Horizon 4
Monster Hunter: World
Final Fantasy XV
In each case, I see what’s possible at the highest graphics setting at 1920×1080, 2560×1440 and, if it can handle it, 3840×2160 (4K). Then I aim to get each game running at 60fps at each resolution, giving you the best case scenario for each one and an idea of what kind of compromises you’ll have to make.
If you’re also looking for a new monitor to go with your new graphics card, make sure you check out our best gaming monitor recommendations as well.