Do you want to upgrade your graphics, but you’re nervous about making a huge, irreparable mistake during installation? You have company.
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Putting in a new graphics card isn’t nearly as difficult as one might think.
There has never been a better time to tackle the task on your own, as computing is increasingly becoming user-friendly through the modularization of its constituent parts. Changing out the graphics processing unit (GPU) is both the most effective and least difficult way to speed up a sluggish gaming computer.
Learn the simple steps to upgrading your graphics card. Soon you will be able to experience the latest games in all their graphical glory.
What Is a Graphics Card?
That’s why nowadays when you hear the term “graphics card,” they really mean “graphics processing unit” (GPU). A computer’s graphics card is a printed circuit board, just like the motherboard. Standalone (also called discrete) GPUs will have their own memory controller, BIOS, and fans in addition to the aforementioned features.
Although there is a wide variety of graphics cards out there, two main categories can be distinguished:
- A GPU that is integrated into a system-on-a-chip (SoC) or central processing unit (CPU) shares a common chassis with the other components. Most Intel processors have built-in graphics, while AMD processors are more sporadic in this regard. In addition to light gaming, web browsing, email, and possibly video playback are all possible with integrated graphics. They also consume less power than a discrete GPU.
- In contrast to integrated GPUs, which are part of the CPU, discrete GPUs are attached to the motherboard via an expansion slot. For advanced gaming, video editing, 3D model rendering, and other computationally demanding tasks, a discrete GPU will provide more power than an integrated GPU. It takes hundreds of watts to power some modern GPUs.
You should consider the CPU and GPU generations before making any firm conclusions about which one will perform better. In a head-to-head matchup between devices from the same era, the discrete GPU will emerge victorious. It can handle complicated tasks because it has more processing power and better cooling.
What Components Does a Graphics Card Have?
While each model of graphics card has slightly different internals, most contemporary discrete GPUs include the following:
- The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is a real piece of hardware, just like a Central Processing Unit (CPU).
- Graphics cards have their own memory, called video random access memory (VRAM), which aids in various processes.
- A PCI Express interface can be found on the underside of most graphics processing units.
- A variety of video outputs are available, most commonly HDMI, DisplayPort, Digital Visual Interface (DVI), and Video Graphics Array (VGA).
- All graphics processing units have fans and a heat sink to dissipate the heat generated by their operation.
- Connectors for Electrical Current: Most current-generation graphics processing units (GPUs) need a six- or eight-pin power connector, and some may need as many as two or three.
- the central processing unit (CPU) of the motherboard Initial program and setup data are stored in the BIOS, and the system remembers things like voltage settings and memory addresses even after you turn the machine off.
How Does a Graphics Card Work?
Images, such as photos, videos, games, documents, your regular desktop environment, a file folder, and anything else, are rendered on a display by a graphics card. Everything from intensive computations like playing a video game to what we might consider “simple” operations like creating a new text document necessitates the use of a graphics card.
To elaborate a bit, your computer’s graphics card translates the data and instructions from the various other programs running on your machine into the image you see on screen. A modern graphics card, on the other hand, can handle an incredible number of instructions at once, drawing and redrawing images dozens or hundreds of times per second to keep everything you see and do running smoothly.
To make things happen, the central processing unit communicates with the graphics processing unit. The graphics card then processes these directives locally, rapidly updating the information stored in its visual random access memory (VRAM) to reflect which screen pixels have changed and how. Images, lines, textures, lighting, and shading are all updated as the data zooms from your graphics card to your monitor (via a cable, of course).
If done properly and the computer’s graphics card and other components aren’t overworked, the result can look magical. In other words, that was a very, very simplistic explanation. That’s just the bare bones of a graphics card’s operation; obviously, there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface.
Who Makes Graphics Cards?
When it comes to video card manufacturers, AMD and Nvidia are the two most well-known options. Although CPU giant Intel is entering the arena with its Arc Alchemist graphics cards, the names ringing out are AMD and Nvidia, which have dominated the market for decades. As a matter of fact, neither AMD nor Nvidia “make” graphics cards. They create the blueprints, then either manufacture them themselves or license the blueprints to companies like MSI, ASUS, Zotac, Palit, and so on.
But we don’t want to pick fights, so let’s focus on AMD and Nvidia. Today, if you try to shop for a new graphics card online, you will see one of these two designs. This raises the question: does it matter which GPU you buy?
Choosing A New Graphics Card
The same can be said for graphics cards; the market is flooded with choices for any price range or feature set. We understand that it can be overwhelming to try to figure out how to use hundreds of graphics processing units (GPUs), and we would not hold it against you if you gave up now.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to help you narrow down your options and make that crucial choice:
Almost all modern graphics cards are total power hogs, sucking up a disproportionate amount of juice whenever they’re in use. Before adding a new piece of hardware to your PC, you should verify that your power supply can handle the load.
When choosing a power supply for your computer, aim for one that is at least twice as powerful as what you currently need. If your graphics processing unit (GPU), CPU, motherboard, etc., all require 300 watts of power, you’ll need a 600 watt power supply.
Verify that your current power supply unit (PSU) has sufficient 6-pin and 8-pin PCI-E power connectors.
The next step is to ensure that the rest of your system is compatible with the new graphics card. This includes checking that the PCI-E slot on your motherboard is free and that the new card won’t block any other necessary PCI-E bays.
Measurements specific to your machine can be found on manufacturer websites.
Check the available output connectors to make sure they work with your display. Investing in a graphics card with HDMI or DisplayPort connections while still using a VGA monitor is a recipe for disaster.
The vast majority of games can run perfectly well without the latest Nvidia RTX card, despite what marketers at the largest GPU manufacturers would have you believe.
Most gamers don’t need the power of the most expensive GPUs, which are better suited to enthusiasts who need to push for high resolutions with dizzying FPS counts.
Stay within your budget while still searching for the sweet spot between price and effectiveness in your purchases. Black Friday and other similar sales events are great times to save money.
Learn as much as possible about the graphics card you want to buy from the reviews already out there. Search message boards for genuine, sponsor-free opinions. Try out the card on a game machine running your preferred title if you get the chance.
Installing A New Graphics Card
You should start by obtaining a Phillips head screwdriver and, if at all possible, an anti-static wrist strap.
- When you’re done using your computer, power it down by turning off the power supply unit and pulling the plug. Take out the old GPU’s output cables, like the HDMI cable.
- Try touching something grounded or attaching an anti-static strap to your computer’s chassis to eliminate the possibility of static electricity. Don’t try to get anything done while standing on carpet.
- Pull the side panel away from the frame by loosening the screws on the back and sides. Dispose of the computer on a flat surface.
- Locate the PCI-E slot that is the highest on your computer (it’s the one closest to the processor) and remove the current graphics processing unit. One screw secures the card to the computer case. Put it aside and unscrew it. Just wait a second, because you’ll soon need it again.
- Verify that the card’s plastic latches or tabs are securing it to the PCI-E slot. When you’re ready, release them (typically by pressing both ends at once), and then carefully remove the GPU by sliding it out. Being careful and taking your time will go a long way toward preserving the PCI-E slot. It ought to be simple to remove the card. If you encounter significant resistance, you should turn around.
- Clear out the PCI-E slot of any dust or debris using a can of compressed air while you have access to it.
- If the new card requires two slots, remove the metal slot guard from the slot you’ll be installing the GPU into.
- Carefully take the new graphics card out of the anti-static bag it came in, making sure to avoid touching any of the circuit board’s inputs or outputs. Take care of it by using the heatsinks and fans. Lay it on the anti-static inner layer if you must, but never on the anti-static outer layer, which is conductive and can cause short circuits.
- Hold the new GPU over the PCI-E slot, and align the notches on the bottom of the card with those on the slot. Clear the PCI-E slot of any cables that may be blocking access to the card.
- Apply steady, even pressure as you insert the GPU into the slot until it clicks into place. The GPU may not drop in easily, but it should be able to be installed. If the output panel is flush with the rear of the frame and the screw hole on the frame is visible through the retention bracket, then the card has been inserted correctly.
- You may need to manually toggle the plastic latches to secure the card, but usually they snap up automatically.
- As before, a screw (or multiple screws if the GPU occupies two panels) should be used to fasten the bracket of the card to the PC case.
- Connect the 6-pin and 8-pin power connectors on the PSU to the corresponding slots on the card.
- Connect the power cord and the output cable, and then reattach the panel to the side of the computer.
- Start up the computer and hopefully the screen comes on.
- To get the most up-to-date drivers, seek out the card maker online. Nvidia and AMD both have browser-based tools that can detect your graphics card and recommend the most suitable drivers.
- After installation (which may require a restart of the computer), they will be ready for use.
The best graphics cards in 2022
1. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
The current top-tier of graphics cards for PCs
Number of CUDA Cores: 8,704
Initial Clock Rate: 1,440MHz
Max frequency in boost mode: 1,710MHz
Expressed in terms of TFLOPs, the number is 29.76
Storage: 10GB GDDR6X
Measured in gigahertz, memory clock is 19GT/s
Bandwidth of memory: 760GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
Superb efficiency from generation to generation
Puts the 2080 Ti in the midrange
There is no longer any need to make an offering to ray tracing.
REASONS TO AVOID
Power supply unit (PSU) upgrade required
Yes, the RTX 3080 is as scarce as pigeon feathers at the moment, but there is no denying that Nvidia’s latest offering is the top graphics card currently available. It’s a significant generational improvement over the previous RTX 20-series in terms of performance. That’s remarkable when compared to the RTX 2080 or 2080 Super, but it really hits home when you realize that this nominally $699 card can match and massively outperform the $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti.
The improvement in ray-tracing performance is the most striking result of our tests. When the first generation of ray tracing-capable cards came out, turning it on meant a significant drop in frame rate, so most people avoided it.
You know you’re dealing with something completely new when you can achieve ray-traced performance that outpaces what you’d get from the flagship card in the RTX 20-series when not using it. Additionally, the RTX 3080 is capable of playing Crysis(opens in new tab).
Nvidia was able to achieve this by including a large number of additional CUDA cores in their 8nm GPU, in addition to updated Tensor Cores (for more DLSS goodness) and second-generation RT Cores to create ray-traced visuals.
The RTX 3080 is the most sought-after graphics card currently available, but it is more difficult to obtain and requires a larger power supply (at least 850W). Which is probably why it’s so hard to get your hands on.
If I had to give anyone advice about purchasing a GeForce RTX 3080, it would be to aim for the Founders Edition whenever possible. You can use any four-letter word you want because the RTX 3080 Founders Edition is fantastic. It is the pinnacle realization of the RTX 3080, surpassing even the reference version of the ‘flagship’ Ampere graphics card thanks to its new cooler and revised PCB. And I’m afraid you’ll feel a little hard done by if you end up with another version of this fine-ass GPU.
Your best bet is to learn to improvise. Contrasted with third-party models from companies like Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Palit, and Colorful, Founders Edition cards are not mass-produced. Given the current RTX 3080 supply constraints, you should be content with any model you manage to acquire. Especially if you can find one for close to the suggested retail price. Some of the cooling features on these aftermarket cards are quite impressive, so it’s not all bad.
The performance boost over the previous generation is substantial and, in many cases, unprecedented, regardless of which card you end up with. We may have become accustomed to smaller generational changes over time; the gap between the GTX 1080 Ti and the RTX 2080, for instance, is relatively narrow. It bears repeating that the $699 RTX 3080 absolutely destroys the $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, but we will keep on beating the Ti drum.
Nvidia went all out with the RTX 3080, and the result is a phenomenal graphics card that revolutionizes the performance of high-end 4K gaming and ray tracing. All that’s left is for Nvidia and Samsung to crank out more of them so everyone can have access to the best GPU available right now.
2. AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT
Cores of ribosomal DNA: 4,608
Clock frequency (1,825 MHz)
Overdrive frequency: 2,250MHz
20.74 TFLOPs in terms of calculating power.
Storage Capacity: 16GB GDDR6
16Gbits per second memory clock
Bandwidth of memory: 512 GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
The highest possible score of 4,000
Plus, it’s more affordable than an RTX 3080.
REASONS TO AVOID
Inadequate Ray Tracing Efficiency
In 4K, it’s slower than the 3080.
There haven’t been many red team alternatives to Nvidia’s high-end graphics cards as good as the RX 6800 XT. With such a small performance gap compared to the RTX 3080, this is a top-tier competitor and a serious contender for any PC gamer who has 4K as a goal.
The RX 6800 XT was the first of AMD’s RDNA 2 GPUs to hit the market, and while other cards have appeared since then, this one stands out as the most powerful and cost-effective option. At least, if you consider the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), and considering that AMD’s GPUs are expected to return to reasonable price levels before Nvidia’s are, the red team may actually benefit from this in the near future.
This generation’s memory war between Nvidia and AMD has been about more than just speed; it’s also been about capacity. The RX 6800 XT has 16GB of GDDR6 memory spread across a 256-bit bus, providing a total bandwidth of 512GB/s. This means that AMD is neck-and-neck with Nvidia’s 10GB RTX 3080 in terms of storage capacity, but is a hair behind in raw bandwidth, which stands at 760GB/s for the RTX 3080.
In terms of throughput, AMD has a trump card in the form of its Infinity Cache, which significantly increases the card’s ‘effective bandwidth. AMD claims that its new graphics card can achieve throughput of 1,664 GB/s, a boost of 3.25 times over the raw bandwidth of the RX 6800 XT. In the context of video games, this means that similar performance can be expected despite the vast technological differences between the various platforms.
A toss-up between the RX 6800 XT and the RTX 3080, but Nvidia just edges out AMD with some slick finishing touches. The RX 6800 XT undercuts the RTX 3080 by $50 while offering superior 4K performance and significantly more video memory. Nonetheless, it’s not hard to justify spending an extra $50 on the RTX 3080 to get better 4K performance, ray tracing, and DLSS. Every one of these options is readily available now and has a lengthy history of backing from the developer community.
However, AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution has gained significant traction among developers and provides reliable upscaling that is worthwhile enabling in games that support it. The promise of the future is hinted at by the inclusion of FSR 2.0 in Deathloop(opens in new tab).
With the RX 6800 XT, AMD is in an excellent position to continue growing; the company now has a compelling offering for gamers right at launch and has the potential to attract the attention of the entire industry. It comes as no surprise that the collaboration between Zen and RDNA engineers played a role in this as well.
That’s why the RX 6800 XT is such a fantastic graphics card: AMD improved upon an already promising architecture in RDNA. In addition, the speed with which it has caught up to Nvidia in terms of performance is completely unimpressive. There is still work to be done to reclaim lost market share from the green team, but with the release of the RX 6800 XT, RTG can confidently cross the first item off its to-do list (develop a powerful graphics processing unit).
We are big fans of what AMD has accomplished with the RX 6800 XT, a red team alternative to any high-end gaming PC build that represents a return to form for the Radeon Technology Group.
3. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
Amount of CUDA cores: 4,864
Initial Clock Rate: 1,410MHz
Rate of gain: 1,665MHz
Number of teraflops: 16.20
RAM: 8GB GDDR6
Its memory clock is 14GT/s.
Bandwidth of memory: 448GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
Finally! Something with a lower price tag
Plus 2080 points: outstanding efficiency
REASONS TO AVOID
-Frustrating 12-pin power plug
-It’s not quite up to 4K standards yet.
The RTX 3060 Ti is highly similar to the RTX 3070, making it the best value Ampere product to date. Both use a 256-bit bus to access 8GB of the same GDDR6 memory, and both are based on the GA104 GPU (though the RTX 3060 Ti has fewer SMs enabled).
The RTX 3060 Ti has a GPU base frequency that is 17% lower than its more expensive sibling, but it makes up the difference with its GPU Boost frequencies. This helps to explain why, despite having a silicon disadvantage, the RTX 3060 Ti is only 17%-11% slower than the RTX 3070. Well worth the asking price of $399 (assuming you can even find it).
In case you haven’t already crunched the numbers: The RTX 3060 Ti is 20% less expensive than the RTX 3070, retailing for $399. This results in better performance for the money spent on the compact graphics card. It’s a fantastic GPU across the board, and the second-generation RT Cores give it respectable ray tracing capabilities to boot.
When compared to even the RTX 20-series, the RTX 3060 Ti’s gaming performance is nothing short of astounding; when placed next to the GTX 10-series, it’s downright terrifying. Incredible 1080p and 1440p performance is packed into a compact form factor; just a few years ago, a solution of this caliber would have cost you close to twice as much. That’s fantastic, by the way.
You can even experiment with high-quality 4K gaming on this card, though you may need to tweak the graphics settings to achieve a stable 60fps in more taxing games. In addition, that’s usually just in terms of average framerates; maintaining a GPU refresh rate of 60 or more frames per second often necessitates extensive tweaking. For some players, that eliminates the main appeal of playing in 4K resolution. At 1440p, things run much more smoothly, and at 1080p, you can crank up the settings and go.
The supplemental Nvidia features, such as DLSS, Reflex, and Nvidia Broadcast, can help in this regard as well. Ampere builds upon the already impressive foundation laid by RTX and the rest of Nvidia’s package, particularly with regard to ray-tracing performance.
Availability is still a problem, as it has been for every other RTX 30-series launch. Price increases have rendered this card less appealing than it once was, and until it returns to a level closer to its original retail price of $399, it will likely continue to do so.
The RTX 3060 Ti isn’t quite as powerful as the RTX 3080 or RTX 3070, but it’s a serviceable substitute if those models are out of your price range. Perhaps the most compelling evidence of this card’s accomplishments is its performance in comparison to the 20-series generation: it consistently outperforms the RTX 2080 Super.
4. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
number of CUDA cores: 5,888
Initial Clock Rate: 1.5GHz
Peak frequency: 1,725MHz
In terms of storage, 8GB is the norm. GDDR6
Its memory clock is 14GT/s.
Bandwidth of memory: 448GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
Rapidity of animation that surpasses even Turing’s standards
Utilizes minimal energy
These FE cards are hot
REASONS TO AVOID
-Frustratingly inconvenient 12-pin power plug
The RTX 3070 is remarkable because it can compete with the flagship Turing graphics card, the RTX 2080 Ti, for less than half the price. It is also the only high-end Ampere that comes close to being reasonably priced.
Even though $499 is a lot of money, especially when compared to the price of today’s top graphics silicon for PC gaming, it is not outrageous when weighed against the cost of the next-generation consoles. In exchange, you get a graphics card that can handle 4K resolution and doesn’t need major adjustments to achieve smooth gameplay at moderate frame rates. Also, there is no doubt that it will dominate at 1440p.
Surprisingly, the RTX 3070 Founders Edition retains the RTX 3080’s 12-pin power connector, so only a single 8-pin to 12-pin adapter is included with the product. With this FE card, Nvidia has once again provided a super-compact PCB, resulting in a much more compact enclosure than the RTX 3080.
Despite having two front-loaded fans, the spinner at the card’s rear amplifies airflow across the heatpipes, which in turn improves the cooling performance of this clever little GPU.
In addition to bringing the most powerful feature of next-gen consoles to the PC, the RTX 3070 features Nvidia’s dependable driver stack, the GeForce Experience app, ShadowPlay’s recording, and the new Broadcast suite, the impressive Reflex latency-spiking(opens in new tab) setup, and the latent potential of RTX IO(opens in new tab). And then there’s ray tracing, along with the continuously evolving DLSS improvements.
That’s a lot of extra value on top of the RTX 3070’s already impressive raw performance, and it makes a difference for many users.
The RTX 3070, like the rest of Nvidia’s xx70 series of cards, is perfect for most PC gamers. It’s the Ampere card, and it’s a real performance boost for most of us at a price we can almost afford. There has never been a better time to upgrade from a GTX 1080 or GTX 1080 Ti than during the RTX 20-series.
5. AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT
Starting frequency is 1825 MHz.
Overdrive frequency: 2,250MHz
Power in TFLOPs: 23.04
Flash Memory: 16GB GDDR6
Its memory clock is 16GT/s.
Bandwidth of memory: 512 GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
Sometimes good performance from an RTX 3090.
Instead of adding $8230, you can add $8300.
REASONS TO AVOID
-Occasionally slower than RTX 3080.
-Unimpressive ray-tracing speed
While NVIDIA’s RTX 3090 may have been the undisputed king of graphics performance upon its release, AMD’s RX 6900 XT, also known as “Big Navi,” was quick to emerge as a worthy competitor. The RX 6900 XT’s objective is to dislodge the best of Ampere and send it tumbling to the ground. And it comes close, too, with 4K performance that is only a hair behind the RTX 3090’s, and all for a third of the RTX 3090’s price.
Because of this, any PC gamer who doesn’t have any pro-creator bias should consider purchasing it. However, it is not the best graphics card on the market right now for one simple reason: in many cases, it is not significantly better than the GeForce RTX 3080. When adding an additional $300 to the suggested price of the RTX 3080, you might expect better performance in both rasterized and ray tracing workloads. And yet, its ray-tracing acceleration will always be behind the curve.
No compelling reason exists to choose this over AMD’s other, cheaper options. With a 53% price increase over the RX 6800 XT and only a 5.25% increase in gaming performance, the RX 6900 XT is not worth the additional $350 in cost.
It’s odd, then, that AMD markets the RX 6900 XT as a card designed with gaming in mind. Even Nvidia avoided this oversight, marketing the RTX 3090 as a professional creator card with significantly more memory than the second-run gaming card below.
Since the RX 6900 XT shares so many features with cheaper cards and provides such a modest performance boost from its few upgrades, it is much harder to justify its high price.
While I find great pleasure in RDNA 2, and I applaud the efforts that AMD RTG has made in such a short time to make it competitive at this level, the RX 6900 XT is not the card’s ideal realization. Even for those who are looking to spend big on a graphics card, the majority of gamers probably shouldn’t go with this one. In the eyes of the majority, the RTX 3080 remains the best graphics card currently available.
The RX 6900 XT, however, provides guarantees that the RTX 3080 doesn’t, such as its 16GB of GDDR6 memory, which is 6GB more than the 10GB of (faster) GDDR6X memory on the green team card. Therefore, the RX 6900 XT is a more affordable alternative to the RTX 3090 for pure gaming. The product is still held back by its prohibitively high price.
6. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
10,240 CUDA cores
Initially, the clock is set to 1,365 MHz.
Overdrive frequency of 1,665MHz
34.1 Teraflops of Processing Power
Maximum Memory: 12GB GDDR6X
Clock rate of memory: 19GT/s
Bandwidth of memory: 912.4GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent 4K output
Plus, it’s nearly an RTX 3090 in performance at a lower price.
Incredibly accurate ray tracing
REASONS TO AVOID
Significantly more expensive than the RTX 3080
A power hog at 350W
It gets pretty toasty in here
Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Ti isn’t their most powerful GeForce graphics card. The RTX 3090 narrowly won the title at launch, but the RTX 3090 Ti(opens in new tab) has since taken over. However, after running the numbers, we’d recommend the RTX 3080 Ti to any PC gamer who wants to pull out all the stops with their next build.
While the arrival of the Ampere generation greatly reduced the awkwardness or finickiness of 4K gaming, the RTX 3080 Ti completely eradicates it. High-performance 4K gaming setup is still an expensive investment, but you no longer need to be as careful as we were when purchasing games individually. In 4K, you can play games with high or ultra settings and still enjoy playable frame rates.
With the RTX 3080 Ti, you shouldn’t have to lower graphics quality as much as we’ve come to expect at 3840 x 2160, which is great news if you’re planning on playing games in 4K.
In most cases, the RTX 3080 Ti will be a few percentage points behind the RTX 3090, but it seems that the more expensive card only sees marginal benefit for an increase in core counts and memory.
The RTX 3080 Ti is just as much of a gaming graphics card as its ancestor, the RTX 3090, offering performance that is comparable at 4K. The card’s fast GDDR6X memory and plethora of CUDA Cores allow it to easily destroy any game you throw at it. Since it has 80 RT Cores, it is also more than capable of real-time ray tracing.
Despite the lack of adaptability in the price, the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is still an impressively powerful graphics card that will allow some to save money on ultra-high-end gaming PC builds without sacrificing performance. Simply cramming more of the fantastic Ampere architecture into that unassuming black and (polished) grey casing makes for a fantastic gaming processor.
It accomplishes its goals, which were to break the back of any game, API, or graphics-intensive task, even at 4K, and to do so in a way that is immediately appealing to gamers. While the RTX 3080 Ti FE isn’t quite as good of a deal as an RTX 3090 FE, it still offers better performance for the money.
While this is a great card overall, its high price prevents it from being placed higher on our list of recommended graphics processors. Its starting price of $1,200 is close to the $1,499 RTX 3090’s starting price. Despite the fact that the price is astronomically high or there is none in stock.
7. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 12GB
3,584 CUDA cores
Clock frequency at the root: 1,320 MHz
Overdrive frequency: 1,777MHz
RAM: 12GB GDDR6
15 gigatransfers per second (GT/s) in memory
Transmitting Data Into Memory, 360GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
60 frames per second at 1440p or higher
Fair performance boost from generation to generation
Pre-assembled personal computers are more widely available for purchase.
REASONS TO AVOID
However, it’s not always incredibly quicker than an RTX 2060.
At $399, the RTX 3060 Ti is the superior option.
As unusual as it was at the time, equipping the RTX 3060 with 12 GB of GDDR6 memory is still unusual today. After all, it has more memory than the slower RTX 3080 and is superior to the RTX 3060 Ti. The RTX 3060, however, is a master of its weapon, easily besting the RTX 2060 in the vast majority of games and leaving the RTX 2060 in the dust by a respectable margin in the few that it doesn’t.
The best pre-built computers for gamers (opens new window)
The top laptops for gamers (link opens in new tab): the most powerful laptops for portable gaming
Also, given that the most realistic alternative would be 6GB of VRAM, we can’t turn our noses up at 12GB of VRAM.
The announcement of a hash rate limiter(opens in new tab) meant to prevent the card from operating at full capacity while mining Ethereum, the cryptocurrency of choice for GPU mining, was perhaps the most newsworthy change for the Nvidia RTX 3060. So that more GeForce cards could be made available to gamers, Nvidia released a new CMP line of mining graphics processing units (GPUs) made from scraps and other unusable GPUs. Of course that didn’t prevent the card from selling out.
With a noticeable increase in performance from the previous generation and sufficient speed at 1080p and 1440p, the RTX 3060 12GB is a graphics card that can be defended with relative ease.
The RTX 2060 was initially released at a higher price, but the RTX 2070 is now available at a lower price. Nonetheless, you can find this card for a reasonable price in pre-built gaming PCs (opens in new tab) that include everything you need.
As of now, the RTX 3060 Ti is the best midrange card available. The Nvidia RTX 3060 deviates too much from the rest of the high-end Ampere pack to have the same effect as previous generations. However, it should be noted that the RTX 3060 is a fine upgrade from a 10-series or older card, especially if purchased at or near the MSRP, and will likely carry you confidently through the next few years of major game releases.
8. Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Number of CUDA cores: 2,560
The initial clock frequency is 1,552 MHz.
Overdrive frequency: 1,777MHz
Disk Space: 8GB GDDR6
With a memory clock of 14GT/s
In terms of memory bandwidth, we’re talking 224GB/s.
REASONS TO BUY
Support for ray tracing and dynamic low-sample-rate rendering
Supersedes the RX 6500 XT in speed.
REASONS TO AVOID
Minimum RTX 2060 performance required.
A lack of foresight into inventory levels and prices
Except for the GeForce RTX 3050, we cannot recommend a graphics card that costs less than $300. Although it didn’t take much to beat AMD’s Radeon RX 6500 XT. The RTX 3050 is still not an easy GPU to enthusiastically recommend because it is neither widely available nor as inexpensive as it should be.
A better choice for any serious PC gamer would be the more powerful RTX 3060 12GB, as the RTX 3050 is a much more modest GPU. In any case, if you simply can’t afford anything more, the RTX 3050 will provide performance comparable to that of a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, plus DLSS.
That’s a graphics card capable of 1080p gaming on medium settings for the most part, though some games will force you to drop below the 60fps target many of us aim for. Even though this is the least expensive Nvidia graphics card available, it’s still a significant investment if you want to play your games at their native settings.
The RTX 3050 supports ray tracing, though its frail internals won’t be able to handle much of it.
While RTX 2060 performance was our goal, we were only able to achieve GTX 1660 Ti frame rates with some RTX icing. Yes, it tastes good where it lands, but this is just another example of a card that was developed and priced in response to a pandemic and a GPU shortage rather than showcasing Nvidia’s silicon wizardry to its fullest potential.
For a low-cost gaming PC build, the RTX 3050 is the best option. However, if you’re willing to wait a bit, you can find excellent deals on RTX 3060 12GB PC graphics cards quite frequently.
How do I get a GPU in the the graphics card shortage?
HotStock has helped us score stocks in the UK, and we know that sites like Stock Informer(opens in new tab) in the US provide a similar service, though we have not used them ourselves.
Free Discord servers like the well-known StockDrops server(opens in new tab) have dedicated stock alert bots and vigilant members who keep an eye on the market.
Also, Twitch broadcasts should not be forgotten. Those who are determined to locate your stock will often sound a loud klaxon as soon as stock is spotted. There are many helpful people out there, but if you have an Nvidia GPU, we suggest watching Falcodrin on Twitch(opens in new tab).
Is there an easy way to get a new graphics card?
Which is better GTX or RTX?
Is ray tracing only for RTX cards?
Is SLI or CrossFire still a thing?
Do I need a 4K capable graphics card?
What’s a Founders Edition graphics card?
Don’t forget that graphics processing units (GPUs) aren’t just for desktops. You can find them in any device with a graphical user interface, including your mobile devices, tablets, smartwatches, gaming consoles (like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X), and more. Even if the technology isn’t always cutting edge, any device with a display must have some way of displaying data to the user. Its origins are now clear.