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Whether you're a gamer or an editor, you're going to need one of the best graphics cards to put some serious muscle in your rig. A graphics card or GPU is essential for high-end gaming or rendering complex visual assets in video editing. Currently, there is a daunting number of GPUs available to consumers which can make finding the right one a little confusing to say the least. But there are really just a few things to keep in mind when looking for the GPU for you.
One of your most important considerations is memory, how many GBs worth of memory your card has is going to be a huge factor in terms of performance. And while clock speed plays a bigger role for gamers looking to overclock their cards, a higher potential clock speed will inevitably impact performance.
If you're curious about what else a beefy GPU can do, check out our video card primer to learn the ins and outs.
Aerospace quality alloy heatsinks
Reports of DOA units
Reports of customers receiving damaged units
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is a powerhouse of a graphics card; perfect for both serious gamers and graphic design professionals. This GPU features aerospace quality alloy heatsinks and framing for durability, strength, and enhanced heat dissipation to help keep the card running at optimal temperatures. It also has three fans to help draw heat away from the unit; these fans have a silent operation mode when the card's temperature remains under 55 degrees Celsius so you can work on animations and designs or play low-demand games without distracting fan noise.
The 2080 Ti uses Nvidia's GPUTweak II software to monitor temperatures, and performance in real-time to help get the most out of the card. You can also use GPUTweak II to access additional software like XSplit Gamecast, GameBooster, and Quantum icloud. This graphics card is both VR and 4K ready to deliver the sharpest, most immersive gaming experiences as well as clean animations and graphic design.
LED power indicator
May not fit mid-size tower cases
The Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Super is the best Nvidia based graphics card currently available. This GPU features real-time ray tracing for incredibly realistic lighting effects for more lifelike scenes in games and 3D animation. It is also compatible with NVlink to connect two identical GPU cards for additional processing power.
The 2080 Super has composite copper tubing and three fans to help dissipate heat more efficiently for better performance. The three fans turn in alternative directions to help optimize airflow and keep everything running smoothly. It also has an LED indicator light to alert you to interrupted or unreliable power to the card and help quickly identify and fix problems. This card uses the AORUS application to adjust overclocking and fan speeds as well as monitor performance and temperatures. Gigabyte offers a four-year warranty that covers DOA units and manufacturing defects.
144 hour testing for compatibility
Not 4K capable
May run hot
If you're looking to upgrade your current build or put together your first PC, but aren't ready for 4K-ready components, check out the ASUS TUF GeForce RTX 1660 Super. The dual-fan cooling system for this GPU features quieter and smoother operation and also has copper pipes that make direct contact with the heatsink plate for more efficient dissipation of heat.
The RTX 1660 Super has 6GB of GDDR6 memory, making it 20 percent faster than the original GTX 1660 GPU. ASUS TUF puts each component through an extensive validation process to ensure that components will work together for flawless gaming experiences and better graphic design and video production. This GPU is VR ready so you can take the leap into the next generation of PC gaming without having to sink a ton of money into pricey components.
Tons of memory
Fast 4K and 3D rendering
Requires liquid cooling for optimal temperatures
Loud fans under heavy load
Not all GPUs are made with gaming in mind. The Nvidia Titan RTX is a card designed specifically for professionals working with machine learning, AI research, and 4K and 8K video rendering. This card features 24GB of GDDR6 memory and is NVlink compatible to connect to a duplicate card for scalability. With NVlink, you can get theoretically up to 100GB per second of data transfer.
A single card can give you up to 672GB per second of memory bandwidth, allowing you to tackle complex learning scenarios and calculations that other GPU cards wouldn't be able to handle. The 13-phase power supply gives you sub-millisecond power management for ultra-precise overclocking capabilities. This card can support up to four displays via a single HDMI and three display 1.4 ports. If you use a single display, this card can deliver 8K picture quality for super fine detailing in 3D animation or video rendering.
"An overlooked factor when buying a GPU is bottlenecking. If you buy a massive GPU, but you have a processor that's a couple of generations behind the curve, your GPU won't be working to its full potential." — Alice Newcome-Beill, Associate Commerce Editor
Very large card (may not fit mid-size or smaller towers)
Reports of failing units
Takes up 2.75 slots
If you're looking to upgrade your GPU, but aren't quite ready to take the leap into 4K components, check out the EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 Super. This graphics card features real-time ray tracing for more realistic lighting in video games and 3D rendered graphics. It has 8GB of GDDR6 memory that is capable of 448GB per second of bandwidth. This allows the 2060 Super to easily handle games and 3D rendering in 1440p.
The GPU is overclocked out of the box at 1695MHz, and the EVGA Precision X1 software allows you to fine-tune those settings for even better performance. You can also use this program to customize the built-in RGB lighting for a custom aesthetic. The dual fans have hydraulic-dynamic bearings for a 15 percent noise reduction over previous RTX models. The all-metal backplate is pre-installed and provides extra structural support to help prevent damage via flexing. EVGA offers a three-year warranty to cover DOA units and manufacturing defects.
Auto scans for best overclock settings
Max OC of 1875MHz,
Dragon Center app
Reports of failing display ports
Reports of loud coil whine while overclocked
Serious gamers looking to up their overclocking capabilities should take a look at the MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. This GPU is capable of being overclocked to a maximum of 1875MHz, giving you plenty of power to tackle all but the most demanding games. You can customize your overclock settings with MSI's Dragon Center app; the program also uses MSI's Afterburner program to perform automatic scans to recommend optimal overclock settings for individual games. You can also use this app to monitor temperature and performance in real-time.
This card has 6GB of GDDR6 memory and can support up to four displays. The dual fans feature both conventional and steep-curved blades for maximum airflow to dissipate heat more efficiently. The fans also utilize MSI's Zero Frozr tech for silent operation while the card is idle or under low-load. The GPU features RGB lighting that can be customized with millions of colors and dozens of effects with the Mystic Light app for a unique lighting and color scheme for your rig.
1845MHz max overclocking
Custom RGB LED with Mystic Light
25% faster than original RTX 20 series
Difficult product registration process
Requires a support bracket
Components with customizable RGB lighting are becoming more prevalent as people look for different ways to customize their PC builds. The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Super gives you superior control over your color scheme while also delivering top-notch gaming experiences. This GPU utilizes MSI's Mystic Light program to allow you to choose from millions of colors and dozens of effects for custom lighting schemes; it also allows you to turn the LED lights off completely when it would be a distraction.
Mystic Light can be used to sync all of your RGB components to the same color and effect or to have them coordinate for truly dazzling lighting. The RTX 2080 Super also uses MSI's Afterburner software to perform automatic scans to suggest optimal overclock and other performance settings. You can wirelessly access Afterburner with almost any iOS or Android device to change settings on-the-fly without tabbing out of your game. The 2080 Super utilizes Nvidia's Turing structure for dedicated AI cores for machine learning and optimized ray-tracing for more realistic lighting.
4K and VR ready
AMD drivers may cause problems with some games
Reports of DOA units
You don't have to spend a fortune in order to upgrade your PC's graphics card to keep up with the latest games. The MSI Radeon RX 570 is a powerhouse of a GPU with a price that will fit all but the tightest of budgets. The RX 570 is 4K and VR capable to help you take the plunge into the next generation of games and multimedia entertainment.
Like other MSI cards on this list, the RX 570 uses the Afterburner app to automatically scan your games and suggest optimal overclock settings; you can overclock to a maximum of 1281MHz for super fast and crisp gaming experiences. It also uses AMD FreeSync technology to help prevent screen tearing and input lag that can cause frustration when playing games. The GPU features two semi-passive TORX 2.0 fans with dual blade designs for 22 percent more air pressure than previous models and quieter performance even under heavy load. It also uses MSI's Zero Frozr technology to stop the fans during idle times or low-load gaming and media.
If money is absolutely no object, you can't deny the raw power offered by the Nvidia 2080 Ti. However, if you're in the market for something slightly more sensible, you can't go wrong with the 2080 Super.
We haven't had a chance to put this collection of video cards through their paces quite yet, but our testers will be running benchmarks with a variety of resolutions on AAA titles like Doom Eternal and Division 2 as well as stress testing using free tools like 3DMark and Heaven to push these cards to their absolute limit. We'll be looking solely at performance for this roundup, and sparing no expense.
Alice Newcome-Beill has written PC component buying guides for both Lifewire and PC Gamer, and currently runs an MSI Nvidia 2080Ti in her rig at home.
Taylor Clemons is an avid gamer and has been writing about them for over 3 years. She is an expert on PC components, hardware and operating systems.
Memory - The amount of memory or VRAM your GPU has will be a huge factor in terms of performance. Depending on what you need your GPU to do, you could get away with as little as 2GB of VRAM, but if you're looking to go all out you can grab cards that have as much as 11GB.
Clock Speed - If memory is how much information your GPU can store, then clock speed is how fast your GPU can send or retrieve this information. This is likely to play a bigger role for gamers that want to overclock their systems to the bleeding edge of performance but this is certainly another spec to keep an eye on.
Size - If you're looking to upgrade your existing GPU, then you'll want to take a look at the overall measurements of your case. While there are plenty of GPUs that are remarkably compact, something like the 2080Ti can need up to 340mm of clearance in your case. If you arent sure what size of GPU your case will support, those specs can typically be found on the manufacturer's website.