The 8 Best PC Video Cards to Buy in 2017 for Under $250

Buying a PC video card doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg

While console gaming gets all the attention, PC gaming remains a tried and true experience for millions and millions of dedicated gamers. And the graphics card is an essential component to playing the latest and greatest games. Since new releases are more demanding, upgrading your graphics card could be a necessity. On a budget when it comes to buying a a new graphics card? Take a look at the best options that you can purchase for under $250.

EVGA’s GeForce GTX 1060 gaming card has new and innovative technology that makes it the best you're able to get the sub $250 price point. Utilizing NVIDIA’s new Pascal GPU architecture, the GTX 1060 offers excellent performance for the price (and even enough power to run virtual reality software and beyond). The 1060 consumes very little power; the likely gaming load is just 120-135W. Thanks to additional energy efficient designs, the card only requires a 400-watt power supply and a single six-pin power connector, which leads to less heat production overall. 

At just under seven inches long, the 1060 can more than handle games at Full HD scaling of 1920 x 1080 with details close to or at maximum settings for a frame rate of 60fps. It’s likely that you’ll also get the opportunity to utilize scaling at 2560 x 1440 for some games, but doing so would require a reduction in quality settings. Beyond scaling, the 1060 offers more than enough juice to power through VR games on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, opening the door to a whole new world of gaming. Additionally, the inclusion of 6GB of DDR5 memory and overclocking the boost speed from 1.7GHz to over 2GHz promises the average PC gamer a 15 percent faster performance than similar gaming cards.

The Asus dual-fan Radeon RX 480 card offers the best value on this list. With a price tag that’s just over the $200 price mark, the Asus model initially separates itself from the XFX variant by offering half the ROM (4GB of GDDR5 ROM). ROM aside, there's also a dual-fan cooling system that allows for 3x quieter gameplay than traditional graphics cards. Additionally, Asus auto-extreme manufacturing technology produces a graphics card out of aerospace-grade super alloy power II components that ensure premium quality and reliability.

The patented wing-blade dual-fan design increases max air flow north of 105 percent, which helps increase performance even while gaming at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second. Jumping up to 1440p or 2560 x 1440, gaming at 30 frames per second is manageable, but the real highlight of the dual-fan RX 480 is gaming at 1920 x 1080 and high settings. Beyond the cutting-edge technology, the Asus includes two HDMI ports for connecting a virtual reality device.

Sipping just 75 watts of power, the MSI GTX 1050 TI 4G OC is a fantastic budget option for gamers looking to get the best performance-to-feature ratio. A minimum power supply of just 300 watts is needed to power the card from the PC itself. Fortunately, no additional power connectors are required and the GTX 1050 works with many OEM systems with nary an issue. With the included 4GB of ROM, the GTX has no problem handling Full HD resolution at 60fps.

Additionally, there’s a single DisplayPort, plus HDMI and Dual-Link DVI-D video connectors. Realistically, it’s a little disappointing there’s just one connector for each of the major digital video outputs, but that’s part of the tradeoff with the budget-friendly pricing. Still, the GTX 1050 offers enough power to support up to three monitors with a maximum refresh rate of 240Hz. Beyond monitor support, the GTX is just under seven inches long, with the card itself taking up six inches and the final inch composed of the cooler. This makes the GTX ideal for fitting into pre-built or compact systems.

Like most things, the more you spend on a graphics card, the more performance you’re going to get. The MSI Radeon RX 460 graphics card is just under $100, which is hitting the bullseye on the ultra-budget definition. There are options out there for less money, but if there’s any interest in playing any of today’s gaming, the RX 460 is as low priced as you’d want to get. The 460 relies on a PCI-express slot for all its power and can therefore be installed on any computer that offers PCI-express compatibility. Additionally, the six-pin PCI-express power connector draws just 75-watts of power, allowing any OEM desktop to power the card.

Based on AMD’s “Polaris” architecture, the 460 can ideally handle 30fps on high settings at 1080p for most gaming titles. That’s not to say benchmarks are the end all, be all of the performance, but if you’re keeping expectations to a minimum, the RX 460 should be more than impressive for its price. The total clock speed winds up right around 1,200MHz (with overclocking around 1,266MHz). As one final reminder of its budget pricing, the 460 supports just 2GB of ROM, which is just enough to power through gaming to score the previously mentioned 30fps.

Small enough to fit into compact PCs and lacking the need for any dedicated card power wires, the EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 SC offers one of the best ways to play classic and modern games. Part of the latest additions to Nvidia’s “Pascal” line of graphics cards, the GTX 1050 is one of the fastest, smoothest and power-efficient ways to game today on a budget. Moreover, it’s 5.7-inch compact size draws just 75 watts of maximum power and removes the need for a supplementary six-pin power connector. It also reduces the previously required 350-watt power supply down to 300-watts. Ultimately, this reduces the card’s support for older PC machines, but the tradeoff is the outstanding performance on more up-to-date computers.

The improved performance of the Pascal card leads to classic and modern games playing beautifully at 1080p and 60 fps. The base clock speed of 1417MHz pairs with an overlock boosted speed of 1531MHz and 2GB of GDDR5 ROM to help round out the specifications. Additionally, the Nvidia-based Ansel in-game photography and GameWorks offer an interactive and cinematic experience with today’s modern games.

The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card is everything you would want as a mainstream gamer, and it even includes support for virtual reality. Most notable about the design is the Windforce 2x cooling system with the 11-blade dual 100mm unique blade fans that alternate spin to effectively deliver heat dissipation. As the 3GB GDDR5 ROM variant, Gigabyte promotes clock speeds around 1,506MHz base and 1,708MHz overclocked, which offers more than fast enough performance for both classic and today’s games. Additionally, Gigabyte includes a six-ping PCI-express connector that uses just 120-watts of power.

At 8.8inches in length, it's definitively larger than most graphics cards, but you'll have little trouble fitting it into today’s PCs. Once inside a computer, the Gigabyte continues to impress with support for up to 8K display at 60Hz, which is impressive for this price range. It connects to the displays with two dual-link DVI-D connectors, one HDMI 2.0 and one DisplayPort 1.4 header. Power is handled through a single six-pin connector with a total maximum power of 150 watts, which shouldn’t limit overclocking the graphics card in any way.

Competing directly against some of the best graphics cards in the space is the MSI Gaming Radeon RX 480. The best DirectX 12 graphics card under $250 is solidly positioned on Graphics Core Next 4 architecture, also known as Polaris, which leads to greater overall performance without any increase in power consumption or heat. Rated at a base clock speed of 1.12GHz with a boost speed of 1.26GHz, the performance of the RX 480 requires just 150 watts with a 500-watt power supply. The card draws its power from a single six-pin PCI express power connector and adds three DisplayPort’s and an HDMI port, with the former supporting HDR gaming titles.

Ultimately, the graphics card is an exceptional value handling today’s games at their highest settings with ease at 1080p. If you want to push the envelope, you can manage 1440p at Ultra or High settings, but for the very best performance and results, sticking to 1080p is recommended. Additionally, the RX 480 is certified for virtual reality gameplay, though like the GTX 1060, it’s an experience that is recommended for more powerful (see higher priced) graphics cards overall.

Powered by AMD’s “Polaris” architecture, the XFX Radeon RX 480 RX480M8BFA6 is designed to go beyond general gaming, as well as offer virtual reality performance without an astronomical cost. Ultimately, the XFX targets mid-range gaming with superior performance handled at both the 1080p and 2560 x 1440 pixel resolutions. As you consider AMD’s Polaris branding, the company uses “FinFET” technology which enables them to shrink the manufacturing process allowing for more densely-packed components. This type of packing leads to lower power consumption over previous generations of graphic cards.

Overall, the XFX produces increased clock speeds and less heat all while supporting the latest in display interfaces, including three DisplayPort 1.4 connectors and a lone HDMI 2.0 port. Overall performance is excellent, with frame rates easily delivering over 60fps at the 1080p level (the 1440p resolution holds steady, too, but at a lower frame rate). Additionally, there's 8GB of ROM.


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