Best 1440p GPU
- Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti
- Nvidia RTX 3080
Best 1080p GPU
- Nvidia GTX 1660 Super
For any gaming computer, the single most important part is the graphics card, aka the GPU. That’s not to say the other components aren’t important, they are, and if you don’t properly balance your build, you can end up bottlenecking your GPU performance. Assuming the rest of your computer is capable of supporting it, the better your graphics card the higher resolution, framerate, and settings you can play at.
Q4 2020 saw the release of a new generation of graphics cards from both Nvidia and AMD. Both showed significant performance increases over the previous generations, and for the first time in a long time, the AMD cards are competitive against Nvidia in performance.
Unfortunately for gamers, the new generation of graphics cards has been difficult to buy, and impossible to find at reasonable prices. Part of this is down to supply chain issues related to component shortages, thanks to the cutting-edge processes used resulting in low yields and – of course – Covid-19. The other reason is crypto-currency miners. The unprecedented graphics performance means that the latest graphics cards are also the best at mining cryptocurrencies such as Etherium. This creates a second target audience for the already limited supply. Predictably, graphics cards are almost impossible to come by, and those you can find will have exorbitant prices.
Realistically, now is not a great time to build or upgrade a gaming computer, but if you’ve experienced hardware failure, or have a computer so old, it can’t run the games you want to play, you may not have much of a choice. You may also want to investigate the possibility of buying a pre-built computer rather than individual parts. In case you are set on getting a new GPU we’ve drawn up a list of the best graphics cards in 2021.
- Second generation RT cores
- Huge price to performance gain over previous generation
- 8704 CUDA cores
- 1710MHz Boost Clock
- 10GB VRAM @ 19Gbps
The RTX 3080 is the top-of-the-line mainstream graphics card of the generation. It offers a 30% performance boost over the previous best, the 2080Ti, while costing $500 less, assuming you can find one at the recommended retail price. The increased core count and performance per core mean that this card is genuinely capable of playing games at 4K, at ultra settings, and getting more than 60 FPS.
DLSS is a killer feature allowing significantly increased framerates for minimal quality loss, for which AMD currently have no competing feature. The 30 series graphics cards are unusually power hungry for their performance, the 3080 requires up to 320W which could mean you need to upgrade your power supply too. The power connector is of a non-standard design, which mean you’ll likely need to use an ugly adaptor or buy a custom cable if you have a modular power supply. One of the few actual issues with this card is that the 10GB of VRAM is quite low for a top-tier card, this could cause some issues with texture qualities in the future.
- Great rasterization performance
- Capable of real-time raytracing
- Lots of VRAM
- 4608 RDNA2 cores
- 2250MHz Boost Clock
- 16GB VRAM @ 16Gbps
The RX 6800 XT is AMD’s direct competitor to the RTX 3080. In rasterization, which is the normal, non-raytraced rendering technique, it can generally beat the 3080. Unfortunately, it lacks any sort of DLSS competition, and the ray-tracing performance and results are worse than Nvidia’s.
Nevertheless, this is a very strong card, more than capable of 4K gaming, that theoretically costs lsess than the 3080. The large 16GB VRAM buffer offers plenty of space, for ultra-high-resolution textures in future games. The memory bandwidth is a little low, but is made up for by the infinity cache which allows data to be cached on the gpu die between frames, which can then be returned incredibly quickly.
- Huge amount of VRAM
- The ultimate graphics card right now
- Supports 8K gaming
- 10476 CUDA cores
- 1695MHz Boost Clock
- 24GB VRAM @ 19.5Gbps
The RTX 3090 sits firmly in the spot of the old Titan cards and costs as much too. The card is pushing the limit of current performance with minimal performance returns compared to the increase in resources and price. That said, this is the most powerful graphics card available. The card comes with a huge 24GB VRAM buffer that shows that the card isn’t really aimed at the gaming market but the content creators instead.
The 3090 is the only 30 series card to support NV-Link, which is designed to allow multiple cards to work together. Again, this feature is awesome for those with ultra-high-end content creation needs, but doesn’t actually provide much benefit to gaming, as support for SLI in games has essentially been removed. AMD’s competing product the Radeon RX 6900 XT competes in rasterization performance in some games, but generally lags behind and doesn’t offer the 30 series’ killer features.
- Cheap RRP
- Actually available
- Available in small form factors
- 1408 CUDA cores
- 1785MHz Boost Clock
- 6GB VRAM @ 14Gbps
The GTX 1660 Super is a generation old and doesn’t contain any raytracing or DLSS support. However, it is a solid budget GPU for a 1080p gaming build thanks to its normally reasonable pricing. In some games, the 1660 Super should also be able to get reasonable performance at 1440p, but you’d likely have to sacrifice some settings.
Like the rest of the market, it has inflated pricing right now, but if you need a graphics card and don’t mind overpaying for a budget card, you should at least be able to find one. Overall performance is similar to a GTX 1070 but it features advances from the Turing architecture such as improved NVENC encoding which could be useful for streamers.
- Beats the old 2080 Super
- Best value for performance
- 1080p and 1440p gaming
- 4864 CUDA cores
- 1665MHz Boost Clock
- 8GB VRAM @ 14Gbps
The RTX 3060 Ti is a 1080p and 1440p workhorse, with raytracing and DLSS, although 4K is a little out of its performance range. Of the entire new generation of graphics cards, it offers the best performance per dollar, assuming you can find it at retail price.
The 8GB VRAM buffer is small enough to not support the highest resolution textures in some modern games. Despite the relatively low performance for a 30 series card, it’s still completely sold out.
That was our list of the best GPUs in 2021. Have you been able to get your hands on a graphics card recently, did you have to pay exorbitant prices, or did you get a reasonable deal? Let us know, down below.