When it comes to graphics cards we like to go fully in-depth. We test dozens of graphics cards year in and year out, and we keep evaluating them months after release as new games and drivers come about. Then for our big annual graphics card roundup we pit every current-generation GeForce and Radeon card at every price point to see which is the better buy.

Now, let's say you have missed some of that action, and you are just now looking to upgrade or buy a new GPU. Don't mind all that testing, marginal fps gains depending on the game you play, power consumption figures, or overclocking potential. You want a simple question answered.

Given a certain budget, which is the graphics card you should buy? Fret no more.

Best Overall Graphics Card

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti

If you ignore the Titan X -- which you certainly should as it costs twice as much for <10% performance gain -- then the GeForce GTX 980 Ti is the most powerful GPU and that makes it an easy choice as the best overall graphics card. This is only reinforced by the fact that the card can be heavily overclocked to gain in excess of 20% extra performance.

Compared to AMD's big hitter, the Fury X, the 980 Ti is faster before any overclocking takes place. Nvidia's flagship may be larger, but it doesn't come with a bulky radiator hanging off the back. Moreover, custom cards from Gainward, MSI, Gigabyte, and others run rather cool and quiet.

Also the Best for Multi-GPU 4K Gaming

The 980 Ti is really the only single GPU solution capable to tackling 4K gaming, though for the best experience gamers will still want two of these running in SLI. This also makes the 980 Ti the best multi-GPU solution for gaming at 4K in our opinion.

Currently the 980 Ti can be had for as little as $620, though most cards go for about $650, the same price as the most affordable Fury X cards.

Best Value Performance

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970

When we recently compared graphics cards at every price point we had a hard time picking a $300 winner out of the Radeon R9 390 and GeForce GTX 970. Choosing between the two is still a difficult task, but AMD's much improved Crimson drivers have certainly helped its cause.

Gaming at 1440p, the performance between the R9 390 and GTX 970 is much the same, though if you plan to game at 1080p then the 970 does have a slight performance advantage. The GTX 970 also consumes less power and generally overclocks by a greater percentage over the stock frequency.

Picking the GTX 970 is a controversial choice, but I am sticking with my original decision to go with it. Clearly many of you agree, as the GTX 970 was seen recently topping Steam charts as the most popular GPU.

My choice for the GTX 970 also stems from the fact that I don't believe the 390's 8GB VRAM buffer is future-proofing or even useful. I see it more as a marketing strategy. I also don't buy into the stories that the GTX 970 will fall well behind the R9 390 once DX12 titles start to appear. If the Radeon R9 290 was still around, it would likely get my pick as the best value performance graphics card.

If you already have a favorite side in this battle, both the GTX 970 and R9 390 are excellent $300 options and objectively there is no wrong choice to make here.

Best Mainstream

AMD Radeon R9 380

Out of the box, the Radeon R9 380 is a superior performer compared to its direct competitor, the GeForce GTX 960. Both start at $180 for a 2GB model or $200 for 4GB.

We recommend the cheaper 2GB model to those on a tight budget as it will deliver the same performance as its larger capacity version in more than 90% of the games around currently. On the other hand, if another $20 won't break the bank then opt for the larger 4GB model.

In the vast majority of games, the R9 380 is going to be faster than the GTX 960 where factory overclocks apply. However, the Maxwell-based 960 does overclock better and if you plan to push these cards to the max then the 960 might end up being slightly faster.

Another thing for budget users to consider is that the GTX 960 plays much better with low-end GPUs than the R9 380 due to AMD's driver overhead. Still, if you have a Core i3 or better, the effects of AMD's driver overhead will be minimal for the most part.

Best Budget

Nvidia GeForce GTX 950

As has been the case with all categories so far, it's been a tight race between Nvidia and AMD offerings. Starting at $135 we have the Radeon R7 370, while the GeForce GTX 950 costs a little more at $150. Out of the box the GTX 950 is at least 10% faster than the R7 370, so that neutralizes the price difference.

Where the GTX 950 wins out is in its greater efficiency, allowing it to provide that extra performance without consuming additional power. The real win for budget enthusiasts is the GTX 950’s overclocking abilities, which grants a 20 to 25% boost while the R7 370 will at best achieve 15%.

If your budget will only allow for the R7 370 then rest assured you are still getting a good deal, just keep in mind that the 370 is based on the four year old GCN 1.0 architecture, so current AMD technologies such as TrueAudio and FreeSync aren't supported.

Best HTPC/Compact Card

AMD Radeon R9 Nano

Best home theater slash compact graphics card you ask? No, we didn't create this category just so we could pick the Radeon R9 Nano. Likewise, we don't think AMD created the Nano just so they could showcase their new HBM technology, though that was no doubt a big part of it.

For years now Nvidia's board partners have been developing special ITX versions of high-end graphics cards, such as the GTX 670 or GTX 970. While these are niche products, demand for compact graphics cards is starting to increase and the Nano has the biggest heart of them all in the littlest package.

When we reviewed the Nano last September we concluded by saying that it delivered exceptional efficiency and passable 4K performance in an amazingly compact card that nonetheless seemed overpriced.

For $650 at time of release, the Nano was priced in line with the faster GTX 980 Ti with its only real advantage being its compact size, a feature few gamers need or want to take advantage of, making the Nano an expensive niche product. We considered it niche enough that we didn't even bother including it in our roundup of the best graphics cards.

However, AMD has surprised us recently by slashing the Nano's price down to $500, placing it squarely against the GTX 980 for a fight we feel it wins easily. If you can keep the Nano cool enough, it's possible to achieve Fury X performance, making this now $500 graphics card a real gem.

Best Mobile GPU(s)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M 8GB

Unlike desktop graphics cards, you can't simply choose what mobile GPU you want in the laptop of your choice. Rather the chips are limited by the laptops that support them, so unfortunately AMD's Radeon M300 series is poorly supported with few options to choose from.

Evidently AMD's lack of efficiency hurts them and the fastest mobile GPU they can produce is the equivalent of a desktop 380X, whereas Nvidia can deliver a full-blown GTX 980.

Although the desktop version of the GTX 980 is currently the fastest GPU you will find inside a gaming laptop, it can only be found in a few expensive and bulky ones. The GTX 980M on the other hand is more widely offered in dozens of gaming machines, making it one of the most popular mobile gaming solutions.

Supporting laptops start at just $1,600, though keep in mind the 980M is around 25% slower than the desktop 980 as it features less CUDA cores than even the GTX 970.

Some Closing Thoughts

AMD and Nvidia released over a dozen new graphics processors combined in 2015, with models ranging in price from $100 to $1,000. With newer GPUs at least a few months off, and holiday season price cuts still effective for most, it's not a terrible time to buy a new graphics card. Just be aware that come mid 2016 newer GPUs will be out or we'll at least have more concrete information about them.

AMD has done a pretty good job of making its first generation GCN architecture last. It's still a shame that the Radeon 300 product stack is a mix of GCN 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 GPUs. Had the company been able to offer GCN 1.2 products from the R7 370 to the Fury X it would have been a much more solid line up.

This is where the GeForce 900 series has an advantage, with all GPUs built around the same Maxwell architecture, from the GTX 950 all the way up to the Titan X. Maxwell's improved efficiency has allowed Nvidia to create more powerful products, such as the GTX 980 Ti, without having to resort to less conventional methods of cooling.

Nevertheless, for mainstream consumers AMD has put together an excellent option in the Radeon R9 380, while the R9 390 is also a solid product and I feel like we are getting to know the R9 Nano all over again at its new $500 asking price.

On a final note, we feel as though AMD and Nvidia's drivers are pretty much on par now after AMD recently released its much improved Crimson driver package. AMD has also made great strides with its frame pacing performance and Crossfire is working better than ever in games that support multi-GPU technology.

All that's left to do now is see how these GPUs compare in upcoming DX12 titles, though I suspect we'll continue to see the same back and forth fight that we're witnessing under DX11.