Best Value GPUs Right Now
Now comes the all important look into which cards are actually the best value right now. In May, the GTX 1060 3GB was the best value card on the market, with Nvidia winning all the key battles from a price to performance ratio perspective. The GTX 1060 6GB was just slightly better value than the RX 580, while the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 were significantly better value than Vega 56 and Vega 64 respectively.
In July, things are a bit different thanks to larger price drops on the AMD side. When looking at a six-game cost per frame average, recording the 1% low performance at 1440p and using the same games as the May analysis, we see some movement in the value charts. In this smaller selection of GPUs, the RX 580 8GB has taken the crown from the GTX 1060 6GB; it was a slim win to the 1060 last time, but a 14% price drop for the AMD card compared to just 9% for the Nvidia offering has swung things in AMD's favour. Either card is a great option, but the win does go to the RX 580 here.
The battle of upper end cards has tightened significantly. Vega 56 is now on par and even slightly ahead of the GTX 1070 Ti, which is its nearest price and performance competitor. In May it was a slam dunk victory or the 1070 Ti, but the market is now much more competitive. That said, the faster GTX 1080 is slightly better value for around $50 more, while the GTX 1070 is the best of this bunch.
At the high end it's still a win for Nvidia, with the GTX 1080 providing notably better value than Vega 64, and while the GTX 1080 Ti is the worst value of the lot, it's in a performance class of its own.
Using a two game average with a wider selection of cards we can see where the other contenders fit in. The GTX 1060 3GB used to be far and away the best value card, but as it hasn't received a price cut since May, the RX 580 has screamed back into contention, offering just as much value. Considering it's also better than the 1060 6GB in terms of value, is slightly cheaper than that card in actual dollar values, and is faster than the 1060 3GB, I'd give the overall crown for best value card to the RX 580 at this point in time.
The lower mid-range cards like the RX 560, RX 570 and GTX 1050 Ti are all similar value right now, though I think they're a bit overpriced considering what you get. The RX 550 is still bizarrely terrible value, while the upper end cards fall into the same positions as in our 6 game average.
So with a further two months of graphics cards coming down in price, AMD has become much more competitive, to the point where the RX 580 8GB is the best value card out there, taking the crown from Nvidia. I'd still recommend the GTX 1070 as an upper-mid range option over Vega 56 and the 1070 Ti in that order, and at the top the GTX 1080 is still a much better buy than Vega 64. For those after a cheaper card, it's a tight battle but we'd go for the RX 560 16CU over the GTX 1050 Ti, although the 1050 Ti has become much more competitive in the last two months.
Those are our recommendations for the best value graphics cards you can buy right now, but that doesn't answer the question of whether you should actually buy one now, or wait for next-generation offerings to hit the market. There have been so many rumors about next-gen cards from Nvidia in particular, pointing to a release some time this year, that understandably many of you will want to wait a bit longer instead. We originally thought Nvidia might unveil those cards at the end of July, but with alleged stock issues with current cards, it sounds like that's been delayed and... well who really knows what the situation is at this point.
In any case, it doesn't sound like new GPUs will launch for at least a few months, and then at launch who knows what the status of availability will be, and what sort of product segments will actually be covered in the first wave. For that reason, if you've been waiting to buy a current-gen graphics card, you should probably just pull the trigger at this point because prices are the best they've been for a year.
I think it makes sense to buy now particularly if you're interested in a mid-range card or lower, like the RX 580 or GTX 1060, because it's unlikely those products will be superseded with the first wave of Nvidia GPUs. Because we're so near the MSRP with the prices of a lot of these cards, and with memory prices continuing to stay quite high, it's unlikely the cards will get significantly cheaper, and that's another reason buying now could be a good option.
I'd be a bit more hesitant to buy now if I was after a high-end card like the GTX 1080 or better, though, it could be worth waiting a bit longer to see what next-gen products have in store.
And let's be honest, at this point in the release cycle these one or even two year old graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia should be well under their launch price, so even though we've recommended a few different options here and talked about how nice it is to have pricing come back down to MSRP levels, it's still super disappointing to see how expensive these old products are. Hopefully by the end of the year there's a bit more life in the stagnant graphics card market.