Updated: The Best GPUs, Mid-2022 Update
It's been two whole years since we put together a guide for the best GPUs you can buy, and that's because for two years now the market has been in complete shambles. During that time we recommended to hold out if you could, and we also spent quite a bit of time investigating second hand alternatives, though admittedly there's not been much appeal there either.
It appears things could finally start to improve, ever so slightly, and while we do have a long way to go, we understand many of you are done waiting and you just want to buy something, so what should you get? We're covering five price ranges, starting from the bottom, let's get to it...
Entry-level GPU (Less than $300)
Radeon RX 6500 XT at MSRP or Buy Used
For those of you looking to spend as little as possible the cheapest new graphics card is the unfortunate Radeon RX 6500 XT. Essentially, it's a bad product with numerous issues that costs too much for what it is. However, there's no alternative for under $450, so if you desperately need a new graphics card and the used market is out of the question, this is it.
In all honesty, we'd prefer to keep waiting or do something else with our time than PC gaming, as spending $270 on a graphics card that can't even achieve 60 fps in new games such as Cyberpunk 2077 or Dying Light 2 using the lowest possible quality settings at 1080p is a rough deal. This one is going to age like milk.
Alternatively, if you do have access to a heavily used market, we recommend looking at the Radeon RX 570 4GB, which can typically be had for under $200 and is arguably a better product. For similar money, or around $270, a used Radeon 5500 XT 4GB or GTX 1650 Super are better products, so consider those instead if you find them.
But of course, if you manage to grab an RX 6500 XT for the $200 MSRP, then that's probably the way to go. Though be aware, if it does hit that price in a few months from now, there's a good chance other GPUs will have also dropped in price, so make sure you check all your options before buying.
The Ideal Entry Point ($500+)
AMD Radeon RX 6600
You're not getting much for $270 with the 6500 XT as we've just established. So what do you need to spend in order to enjoy today's games at respectable quality settings, while also having enough headroom to be useful for years to come?
For that, the AMD Radeon RX 6600 is the go-to option, with some models hitting $450, though most are still over $500. In some markets like Australia, some RX 6600 cards can be had for $650 AUD, which is roughly what you'll pay for an RTX 3050. In the US, over at Newegg, the cheapest RTX 3050 is currently listed for $600 from third party sellers. Meanwhile, the RTX 3060, which is expected to compete with the RX 6600 in terms of performance, costs upwards of $750.
In other words, there's no alternative to the RX 6600 right now, new or used, so that's a straightforward pick. While we weren't thrilled with the RX 6600 upon release, in the current market it has shaped up to be a solid deal with good availability. It's also worlds better than the 6500 XT given it supports more than two display outputs, twice the PCIe bandwidth, twice the VRAM capacity, hardware encoding and AV1 decoding, basically it's a proper graphics card.
It also wreaks the RTX 3050 for standard rasterization performance, so unless the GeForce GPU is at least 20% cheaper than the RX 6600, there's no point buying it.
The Best You Can Get for Under $1,000
AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
If you're hell bent on buying a graphics card now and want more performance, but don't want to spend over $1,000, what's your best option? In our opinion, that would be the Radeon RX 6700 XT, At its original MSRP, it was a good product that gave the RTX 3070 a run for its money.
The Radeon 6700 XT delivers ~40% more performance than the RX 6600, supports the full PCIe x16 bandwidth, increases VRAM capacity to 12GB, and in today's market can be purchased for around $900. You're effectively paying a 100% price premium for 40% more performance, which is why we recommend, if you can, to go with the RX 6600 instead.
For roughly this level of performance from Nvidia, you'll be paying significantly more as the RTX 3070 starts at $1,100, with the newer 3070 Ti starting at around $1,200. Unless you're buying specifically to play games with ray tracing/DLSS enabled, the 6700 XT is a better deal at $900.
Best Value High-end GPU ($1,500)
AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT
Given how bonkers the market is -- and has been for 2 years now -- graphics cards that once seemed silly, maybe aren't as silly anymore... depending on how you look at it. Take the Radeon RX 6900 XT for example. Like the GeForce RTX 3090, we felt this product made no sense upon release. The MSRP saw it priced over 50% higher than the 6800 XT for single-digit performance gains, about 8% on average.
Besides the relatively small performance boost, you got nothing extra with the 6900 XT. The memory capacity and bandwidth was the same, so other than a few extra cores that enabled that 8% jump, it was essentially the same product... for a lot more money. However, in today's market, the Radeon 6900 XT typically only costs ~10% more than the 6800 XT, so if you're willing to part with $1,500, you might as well get the flagship model.
Nvidia GPUs are considerably more expensive, making them harder to justify for most gamers. The base model RTX 3080 starts at $1,600 and given it's typically slower than the 6900 XT, it doesn't make sense. The newer 12GB version of the 3080 starts at $1,650 though most models are up over $1,800, while the 3080 Ti starts at an absurd $2,000.
Best of the Best (money is no object)
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090
The GeForce RTX 3090 remains the fastest GPU money can buy, but it was silly at the MSRP, let alone $3,000. We do realize some people actually buy these extreme high-end products, so who makes the best gaming GPU? This is a battle between the 6900 XT and RTX 3090.
From a technical viewpoint, the RTX 3090 is a much better product. It support DLSS which is beneficial for boosting performance at high resolutions, but it also offers vastly superior ray tracing performance. When it comes to rasterization performance, the GeForce is typically the faster product at 4K and with 24GB of GDDR6X memory, it's very appealing to those who care about bragging rights.
The big problem with the RTX 3090 is of course pricing. Initially set to cost $500 more than the 6900 XT (a hefty 50% premium), today the typical asking price is closer to $3,100, making it some 94% more expensive than the 6900 XT, meaning you could basically buy two 6900 XT for the price of a single 3090.
Bottom line, if you have to buy a graphics card right now, you are better off looking at a Radeon GPU because of how expensive GeForce cards are at the moment. Right now, the cheapest current-gen product from Nvidia is the RTX 3050 and it's coming at an absurd $600, which is a joke for that level of performance. For the same money you can land the much faster 6600 XT, which is somewhere around 50-60% faster.
|Radeon GPUs||Typical Price||GeForce GPUs|
|Radeon RX 6500 XT||$270|
|Radeon RX 6600||$450|
|Radeon RX 6600 XT||$600||GeForce RTX 3050|
|$760||GeForce RTX 3060|
|Radeon RX 6700 XT||$900||GeForce RTX 3060 Ti|
|$1100||GeForce RTX 3070|
|Radeon RX 6800||$1220|
|$1250||GeForce RTX 3070 Ti|
|Radeon RX 6800 XT||$1350|
|Radeon RX 6900 XT||$1500|
|$1600||GeForce RTX 3080|
|$1800||GeForce RTX 3080 12GB|
|$2000||GeForce RTX 3080 Ti|
|$3000||GeForce RTX 3090|
The RTX 3060 is also typically slightly slower than the 6600 XT, yet right now costs 27% more and then we have the 3060 Ti which price matches the 6700 XT at $900. The 6700 XT is slightly faster but this is one of the better matchups for Nvidia.
The RTX 3070 jumps up to $1,100 which is a 22% premium over the 6700 XT for just 5% more performance on average. The 3070 Ti jumps up to $1,250 which is more than what you'll typically pay for an RX 6800 which is slightly faster overall. At the mid-range segment from the 3060 Ti to the 3070 Ti, Nvidia does okay. Still worse in terms of value, but much better than what we see at the low-end where they have nothing and then the high-end where pricing gets out of hand.
The RTX 3080 comes in at ~$1,600, which is more than you'll pay for the 6900 XT, This is not good given the Radeon offers around 15% more performance at 4K. Things just get worse for the 12GB 3080 and worse again for the 3080 Ti. That's where we are at right now. Pricing is still bad, but availability of some models appears to be improving, so hopefully things continue to trend in the right direction