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The Best Graphics Cards 2016: TechSpot's top picks for every budget

By Steve · 162 replies
Sep 19, 2016
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  1. 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. Our last update to this article came in January and a lot has changed since then. You could even argue we've seen the biggest change of the last 2 - 3 years in PC graphics with the arrival of AMD and Nvidia's latest generation 14nm and 16nm GPUs.

    So, are 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.

    Read the complete guide.

  2. EndlessWaves

    EndlessWaves TS Booster Posts: 191   +45

    Not even a mention of the large price premium for a G-sync monitor making the GTX 1060 potentially poor value for money for anyone buying a screen in the life of the card?
  3. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 2,860   +1,182

    Seems like it may have been good to wait until the market was all settled to publish this guide based on that last paragraph...
  4. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,313   +537

    Because you don't actually NEED a G-sync monitor to use a video card... it's just a nice addition and has no part in this article...

    You can only wait so long... I'm sure it will be updated before the holidays, when the 1050 will be out and the other cards are hopefully at MSRP...
  5. adnanrafiq

    adnanrafiq TS Rookie

    You do know that 1060 3GB is not the same as 1060 6GB in terms of performance and spec while rx 480 4gb has the same exact spec as rx 480 8gb except for the memory. There are times where 1060 3gb dips below to rx 470/ 970 performance.
    NightAntilli and HardReset like this.
  6. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,313   +537

    And had you read the article, you'd know they took that into account... The 3GB still outperforms the AMD MOST of the time, and costs less/same still... As for whether the future will make 3GB not as reliable - we won't really know until the future arrives... But the article said they didn't think it was likely.
  7. CaptainTom

    CaptainTom TS Maniac Posts: 252   +103

    You have got to be kidding me lol.

    The 480 is just as strong as the 1060 with more VRAM for less money. But honestly, the Fury Nitro's selling for $300 are the real price/perf kings right now.
    NightAntilli, darkzelda and HardReset like this.
  8. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Maniac Posts: 226   +195

    Steven, how dare you bring facts about the GTX 1060 3GB into a ***** fan boy flame war! Everybody knows the GTX 1060 3GB is not future proofed! You can only recommend future proof products! Luckily with my future proofed AMD phenom II x6 CPU and HD 7750 4GB video card I have plenty of processing power and video RAM to play tomorrows games at 60FPS max settings at 1440p. Currently I get 10FPS on 1080p but once that future proofing kicks in I am all set!
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016
  9. I struggle to see why anyone would pick an RX480 over a 1060.
  10. HardReset

    HardReset TS Maniac Posts: 439   +135

    NightAntilli and CaptainTom like this.
  11. HardReset

    HardReset TS Maniac Posts: 439   +135

    As "most of the time" essentially includes games built on 2003 year technology (DirectX 11 is essentially beefed DX10 that is beefed DX9 that came out 2003), I see no reason to give much weight for it.
  12. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,313   +537

    Because only DX12 titles (and only some of those) perform better on an AMD card... and since you shouldn't be attempting to "future proof" (I love that you liked that post that was clearly sarcastic!) a low-mid level card, that means that the majority of titles run better on the cheaper 1060 card....

    If you want to run AAA titles in the future, you should be buying more expensive cards...

    As for why the 480 review received a slightly higher score on it's review... that was assuming it would sell for MSRP - which it doesn't!
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016
  13. HardReset

    HardReset TS Maniac Posts: 439   +135

    Exactly, AMD has much better DX12 performance on every game except some that are deliberately made for Nvidia only. And DX12 is much more future than DX9 eh DX11.

    That "mid end card" (RX 480) runs Doom with quite good speed, only 8% slower than GTX1070 at 1440p, not bad eh?

    "Majority of titles" run at least 60 FPS on RX480 also so nobody cares if GTX 1060 is bit faster.

    Then care to explain how RX 480 can run Doom 1440p max details @ 79 FPS?
    NightAntilli likes this.
  14. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,313   +537

    You base everything on Doom.... that's one game... yippee...

    There are like 10 DX 12 titles... If you're buying a card for DX12, you should be spending more money anyways and buying a 1060 6GB or 1070...

    If everything is the same (you admit that the majority of titles run on both), why wouldn't you pick the cheaper card?? Maybe you should try using some logic to your arguments instead of just being an AMD fanboy.
  15. HardReset

    HardReset TS Maniac Posts: 439   +135

    Give a reason why situation will be different with future games that support Vulkan / DX12?

    I thought this article was about "best graphic card for every budget"?

    Majority of titles run with both but DX12/Vulkan titles run better with AMD. With your logic, no reason to pick GTX 1060, pick cheaper RX 460 instead.
  16. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 2,860   +1,182

    Amateurs. im over here using my voodoo3 no issues.Running Crysis at 0.25 FPS at 480p is indescribable.
  17. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,041   +793

    Woop Woop! HardReset is back! I've missed his username plastered all over AMD/Nvidia stories like it was stickered bombed. Anyway, lets get to it:

    Well if you look at "Ashes of the Singularity" for example, Nvidia used to be quite behind running that game, now they match or beat the AMD equivalent (Which is incredible when you consider it's designed for AMD's Architecture) So in the future, Not much will change and both company's will be trading blows here and there, and Nvidia will be doing it using less power and creating less heat while costing the same as an AMD card.

    It is and it did...

    The RX 460 is considerably less powerful than the 1060 and in a completely different price bracket so why anyone would pick the RX 460 over the 1060 if they have the cash is beyond crazy, they probably should be checked at a mental institute or something?
    ScubaRhys, Adhmuz and dirtyferret like this.
  18. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 652   +284

    Everyone on here arguing about "future proof", not realizing that consoles did that for us a long time ago. I'm only just now thinking that I *might* want to upgrade my GTX760, now that the AAAs have been allowed to creep up a little bit with the new console generation. Even then, it is that both Microsoft and Sony are talking about a mid-generation refresh for 4K gaming that has me even considering an upgrade path.

    Old cards low-mid-tier cards can keep up just fine, as long as you don't try to play at the super-resolutions (north of 1080 or elsewhere in the ~2K neighborhood), and frankly, most people don't have monitors that are north of 1080 anyway.
    dirtyferret likes this.
  19. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 410   +256

    LOL at futureproofing in a mainstream card. Are you still thinking AMD and NVIDIA will let you run their business?

    LOL at the same people who can't understand the title of the article.

    the RX480 4gb is nowhere to be found at the msrp while a crimped underpowered gtx 1060 wth a crimped 3gb memory can handle most games of TODAY and easily beats a RX480 4Gb.

    The only thing that surprised me is Hardreset's comeback. This would be more interesting again.
    ScubaRhys likes this.
  20. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,041   +793

    Woa! Slow down there buddy! Only HardReset is arguing the "future proof" nonsense :D

    You see, that was the least surprising part of this article. It's been his argument since the day he joined this website and I think he'll argue it until he's blue in the face no matter what every single reviewer out there says :cool:
    ScubaRhys and Adhmuz like this.
  21. HardReset

    HardReset TS Maniac Posts: 439   +135

    Source that AOS was designed for AMD architecture? Nvidia paid for AOS makers to make AMD look much worse and Nvidia better. Or do you have better explanation why Nvidia got such performance boost practically from nowhere?

    Give some more examples of similar Nvidia performance" boosts" on DX12/Vulkan games and and then make such estimations. AMD is much better on DX12/Mantle/Vulkan and that's clear fact. So it's easy to say that AMD will be much better choice for DX12/Mantle/Vulkan as their architecture is much better suited for those.

    Funny, post I answered said that GTX1060 is better than RX480 because it's cheaper...

    AMD R9 280 is still good mainstream card, it was mainstream 3 years from now and is based on HD 7950 that's over 4.5 years old. So yes, futureproofing for mainstream card makes sense.

    That's the difference between Nvidia and AMD buyers. Nvidia buyers think today, AMD buyers think tomorrow. Not wonder Nvidia makes good profit as their fanboys don't care about future and so buy old stuff.

    At least no Nvidia card didn't got 100/100 after GTX 1080...
    NightAntilli and MoeJoe like this.
  22. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,041   +793

    You've got to be kidding right? AMD used AOS as it's poster child until recently, I just did a bit of googling and the developer now says that Nvidia was far more useful during the development cycle, They had 3 visits from AMD, 3 from Nvidia and 2 from Intel (None from Microsoft) and I quote:
    It's funny because the 1060 is just as good, if not better in most cases than the RX480 but is also cheaper? I'm confused what you're even trying to argue now...

    I have a friend who's still quite happily using an Nvidia GTX680, Nvidia stuff lasts just as long, difference is, Nvidia actually improve their products so the next iteration surpasses the last generation.
    Nima V and Adhmuz like this.
  23. HardReset

    HardReset TS Maniac Posts: 439   +135

    So it went exactly as I said. Nvidia paid to get better performance on it so in the end it really wasn't made for AMD architecture.

    In "most cases" that "better" makes virtually no difference, but on DX12/Vulkan/Mantle AMD is much faster and that really makes difference.

    Nvidia stuff don't last as long as AMD stuff because Nvidia's driver support for older generation cards is much worse than AMD's.

    This I agree.
  24. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,041   +793

    Please, I beg of you, please go Google it for yourself, AMD and Stardock were in bed with each other for years, mainly showing off what the 290x and Fury cards could do thanks to the way the Nitrous engine took advantage of the GCN architecture. You can even watch interviews and hour long technical documentary's of them showing it off as AMD's vision of the future, it's just sorta been shattered by Nvidia going into Stardocks Office and showing them what a real GPU can do. Nvidia didn't throw money at it. They did exactly what AMD were doing. Helping the developer get the most out of their product, not my fault Nvidia's hardware is no where near as bad as you like to think it is ;)

    Again, you're looking at a very small percentage of games and again, Nvidia beats AMD is some titles, some they draw at, only a few are actually considerably better on AMD hardware, you really need to stop basing your arguments off of 3 games out of the literal thousands out there. Just another note here, I'm pretty certain quite some time back you used Ashes of the Singularity as an example of why AMD is better than Nvidia for DX12 and future proofing and all that nonsense, I don't see you arguing with that game any more, it seems your list of games to argue about has actually grown smaller :D

    Much worse is an exaggeration, I would tend to agree though, Nvidia's drivers do drop off after 4-5 years and don't really add anything performance wise. That said, AMD cards don't actually get any better in 5 years so a moot point.

    Good :cool:
    Adhmuz and Squid Surprise like this.
  25. HardReset

    HardReset TS Maniac Posts: 439   +135

    And what's old stuff having to do with AOS? Nothing. Perhaps AMD and Stardock were partners on the past but we are talking about AOS here. I said that

    And that seems to be true. Nvidia's hardware is much worse but paying enough for Stardock made their hardware look good. About that money thing, if you think it's free for Nvidia to get AOS to run good with their hardware (especially when we are talking about company that was in bed with AMD), then I wonder why every game does not contain optimizations for both Nvidia and AMD.

    Perhaps that's the reason why other DX12/Vulkan games does not show similar performance gains for Nvidia.

    Small amount of games but definitely most important ones. AOS is example where Nvidia's sabotage gets it almost on line with AMD so we can safely say that without Nvidia sabotaging DX12/Vulkan/Mantle games, AMD is much faster. This opinion is supported by the fact that AMD's architecture is superior for DX12/Vulkan/Mantle so without spesific optimizations to either AMD or Nvidia, AMD is superior.

    Nvidia's Kepler cards suddenly got much slower after Maxwell release. Have not seen similar on AMD.

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