Choosing The Best Gaming Graphics Card GPUs in 2018

Updated July 23rd, 2018 by Headshot Jacob Tuwiner

If you’re buying components for a new gaming PC, make sure you buy the best graphics card that’s within your budget.

Graphics cards (GPUs) handle all 3D rendering. Any well optimized game is going to heavily rely on the power of your graphics card.

What’s the bottom line here?

Your GPU choice can make or break your PC gaming experience.

Lucky for you, I’ve compiled this list of the best gaming GPUs, from both team red and team blue.

Best Gaming Graphics Card GPUs

GPU Image Price Buy
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini 4GB ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini 4GB $170 Best Price on Amazon
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 Windforce OC 3GB Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 Windforce OC 3GB $240 Best Price on Amazon
Gigabyte AORUS Radeon RX 580 8GB Gigabyte AORUS Radeon RX 580 8GB $240 Best Price on Amazon
EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC GAMING ACX 3.0 Black Edition 8GB EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC GAMING ACX 3.0 Black Edition 8GB $430 Best Price on Amazon
ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 ROG STRIX 8GB ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 ROG STRIX 8GB $600 Best Price on Amazon

What is a GPU?

A Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) handles all 3D rendering when you’re gaming. If you’re thinking about building a gaming PC, the GPU is the most important component to consider.

According to PC Mag:

(Graphics Processing Unit) A programmable logic chip (processor) specialized for display functions. The GPU renders images, animations and video for the computer's screen. GPUs are located on plug-in cards, in a chipset on the motherboard or in the same chip as the CPU

I’ll try to sum things up:

If you’re building a gaming PC, make sure you buy a great GPU! Otherwise, you won’t be able to run the games you want to play, and you’ll have terrible PC gaming experience.

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini 4GB

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini 4GB

For $170, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini 4GB is a great GPU for a low budget gaming PC.

You won’t be able to max out every AAA game in 1080p with ultra settings, but you’ll definitely be able to enjoy your favorite games at medium settings.

If you’re interested in e-sports games like CS:GO, League of Legends, or Dota, this GPU is your best bet on a budget.

The GTX 1050 Ti mini fits easily in any mini-ITX or micro-ATX case, given its smaller form factor. The card also has 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM, as opposed to merely 2GB.

Having 4GB of VRAM will help your card handle 1080p games with medium to high settings. As time goes on, more and more games will begin to demand 3GB and 4GB of VRAM, meaning this GPU is somewhat future proof.

It’s not a powerhouse GPU, but it’s a great bang for your PC gaming buck.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 Windforce OC 3GB

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 Windforce OC 3GB

Featuring a custom cooler and a factory overclock, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 Windforce OC 3GB is a fantastic midrange GPU. I love this GPU so much, I chose it for my gaming PC build.

It’s affordable, and holds its own in 1080p. I’m not able to play every game with ultra settings, but I do enjoy 60FPS in most games with medium-high settings.

I like to play Fortnite, PUBG, Battlefield, The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed, Rust, GTA, etc. My GTX 1060 3GB handles all of these games well in 1080p. It’s a good card for those on a $600 budget.

The card has a core clock of 1556MHz, but it can be overclocked to 1582MHz by setting the card to its OC mode in Gigabyte’s Xtreme Engine software.

The GTX 1060 3GB offers a significant performance bump over the GTX 1050 Ti, while remaining cheaper than the GTX 1060 6GB (the extra memory is quite pricey.)

This card is not designed for 1440p gaming – on the other hand, if 1080p at an affordable price sounds like something that interests you, this is a great option. If you prefer something from AMD in the same price range, check out their RX 570.

Gigabyte AORUS Radeon RX 580 8GB

Gigabyte AORUS Radeon RX 580 8GB

The Gigabyte RX 580 8GB is faster than the GTX 1060, it’s overclocked out of the box, and it has more dedicated VRAM, too.

The GPU is quiet overall, and the fans turn themselves off automatically when idling. This feature simultaneously saves energy and reduces noise. AMD cards are known to run hot, so consider buying a cheap set of case fans for your build.

Although it is basically a rebranded RX 480 with the same Ellesmere GPU, it is made on a better 14nm process which allows for superior clock frequencies. The RX 580 is another great card for 1080p gaming, and can even handle 1440p if you turn down the settings.

The card has four heatpipes that draw in heat from the GPU’s core, which help to keep it cool during full load. The cooler handles heat well.

It was nearly impossible to find one of these cards a few months ago, thanks to cryptocurrency mining. Thankfully, prices have lowered once again – now, this GPU is not only easy to find, but affordable as well.

EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC GAMING ACX 3.0 Black Edition 8GB

EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC GAMING ACX 3.0 Black Edition 8GB

The EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC GAMING ACX 3.0 Black Edition 8GB GPU is a true powerhouse.

If you want to play all of the newest games in 1080p with ultra settings and respectable framerates, this is the best GPU for the job. It can even handle games in 1440p with respectable framerates.

Although you may not be able to crank everything up to the max, you’ll still enjoy relatively high settings in stunning 1440p resolution.

Still, this GPU holds its own in both 1440p and 1080p.

The GPU runs silently while keeping the GPU cool at full load. The price to performance ratio of the GTX 1070 is among the best I’ve ever seen. It is decently more expensive than a GTX 1070 or an RX 580, but it’s well worth the investment.

Its Pascal GP104 architecture is intriguing, though it is similar to Maxwell. The change to 16nm was a big one, allowing NVIDIA to keep power consumption below 200 watts. Having 8GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM is helpful for gaming, especially in 1440p.

ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 ROG STRIX 8GB

ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 ROG STRIX 8GB

The ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 ROG STRIX 8GB is an absolute monster. It is definitely overkill for the average PC gamer, but it’s a great choice if you want to build an insanely powerful gaming PC.

This GPU can handle practically anything you throw at it, even in 1440p or ultra HD (4K). Despite its incredible performance, the GPU doesn’t consume much power. It features customizable RGB lighting which is always cool, and new NVIDIA technologies including Ansel, FastSync, HEVC Video, and VR.

The card ships overclocked to a base of 1785MHz, and can achieve 1998MHz with NVIDIA’s Boost 3.0 technology. ASUS’s new heatsink does does a good job, keeping the card below 70 degrees celcius even during intense gaming.

The $600+ price of this card is high, especially compared to other cards on the list. On the other hand, this card is quiet, power efficient, and lastly, able to game in 1440p and 4K resolutions without difficulty. The ASUS STRIX should be an easy choice for anyone looking for an enthusiast GPU.

Gaming CPU vs. Gaming GPU

Doesn’t a fast processor equate to great gaming performance?

Not quite.

Some first time builders mistakenly believe the processor (CPU) is the most important component for gaming. This is probably due to companies like AMD and Intel advertising their processors as gaming CPUs.

If you spent the majority of your budget on an i7 CPU and bought a low-end GPU or skipped it altogether and thought you’d be good to go, you were sorely mistaken.

CPU vs GPU

Don’t get me wrong, you need a decent processor for gaming – but that doesn’t mean you should spend your entire budget on one. Actually, it would be smart to do the contrary.

I’d get the best GPU you can that’s within your budget, and then buy a CPU that is fast enough to keep up without bottlenecking.

Pairing a Ryzen 3 1200 with a GTX 1060 is smarter than pairing an Intel i7 with a GTX 1050, for example.

Focus on the GPU first, and worry about the CPU later.

How to Install a GPU

Conclusion

Choosing the right gaming GPU is one of the most important parts of building a gaming PC. A faster GPU is going to yield higher FPS with better graphics and higher resolutions.

If you can, I’d recommend saving the extra money necessary to buy the best GPU for you. You don’t necessarily need a GTX 1080, but buying a GTX 1070, or even a GTX 1060 is ideal.

However, if you’re on a tight budget, there are still options available to you. Whatever you do, choose wisely! The GPU you purchase is going to have the most significant impact on your gaming experience, compared to the other components in your build.