What is the best graphics card? It’s hard to remember a time when the gaming GPU scene was filled to the brim with so many options, as AMD, Nvidia, and now even Intel all offer compelling graphics card models for frugal and big spenders alike. As such, it can be difficult to identify the perfect pixel pusher for your system, but our hands-on experience with the latest GeForce, Radeon, and Arc cards will make it much easier.
When it comes to maximizing your gaming performance, a great graphics card should be your top priority. A GPU is the primary driving force behind your frame rate, but it also determines what resolution and graphics settings you’ll be able to use, including the likes of ray tracing. Each manufacturer also has its own set of strengths, including exclusive features, such as DLSS Frame Generation, which also need to be considered when weighing up your options.
While the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 review is undoubtedly the fastest graphics card out there, it’s also the most expensive. Thankfully, there are plenty of options that offer better value, with particularly fierce competition in the mid-range and budget space.
While it’s easy to feel like you need to buy one of the latest GPUs, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not giving previous generations a look too. You can often find what were recently flagship levels of performance at a sizeable discount, but you’ll need to act fast before stock dries up.
Here are the best graphics cards in 2023:
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 – best GPU for most people
- AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT – best GPU under $500
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 – best ray tracing GPU
- AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX – best GPU under $1,000
- AMD Radeon RX 7600 – best cheap GPU
1. Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070
The best graphics card for most people.
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 specifications|
|Tensor cores||184 (Fourth Gen.)|
|RT cores||46 (Third Gen.)|
|Base clock||1,920MHz (1.92GHz)|
|Boost clock||2,475MHz (2.48GHz)|
- Great 1440p and 1080p performance
- Better value than other RTX 4000 GPUs
- DLSS Frame Generation greatly boosts frame rates
- 12GB of VRAM can make 4K gaming difficult
- Loses to the AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT in rasterization
- More expensive than predecessors
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 packs just about all the performance that the average gamer could want. It’s more than capable of handling both ray tracing and rasterized workloads, and its pixel-pushing powers can stretch even further thanks to Nvidia DLSS 3.
While its $600 MSRP does make it more expensive than previous 70-class GeForce graphics cards, the RTX 4070 still offers great value for midrange builds. Its 12GB of VRAM makes it ideally suited to 1080p and 1440p setups, but you’ll want more memory bandwidth and GPU power if you’re looking to game at 4K.
In our testing, the RTX 4070 pulls ahead of its closest competition, the AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT, by 30-39% in ray tracing workloads (depending on the resolution). It does fall behind in rasterization, but this gap practically evaporates in games that support DLSS Frame Generation.
Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 review.
2. AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT
The best graphics card for under $500.
|AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT specifications|
|GPU die||Navi 32 XT|
|RT cores||60 (Second Gen.)|
|Base clock||1,624MHz (1.62GHz)|
|Game clock||2,124MHz (2.12GHz)|
|Boost clock||2,430MHz (2.43GHz)|
- Unparalleled memory bandwidth for $500
- Smashes the GeForce RTX 4070 in rasterized scenarios
- Better value than the Radeon RX 7700 XT
- Large ray tracing performance gaps vs the RTX 4070
- Still no sign of FSR 3 frame generation
- Some generational downgrades
The AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT may have been a long time coming, but it was certainly worth the wait. For those who aren’t too fussed about ray tracing, this is the graphics card to get.
With 16GB of VRAM attached to a 256-bit memory interface, you get a decent memory configuration for the money. This uniquely positions the 7800 XT as the only card at the $500 mark that’s capable of 1080p, 1440p, and even some 4K gaming.
It’s the more sensible buy vs the AMD Radeon RX 7700 XT, given that there’s only $50 separating the two. In our testing, the RX 7800 XT actually beat the more expensive RTX 4070 at every resolution up to 4K with ray tracing disabled, sometimes by as much as 17% on average. However, as soon as ray tracing effects enter the frame, it falls behind and has no answer for DLSS 3 either yet.
Read our AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT review.
3. Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
The best ray tracing graphics card.
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 specifications|
|Tensor cores||512 (Fourth Gen.)|
|RT cores||128 (Third Gen.)|
|Base clock||2,235MHz (2.24GHz)|
|Boost clock||2,520MHz (2.52GHz)|
- Unmatched ray tracing performance
- 24GB GDDR6X VRAM
- Excellent 4K gaming option
- Intimidatingly expensive
- Requires a suitably big PC case
- Worse value than RX 7900 XTX in rasterization
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 is an absolute monstrosity of a graphics card, in every sense of the word. There is no other GPU out there that can compete with its price, performance, or size.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to play the best PC games at the highest settings, at the biggest resolution, and with minimal fuss, the RTX 4090 is for you. That is, of course, if you can stomach its staggeringly high $1,599 MSRP and have room enough in your case to house it.
Ray tracing or rasterization, the RTX 4090 cannot be beaten, especially when combined with the frame rate boosting powers of DLSS 3. It isn’t the best value option in the RTX 40 series, but that’s nothing new when it comes to flagships.
Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 review.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080
The best alternative to the GeForce RTX 4090.
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 specifications|
|Tensor cores||304 (Fourth Gen.)|
|RT cores||76 (Third Gen.)|
|Base clock||2,205MHz (2.21GHz)|
|Boost clock||2,505MHz (2.51GHz)|
Should the GeForce RTX 4090 be, understandably, too rich for your blood, then the GeForce RTX 4080 is your next best bet. This is all the more true given how hard Nvidia’s flagship is to get a hold of right now with worldwide stock shortages.
Despite the cutbacks to its specifications relative to its more expensive sibling, the GeForce RTX 4080 will handle practically anything you throw at it. You can expect great performance, even at 4K with ray tracing enabled, especially with DLSS 3 enabled.
It’s worth noting that at its MSRP of $1,200, its most valuable to those looking to play games with ray tracing. If rasterized performance is your priority, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX may be the better buy.
Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 review for more details.
4. AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX
The best graphics card for under $1,000.
|AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX specifications|
|GPU die||Navi 31 XTX|
|RT cores||96 (Second Gen.)|
|Base clock||1,900MHz (1.90GHz)|
|Game clock||2,300MHz (2.30GHz)|
|Boost clock||2,500MHz (2.50GHz)|
- Fantastic rasterized performance for under $1,000
- 24GB of VRAM is more than enough for years to come
- Doesn’t require a 12VHPWR connector
- Ray tracing performance is behind GeForce competition
- No DLSS Frame Generation equivalent
- Slightly less efficient than the previous generation
The AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX was great when it first arrived on the scene back in 2022, and remains the top GPU for less than $1,000 despite the arrival of would-be challengers and competition from the AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT.
It packs all the power that the RDNA 3 architecture has to offer, complete with a humungous 24GB of VRAM and a near 1TB/s of memory bandwidth. Suffice to say, the 7900 XTX specs are built for 4K gaming and beyond.
Naturally, the 7900 XTX also carries levels of performance that cement itself as a proper flagship. It punches above its weight against the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 with ray tracing disabled, beating or coming within spitting distance of the more expensive GPU in almost all our rasterized benchmarks.
That said, like other pixel pushers in the Radeon RX 7000 series, the 7900 XTX can’t quite keep up with its team green competition when ray tracing effects are enabled. This is compounded by the absence of AMD FSR 3 frame generation, which will hopefully be resolved in the coming months.
Read our AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX review.
5. AMD Radeon RX 7600
The best cheap graphics card.
|AMD Radeon RX 7600 specifications|
|GPU Die||Navi 33 XL|
|RT cores||32 (Second Gen.)|
|Base clock||1,720MHz (1.72GHz)|
|Game clock||2,250MHz (2.25GHz)|
|Boost clock||2,655MHz (2.66GHz)|
- Less than $300
- Surprisingly good rasterization performance
- Decent TBP
- 8GB of VRAM
- Subpar ray tracing performance
- No answer to DLSS Frame Generation
If your budget can’t stretch to a midrange graphics card, the AMD Radeon RX 7600 is the way to go. There isn’t a perfect GPU in the budget space right now, but the Radeon RX 7600 is the least compromised option for the money.
Both the RX 7600 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 come with just 8GB of VRAM. This capacity is fine for esports titles at 1080p, but can create problems when higher resolution textures are enabled. Naturally, 1440p and 4K are off the table for this GPU.
Given its low price, we’re surprised how perky this pixel pusher is in the right circumstances. Frame rates are impressive at 1080p with ray tracing disabled, largely beating the GeForce RTX 4060, although we don’t recommend turning on ray tracing effects in demanding games with this graphics card.
Read our AMD Radeon RX 7600 review.
What is VRAM?
VRAM is an acronym for ‘video random access memory’ and refers to the built-in memory used by graphics cards. Its purpose is to provide your GPU with a separate, high-speed pool of memory that it can use to store data.
The amount of VRAM your GPU has at its disposal, as well as its speed, directly influences its ability to produce stable frame rates, devoid of stutter. In recent years, the size of game textures has grown exponentially, making VRAM capacities all the more important.
Most graphics cards now come with at least 8GB of VRAM, but we’d recommend opting for 12GB as a minimum if you can afford it. Higher resolutions demand higher pools of VRAM, and we advise rocking 16GB for 1440p and 20GB for 4K.
What is ray tracing?
Ray tracing refers to the real-time tracing of light to produce more realistic and higher quality lighting effects than typical rasterized techniques. It has a number of use cases, including improved shadows, ambient occlusion, reflections, and global illumination.
The first ray tracing capable graphics cards arrived on the scene in 2018, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 20 series. AMD joined in on the fun with its Radeon RX 6000 series in 2020, with Intel following with its Arc discrete GPUs in 2022.
Toggling on ray tracing options greatly increases GPU load, however, and can have a dramatic impact on frame rates. As such, it’s typically wise to use them in conjunction with performance enhancing tools such as Nvidia DLSS, AMD FSR, or Intel XeSS.