When it comes time to outfitting your PC to handle the latest and greatest in PC gaming, choosing the right upgrades for all of your components is important to avoid ‘bottlenecking’, or having a key component that is weaker than the rest of the system. For gaming purposes, your graphics card will do a lot of the heavy lifting, and whether you’re cranking the settings to max or trying to display on multiple screens, you want a graphics card that will work for whatever gaming goals you have.
This selection of graphics cards are tailored to meet practically any need, from the absolute top of the line to the more budget-minded customers out there. The goal is to be able to provide you with a lot of choices for the system you have and the games you want to play. Just keep in mind that, as important as your graphics card is, you need to ensure you have the proper power to support it. Getting a PSU with a lot of wattage to spare – 800 watts or more – is a great start to your PC upgrade process. If you’re already there, great. Now you can dig in.
The Top Dog – EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
Start here when you’re looking for the best of the best. Currently, NVIDIA holds court has the King of the graphics card marketplace, holding the GeForce GTX 980 Ti high as their scepter. Not only is this currently the most powerful video card on the market today, but the GTX 980 Ti is the ideal piece of equipment when you’re take your visuals to the next level.
The GTX 980 Ti has full 4K support, 6 GB of GDDR5 memory, and includes DVI-I, HDMI, and and three DisplayPort connections for multiple monitors. If you’re building a true gaming battle station, look no further than the EVGA model of the GTX 980 Ti. Not surprisingly, you will need a strong power supply – at least 600 watts – to ensure it gets full power. With an included backplate, on-board BIOS switch, and an advanced ACX 2.0+ cooling system, it will interface easily within your system and with existing components.
Bang for Your Buck – MSI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
If you’re looking to give your performance a serious kick but you want to shave nearly half of the cost off of your overall purchase, the GeForce GTX 970 comes close to the performance of the GTX 980 Ti without the severe hit to your wallet. While overall performance may be slightly reduced, many of the core features of the card are identical to its big brother: 4 GB of GDDR5 video memory, 4K support, and versatile display options. This card features dual DVI ports (DVI-I and DVI-D), HDMI, and DisplayPort so you can maximize the connection you want for the monitors you have.
Power consumption is also reduced while cooling technology is improved. This allows the GTX 970 to use less power, stay cooler, and operate quieter than many similar cards on the market. Suffice it to say, the GTX 970 is probably the most ideal choice for a high-end gaming system on this page, leaving room only for folks who want the absolute best of the best to go with the GTX 980 Ti.
Budget Conscious – AMD Radeon R9 380
There’s a fine line between getting the most for your money and trying to build an affordable gaming computer. While the GTX 970 definitely provides the best overall value for your dollar, it can still be a little out of reach for most gamers. Despite that, it’s important to know that your graphics card is a critical piece of the gaming puzzle, so you can’t go too far down the totem pole without taking a severe hit. That’s why the AMD Radeon R9 380 is an excellent option for gamers looking to stretch their money as they build out the rest of their system but still want a solid performer.
Coming in at a near-$200 price point, the R9 380 offers 4 GB GDDR5 RAM, DVI-D, DVI-I, HDMI, and DisplayPort ports, and will rock most popular PC games at “Ultra” settings without a problem. However, its important to note that this card is on the cusp of where the latest cards have already headed, so you may have issues pushing brand new PC games to their limits on this card. But with a mild amount of adjustment, even those games will run just fine – and look great – for a long time to come.
The Onboard Upgrade – NVIDIA GeForce GT 730
We understand that if you’re in dire need of a video card upgrade, a $200+ option may not be feasible. We also recognize that on-board video performance in the vast majority of PCs is sub-par, to say the least. Therefore, the EVGA GeForce GT 730 is a great “first step” toward truly building out your gaming PC and will help you close a potential bottleneck with your graphics card as you work on the entire setup.
With 2 GB of GDDR3 RAM and support for dual DVI-I or mini-HDMI connections, you can still connect multiple monitors to your system for other desktop purposes while getting optimal gaming performance on your main screen. This card can also operate on a 300w PSU, which means you don’t have to worry about that upgrade right away either. Most games should run in HD, though you may need to manage the overall settings to get smooth performance.
The Double Whammy – Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 Fury X in CrossFire
This is where the idea of ‘budget-friendly’ goes right out the window. If you’re looking to really squeeze out the most optimal performance while having massive multi-display support, running two Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury X graphics cards in CrossFire mode will give you some major processing power. You’re going to need a LOT of case room, so don’t even bother with an upgrade like this if you aren’t rocking a full tower.
Each card packs 4 GB GDDR5 RAM alongside HDMI and multiple DisplayPort connections while also operating on a provided water cooling system. Like we said, this is very bulky, so make sure you have the space even after you install your CPU cooling system. It goes without saying that you’ll need a significant amount of power to handle this, but I bet you already knew that if you were entertaining a top-end AMD CrossFire setup.
The Stepping Stone – Gigabyte AMD Radeon R7 360
Odds are, you’ll upgrade your video card multiple times before you’re able to really take it to the next level. Consider the AMG Radeon R7 360 as your step up from your first upgrade. Maybe you don’t run the on-board graphics anymore, but you’re a little sick and tired of having to play your favorite games on low settings. This card clocks in at around $100, depending on when you buy it, and it gives you a little extra punch to get much smoother visuals and crisper graphics.
The key stats include 2 GB of GDDR5 RAM, two DVI ports, HDMI, and DisplayPort like you’ll find on most comparable cards. This will support multiple displays, but be mindful of your resolution. Also, power demands are minimal, so again a major upgrade here isn’t really required. However, you should probably have at least a 550-watt PSU at this point so you have some room to work with. Regardless, the R7 360 will work very well as you elevate your game.
Future Proofed – EVGA GeForce GTX TITAN X
Some upgrades aren’t just for today, but also for tomorrow. When you’re upgrading for the future, the GeForce GTX TITAN X is really all you need to worry about. This video card is not only built like a small bus, but priced like one, too. Okay, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but this card packs 12 GB of GDDR5 RAM, supports 4-way SLI, DVI-I, HDMI, and DisplayPort (x3). And 4K? 4K is a breeze.
The TITAN X carries an insane amount of memory, but runs surprisingly quiet and can crush anything you can throw at it. Like we said, this card is made for the future and built to be the sort of graphics card you’ll be forced to upgrade around.
As you can see, there’s a solution for practically anyone with any budget or any desire when it comes to pushing the limits of their machine. We evaluated these cards based off of the standard expectations of a modern PC gamer, considering games like Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and others. We know that every card won’t necessarily meet every need, so a safe bet is to choose a graphics card that is slightly above what you’re after, so that you have a little extra room to work with for other uses.
The last piece of advice that you may need is to differentiate between the various manufacturers of similar cards. While the recommendations and specifications listed directly speak to a specific manufacturer’s card – such as EVGA, MSI, or Gigabyte – we recognize you may find similar cards when shopping. The options provided here are generally mentioned as the top-tier in their specific categories, but prices can vary and a careful look at the spec sheet will tell you what you’re after. Just be sure to check product reviews for any specific manufacturer issues and keep an eye out for special promotions. But other than that, the recommended cards will meet and exceed your needs, without question.