The Best Graphics Cards in 2018 for Any Budget
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Whether for gaming, cryptocurrency mining, or video editing, a graphics processing unit (GPU) is an excellent investment. However, prices are currently absurd for most midrange and high-end cards. For the majority of gamers, a top-tier graphics card isn’t required.

In short, most consumers should avoid buying high-end cards. You should only buy a stop-gap solution. That said, check out the best graphics cards in 2018 for any budget.

Finding a Budget GPU: Define Your Needs

Even within the overpriced GPU market, you still have needs. But what can you get that’s a reasonable price? What you’ll want for medium-graphics gaming differs from virtual reality (VR). And some uses are priced entirely out of the market, like 4K gaming. Therefore, until the cryptocurrency surge passes, most will need to content themselves with 1080p gaming, virtual reality, 4K streaming, and budget cryptocurrency mining.

2018 GPU uses:

  • 1080p gaming
  • Virtual reality
  • 4K streaming
  • Cryptocurrency mining

If you can wait, the first main decision is to pick between AMD and Nvidia cards.

AMD vs. Nvidia

In general, Nvidia offers better performance per watt while AMD focuses on value. Unfortunately, the cryptocurrency craze has spiked GPU prices for some mid and high-end cards such as the Nvidia GTX 1080 and AMD’s Vega. Because of unreasonable prices, we can’t recommend anything other than a temporary solution until the Bitcoin craze wears off (which may be soon). Thankfully, there are a lot of options out there. If you’re planning a new build, there’s even the option of going without a discrete card.

best graphics cards 2018

In 2018, AMD released the Ryzen architecture What Is So Good About the New AMD Ryzen? What Is So Good About the New AMD Ryzen? The AMD Ryzen just landed, and the world of CPUs just got interesting. What is the hype all about, and is it right for you? Read More combined with its state-of-the-art Vega GPU design Should You Buy AMD Vega Graphics Cards? 5 Better Alternatives Should You Buy AMD Vega Graphics Cards? 5 Better Alternatives Should you buy the AMD Vega high-end line of graphics processors? For a variety of reasons, Nvidia seems to have won this generation of discrete GPUs -- but not by much. Read More . They call this hybrid an Accelerated Processing Unit What Is An APU? [Technology Explained] What Is An APU? [Technology Explained] Read More (APU).

An APU differs What Is the Difference Between an APU, a CPU and a GPU? What Is the Difference Between an APU, a CPU and a GPU? Over the last five or more years, there have been a number of different terms swirling around to describe computer hardware. Some of those terms include but aren’t limited to APU, CPU, and GPU. But... Read More from both a CPU and a GPU. While an APU doesn’t quite deliver the performance gains of a dedicated GPU, it’s a solid upgrade over the average Intel iGPU. For several years, I used a laptop equipped with an AMD APU and it ran most modern games fairly well.

The Best Graphics Cards in 2018

You may notice that we’ve left out such options as the 1080 Ti, 1080, and the entirety of AMD’s Vega line. Why? It’s because they are priced completely out of range of reason. In the first quarter of 2018, the best options are all low and midrange cards. And even these bear the signs of price inflation.

The Most Expensive You Should Buy: GTX 1050 Ti

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini, 4GB GDDR5 DisplayPort 128-bit Gaming Graphic Card (ZT-P10510A-10L) ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini, 4GB GDDR5 DisplayPort 128-bit Gaming Graphic Card (ZT-P10510A-10L) Buy Now At Amazon $196.00

The Best Graphics Cards in 2018 for Any Budget - GTX 1050 Ti
Image Credit: CDW

The GTX 1050 Ti easily ranks as the best budget GPU available. Equipped with GDDR5, the 1050 Ti handles modern titles at 1080p with ease. It’s not suitable for 4K, or VR gaming with an HTC Vive. However, the GTX 1050 Ti, is VR-ready for the Oculus. As such, it’s a best-pick for budget gaming. Although, you’ll want to compare models as some GTX 1050 Ti cards are priced on par with the GTX 1060. With its balance of power and affordability, the GTX 1050 is an awesome alternative to AMD’s Vega GPU Should You Buy AMD Vega Graphics Cards? 5 Better Alternatives Should You Buy AMD Vega Graphics Cards? 5 Better Alternatives Should you buy the AMD Vega high-end line of graphics processors? For a variety of reasons, Nvidia seems to have won this generation of discrete GPUs -- but not by much. Read More lineup.

EVGA—one of the most reliable component brands—also occasionally sells open box and refurbished models with a full warranty at substantial discounts.

  • VR-capable (Oculus and Windows Mixed Reality)
  • 1080p gaming performance
  • GDDR5

Slightly Cheaper 1050 Alternative: RX 560

MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560 128-bit 2GB GDRR5 DirectX 12 VR Ready CFX Graphcis Card (RX 560 AERO ITX 2G OC) MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560 128-bit 2GB GDRR5 DirectX 12 VR Ready CFX Graphcis Card (RX 560 AERO ITX 2G OC) Buy Now At Amazon $166.41

The Best Graphics Cards in 2018 for any budget - RX 560
Image Credit: Amazon

As Tom’s Hardware raves, the AMD RX 560 is a budget-priced GPU with an amazing feature set. Onboard, AMD crammed in a higher clock and additional shaders. It’s faster than previous models and provides solid 1080p performance at medium-high detail. Power consumption and heat are reasonable, and it’s sub-$200. Still, the GTX 1050 trounces the AMD RX 560, albeit at a higher price. Moreover, be careful which AMD RX 560 you select. You’ll find two versions, one with 896 stream processors, another set that includes 1,024 stream processors.

  • Medium-high 1080p performance
  • Moderate power consumption
  • Decent heat management
  • Sub $200

Even Cheaper Alternative: RX 460

The Best Graphics Cards in 2018 for Any Budget - RX 460
Image Credit: Amazon

Trusted Reviews awarded the RX 460 four out of five stars in its review. With 2GB of DDR5, a 1220MHz boost clock, and 896 stream processors, the RX 460 is among the cheapest and best-performing GPUs. It’s also available in a 4GB configuration. In their benchmarks, the RX 460 performed similarly to the GTX 1050, usually slightly behind or in the case of select AAA titles such as Hitman, the RX 460 produced higher frames per second. As usual with AMD, you’ll see higher power consumption and worse heat management compared to the 1050, though it’s not unmanageable.

  • Medium 1080p performance
  • Moderate power consumption
  • Decent heat management
  • Sub $1

Cheapest Discrete GPU: Nvidia GT 1030

The Best Graphics Cards in 2018 for Any Budget - GT 1030
Image Credit: Newegg

Don’t expect 4K or VR gaming, or even superb mid-range 1080p gaming with the GT 1030. Nevertheless, the GT 1030 slides in under $100 and offers 4K video playback. It’s suitable for playing older video games and even some newer releases with lower system requirements at 1080p. Plus, this is a great card for cryptocurrency mining. Despite the fact that the GT 1030 doesn’t provide the same mining benefits as a GTX 1060, it’s nevertheless an inexpensive investment that can mine. Consider a GT 1030 for a home theater PC (HTPC) budget gaming build.

  • 4K video playback
  • Modest cryptocurrency mining
  • 1080p performance for older games

Best Value Option: Ryzen 5 2400G APU

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G Processor with Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics AMD Ryzen 5 2400G Processor with Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics Buy Now At Amazon $158.00

best graphics cards 2018

Depending on your needs, a Ryzen APU might offer the best bang for your buck. Beginning at around $100, these APUs for AM4 platform. The Ryzen 5 2400G includes four cores, eight threads, and 11 CUs with 3.9GHz max boost. Opting for the Ryzen 3, you’ll find four cores and four threads, with 8 CUs and a 3.7GHz maximum boost. With their super low pricing, these AMD Ryzen APUs are worthy considerations. Although the $170 Ryzen 5 2400G lacks the GPU power of similarly-priced cards, remember that it’s a CPU and an iGPU.

Benchmarks show that the Ryzen 5 2400G is competitive with the Nvidia GT 1030. When you factor in the cost of a GT 1030 combined with a Core-i3 processor, the Ryzen 5 comes out cheaper for roughly the same performance. That’s an amazing deal.

According to Anandtech’s benchmarks, you can certainly squeeze in some gaming, but don’t expect anything better than 1080p at medium-graphics settings. Like the GT 1030, AMD’s Ryzen APUs are suitable for playing older video games, 4K video playback, and HTPC use.

  • 4K video playback
  • Good for older video games
  • Ideal for HTPC use
  • Includes a CPU

The Best Budget GPUs in 2018

Ultimately, there are tons of GPUs available. However, prices may fluctuate because of increasing demand and lower availability, mostly related to cryptocurrency mining.

Despite this challenge, there are plenty of budget options available. If you don’t plan on gaming much, or mostly play older titles and casual games, consider an AMD Ryzen APU or a GT 1030. For 1080p gaming at medium graphics, check out the RX 460. A GTX 1050 Ti or RX 560 affords solid 1080p gaming at medium-high graphics.

Once you’ve selected your desired GPU, consider your other components such as the best parts for an Ethereum mining rig What's the Best Computer to Mine Ethereum? What's the Best Computer to Mine Ethereum? Like Bitcoin mining, Ethereum mining is growing in popularity. While devices such as FPGAs and ASICs are viable options, GPUs make fantastic cryptocurrency mining hardware options. Read More . Or learn how to properly benchmark How to Benchmark Your CPU and GPU Like a Pro How to Benchmark Your CPU and GPU Like a Pro Benchmarking allows users to gauge hardware performance, troubleshoot issues, and compare system setups. It's commonly used among gamers. We introduce you to the technical details and show you how the pros benchmark their systems. Read More your GPU and CPU.

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  1. Michael R Bernstein
    February 22, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Besides crypto currency mining, gaming, and video editing, there is another use for these GPUs: Machine Learning / Deep Learning. I would have liked to see this article cover that market segment as well.

  2. Coldfish01
    February 22, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Between 1080p and Virtual reality is something missing, like 1440p and/or @144hz