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If you want to edit video, mine cryptocurrency, or play video games, you need a graphics processing unit (GPU). The trouble is, there are a lot of GPUs on the market. Some cost a fortune, too. How do you discern how much to pay for a GPU that suits what you want to do?
In all honesty, most consumers don’t need to worry about the top-tier of GPUs. There are several fantastic GPUs that fit any budget. Here are the best budget GPUs of 2019.
How to Choose the Budget GPU for Your Needs
Before you hit the retailers, consider what you want from your GPU. Set reasonable expectations, depending on your budget. Most budget GPUs won’t manage 4K 60fps gaming. Some might manage VR gaming, but it is unlikely to hit the quality you need for a great experience, let alone to stave off nausea!
There are two distinct categories for budget GPUs:
- Budget: these are the lowest cost, most accessible entry-level GPUs.
- Mid-Tier: the mid-tier budget GPUs are slightly pricier, but you get more GPU for your money and therefore, better graphics experiences.
There’s another decision to make, too. Should you choose an AMD or an Nvidia GPU?
AMD vs. Nvidia: Who Makes the Best Budget GPUs?
It isn’t an easy question to answer. Well, not as easy as it once was. Long ago, AMD GPUs struggled to compete with Nvidia. These days, AMD GPUs give Nvidia GPUs stern competition.
In general, Nvidia offers better performance per watt, while AMD focuses on value. In truth, it depends on your budget. The best card, after all, is the one that you can afford.
In 2018, there were a lot of major GPUs released to the market. AMD delivered the long-awaited Ryzen CPUs, along with their Vega GPU design. They also released a series of hybrid units, called an Accelerated Processing Unit (APU).
An APU differs 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 integrated GPU.
The Best Budget Graphics Cards in 2019
You will note that options such as the Nvidia GTX 1080, the AMD Vega 64, and the extremely new Nvidia RTX 2xxx series aren’t on the list. Why? They’re spectacularly out of the range of budget GPUs. Even as a new Nvidia GPU generation creeps in, high-tier GPUs still retail for around $500, if not more.
1. The Best GPU for Under $300: Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
The Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti 6GB is the newest addition to Nvidia’s GPU line-up. The 1660 Ti is so good that it jumps straight to the top of the list as the best budget GPU under $300. Now, I know some people will say “that’s not a budget GPU,” but it is one of the best value GPUs on the market.
The GTX 1660 Ti comes with 6GB GDDR6 memory and uses Nvidia’s latest Turing architecture. Although it uses the Turing architecture, Nvidia point out that the 1660 Ti doesn’t support ray tracing or Deep Learning Super Sampling. Furthermore, it is VR-ready and able, plus can support some 4K gaming.
The Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti is entering the GPU market to replace the GTX 1060 6GB. Benchmarking tests shows that the newer GTX 1660 Ti is around 30% more powerful than the GPU it is replacing. If your budget can stretch, the GTX 1660 Ti looks like a fantastic bit of kit.
AMD Equivalent: The RX 590 8GB is another sensational card and one that puts you in the 8GB GPU bracket. The release of the 1660 Ti is a direct attack on the RX 590, with many benchmark tests showing the Nvidia card with higher frame rates, even with 2GB less memory to draw on. Those results are down to the difference in GDDR5 to GDDR6, and the new Turing architecture. You might even see some extra discounting on the RX 590 to compete with the GTX 1660 Ti performance gains.
2. The Best GPU for Under $200: AMD RX 580 4GB
The tussle for the position of best budget GPU under $200 is close. Really close, even. The AMD RX 580 4GB just about wins it, however, after its retail price dropped by around $20-30. Even without the price difference, the RX 580 outperforms the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1060 3GB in almost all areas, too, regularly returning higher frame rate per second scores for top tier games.
The AMD RX 580 comes with 4GB GDDR5 RAM. You should manage some VR gaming, and some 1440p experiences, too.
Nvidia Equivalent: The GTX 1050 Ti is an excellent GPU that comes with GDDR5 and is VR-ready for the Oculus Rift (but not an HTC Vive or other VR options). However, the RX 580 offers better performance and is cheaper. It is a similar story for the GTX 1060 3GB.
3. The Best GPU for Under $150: AMD RX 560 4GB
The under $150 GPU category is also ridiculously close, with Nvidia and AMD both making strong cases. As with the other categories, recent changes in the top-end of the GPU market has made previously pricey GPUs much cheaper. Hence, the AMD RX 560 4GB finding its way into the under $150 bracket. Great news for consumers!
The AMD RX 560 packs in 4GB GDDR5 RAM (like the RX 580), but has a lower frequency and low clock speed. You will manage decent 1080p gaming, but you will struggle to get 1080p at 60fps in the latest games. Still, the 4GB card gives it a massive power boost versus its competitors in this budget bracket.
Nvidia Equivalent: In this bracket, you are looking at an Nvidia GTX 1050 2GB. The 2GB model doesn’t pack nearly as much punch as the 4GB RX 560, so there is a clear winner.
4. The Best GPU for Under $100: Nvidia GeForce GT 1030
Don’t expect 4K or VR gaming, or even superb mid-range 1080p gaming with the Nvidia GeForce 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. You could even consider a GT 1030 for a home theater PC (HTPC) or budget gaming build.
5. The Best Value GPU: Ryzen 5 2400G APU
Depending on your needs, a Ryzen APU might offer the best bang for your buck. The Ryzen 5 2400G APU includes four cores, eight threads, and 11 compute units with a 3.9GHz maximum boost.
Benchmarks show that the Ryzen 5 2400G is competitive with the GeForce GT 1030. It doesn’t sound like much. But if you consider the entire package—that’s a CPU/GPU combo—you’re looking at a fantastic deal.
What Is the Best Budget GPU in 2019?
The best budget GPU is the one that fits your budget. I know I’ve already said it, but it is true. The budget GPUs on this list represent some of the best budget GPU options available to you. You can see what your budget gets you, as well as what you might need to part with to jump to the next GPU level.
It also shows that you don’t need to spend a fortune to grab a powerful GPU. Did you just buy a new GPU? Then you may be interested in seven demanding PC games that’ll test the limits of your GPU.