If you're looking for the best graphics card of 2021, we've got the guide for you: a carefully curated list of the very best graphics cards on the market for every kind of setup and every budget.
Whether you're interested in cutting-edge Nvidia and AMD cards with advanced ray tracing technology or a value-for-money budget card that'll deliver incredible bang for your buck, we've got a great selection of top pixel-pushers as well as all the information you need to find the perfect graphics card for your PC.
As you'll soon discover, there's more to picking the perfect graphics card than looking at its specs. There's also the issue of whether you can get one at all. A global shortage of GDDR6 graphics memory has been blamed for huge supply issues around Radeon RX and RTX cards, and it's been very hard to get Nvidia cards in particular in recent months. The good news is that the shortage is expected to end in early 2021 so keep coming back to see the deals we've found for Nvidia graphics cards that are actually in stock.
In this guide you'll discover graphics cards so powerful they make grown adults weep, and graphics cards that can make Cyberpunk 2077's Night City look utterly spectacular. Next-gen eye candy? Ray tracing? 4K, 8K and QHD? All here.
Whether you need the best graphics card for gaming, the best budget graphics card to the best graphics card combining power and value for money, this page means that finding it will be easier than finding an annoying bug in Cyberpunk.
The best graphics cards to buy in 2021
Credited with making 4K gaming affordable for the masses for the first time, the GeForce RTX 3060 is going to appeal to a whole host of people, even if it can't quite equal the performance levels of the 3080 or 3090 models above it. You get ray tracing and Nvidia's Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) technology, plus that graphical horsepower, all for a relatively reasonable fee.
Keep your eye on prices though, because with the RTX 3060 Ti below it and the RTX 3080 above it, this may not be the best Nvidia card for your gaming rig, depending on how much you're having to pay. While the RTX 3070 is undoubtedly a major jump over the generation that came before it, in terms of current-gen cards it's a more crowded field.
Everyone is going to be at a different point along the price vs performance graph when it comes to picking out a graphics card upgrade, but we think the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 is going to win a lot of fans even with some stiff competition. It could be the Ampere graphics card that suits your budget and your gaming requirements the best.
The GeForce RTX 3080 from Nvidia is quite simply a powerhouse of a graphics card, offering 4K, 60 fps next-gen gaming performance for your rig. It strikes a price vs performance balance between the RTX 3070 and the RTX 3090, and is the way to go if you want to be able to ramp up the graphical bells and whistles without completely clearing out your bank account (depending on the size of your bank account balance).
In fact the card is so popular that it's proving rather hard to get hold of at the time of writing. If you don't want to pay an inflated sum to a reseller – and we wouldn't recommend doing so – then you're going to have to be patient and committed in your pursuit of one, keeping a close eye on retailers and their stock levels.
Specs-wise you get a significant improvement over what the RTX 3070 can offer, so if you're able to pay the premium price (and find one in stock) then you get to enjoy those AAA games at the best resolutions and frame rates. As with all the newer Nvidia Ampere cards, you get ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) included to really make your games pop.
It might not be one of the newest graphics cards around any more, but the AMD Radeon RX 590 is certainly able to still pack a punch – it's one to weigh up if the prices on the top-level Nvidia and AMD cards are leaving you a little dizzy. More than specs, this is a card about improved thermals and efficiency, and it holds up very well against both Nvidia and other AMD cards at this particular price point.
Built on 12nm, you get 2,304 GPU cores, a top boost clock speed of 1,545MHz, and 8GB of (GDDR5) VRAM to power through your games with, making this undoubtedly one of the best value AMD graphics cards you can pick up right now.
While there's not a massive performance boost over the cards that came before the Radeon RX 590, there is a performance boost, and you're not going to be left disappointed by the frame rates you're getting out of this card (especially at the sort of prices it's now going for).
AMD graphics card technology, pushed to the absolute max: that's the story of the Radeon RX 6900 XT, which sets a new high bar for AMD graphics cards and ray tracing whilst looking the part as well (not that you'll be able to admire the card much if it's safely installed inside your PC).
While the cost of the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT versus the performance gains you get over the 6800 series might be too difficult to justify for a lot of gamers, if you're ready to get the best graphics performance that AMD has to offer and you have the budget to be able to back it up, then this is definitely worth a place on your shortlist of the best graphics cards on the market at the moment.
Keep an eye on the prices of the Radeon RX 6900 XT (the widgets on this page should help), as price drops will instantly make this a more appealing buy, as you would expect. This also functions as an excellent graphics card for creatives who have a serious amount of data in their workflow too.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is hardly the cheapest graphics card on the market, but it does give you the most affordable way into the GeForce 30 series – and yet it still performs to a level that's going to be more than enough for gamers that find they can do without the top-tier 4K and 8K resolutions available on the cards that are further up in the Nvidia Ampere range.
This card won't get you top-tier 4K performance in the very best games on the market at the moment, but it will bring with it very decent frame rates in even the most demanding games at 1080p, and you get the power of ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) acceleration. As long as you have a more modest display, this graphics card is going to do you proud.
If you're shopping at this price point, there's nothing really that competes with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti for the time being, even if the 8GB of on-board RAM is a little on the low side. It's the card that proves once and for all that you can get very decent performance from a graphics upgrade without spending too much.
Welcome back to the big leagues, AMD: the Radeon RX 6800 marks the tech giant's return to the high-end graphics market, where it's looking to compete head-to-head with Nvidia. Like the slightly more powerful (and expensive) XT variant, the AMD Radeon RX 6800 brings along with it some powerful 4K gaming chops.
There's plenty of video RAM to play around with here, as well as some specialised AMD tweaks that should make your gaming titles absolutely zip along. It might not get the absolute top scores in terms of benchmarks, but if you're looking to get some heavy duty frame rates on the best games without paying a heavy duty price, then this card is definitely worth a place on your shortlist.
Thanks to the impressive performance improvements ushered in with the arrival of the Big Navi (or Navi 21 or RDNA2) technology from AMD, you don't have to worry about performance being an issue with this card installed in your rig. There's decent overclocking performance here as well, if you're keen to push your card even further once it's installed.
If you've got very deep pockets and want GPU performance that's second to none, there's the GeForce RTX 3090 – nothing beats this powerhouse, which can push out stellar frame rates at resolutions up to 8K. There isn't a game on the market or a video editing project that will slow down the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090, it really is that powerful.
Something you definitely get with the RTX 3090 is future-proofing – we don't think this is going to be dethroned as the best GPU in Nvidia's line-up for quite some time yet. Thanks to its 24GB of VRAM and other parts of its configuration, it might actually be an even better graphics card for creatives than gamers, but whatever your use case scenario is, you're guaranteed to be blown away by the performance.
It is expensive, and it is going to be more power and performance than a lot of people need, so bear that in mind before splashing the cash on this one – you might be able to find better value for your particular setup further down the scale (it costs a lot more than the RTX 3080, but isn't massively more powerful). It's also a physically large graphics card, which is something else to consider.
Sitting between the 6800 and 6900 XT in terms of graphical prowess, the 6800 XT is therefore worth a look for anyone who wants to strike a certain balance between how much they spend and how high their frame rates get. In terms of the Nvidia series, this card is essentially up against the RTX 3070.
You get AMD's ray tracing implementation here, as you would expect, and solid performance across the board no matter what you're trying to put your card and your system through. It's been some time since AMD was competing right up at the top end of the market, but the RX 6800 XT shows that Nvidia does have something to worry about.
As always with graphics cards and the market at the moment, pricing and availability is key: while the RX 6800 XT offers a serious performance boost over previous generation AMD cards, there's less of a margin between it and the other Big Navi (RNDA2) cards in the AMD line-up, in either direction.
With unbelievable benchmark scores when it launched and a price point that sits very firmly at the affordable end of the market, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 remains a great graphics card choice. Retailing for much less than comparable high-end cards, the 5700 doesn't miss a beat, and at a 1440p resolution allows modern AAA games to be run at high if not max settings.
Indeed, the RX 5700's benchmark performance has been so strong that it has eclipsed most other mid-range GPUs, thanks in part thanks to an extra 2GB of VRAM. What is worth noting here, though, is that while the RX 5700 out-performs other models in terms of speed, it does not feature its real time ray tracing capabilities.
This lack of ray tracing aside, though, and there literally isn't anything to dislike about the AMD Radeon RX 5700 — and especially not its low price point. And, for that reason, we find it easy to recommend as one of the best mid-range graphics card picks for most people.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is without question near the top of the pile when it comes to the best graphics cards of 2021: it's one of the most powerful cards you can buy right now, with support for 4K resolutions at 60 fps, Nvidia's latest ray tracing technology, and just about all the extras you could ask for.
It's quite simply a powerhouse, with a size to match its performance. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti comes so highly recommended because of the improvements Nvidia has made with its Turing architecture, wringing every last drop of 4K performance out of this particular model. You get 11GB of GDDR6 VRAM, 4,352 CUDA cores and a boost clock of 1,635 MHz packed in here, with Nvidia's first ever self-implemented 90 MHz factory overclock reaping substantial benefits.
Its ray tracing abilities impress as well, allowing for gorgeous and immersive in-game lighting and reflection effects, which are generated in real time. It's a card that is design to assault 3DMark, as well as any game, no matter how graphically demanding. Prices remain high for this, but shop around.
Last year we recommended the GeForce RTX 2070 super as a great graphics card that won’t break your bank account – and this year the RTX 2080 Super takes its place. Or at least it would if we could find one. The Super is a good value and powerful graphics card, and as a result it’s subject to the same stock issues that currently affect other RTX cards. This is a card to keep a close eye on the deals pages for.
The 2080 Super has Nvidia’s Turing architecture and sits squarely between the RTX 2080 Ti and the RTX 2080. It’s essentially a faster 2080 with a lower price tag, which is no bad thing, and the speed increase is largely down to faster memory with more bandwidth. It’s roughly 10% faster than the 2070 Super.
The RTX 2080 isn’t dramatically different from its predecessor, but then it doesn’t need to be: these cards go out of stock as soon as they come into stock. It’s a great 4K card with stellar QHD performance and it delivers a lot of power for considerably less money than the RTX 2080 Ti.
Take a look at the AMD Radeon RX 570 8GB and it's not difficult to see why it's made it into our best graphics cards of 2021 list: you get very decent gaming performance for not all that much money, and this card epitomises why AMD is so often favoured by gamers looking for value for money.
Shopping in the mid-range part of the market does of course mean a few compromises in terms of power, but if you're content with 1080p gaming then the 2,048 stream processors, 1,244 MHz core clock boost speed, and 8GB of on-board memory will do you proud. Do some shopping around and you should be able to get an RX 570 card for a very decent price – you've got plenty of options to choose from.
The Polaris architecture isn't AMD's most recent or best-performing architecture any longer, but we reckon that this is still going to get you some very good frame rates in your favourite games, at a price level that's not going to feel like daylight robbery.
Graphics cards: extra information
Searching for the right graphics card often means trawling through specs and benchmarks for hours on end, as well as dealing with buckets of confusing jargon, but not only have we picked out the key graphics card models you need to know about in this guide, but we've also explained why they've been chosen.
In other words, we've done most of the hard work of choosing the best graphics card for you: you can simply get on with making the right choice for you and then benefiting from the higher frame rates, additional processing power and a far more immersive and spectacular gaming experience.
And, right now is a great time to be shopping for a graphics card deal. Major online GPU retailers like Amazon and Walmart have plenty of bargains on offer, while more specialist computer hardware stores like Newegg.com, Overclockers.co.uk and Scan.co.uk are slashing prices as new 2021 cards arrive. As such it really is a great time to pick up a new GPU.