It sure has been a bumpy ride for the graphics card market over the last year and a half. We are still in the midst of a full-on global chip shortage that continues to hammer the market, and it seems like graphics cards are being hit hardest of all. If you’re after a new GPU then you’re going to be shouldering your way past scalpers and other prospective buyers to secure yours. But that means it’s more important than ever to know which one you’re after, so that when the chance arises you don’t hesitate to scoop up the card you need. That said, it’s important to mention: you should do your best to avoid paying over MSRP for a GPU. Right now things are crazy, but they’ll even out eventually. Retailers are getting limited stock from time to time and it might be a bumpy road but with some patience and persistence you can find the card you’re after at MSRP. So take a look below to figure out exactly which one is right for you.
Best for the absolute no-compromises build
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3090
Let’s be honest: very few people need this level of raw performance. What’s more is that very few systems can even handle this level of raw performance without creating a bottleneck. But hey, some of you out there absolutely demand the highest high-end that is on the market today and the MSI Gaming GeForce 3090 delivers on all fronts. From 4K HDR gaming to VR to multi-monitor setups this card will have you covered with its 1785 MHz boost clock and whopping 24 GB of GDDR6X memory.
It’s decked out with three DisplayPort 1.4a ports, one HDMI 2.1, and supports a maximum resolution of 7680×4320 (that’s 8k, for those keeping score at home). If you absolutely demand the best and have the wallet to back up that claim, then this is the card for you. It also comes equipped with support for Mystic Light for its built-in RGB so you don’t have to compromise on aesthetics either.
For the 1080p AMD gamer
ASRock Radeon 6700 XT Phantom
Let’s face it: for the most part, people are still using 1080p monitors. They still make up the majority of the PC gaming market and a lot of people swear that at regular monitor screen sizes they can’t tell the difference. The rest just flat out don’t want to have to shell out for a 4K-capable graphics card, and that’s fine. If you’re gaming at 1080p, or even at 1440p, then the Radeon 6700 XT Phantom will crush just about anything you throw at it. With 12 GB of GDDR6 memory, three DisplayPort 1.4 ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, and support for 8k desktop resolutions it’s definitely no slouch.
While you’ll be able to squeeze out a bit of 4K gaming with smart settings, this card shines at 1440p and below. So if you’re still one of those rocking a 1080p monitor then this card will absolutely be able to keep up with just about anything you throw at it. It even comes with RGB (complete with support for Polychrome SYNC) and clear fan fins to really show off your choice of RGB color schemes.
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For the 1080p Nvidia Gamer
MSI Ventus GeForce RTX 3060
For PC gamers, brand loyalty runs deep, and if you’re in the 1080p gaming arena and looking for an Nvidia card then look no further than the MSI Ventus GeForce RTX3060. With 8 GB GDDR6 memory, identical port options to its more powerful siblings, and a much more palatable MSRP this card will do a lot of work without skyrocketing your gaming PC price point into the stratosphere. MSI also boasts that its included TORX Fan 3.0 cooling fans provide 50 percent more air pressure when compared to normal fans. The 3060 may lag behind the 6700 XT a bit in performance, but it will still soundly crush just about any 1080p tasks you throw at it. Like all other MSI cards it also supports their Afterburner overclocking software suite so you can really squeeze every dollar out of this card.
For those on a truly tight budget
ASUS TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Super Overclocked Edition
Budget is a tricky subject when it comes to gaming. Even cheaper graphics cards are still going to cost you a good chunk of change, especially if you still want to get some real gaming done while staying within said budget. The ASUS TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Super might not be the newest or most powerful card out there, but at 1080p it’s still an admirable performer.
You’ll be giving up creature comforts such as DLSS and Ray Tracing, but what you’ll be gaining is a very capable card for those looking for high-quality no-frills gaming on a budget. With 6 GB GDDR6 memory and an overclocked 1845 MHz boost clock this card won’t be crushing out those 4K games, but it’ll still get you up and gaming at solid framerates in most titles at 1080p.
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For the water cooling enthusiast
GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 3080 OC Waterforce
If you’re a water-cooling fan then graphics cards can be a bit complicated. Getting a proper water block and attaching it to an existing card after removing the shroud is tricky and, honestly, a bit nerve-wracking. The Gigabyte GeForce RTX 3080 Waterforce comes with an RGB-laden water block pre-installed, 10 GB of GDDR6X memory, and enough gaming horsepower to admirably handle your 4K Ray Tracing enable games at adequate framerates. If you’ve gone for water cooling, and especially if you’ve gone for a custom loop setup, it’s a no-brainer. It also comes with a very respectable four year warranty to ensure that nothing goes wrong later on down the line.
When picking a graphics card the most important initial deciding factor should always be your preferred resolution and what minimum framerate is acceptable to you in your setup. If you’re gaming at 1080p then a top-notch 4k card is simply a waste of money, but at the same time if you’ve just upgraded to a 4K HDR monitor then you want a card that will keep up. Again, do remember that graphics cards really are just nuts right now. Paying over MSRP might seem like a good idea to get you the hardware you need today, but it’s worth waiting for the hardware you want to become available at a price that is reasonable. So get out there and start setting up some stock alerts for the card you’re after, and with some patience and some market recovery you’ll be up and gaming in no time.
For more hardware recommendations check out 2021’s Best Mouse for Gaming: 5 of the Best Gaming Mice and 2021’s 5 Best RGB Mousepads | The Best LED Mousepads on Pro Game Guides.