Best Budget Graphics Cards 2023
Today, we’re going to take a look at our top picks for the best budget graphics cards. With the release of the RTX 4070 and the falling prices of the AMD options, the sub-$300 market for GPUs has never been better.
As long as you’re willing to spend a little more than $100, you’re bound to get a graphics card that offers a strong 1080p gaming experience, and if you’re able to push your budget a little more, you can even start playing 1440p, VR, and 4K games!
Products at a Glance
How we picked the best budget graphics cards
If you want the best budget graphics cards, you’re in the right place. We’re going to walk you through your options in this price range and help you pick the best one for you. If you aren’t too familiar with graphics cards and PC gaming, don’t worry– we’ve also included a buying guide at the bottom of the article to help you understand key terms and the modern GPU hierarchy.
When looking for the best budget graphics cards, there are a number of different factors to take into account. Of course, there will be compromises but we believe that if you want the most of a budget graphics card, focusing on VRAM, cooling, and clock speed will provide top performance. That’s how we selected the cards in this list. Additionally, we’ve given out some awards for some of our picks, which should help you narrow down your selection if you have a specific trait in mind.
With all that out of the way, though…let’s look at our contenders for best budget GPU!
Best Budget Graphics Cards 2023
- Ray tracing and DLSS
- Great gaming performance
- Low temperatures
- High TDP
The RTX 3050 is a pretty impeccable deal, if one can accept the high TDP output. It’s marked as one of the best budget graphics cards due to its high performance despite a low price tag. Nvidia is known for its well-regarded cards, yet often high price points. With the 3050, it’s a different story.
The RTX 3050 features a base clock speed of 1552 MHz and a boost clock of up to 1777 MHz. It also has 20 ray tracing cores in tandem with 8GB of GDDR6 memory. It’s certainly no hot rod, but it does keep up with some of the best GPUs on the market, and 20 ray tracing cores means gaming will be considerably favorable on this card.
- AV1 encoding
- Ray tracing and resolution upscaling
- Bad driver support
Intel might be better known for its CPUs as opposed to GPUs, but last year’s edition of the Arc A750 lent credence to the prowess behind cheap cards. At just $250, the A750 is clearly one of the best budget graphics cards on the market, yet slightly lacks driver support. Intel is working on improving the driver problems plaguing the Arc platform, but even with these concerns the A750 is still quite palatable.
The flagship A770 is also a well-rounded card but is a bit more expensive. With the A750, you’ll get about 90% of the flagship card at a more affordable rate, leveraging 28 Xe core and 448 XMX engines, 8GB of DDR6 VRAM on a Xe HPG microarchitecture.
The driver problems may sway a lot of readers, but Intel is continuously stamping out issues and it’s hard to look past a relatively great platform for $250.
- Stellar 1080p performance, at solid 60FPS
- Low TDP
- Just over $300
- Can't hit 1440p
MSI’s Radeon RX 6600 XT is a well-rounded option that is only $311 currently. Like most options among the best budget graphics cards, the RX 6600 XT has 8GB of GDDR6 memory but also leverages 1845 MHz of GPU clock speed. This card is a gamer’s dream come, marketed at a budget price with some serious firepower.
The RX 6600 XT will net users some tantalizing 1080p performance, with relatively high FPS even on max settings. This card also has Radeon Super Resolution, allowing it even more drastic FPS increases, in tandem with AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution.
Luckily, it’s dropped in price and now proves to be the go-to option in stellar gaming performances on a budget.
- Superb overall value
- Superb 1080p performance, great 1440p/VR performance
- Slower VRAM limits card’s capabilities vs 1660 Ti
- No RTX features
The best overall budget GPU to buy today is the GTX 1660 Super.
Like the GTX 1660 before it, the GTX 1660 Super is Nvidia’s true budget GPU king. In benchmarks, this card beats the GTX 1660 and RX 580 8GB by quite a fair margin but doesn’t quite catch up to the GTX 1660 Ti. This means the card is perfectly equipped for modern AAA games at 1080p and maximum settings, as well as higher-end VR games and a number of games at 1440p and high settings. This card generally retails at about $240, too, which means it’s more expensive than the RX 580 but you’re getting much more overall performance.
The GTX 1660 soundly defeats the RX 580 in this price range. Without any reasonable doubt, it’s the best value offering that Nvidia has to offer, and it offers most of the 1660 Ti’s performance at a much better price point.
Unlike other Turing GPUs, though, this card does not offer Nvidia RTX features. At least, not with any semblance of good performance. Even at low settings, enabling ray-tracing in games like Metro Exodus or Battlefield V will drop your frame rates, which may be an intentional ploy by Nvidia to push sales of RTX 1660 Ti GPUs.
- Stellar 1080p, 1440p, and VR performance
- Decent value
- Poor ray-tracing performance, high price
While we’ve praised the GTX 1660 Super as the best value Nvidia GPU, the GTX 1660 Ti is a different story. This card is priced closer to $300 and doesn’t offer a proportionate boost in performance to either the RX 580 or the GTX 1660 Super. If you’re willing to spend just $50 or so more, you could get the RTX 2060 instead, which would serve as a much more powerful and future-proof GPU.
At that point, though, you’ll have spent over $300 on your GPU– not exactly “budget” by most standards– and if that jump isn’t enough for you, the GTX 1660 Ti may just be the right compromise for you.
The GTX 1660 Ti has great performance in 1440p and VR games. 1080p gaming isn’t even a question with this card, especially with the GDDR6 memory in tow. No question: you’ll be able to blast through modern games at 1440p with this GPU, and may even be able to push some as high as 1800p.
If your GPU budget has a hard limit at no higher than $300, then this is the best card for you. The Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti may not offer the best performance per dollar, but it is still the best graphics card under $300.
Things to consider when picking best budget graphics cards
GPU Size refers to two different measurements. There’s length, in exact millimeters, and width, measured in slots. Slots refer to both the PCI Express slots that a GPU is inserted into and the slots in the chassis, while length refers to how far into the case the graphics card extends.
Of these two measurements, GPU length is the one that is more likely to cause compatibility issues, especially in a Micro ATX or Mini ITX PC build. Width is really only ever a concern if you plan on installing additional expansion cards, which has become much less necessary with improvements in motherboard I/O and USB adoption.
In any case, be sure to check GPU clearance measurements against those provided by the case manufacturer in specs. You wouldn’t want to buy a massive graphics card that you find out doesn’t fit on the day you’re assembling your build!
VRAM refers to the memory used exclusively by your graphics card. This differs from standard memory, or RAM, used by the rest of your PC in a few key ways.
VRAM is mainly used for dealing with high resolutions, post-processing effects, and high-fidelity texture streaming. The more VRAM you have, the better your card will be at handling these things… as long as your card can keep up. The type of VRAM used can also be an influencing factor here.
VRAM types, from slowest to fastest:
- GDDR5 – Used by AMD Polaris and Nvidia Pascal GPUs.
- GDDR5X – Used by high-end Nvidia GPUs and low-end Turing GPUs.
- GDDR6 – Used by midrange and high-end Nvidia Turing GPUs.
- HBM2 – Used by AMD Vega cards and high-end Nvidia GPUs.
VRAM capacities and matching resolutions:
- 2GB – Suitable for 720p and 1080p in most scenarios.
- 4GB – Suitable for 1080p and 1440p in most scenarios.
- 6GB – Suitable for 1440p and VR in most scenarios. 4K needs GDDR6 or better.
- 8GB – Suitable for 1440p, VR, and 4K. The underlying GPU will need to be powerful enough to keep up, though.
In general, if you see two versions of the same card and one version has more VRAM go with that version. It’ll futureproof your system just a little bit more.
When we talk about how each GPU performs, we’ll be mainly referring to its resolution and FPS, or framerate. Below, we’ll provide some explanation for common figures.
Additionally, note that the FPS you can actually see is limited by your display. Most displays only display up to 60 Hz, or 60 FPS. The same applies to resolution, though this is measured the same by games and displays.
- 720p and 900p (HD) – HD resolutions, targeted by consoles and very low-end GPUs.
- 1080p (Full HD) – Full HD, and the minimum resolution targeted by the GPUs on this list. This is where the PS4 and Xbox One usually try to stay in games. Looks great on a TV, but just okay on a monitor.
- 1440p (Quad HD) – Common target for midrange PCs. Some PS4 Pro and Xbox One X titles upscale from this resolution to achieve 4K.
- 1800p (Quad HD+) – Common target for midrange to high-end PCs. PS4 Pro and Xbox One X also upscale from here. This is where most cards on this list cap out.
- 2160p (4K Ultra HD) – The dream for high-end PCs. PS4 Pro and Xbox One X will rarely if ever, achieve a true 4K resolution in their games. Only one card can sort-of play at this resolution.
- 30 FPS – Anything below this is considered unplayable. Not smooth, but not jittery either- just okay.
- 60 FPS – Smooth, and the smoothest that a 60 Hz refresh rate display can show. The ideal target in most scenarios.
- 100 FPS – Very smooth- a common compromise made by those with high refresh rate displays, who want smoother gameplay without totally sacrificing visuals.
- 120 FPS – Ultra smooth.
- 144 FPS and higher – As smooth at it gets.
In this section, we’re going to list a few common terms you might see tossed around in this article and in product reviews elsewhere.
- V-Sync – V-Sync is used to prevent screen tearing when a game’s framerate exceeds a display’s refresh rate. This comes at the penalty of performance loss and more input latency.
- G-Sync and FreeSync – An improved version of V-Sync, corresponding to Nvidia and AMD, respectively. Requires a compatible monitor to function properly.
- Upscaling – The practice of rendering at a lower resolution and upscaling to a higher one. This is used by the upgraded consoles to achieve a 4K image, and is an option in many PC games. However, an upscaled image will never look as a good as a true, “native” image.
- AA (Antialiasing) – Used to remove jagged edges from an image. Especially common and necessary at 1080p and lower resolutions, but becomes less of a hard requirement at higher resolutions.
- SLI, NVLink, and CrossFire – Multi-GPU technologies that have mostly fallen out of favor and support. The first two are Nvidia, the third is AMD. NVLink is the best of the three, but only supported by the highest-end Nvidia GPUs.
- Real-time ray-tracing – The big feature of the Nvidia RTX GPUs vs GTX GPUs. Looks great, but only supported by a few games. Should eventually come to AMD GPUs as well, but is a niche technology for now. (GTX 1060 and newer Nvidia GPUs now support this, but with horrific performance. Thanks, Nvidia!)
- DLSS – An Nvidia-exclusive technology used by RTX GPUs. A form of anti-aliasing fuelled by AI deep learning, allowing far better image quality in supported games.
What is the best GPU for $500
The RTX 3050 is one of the best budget options for $500, but it’s not the only one. If you’d prefer AMD, then the RX 6800 is also a pretty great buy. There are several third party GPU options that are stellar for $500.
Is the RTX 3060 a budget GPU?
Not necessarily, as the RTX 3060 is more so a middle of the road type of GPU, costing around $700, which most people could use to buy an entire PC build. There might be some third party 3060 options on the market that make it more budget-friendly, but for the most part the RTX 3060 is a more mid-range GPU.
IS RTX or GTX cheaper?
GTX cards, given that they are much older than Nvidia’s RTX line, more often than are less expensive. In fact, most GTX cards are some of the cheapest GPUs you can find on the market, but they are quite dated.
While we’ve selected a bunch of budget GPUs for this buying guide which are all stellar in their own right, we think that the best overall budget GPU has to be the GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1660 Super. This is due to the fact that this card will more than cope with today’s AAA titles at 1080p while also doing a reasonable job of supporting VR and 1440p. Usually coming in well under the $300 mark, it’s also pretty decent value too, especially considering it beats out the 570. Overall, with the 1660 Super, while it’s not the absolute cheapest GPU, it certainly backs up its slightly higher price point with the performance it churns out and well worth the money.