For the longest time, it has been near impossible to purchase graphics cards at fair market prices. A variety of factors like the global chip shortage, cryptocurrency mining, among others, has contributed towards this which ultimately led to scalping as the supply just couldn't cope with the demand.
When asked about the matter, the big three in the PC hardware space, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia, all agreed that by 2023, the market should return to normal conditions and GPUs should start becoming available around their MSRPs. And although we are still some distance away from 2023, the current pricing trend for most graphics cards is already indicating that we have entered that phase.
As such, seeing how gamers would probably be looking to cash in now, we have made a list of the best gaming graphics cards to buy across various categories. This is part one of the series of articles and in this we focus on Full HD or 1080p gaming at various refresh rates. Keep in mind that we are making the recommendations based on native resolution performance only and aren't taking into account upscaling features like FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) or Nvidia's DLSS. Also our choices are based on the highest raster settings in games, unless stated otherwise.
Best for 1080p 60-75Hz
We start off the list with the most common refresh rate for 1080p monitors. This is how the vast majority of gamers experience their games. People who buy stuff around these budget generally tend to hold on to their GPUs longer than enthusiasts. As such, our recommendation is one that will last a while without running into any sort of issues in the near future. So right off the bat we disqualify the Radeon RX 6500 XT which has several key handicaps, and go for its bigger sibling the Radeon RX 6600.
The RX 6600 is an 8GB graphics card that can play all games, including AAA, at the highest settings at 1080p as long as you are targetting 60-75fps. You can buy the Radeon RX 6600 at the links below. The deals vary between models so make sure to scroll all the way down.
Although the Radeon RX 6600 is our primary pick, the GeForce RTX 3050 is also another good option if the card is available at around the same price of the RX 6600. While the 6600 is undoubtedly the faster card in general raster and shading, the RTX 3050 is better in terms of ray-tracing. So if you are looking to crank up those DXR settings, the latter is probably the better bet. Links to buy below:
Best for 1080p high-refresh rate (120-180Hz)
Moving on to the next category, if you are someone who enjoys playing lighter, non-AAA titles on a high-refresh rate 1080p screen, our earlier recommendation, the RX 6600 is a great place to start. You can also consider the RX 6600 XT, which is about 10-15% faster than the non-XT model. However, if you plan on playing more demanding games, a beefier GPU must be summoned. And since more demanding AAA games also means more ray-tracing effects, you'd ideally want an Nvidia GPU for this.
Enter the GeForce RTX 3070 and 3070 Ti. Both of these graphics cards have 8GB of memory, which is plenty for 1080p gaming for years to come, even if you put on some 8K texture mods. The vanilla RTX 3070 is perfect for 1080p 120-144Hz gaming, and the 3070 Ti can take that up to 180Hz. Both these cards are priced quite similarly in the current market and either is a great choice depending on the monitor's frequency. Overall, the Ti has around a 3% lead over the vanilla 3070. You can find them at the links below:
Best for 1080p very-high refresh rates (240-360Hz)
Finally, we move into the super high refresh rate segment for monitors that feature frequencies 240Hz or more. Since this a premium segment, you also need the most powerful graphics cards to push such high frames.
Our first pick for this category is the GeForce RTX 3080 10GB. The 10GB RTX 3080 has got plenty VRAM for 1080p gaming and the card is quite capable in terms of both rasterization as well as ray-tracing. Overall, a great choice for driving 240Hz at the Full HD resolution.
For those that care a little less about raytracing but want a card that can push even higher frames in non-raytraced scenarios, the Radeon RX 6900 XT is a good alternative. That's because the RX 6900 XT is the fastest graphics card at 1080p in raster terms, beating also the more expensive RTX 3090. And the 6900 XT comes with 16GB VRAM which means you can even try some insane 16K texture packs on it.
Unfortunately, not even the RX 6900 XT can manage to play AAA titles near close to the 360Hz that some super-high refresh monitors feature. For that, you'll need to drop settings from the ultra preset (except textures) and pair the GPU with a powerful processor capable of pushing out such frames.
And there you have it, these are our picks for the best GPUs for 1080p gaming across the various available refresh rates. We have made our picks from both the Red and Green camps as both offer compelling options, for the most part, across their whole range of products.
In part two of this series, we will be moving on to 1440p or QHD gaming, a resolution that is slowly growing in adoption.
Do you agree with our choices here, or would you rather buy something else? Let us and other Neowin readers know in the comments below.
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