If you use your computer for gaming or working with graphics, it must be equipped with a good graphics card made for specific tasks.
To find the best video card, you need to compare GPUs (graphics processing units), depending on whether you want to play the most demanding games with 4K and 8K resolution, create stunning graphics, develop AI, or mine cryptocurrency.
In this article, you’ll read about the latest top graphics cards in 2021 and see how the newest Nvidia cards differ from the latest AMD GPUs.
Today's new GPUs are capable of incredible things compared to previous-generation chips. Thanks to a big leap in performance and tough competition between Nvidia and AMD new graphics cards became more desirable than ever.
Since demand exceeds supply, it has been difficult to find some of the latest GPU models in stock lately. And now the prices are still higher than expected because of this and also because of the shipping costs rise and the trade war between the U.S. and China.
Now let’s take a closer look at the best GPUs and find out what makes them so attractive for gamers and professionals.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is the best Nvidia graphics card and the most powerful GPU today. The Founders Edition is very heavy (7.24 pounds / 3.284 kg.) and takes up 3 slots. So if you want to keep this monster inside your PC case, make sure there are enough space and a vertical GPU mount bracket for it.
There are, however, other brand configurations that are lighter.
Among the 30-series latest Nvidia graphics cards, the RTX 3090 is the newest and fastest. Although being only several percent faster than its younger brother RTX 3080, it has something that no other GPU can offer — playing games at 8K with ray tracing, not all ray-traced games can be played at 60FPS, though.
Taking this into account, the GeForce RTX 3090 can be called the best gaming video card. On the other hand, today there are not so many ray-traced games and gamers who consider this beast to be the best cost-effective graphics card. And for most of them, playing at 4K is more than enough.
Maybe in the future, when neural networks replace standard algorithms, 8K will be crucial not only for graphics but also for computer’s “thinking”.
Also, to enjoy an 8K resolution, you need an 8K monitor. There is only one 8K monitor on the market today. However, you can simulate an 8K resolution on your regular monitor thanks to Nvidia’s Dynamic Super Resolution — the technology that renders a game at a higher resolution and transforms it to the resolution of your monitor, which is worth using for more details in games with a powerful GPU, at least the RTX 2060. However, you may notice visual artifacts in some games with DSR enabled sometimes.
That being said, the GA102 chip is definitely future-proof and perfect for creative professionals who value their time and are ready to invest in the best of new Nvidia cards because time is money. Shortening rendering time is crucial for video editors, 3D artists, and other professionals working with graphics.
The GeForce RTX 3090 with 24 GB of VRAM is based on the new Ampere architecture and GDDR6X technology that doubles the bandwidth up to 936 GB/s. Such a fast memory makes this card an excellent and less expensive alternative to the Titan RTX for creatives.
Nvidia uses a new push-pull fan system for its Founders Edition RTX 3090 and 3080 cards with a large heatsink. These massive power-hungry cards were not made for small cases. The RTX 3090 consumes up to 350W and demands a 750W or better 1000W power supply.
If you are not an 8K gaming pioneer or creative professional and would like to spend less money on a video card, consider the GeForce RTX 3080 — the best gaming graphics card for playing 4K games.
Even though this card was launched in September, it’s still extremely hard to get one since the demand from gamers and cryptocurrency miners is too high. Compared to the previous-gen RTX 2080 GPU, the performance of the RTX 3080 was dramatically improved, the price being approximately the same, which will probably lead to the rise in price in the future.
The GeForce RTX 3080 is also based on the Ampere architecture with the second-generation RT cores, twice more efficient than the first-generation RT cores. Compared to the previous Turing architecture, the number of CUDA cores was increased more than twice.
This card comes with 10 GB of GDDR6X memory, and 760 GB/s of bandwidth, a little less than the bandwidth of the RTX 3090. But from the point of view of the price-performance ratio, the RTX 3080 is a better choice, which is proved by the shortage of this model on the market.
Check the benchmarks of high-end GPUs to see the difference.
But if you play at a lower resolution, don’t buy a 4K graphics card. You won’t see the difference because of bottlenecks. Save your money for the GeForce RTX 3070 — a more affordable and newer equivalent of the RTX 2080 Ti and a more compact and power-efficient GPU (220W) than the RTX 3080 (320W). It’s the best value graphics card among Nvidia flagships that also supports 4K gaming.
AMD GPUs used to be less powerful than Nvidia chips, and with the advent of the Ampere architecture, the gap in performance between the GPUs of the two rivalrous companies could become even bigger. However, not only does AMD want to shorten the gap, it released the Big Navi chips with significantly improved performance, too.
The latest RDNA 2 architecture makes new AMD cards competitive with the latest Nvidia cards in 4K gaming. Not to mention that they are more affordable but hard to find in stock as well.
The Radeon RX 6900 XT is the best AMD GPU so far. Although the number of cores, VRAM, and bus width of the RTX 3090 are bigger than those specs of the RX 6900 XT, and Nvidia uses the new GDDR6X technology, while AMD prefers to stay with the GDDR6 type of memory for their best cards, the RX 6900 XT is still quite a competitor.
This is possible thanks to the Infinity Cache of whopping 128 GB that gives 1664 GB/s of effective bandwidth. The regular bandwidth is 512 GB/s, VRAM — 16 GB. As for the speed clocks, AMD’s Navi 21 XTX chip outperforms Nvidia’s best card on paper. In practice, however, you should check the benchmarks.
Unfortunately, AMD doesn’t have Nvidia’s DLSS (deep learning super sampling) technology that allows using ray tracing for 8K games. But you can play ray-traced games with Big Navi cards at 1440p resolution or 4K but with a frame rate lesser than 60FPS. Also, AMD is planning to release the FidelityFX Super Resolution technology, analogous to DLSS in the near future.
But comparing the performance of flagship GPUs for 4K games without ray tracing, the RX 6900 XT turns out to be faster than the RTX 3080 and can even beat the RTX 3090 in some games.
The RX 6900 XT is quite a large video card, the weight and dimensions vary, depending on the manufacturer, though.
It’s a little more power-efficient than Nvidia’s best flagship, consuming 340W unless you use Rage Mode for overclocking. In this case, the TDP will be higher. The card can be overclocked up to 2.5 GHz with the highest fan speed and lowest temperatures compared to other GPUs, which is pretty impressive.
But if you want a less power-hungry card with relatively the same performance and lower price, consider the Radeon RX 6800 XT — the cost-effective flagship AMD GPU, considering that the RX 6900 XT’s performance is only up to 7% higher.
Compared to the RTX 3080, AMD’s RX 6800 XT is only a little slower in general, but it can be faster in some cases. The only significant drawback in the Navi 21 chips now is the absence of the FidelityFX Super Resolution. Hopefully, the upcoming technology will take AMD’s ray tracing to the next level.
Due to raised import tariffs because of the U.S. vs. China trade war, raised shipping costs because of COVID-19, and crypto miners buying large amounts of GPUs, creating their shortage on the market, prices on PC components, especially on motherboards and GPUs became significantly higher. So now a budget GPU costs not $150 — $200 like it used to but around $500 — $600.
The only best budget graphics card under $500 with good performance now is the MSI GeForce GTX 1650 Gaming X 4G.
It is based on the previous-generation Turing architecture, but it doesn’t have Ray tracing and Tensor cores, which is normal for budget video cards and Full HD gaming. It comes with 896 CUDA cores and 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM.
The MSI GTX 1650 Gaming X is overclockable up to 1860 MHz. It is quiet, energy-efficient, consuming only 75W, and supports 8K thanks to DisplayPort 1.4 connectors.
So far it’s the best value GPU, which could also be called the best cheap graphics card in the past. Unfortunately, today’s video cards are not cheap anymore. The prices a relative, though. I hope you got a 200% salary raise, too. Or we can also wait for GPU prices to get lower someday in the future.