The Best Graphics Card to own in 2022 (And Can You Get One)
The best graphics card deliver high fps even at 4K, but sometimes they’re simply the best on a budget.
The best graphics card isn’t easy to come by as demand soars and supply wains. Yet it’s not an impossible task—remember that. Know exactly what sort of price to performance you’re after. You may be able to find a powerful graphics card that’s worth your money in 2022. We have plenty of tips on how to buy a graphics card if you’re unsure where to start your hunt. Scroll on to see our recommendations from Nvidia and AMD’s latest line-ups.
The Rise and Fall
Covid-19 and cryptocurrency booms (among other things) have helped to stretch the GPU market to its limits. Enthusiasts still managed to test every new graphics card from the most recent generation. They have put each GPU through a gaming benchmark test bench wringer, with an in-depth analysis comparing thermal performance, power draw measurements with dedicated tools, along with average frequencies and frame times.
Finally, as we’ve noticed from the testing, the GPU market is getting competitive again. With the launch of the Radeon RX 6800 XT things got very interesting, leaving both Nvidia and AMD vying for the best GPU crown. Soon enough, Intel will drop in with its Arc Alchemist graphics card. That’s likely to make the GPU landscape a little more complicated.
Nvidia’s Ampere GPU generation has set the bar high for prospective contenders. The GeForce RTX 3080 and GeForce RTX 3070 are two of the best graphics cards to date, and AMD isn’t far behind with the Radeon RX 6800 XT—it rivals even the RTX 3080’s stellar graphical performance at the high end. So we’ll have to wait and see if there’s room for Intel’s contributions.
On the budget side, we’ve had some mid-range GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD, such as the RX 6600 XT and RTX 3060 12GB. However, the cheaper cards are awaiting release. Don’t fret, though, the upcoming launch of the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT should give you a chance to actually score these cards close to MSRP, though maybe not some third-party models.
The Best Graphics Cards
Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 (The best graphics card for PC gaming right now)
- CUDA cores: 8,704
- Base clock: 1,440 MHz
- Boost clock: 1,710 MHz
- TFLOPs: 29.76
- Memory: 10GB GDDR6X
- Clock: 19 GT/s
- Memory bandwidth: 760 GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
- Incredible gen-on-gen performance
- Makes the 2080 Ti look mid-range
- Ray tracing is no longer a sacrifice
REASONS TO AVOID
- Needs a beefy PSU
- In high demand
The Needle in the Haystack
Okay, right now, the RTX 3080 is rare as pigeon eyelashes, but there is no doubt Nvidia’s new RTX 3080 is the best graphics card today. It represents a huge generational performance boost over the previous RTX 20-series. That’s impressive when put up against either the RTX 2080 or 2080 Super, but when you consider that this nominally $699 card can not just match but massively outperform the $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, it really hits home.
The thing which really stands out from our testing is the difference it makes to ray-tracing performance. The first generation of ray tracing-capable cards required such a huge frame rate sacrifice that most people shied away from turning it on, but that’s no longer the case with this generation.
When you can now get ray-traced performance that exceeds the frame rates you’d get out of the top card of the RTX 20-series when running without it, you know that this is a whole different beast. And hey, the RTX 3080 can actually run Crysis.
Nvidia has managed this by adding a whole load more CUDA cores to the mix in this 8nm GPU and updated Tensor Cores (for extra DLSS goodness) and second-gen RT Cores to make with the ray-traced pretties.
The RTX 3080 may need a fair chunk more power—you’ll want at least an 850W PSU—and be tricky to get hold of, but this is the most desirable graphics card around today. Which I guess is also why it’s so tricky to get hold of.
AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT (AMD’s rDNA 2 architecture at its best)
- RDNA cores: 4,608
- Base clock: 1,825 MHz
- Boost clock: 2,250 MHz
- TFLOPs: 20.74
- Memory: 16 GB GDDR6
- Clock: 16 GT/s
- Memory bandwidth: 512 GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
- 4K excellence
- Cheaper than an RTX 3080
REASONS TO AVOID
- Moderate ray tracing performance
- Slower than the 3080 at 4K
AMD Has Entered The Chat
As a red team alternative to Nvidia’s high-end graphics cards, there have been few finer than the RX 6800 XT. A highly competitive card that comes so close to its rival, with a nominal performance differential to the RTX 3080, is truly an enthusiast card worth consideration for any PC gamer with 4K in their sights.
It’s a tough call between it and the RTX 3080, but the latter pips AMD to the post with the final touches à la RTX. The RX 6800 XT is $50 cheaper, delivers high 4K performance and a hefty VRAM increase over the RTX 3080. However, it’s easy to argue that an extra $50 dropped on the RTX 3080 is money well spent: a small price to pay for greater 4K performance, much-improved ray tracing, and DLSS. All are available today and with two years’ worth of developer support in the bank. That said, AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution is gaining momentum among developers and offers solid upscaling worth enabling in supported games.
Yet we’re still big fans of what AMD has managed to accomplish with the RX 6800 XT, a return to form for the Radeon Technology Group that injects some much-needed competition into the GPU market and offers a worthy red team alternative for any high-end gaming PC build.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (More affordable Ampere)
- CUDA cores: 4,864
- Base clock: 1,410 MHz
- Boost clock: 1,665 MHz
- TFLOPs: 16.20
- Memory: 8GB GDDR6
- Clock: 14 GT/s
- Memory bandwidth: 448 GB/s
REASONS TO BUY
- Finally! Something a little more affordable
- 2080 Super performance
- Under $400
REASONS TO AVOID
- Annoying 12-pin power connector
- Not quite good enough for 4K
A Bang for your Buck
The best value Ampere to date, the RTX 3060 Ti is very closely related to the RTX 3070. Both utilize the same GA104 GPU (the RTX 3060 Ti has fewer SMs enabled), with the same 8GB of GDDR6 memory across a 256-bit bus.
While 17% less capable in core count, the RTX 3060 Ti makes up for it with some judicious GPU Boost frequencies. That partially explains why the RTX 3060 Ti can be within 17% to just a single-digit off the pace of the RTX 3070, despite operating at a silicon disadvantage. Not bad for a $399 card (if you can find it for that price).
If you haven’t already done the maths: At $399, the RTX 3060 Ti is 20% cheaper than the RTX 3070, so performance per dollar is on the up with the diminutive graphics card. That’s why we love it so; it’s a great GPU for the full stack of resolutions and has decent ray tracing capability to boot, courtesy of second-generation RT Cores.
If the RTX 3080 or RTX 3070 seem out of reach, the RTX 3060 Ti certainly makes for a decent stand-in. Perhaps most impressive of this graphics card is how it stacks up to the 20-series generation: It topples the RTX 2080 Super in nearly every test.
How do I get a GPU in the graphics card shortage?
You could attempt to manually refresh every store page in the hopes of striking gold on the next restock; that’s one way to go about it. Or, you could sign up for a trusty app that goes about trawling major retailers for you. It’s not a bot that tries to snap up stock the wrong way; it just does the refreshing, so you don’t have to.
Similarly, you can find plenty of free Discord servers with dedicated stock alert bots and eagle-eyed community members, such as the popular StockDrops server.
And don’t forget Twitch streams. Those dedicated to finding your stock will often fire out a deafening klaxon the moment stock appears. We recommend checking out Falcodrin on Twitch for Nvidia GPUs, but there are plenty of kind souls out there offering a similar service.
Is there an easy way to get a new graphics card?
It’s not for everyone, but the best way to ensure you’ll receive a graphics card this year, and a modern one at something close to MSRP, is to buy a prebuilt gaming PC. It’s a worthy consideration if you’re considering a total rebuild at some point in the future, at least. System builders appear to enjoy a more stable supply of graphics cards, and while some still expect delays, you are at least guaranteed a PC with GPU in situ eventually.
Which is better GTX or RTX?
The older GTX prefix is now used to denote older Nvidia graphics cards that don’t have the extra AI and ray-tracing silicon that the RTX-level cards do. This RTX prefix was introduced three years ago with the RTX 20-series, and highlights which cards have GPUs which sport both the Tensor Cores and RT Cores necessary for real-time ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling.
Is ray tracing only for RTX cards?
The RTX prefix is only used to denote cards that house Nvidia GPUs with dedicated ray-tracing hardware, but they are still using the same DirectX Raytracing API Microsoft has created, which is used by AMD’s rDNA 2 GPUs. These AMD GPUs are able to support real-time ray tracing, though with a higher performance impact than on Nvidia’s GPUs.
Intel’s upcoming Xe-HPG GPUs, with the Alchemist graphics cards first to use them, will also support ray tracing using Microsoft’s DirectX Raytracing API when they launch early next year, too.
Is SLI or CrossFire still a thing?
If you’re looking for maximum performance, you used to run two cards in SLI or CrossFire. However, it’s become increasingly common for major games to ignore multi-GPU users completely. That includes all DXR games. There’s also the fact that fewer of the next-gen cards actually support the linking of two cards. On the Nvidia side, only the $1,500 RTX 3090 comes with NVLink connections, only for creative apps.
So, no. It’s not a thing.
Do I need a 4K capable graphics card?
The obvious answer is: Only if you have a 4K gaming monitor. But there are other things to consider here, such as what kinds of games do you play? If frame rates are absolutely king for you, and you’re into ultra-competitive shooters, then you want to be aiming for super high fps figures. And, right now, you’re better placed to do that at either 1440p or 1080p resolutions.
That said, the more games, such as CoD: Warzone that incorporates DLSS, the more Nvidia cards will be capable of making a close approximation of 4K visuals on your 4K monitor, but at higher frame rates.
What’s a Founders Edition graphics card?
The Founders Edition cards are simply Nvidia’s in-house designs for its graphics cards, as opposed to those designed by its partners. These usually reference cards, meaning they run at stock clocks.
Briefly, for the RTX 20-series, Nvidia decided to offer Founders Editions with factory overclocks. These had made it a little difficult to compare cards, as Founders Edition cards give us a baseline for performance, but Nvidia has since returned to producing them as a reference again.