The recent years have not been kind to gamers, or their wallets. The uptake in crypto mining, along with AMD’s and Nvidia’s inability to keep up with rising market demands, has left the GPU market dry for a long time.
Fortunately, supply issues and the prices are both starting to slowly stabilize, so 2022 might just be the year when we’ll finally be able to get our hands on some proper gaming GPUs without having to burn holes in our wallets.
So, what are the best gaming graphics cards that you can get right now?
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Best Budget Graphics Cards
In the first category, we have a few graphics cards that are going to be ideal for those who are working with a limited budget and cannot afford any of the more expensive models listed further down.
These budget-friendly graphics cards are ideal for 1080p gaming, though at this point, they can generally handle 1440p as well—depending on the game and the concessions you’re willing to make in the graphics settings menu, of course.
- Solid performance for the money
- Slim exterior design
- One of the more affordable cards at the moment
- Limited VRAM
- Not very future-proof
The first card we have lined up comes from AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 series—a collection of solid, if slightly overhyped, graphics cards that put “Team Red” back on the map in the GPU market. The RX 6500 XT that we’ll be looking at here is also the youngest member of the series as of the time of writing, having only been released in January 2022 and featuring a more refined 6nm RDNA2 architecture.
The particular model in question is the Speedster QICK 210 coming from XFX, a company known for efficient and reliable AMD graphics cards. So, does the “Speedster” live up to its name?
Well, while it is far from the fastest GPU on the market, this card easily keeps up with other RX 6500 XT models that feature similar-quality cooling, and can thus offer the average gamer all the performance that this GPU can muster.
As far as the design is concerned, XFX kept things simple, as they usually do. The card features a matte black shroud, complete with a sleek backplate to round things off—something you didn’t see in budget cards as recently as about two years back. There are no standout details, aggressive decals, or RGB lighting, but many people actually prefer it that way.
Performance-wise, the RX 6500 XT offers good value for the money, though it is roughly on par with Nvidia’s last-gen GTX 16 series budget models and lags behind the newer RTX 3050 (see below). However, with the more approachable price, the RX 6500 XT remains a worthwhile option, especially considering the current state of the GPU market.
However, with only 4 GB of VRAM and limited overall performance, it goes without saying that the RX 6500 XT is not exactly a viable long-term solution. So, unless you intend on sticking with 1080p or just need a temporary solution until the more powerful GPUs become more affordable, this card would probably not be a great investment.
- Good for 1080p gaming
- Decent 1440p performance
- Great value for the money
- Inflated price
- Large cooler
Up next, we have the RTX 3050. Much like the above GPU from AMD, this one is also quite new, having also been released in January 2022. With the release of the RTX 3050, Nvidia finally brought real-time ray tracing to budget GPUs, a feature that was lacking in their GTX 16-series budget offerings.
The specific model we picked comes from Gigabyte, and it is the solid RTX 3050 Gaming OC. In contrast to their pricier Aorus brand, Gigabyte cards in this range feature inconspicuous matte black exteriors with gray highlights, which is always a good option with cards that aim to deliver good value for the money.
With its triple-fan open-air cooler, it definitely doesn’t look like a budget card, though. And as you’d expect, the fans aren’t just for show—the Windforce cooler allows this Gigabyte card to fare better under heavy load and hit higher clock speeds than the reference card, and it is one of the faster RTX 3050 models currently on the market.
Overall, with its 8 GB of VRAM, the RTX 3050 fares better with regards to ray tracing and higher resolutions than its AMD competitor does, making it a much more appealing solution if you’re after a card with a bit more longevity or one that can more reliably take on 1440p.
The main downside, apart from the bulky triple-fan cooler that would make the card a tight fit for smaller cases, would be the price. While the $249 MSRP is pretty much perfect for the kind of performance that this GPU offers, the actual price has seen considerable inflation, much like most other GPUs.
Best Mid-Range Graphics Cards
As we get to the mid-range, we arrive at some of the more powerful solutions currently available. These graphics cards, while more expensive, are also generally capable of getting the most out of a 1440p display. On top of that, they are also more than capable of handling 4K, if you’re aiming that high.
- Solid 1440p gaming
- Excellent performance for the money
- 12 GB of VRAM
- Design is somewhat bland
- RTX 3060 Ti beats it under normal pricing
The first card in this category comes from none other than Zotac, a relatively young but well-reputed manufacturer of Nvidia cards. The card in question is the Zotac RTX 3060 Twin Edge OC, and simply put, it is everything that a mid-range graphics card should be in this day and age.
Looking at the performance, the RTX 3060 easily beats the RTX 3060 Ti pound-for-pound, the prices being what they are at the moment. One standout feature of the RTX 3060 is its substantial amount of video RAM—a whopping 12 GB, which is ahead of all other mid-range GPUs currently available. This gives it an important edge when it comes to running games in higher resolutions.
Now, this specific model features the standard Zotac look that users have become familiar with since the introduction of Turing—a simple gray exterior with a smooth shroud and a branded backplate, making for an effective, if somewhat bland design.
All things considered, this RTX 3060 offers quite good value for your money and it won’t have trouble running any but the more demanding AAA titles in 1440p at a stable 60 FPS. However, the RTX 3060 Ti does make for a better choice considering the performance-per-dollar in the context of the MSRP.
That said, while the RTX 3060 is the better deal at the moment, the RTX 3060 Ti will inevitably overtake it once the prices stabilize. If Nvidia doesn’t come out with something better by then, that is. In any case, if you’re looking for an effective and affordable card for 1440p gaming right now, then the RTX 3060 is a reliable pick.
- Good overall performance
- Efficient cooling
- Appealing design
- Underwhelming ray tracing performance
- Somewhat dubious value compared to RTX 3060 Ti
Up next, we have another AMD GPU, and it’s one of the stronger competitors among the more affordable mid-range GPUs right now: the RX 6600 XT.
For the most part, the RX 6600 XT is on even terms with the RTX 3060, as it is power-efficient and maintains great 1080p and 1440p performance across the board. It generally pulls slightly ahead of the competition, although the ray tracing performance is not spectacular compared to what Nvidia has to offer at the moment.
The particular model we picked out is made by none other than MSI, and it belongs to their well-known Gaming X product series. Not only does MSI step things up in terms of design with the high-quality backplate and shroud, but they also equipped this card with an excellent cooling solution. The dual Torx fans keep the card cool under load, allowing it to easily underperform reference cards and cheaper models.
All in all, there isn’t much more to say about the card that hasn’t already been said about the RTX 3060 above—prices being what they are, it offers good value, but it doesn’t hold up all that well compared to the beefier RTX 3060 Ti if we’re looking at the MSRP.
So, if you’re shopping for a mid-range GPU right now and don’t mind the limited performance the RX 6600 XT offers in the real-time ray tracing department, then it just might be the right card for you.
- Superb performance in 1440p
- Can handle 4K in most games
- Efficient and quiet cooling
- On the expensive side, especially now
- Bulky design
After the more affordable mid-range solution, it’s time to take a look at something more powerful: the superb RTX 3070 Ti.
Skirting the line between the upper mid-range and the true high-end GPUs, the RTX 3070 Ti represents something of a golden spot for most gaming PCs right now. It is ideal for 1440p gaming and can run all but the most demanding AAA titles at a stable 60 FPS in 4K.
As mentioned before, Zotac keeps the designs relatively simple, although the high-quality RGB seein in the RTX 3070 Ti AMP Holo definitely sets this card apart from the more affordable alternatives. Of course, the massive triple-fan cooler isn’t just for show, and it’s one of the better cooling solutions on the market, both when it comes to cooling efficiency and noise generation.
The main downside to the RTX 3070 Ti isn’t to do with the card itself but rather with the inflated price that effectively catapults it into what we’d normally consider the high-end rather than the upper mid-range when pricing is concerned.
Still, if you can afford it and can’t afford to wait any longer to put together a proper 1440p gaming rig, then the RTX 3070 Ti would be a great choice.
Best High-End Graphics Cards
And now, in the final category, we have the very best of the best. The high-end GPUs that we’ll be taking a look at here are the ones that can not only deliver unmatched performance in 1440p, but they are also the only ones capable of offering steady, high performance in 4K across the board.
- Excellent 4K performance
- Great overclocking performance
- One of the best coolers on the market
- Good performance-per-dollar
- Same design as cheaper MSI cards
- Lacking ray tracing performance
For the first entry in this category, we have AMD’s excellent RX 6900 XT — a return to form for the Red Team, who struggled to offer any worthwhile competition for Nvidia in this range for quite a long time.
Now, with the RX 6900 XT, AMD pretty much keeps up with the far more expensive solutions coming from Nvidia in terms of gaming performance. Complete with ray tracing support, this card makes short work of 1440p, and is capable of running even the latest, most demanding games at a stable 60 FPS in 4K.
With such a powerful GPU, you can bet that MSI didn’t cut any corners with the cooling solution. The triple-fan cooler you see in the RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio allows it to be not only the coolest but also one of the quietest cards around, at only 30 dBA under full load.
However, even though the RX 6900 XT holds up remarkably well against the similarly-priced (and the more expensive) Nvidia alternatives, RDNA2 still lags behind when it comes to ray tracing performance. The overall performance drop when ray tracing is turned on is much more noticeable with AMD, especially in 4K, as it can easily drop the framerate below the golden 60 FPS mark.
Apart from that, there’s still the matter of pricing. Though the $999 MSRP is quite solid for what the card offers, the price hike didn’t pass the RX 6900 XT. Even then, it’s not as bad as with some other models, and it’s still good value for the money.
- Great performance in 4K
- Excellent ray tracing performance
- Good amount of overclocking headroom
- Quality build
- Bland design for such a powerful GPU
- Dubious value compared to RX 6900 XT
And last but definitely not least, we have one of Nvidia’s flagship Ampere cards — the RTX 3080 Ti. This beast is easily the best gaming GPU you can get right now, barring the much more expensive RTX 3090 and RTX 3090 Ti that are geared more towards workstations than gaming.
On paper, the RTX 3080 Ti does seem to lag behind the RX 6900 XT in some respects, and AMD’s card does actually outperform the RTX 3080 Ti in a number of games. However, the Nvidia card easily overtakes the competition when ray tracing is turned on, especially in DLSS-supported games.
As for the specific model we picked out here, it comes from none other than EVGA, a company known for quality, reliability, and efficiency. All of those certainly hold true for the RTX 3080 Ti XC3 Ultra, as it comes with the kind of quality triple-fan cooling solution that excels both in terms of cooling efficiency and low noise generation, and it is capable of getting the most out of this powerful GPU.
With all that said, this is yet another card for those who are after higher resolutions, and it is definitely the best pick for anyone who wants to enjoy the full glory of real-time ray tracing in games that make good use of the feature, such as Control or Cyberpunk 2077.
However, with ray tracing out of the picture, the RX 6900 XT does offer slightly better value for the money. So, if you don’t much care about ray tracing or would always take extra performance over it, then the AMD card might be a more appealing pick.
In any case, the RTX 3080 Ti is a proper high-end GPU through and through, offering the most well-rounded feature set out of any gaming GPU currently available.
How To Pick The Best Graphics Card For Your Needs
Nvidia vs AMD
First, it was “Nvidia vs ATI,” and after AMD acquired ATI in 2006, it quickly became “Nvidia vs AMD.” This is a question with no clear answer, and in recent years, it has become more difficult to find an answer than ever before.
For a long time, Nvidia dominated the upper mid-range and the high-end while AMD could only ever manage to offer good competition in the lower price ranges. The situation is changing now, though, so how do Team Green and Team Red fare in 2022?
Well, AMD made a big comeback to the GPU scene with the release of their RX 5000-series GPUs in 2019, although they didn’t really catch up with Nvidia up until now.
With the latest RX 6000 models, AMD is offering solid competition across the board, from the more affordable entry-level solutions such as the RX 6500 XT to the highly impressive 4K-ready monster that is the RX 6900 XT.
That said, AMD and Nvidia are really neck and neck at the moment when it comes to both the raw performance and the pricing, although Nvidia does have one standout advantage over AMD still, and that would be real-time ray tracing.
Even though it’s impressive how quickly AMD caught up in this respect, too, Nvidia simply maintains a steady edge thanks to better-optimized ray tracing cores and the DLSS feature that can greatly boost performance in games that support it.
So, which of the two camps is “better” right now?
As mentioned above, there is no clear answer, and it really depends on the individual, their preferences, and the state of the market in regards to pricing and availability.
The two teams are pretty much tied in terms of performance in general, though the exact performance and value will inevitably vary from GPU to GPU. As such, for those who prioritize value or affordability, the answer will also vary.
However, for those who care about ray tracing in their games, Nvidia will still be a no-brainer, as their cards still have a considerable advantage in this respect.
On a final note, there’s no doubt that the situation will continue to change as the market stabilizes and the new GPUs roll out later this year. Though no specific release dates have been set, both the RX 7000 and the RTX 4000 models are set to roll out in Q4 2022, so it will be interesting to see how the two big players of the GPU world will try to even the odds for 2023.
Conclusion – The Best Graphics Card For 2022
With all that out of the way, it’s time to answer the titular question: which of these graphics cards is the best graphics card for gaming in 2022?
As always, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so we have picked out three, one for each category.
First off, for those who are on a budget, we believe the XFX RX 6500 XT would be the ideal choice right now. Though it’s not a spectacular GPU by any means and would be a tough sell compared to the better-performing RTX 3050 that’s only $50 more expensive if we look at the MSRP, the RX 6500 XT has been largely untouched by the price inflation. What this means is that it is in a very good position if affordability is your highest priority.
Meanwhile, those who can afford to spend more on a GPU but still care how their money is spent will definitely find that Zotac’s RTX 3060 offers the best value for the money right now. So long as you’re not aiming for 4K, this card will have you covered. Granted, it is on the lower end of the mid-range performance-wise, but once again, we had to take the current prices into consideration when making the selection.
Finally, if money isn’t really an issue and you just want the best, then MSI’s RX 6900 XT would be the ideal pick for you. As mentioned above, though, the RTX 3080 Ti is a close runner up and might be the better pick if you want to make use of ray tracing in games that support it.
And so, that would be our selection of the best gaming graphics cards available right now. The selection is a bit slim right now due to the current state of the market, so if you decide to hold off on investing in a new GPU, be sure to check back later for an updated and more expansive selection!
On a final note, if you’re looking to build an entire PC from scratch rather than just upgrading a GPU, be sure to check out some our PC builds, as we have a range of different configurations that can fit anyone’s needs and budget.