Last Updated on July 1, 2020 by Scott Krager
Roughly 18-24 months ago, it was really hard to find a decent graphics card in a reasonable budget due to their overly-increased demand by the crypto-miners.
Since a graphics card is an essential part of any gaming/workstation PC, the expensive GPUs meant that building a PC on your own wasn’t that feasible back then.
Now that the hype regarding the cryptomining is pretty much over (hopefully, for good), the graphics cards’ prices are almost back to normal. And it also means that building a PC on your own is again a slightly cheaper option than getting a pre-built PC.
Best Budget Graphics Card 2020 Buying Guide
- ZOTAC GeForce GT 1030 2GB (Best Graphics Card Under 100)
- Sapphire Pulse RX 580 (Best Graphics Card Under 200)
- XFX RX 590 Fatboy
- Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super Evo OC
- Gigabyte GTX 1660 Ti Gaming OC (Best Budget Graphics Card 2020)
Compiling this list about budget graphics cards was not an easy task because of one simple thing: Different people have different criteria when they talk about budget graphics cards.
For some people, a $300 graphics card is a budget option, while for others only a sub-$150 GPU falls in that category.
This is the reason why we have included cards of different price sections in list. So that you can shortlist an option suited to your budget.
Best Budget Graphics Cards 2020
With that said, let’s start the actual roundup without any further ado.
ZOTAC GeForce GT 1030 2GB: Check Price On Amazon
Best Graphics Card Under 100
For years, Nvidia’s Pascal-based GTX 10-series graphics cards have been featured in any list related to graphics cards. Despite being old now, GPUs like GTX 1070 and 1080 are still popular among many PC builders.
But right now, we have their little sibling: GeForce GT 1030.
Unlike other cards in its series, it’s designed for entry-level builders with the price less than 100 bucks at the time of this roundup.
Thanks to its low profile, you can plug it into even the smallest of itx chassis. It also has active cooling but your build must have a good airflow in order to keep it at lower temperatures while running at higher speed.
At 30W, it’s one of the least power consuming GPUs out there, and will work even with the low-powered 300W PSUs. It has 384 shaders, and its 2 GB DDR5 VRAM is connected via a 64-bit memory interface. It can be overclocked as well, but we couldn’t see any significant performance gain with that.
When it comes to performance, this card does good with respect to its price. Most of the games we played with it (like Battlefield 4, GTA 5, Rocket League and Watch Dogs 2) went smooth as long we played them at low and medium settings @720p.
Most games actually performed well even in high settings but most (like Watch Dogs 2, Assassin’s Cred Origins, and PUBG) of them suffered.
In particular, we noted that while older games like GTA 5 can be played at medium settings, newer games like Wolfenstein 2 should only be played on low settings.
In terms of connectivity, DVI-D and HDMI-2.0b ports are there but DisplayPort is missing.
Overall, we’re pretty satisfied with Zotac GT 1030. It’s a really good bang for buck in its range, and can serve you well if you’re looking to build a cheap gaming PC (under 350-400 bucks, for example).
2 GB GDDR5
1227 MHz (Base), 1468 MHz (Boost)
1 DisplayPort, 1 HDMI port
Sapphire Pulse RX 580: Check Price On Amazon
Best Graphics Card Under 200
Sapphire is quite a big name when it comes to AMD graphics cards, and since AMD has doing a decent job in entry-level cards for the past two years, we decided to include the Sapphire Radeon Pulse RX 580 in our list.
Design wise, it’s similar to other nitro-series cards by Sapphire as well as Pulse RX 570. You get Dual-X cooling solutions with a black-colored perforated back shroud. There’s another silver/grey-colored aluminium backplate with pulse pattern in the middle.
Other features include black diamond chokes and precision fan control. These allow the RX 580 to hit its intended RPM speeds and shut down the fans completely when not under stress.
Despite being cheaper, this card has almost all of its bases covered: It’s factory overclocked, has 8 GB VRAM to play intensive AAA titles, and comes with Robust VRM cooling as well as AMD CrossFire and FreeSync technology.
For connectivity, it comes with 2 HDMI ports, 1 DVI port, and 2 DisplayPorts
Overall, this card performs very good. We managed to play 1080p games very efficiently with it. Thanks to its zero RPM mode, it’s really quiet and looks pretty good too.
You can try to go for 1440p, but would have to lower other settings.
Not bad for an under-$200 graphics card, right?
As a side bonus, this card works really well with hackintosh-based systems. So, in case you have any interest in that area, there is another incentive to have this card.
XFX RX 590 Fatboy: Check Price On Amazon
RX 590 Fatboy by XFX is based on the Polaris architecture by AMD.
Polaris architecture was first introduced by AMD with RX 480 in 2016. After this, they launched 500 series GPUs with an enhanced version of that Polaris chip. And in November 2018, they came up with an even further enhanced Polaris chip and gave us this RX 590 fatboy GPU.
The have somehow managed to take Polaris technology from 14nm to 12nm which allows higher clock speed when compared to its previous version and up-to 12% performance boost.
Like most other RX 590 models, this one features a dual-fan design. With 10.6 inches size, it’s longer than GTX 1060 founders edition, and generally larger than most other GPUs in its specs range.
Its large size also makes it extend even further than the next PCIe slot. But still, its not as fat as its name makes it look like, and is compatible with most of the PC chassis/motherboards you can find today.
Fatboy comes with five connectors: three DisplayPorts, one HDMI port, and one DVI-D port. It comes with a 3-year warranty and has an aluminium backplate which adds to the overall strength and heat dissipation.
Overall, its made from black plastic and has two 100mm fans (with a simple blade design) which stop when the card is idle or under little load.
It comes overclocked at 1580 MHz by default but has an OC+ rating which means there’s still some room for limited overclocking up to 1600 MHz mark. That being said, we didn’t found any significant difference between its overclocked and normal mode in our benchmarks.
In terms of performance, it managed to score better than GTX 1060/1070 founder edition cards but lower than Radeon Vega 64. In fact, it performed 15% better than GTX 1060 6 GB across all benchmarks as well as in actual games.
If I had to pick any one downside in this GPU, then it would be its 175W TDP. It means it would consume as much power as GTX 2060 super GPU, and also why you would need at least a 600W PSU to run this card.
At the time of its release, it was priced at more than 250 bucks, but now, more than a year after that, you can have it for $50 less than that.
All in all, it’s a decent GPU for first-time owners but doesn’t hold any significant boost over the RX 580.
That’s why there’s no point for you in upgrading to it if you already own an RX 580. Also, this card gets hotter as compared to many others under the same load, so you’ll have to do proper cable management and make sure that your PC has proper ventilation.
Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super Evo OC: Check Price On Amazon
Asus’ Geforce GTX 1660 Super Evo OC is the new addition in this roundup and wasn’t a part when we originally published it in October 2019. Biggest reason was that Nvidia 1660/1650 Super cards were released at the end of October and we wanted to check community’s reception to those GPUs before rushing for our opinion.
But now that two months have been passed and dust has been settled, we decided to give these cards a try and loved both of them (particularly 1660 Super).
At its base, Asus 1660 Super Evo OC comes with the stock GTX 1660 GPU – same CUDA cores, same clock speeds, same Turing architecture – but has a noticeable improvement in the form of the new 14Gbps GDDR6 memory which gives it almost 75% more memory bandwidth as compared to vanilla 1660 models (it even beats 12Gbps GDDR6 memory in GTX 1660 Ti models).
Since this card comes overclocked out of the box, it has 1,830 MHz clock speed during gaming instead of 1785 MHz speed on other GTX 1660 Super models. The good thing is that you can extend this boost clock further to 1860 MHz through Asus’ GPU Tweak II software and an OC mode.
Features wise, it comes with all the goodies you can expect in a GPU with a sub-200 price tag – metal backplate for extra strength and heat dissipation, “0 db fans” that don’t turn on until the GPU hit 55°C mark, and a tiny touch of RGB.
Its design has been borrowed somewhat from other high-end Asus’ cards. There’s a dual axial fan design and a larger heatsink, which makes it fat and occupy almost 3 of your PCIe slots (2.7 to be precise).
But despite of its girth, Super Evo OC is short which means you won’t have compatibility issues as far as the length is concerned. My only real issue here is that while there are 3 ports (1 DisplayPort 1,4, 1 HDMI 2.0b port, and 1 DVI-D port), I would’ve welcome more DisplayPorts.
In our testing, GTX 1660 Super Evo OC performed perfectly in 1080p and good in 1440p resolution. In games such as Division 2, Far cry:New Dawn, F1 2018, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, this card did 15% better than the Polaris architecture based XFX RX 590 and just slightly lower than Asus’ GTX 1660 Ti card.
Also, the power consumption and temperature were also significantly less than RX 590 but slightly higher than the GTX 1660 Ti partly due to the faster 14 Gbps GDDR6 memory.
In the end, I was just to conclude that this is the best sub-$200 GPU as of now. It costs just 40 bucks more than the XFX RX 590 Fatboy (our previous pick for this range) while giving significant performance gain and lower power consumption.
It’s not slim though, and has only 1 HDMI and 1 DisplayPort. But if these reasons aren’t deal-breaker for you (they shouldn’t be in this price range), here’s a good GPU option for your $500-$600 gaming PC build.
6 GB GDDR6
1830 MHz (default), 1860 MHz (OC Mode)
1 DisplayPort 1.4, 1 HDMI 2.0b, 1 DVI-D port
Gigabyte GTX 1660 Ti Gaming OC: Check Price On Amazon
Best Graphics Card Under 300
2019 was all going to be the year of RTX graphics cards.
Nvidia as well as average PC users were pretty excited about them, and for all the right reasons. These graphics card promised features like Ray tracing and DLSS, that can bring whole new level of graphics improvement in the games we play.
But when these graphics card actually came out, many people were slightly turned off by the their high prices (the cheapest one, RTX 2060, is priced at 350 bucks) as well as the fact that not many games can utilize those above-mentioned features as of now.
So, in order to fill the void left by those RTX 20-series GPUs, New GTX 16-series graphics cards were released. And here were reviewing the one of those cards: The GTX 1660 Ti Gaming OC by Gigabyte.
Design wise, it looks good without being not too elegant. Its shroud has a matte finish and covers most of the heatsink. There’s also a tiny amount of customizable RGB lighting on the Gigabyte Logo at the bottom side.
The most important feature of this card is probably its triple-fan Windforce 3X cooler. Those three 80mm fans are probably an overkill in this card, but keep the temperatures really down (65 C while gaming) which helps the card to run at higher speeds.
On the right side of that Logo, you’ll find an 8-pin GPU header. Since the chipset here is really power efficient, you won’t have any power issue with this connector even if you’re into overclocking.
At the backside of this card, you’ll see its two-slot design, along with single HDMI output, and three DisplayPort outputs. At last, there’s an integrated backplate. As I stated earlier, this card doesn’t get too hot, but that backplate is a welcome addition nonetheless.
In terms of performance, this card went beyond 60 FPS mark on both 1080p as well as 1440p settings. We tried to play games in those resolutions at High (and even Ultra) settings and they went smooth.
If I were to nitpick any downside here, then that would be limited RGB and a similar design to other Gigabyte GPUs. But those aren’t a big deal by any means. That is the reason why this is the best budget graphics card you can have right now.
Gigabyte’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Gaming OC 6G is built well. Its big heat sink and Windforce 3X thermal solution work in relative slow motion to keep the TU116 processor operating at low temperatures.
6 GB GDDR6
3 DisplayPorts 1.4, 1 HDMI 2.0b
Things To Look For In A Budget Graphics Card
So now that we’ve discussed the five most-suitable budget GPUs as of now, let’s discuss some of the general things you need to know before buying any card.
Since graphics cards are one of the more expensive PC components, you should consider your options carefully. The price you should reserve for your GPU essentially depends on the overall budget you’ve allocated for your PC.
If you’ve got $1000-$1200, then at least $300-$400 bucks should be separated for a graphics card like XFX RX 5700 XT THICC. On the other hand, if you’re a beginner and/or have a tight budget (let’s say 500 bucks), then a sub-$150 graphics card, such as MSI GTX 1650 Gaming X 4G, would be suitable for the PC you’ll build.
One important thing you need to know is that don’t go below $80-mark for a new graphics card no matter how little your budget is. These cards will not be beneficial for any PC gaming in 2020, even if you play your games in as low settings as possible.
Next thing you should note when looking for a graphics card is its VRAM, which is basically the RAM memory dedicated to be used by your graphics card only and it ranges from 1GB to 24GB nowadays.
To be honest, VRAM is closely related to the price because, more often than not, more expensive GPUs come with more VRAM. And while more VRAM doesn’t guarantee better performance, it allows the graphics card to handle more graphics at a single time.
As for which VRAM size you should go, it depends on your games and their individual settings. If you to play latest AAA titles at 1440p resolution, then you would need a least 8GB VRAM.
However, if you have some older games, and/or you’re interested in only 1080p/720p gaming at low/mid settings, then you can get the job done even with 4-6GB and 2-3GB VRAM graphics cards respectively. But don’t go below 2GB VRAM in any case. It’s simply not going to make the cut in 2020 PC gaming. You can check this article to know more about the VRAM.
Power supply also plays an important role in determining how a particular gpu will work in your system. Like all other components, different graphics card have different TDP (thermal design power) and different power consumption.
Usually, powerful graphics cards will consume more power and generate more heat, so you need to make sure that your PSU can handle this increased demand by calculating the TDP of all of your PC components, as well as your new graphics card.
If the calculated TDP is slightly lower than the wattage of your PSU, you’re good to go. But if that’s not the case, you’ll need to find a higher-wattage PSU as well.
Apart from this, you also need to make sure that your power supply has the power ports required by your new graphics card.
Size And I/O Connections
Apart from having different hardware inside (like VRAM), graphics cards can also be differentiated from each other due to their physical appearance – more specifically their lengths.
Although larger cards come with larger heatsinks (and more coolers), they don’t necessarily perform better than smaller graphics cards. As for the downsides, larger graphics cards occupy more than one PCIe slot (it’s actually their larger coolers that may block the nearby slots) which can be a problem if you have a smaller PC case and/or if you’re using more than one PCIe slot of your motherboard.
Also, heavier graphics cards tend to put more stress on the PCIe slot which can be a problem if your motherboard is flimsy.
This is the reason why you should always check check the specs-sheet of your motherboard and your chassis, before actually buying any GPU.
The last thing you should check out before going for any GPU is its I/O connectors. In order to do this, you’ll have to check out the I/O ports of your monitor as well as the I/O connectors of your GPU. If they’re compatible, you can proceed.