Looking for the best budget graphics card for your PC?
As technology perpetually improves, games become ever more realistic and complex. This drives the need for more powerful computers and more powerful components. But as software and games become more demanding, the price of your PC setup increases. And it can be difficult to keep up to date with the latest and greatest.
We all want to have an amazing gaming experience and unfortunately, the only way to do that is to ensure the frame rate of your system is optimal. Low frames per second (FPS) appear like your entire game behaving slowly but this is likely system lag caused by your graphics card.
If you have a more modest budget and are looking for the best cheap graphics card for your system, then read on to find out what exactly to look out for and how to get the best performance from it.
This article is aimed at gamers who have a budget of $150 to $300. We have reviewed a number of different cheap GPUs and have tested them against popular games to give you the average frame rates and an accurate performance review.
We also explain the different purposes of each gpu and have listed the pros and cons of each listed item. Check out our buyers guide at the bottom of this page if you would like to know more about the different parts to consider to ensure your gaming rig is up to standard.
If you’re also looking for more features to up the ante on your gameplay, check out our best budget CPU for gaming picks.
Features to Consider in Good Cheap Graphics Cards
Nvidia and AMD provide the best reference gaming cards on the market. Vendors like MS, Asus, gigabyte and so on sell both the reference design and custom designs which are often made for higher performance or equiped with better cooling systems.
There are a few things you have to know before you make your decision on what gaming card to purchase. Getting the best cheap graphics card (while still minding your wallet) can be a daunting task. So what you need to know is what to look out for in the graphics card.
This is the number on the graphics card, look at Nvidia GeForce GTX 780i, GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER, GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or the Radeon RX 580x. The GPUs have different model numbers to help identify them as each graphics card has a different purpose and processing power.
The Nvidia graphics cards have a distinction in their model numbers, with GT relegated to office work using a lower end GPU. Gaming machines perform at higher power, thus the GTX, which is a higher performance card.
Now let us break down the model number and what it means.
The 780Ti indicates the card’s generation. This is represented by the 7 in the sequence. 80 indicates the performance of the gaming machine. Usually, the level scales from 00, which is for the low-end cards and 80 for the strongest of cards.
Ti indicates more power or boost
Nvidia contains up to 20 series of cards that are not only the latest but designed for those with deep pockets. When it comes to AMD graphics cards, the number sequence contains four numbers.
Consider, for example, AMD HD5770.
5 shows that this is from the fifth generation, while 770 represents its overall performance. The naming system in AMD displays the model number in it, showing the level of performance first and the level of power it is on. The last digit in the sequence represents the number of clock speeds.
Consider this other example: J7 QQQ; R2 800X
The 8 shows that the model is from the 800 series.
AMD goes all the way up to Radeon RX 500X series.
Using the same working principle of flash disks, the more memory capacity for graphic processors, the better. Some people are content with a 2GB flash disk, but others will obtain a 4GB one for more storage.
In the processing of the latest developed games, display of special video effects, and correct distribution of color, cards with up to 8GB of memory are preferred.
System RAM holds game files and VRAM holds stuff like textures and other data for rendering games.
GPU Clock Speed
Basically, this is a measure of the speed of operation of the core. Fast GPUs operate at high speeds due to the high core number. Clock speed cant be relied upon to compare GPU’s with different architectures. Basically you can only use this to compare cards from the series of cards.
Memory Bandwidth and Memory Speed
Again this isn’t a reliable measure of how good a graphics card is. While you would be forgiven for thinking that more bandwidth and speed is better. As newer cards are more efficient they can often get more performance out of less bandwidth than older cards. similarly they can often get more performance out of the speed it runs at. This is only a reliable way of comparing cards in the same series.
Everything electrical heats up when in use. How much heat they lose is down to how efficient the design is. For most machines this doesn’t impact performance too much. But in the case of high performance GPU’s, its vital they do not overheat.
All GPU’s have something called thermal throttling, which basically means that if they sense they are getting too hot they will slow the card down. When this happens you get a much worse performance, so having the appropriate cooling system for your GPU is vitally important.
Most reference coolers are air coolers. They have a fan which pushes cold air through the components. Aftermarket coolers come in the form of both air cooling and water cooling. Water cooling is not only more efficient but removes the problem of recycling hot air throughout your build if you don’t have sufficient ventilation.
Best Graphics Cards Under $150
1.GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB GDDR6
Performance Score – 9889 | Value Score – 61.8 | Outputs – DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI
This is the best value for money GPU. The 1650 super was released at the end of 2019 and has quickly become the best value for money GPU on the market without question. Yes there are GPU’s which have more performance, you will see them on this list. But none provide the same value as this super compact high performance GPU. This makes it a great CPU for smaller systems as it will fit into almost all cases.
Using Nvidia ‘s turing architecture companies like ZOTAC, ASUS and GIGABYTE are managing to squeeze in 1280 CUDA cores on a small-sized PCB. Along with 4GB’s of Vram with a 128-bit memory bus. To put all this simply, this is a highly optimized video card that will perform great in the latest games at both 1080p and 1440p, VR and even do well editing videos.
This graphics card performs as well if not slightly better than the GTX 1060 3gb but costs around 100 less.
So if you’re looking for the cheapest of graphics cards, this is it.
2.Radeon RX 570 8gb GDDR5
Performance Score – 6967 | Value Score – 55.7 | Outputs – 3 DisplayPort, DL-DVI-D, HDMI
While Nvidia is seen as the higher performance choice for gamers, AMD is seen as the cheap option. While this has some truth to it, the AMD cards are almost equal in performance and offer a lot of value for money. This card was valued at around 400 dollars in 2018 and since newer models have came out, this card has decreased in price but remains a solid budget option.
First i would start by saying i would save up for the GTX 1650 Super if my main goal was gaming. Where the Radeon RX 570 excels is processing videos, editing and cryptocurrency mining. So if these things interest you then you might be better buying this. However this card doesn’t perform as well in games at 1440p and 4k but performs equally in 1080p gaming.
It could be considered the best cheap graphics card for 1080p gaming. If you want to play at 4k, keep on scrolling!
This card can support upto 6 screens simultaneously but is a high power consumption card. This card requires a 8-pin connection to a minimum of 500 watt PSU. Although it comes with 6 and 4 pin adapters so if you don’t have a 6 pin slot spare you should be fine.
3.GeForce GTX 1650 OC 4GB GDDR6
Performance Score – 7895 | Value Score – 52.6 | Outputs – DisplayPort, DL-DVI-D, HDMI
Here’s another one of those cheap GPUs that keeps getting bought up everywhere!
Similar to the top pick, the gtx 1650 is a great GPU. We have included this as the GTX 1650 super is perennially out of stock which speaks volumes to its quality. If you cant find anywhere selling the 1650 super then this is the card to go for.
For gaming performance this beats the older 1050 ti which was a leading card when it came out. For a tiny card this is some extreme performance and this is why it only requires a 300w PSU.
Is the 1650 OC for you? well if you are planning on gaming at 1080p or 1440p then its a great little budget card especially for smaller systems. But if you are building something for 4k gaming then stay away from this card and look at the cards in the under $300 section.
4.MSI R5604TPC RX560 4GT LP OC
Performance Score – x | Value Score – x | Outputs – x
This is the most competitive card from the 500 Series of AMD. It trumps all the RX 400s. It has simplified Asynchronous Shaders and an enhanced Geometry Engine, therefore, providing more power for all your favorite AAA titles. Being a low profile type of graphics card, you will save space and achieve installing in small PCs in its slot.
It comes with base, and boost speeds are 1196 MHz at maximum clock speeds. It also boasts of 16CUs in its uncut GPU. This cheap graphic card will reward you with ultra-high resolution since it can manage 4K resolution gifting you with crispier and sharper images. It has the ability of wireless control over an iOS or Android device.
In case of overheating, the temperature is regulated faster by passing the hot air through wide air slits resulting in a colder after-feel immediately.
5.ViewMax GeForce GT 730 2GB GDDR5
Performance Score – x | Value Score – x | Outputs – x
The ViewMax GeForce GT is one of the best cheap graphics cards on the market. Based on the Femi architecture, it contains 192 processor cores. It uses Nvidia adaptive Vsync technology that provides you with a quicker fps. It also has better tear-free video quality, more so if you include a few games.
This pocket-friendly cheap graphics card is also able to maintain low temperatures and a barely there level of noise. It comes with a dependable memory configuration setup.
6.Sapphire Radeon PULSE RX 550 $GB GDDR5
Performance Score – x | Value Score – x | Outputs – x
If you are looking for something suitable for your eSports games, then this is the ideal graphics card to go for at an affordable price. The machine boasts of higher resolution and frame rates with the next generation API features. Most importantly, this budget graphic card is very power efficient.
It also provides you extra features like instant replays, recording of videos and screenshot captures heavily reliant on the FreeSync monitor compatibility.
Unlike many similar products, this device has no glitches in its deliverance of images due to AMD’s FreeSync. It offers base clock speeds of up to1100 MHz and a boost clock of 1183 MHz, therefore, matching the criteria of eSports games.
It would be a nice addition to your gaming PC.
Best Cheap Graphics Card worth Under $300
In case you are looking for a better experience, you have to dig a little deeper into your pockets. The following is a list of 4 of the best performing graphics card worth $300.
7.RX 5600 XT 6GB GDDR6
Performance Score – 13009 | Value Score – 48.2 | Outputs – DisplayPort, DL-DVI-D, HDMI
For the sub $300 price point you are going to expect a great gaming experience and with the AMD 5600XT that’s exactly what you get. This was built to game in higher resolutions and VR. If you want to game on the highest settings no matter the game then this is the benchmark of GPU’s you should be looking. AMD released this card to be the best budget graphics card and people soon started to upgrade from their older GTX 1060’s.
This BPU does use a lot of power and uses a single 8 pin connector. We would recommend you only use this with a power supply of 500 watts +.
8.GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
Performance Score – 12802 | Value Score – 45.7 | Outputs – DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI
Sitting somewhere between the nvidia geforce 1060 and 2060 the 1660 tries to bridge the gap between the budget cards and the high end performance models that nvidia see as the flagship models. This sits itself in a prime position to be the best mid level gaming GPU.
It may not be that cheap but it is still cheap for a GPU that can provide this level of performance. I would still consider this to be on the list for the best cheap graphics card available.
You can expect to get around 10% more performance on 1080p games than the 1060 6GB models and as much as 25% extra performance when gaming at 1440p. And beats the 1070 by around 10% on most things. It achieves all this while keeping power consumption to a minimum beating both cards by about 10 watts.
9.MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5
It is easily one of the tiniest Nvidia creation. It will fit in a nice small compact unit. Regardless of its size, the EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5 Graphics Card is built around the Pascal architecture, and it boasts of a new chip: GP106. This brings its performance at par with that of more expensive GPUs without raising its temperature and power needs.
10.ASUS GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Dual-Fan
This cheap graphics card is best for those who have an ASUS laptop or computer. It is the GPU that goes easily with the ASUS X99-A II and Windows 10. It is a little pricier than the others, but its performance is ultimately the best as it is high-performance. I think with this one, it is worth every penny put into it. It has a base clock of 1569 MHz and a turbo clock of 1785 MHz.
It has varying modes on its panel with different clock speeds for every activity. The graphics card maintains power loss using the Super Power Alloy II, resulting in lower temperatures and higher speeds. It accommodates two HDMI ports that enable you to connect the VR headset and a display simultaneously. There is also the option of customizing the clock speeds to fit your preference and also the voltage you need. The cooling system is the wing-blade that works by improving static pressure by over 100%. This then makes it operate at three times a lower volume.
Importance Of The Graphics Cards
By now, you have gotten a grasp of the different types of graphics cards and how they interact with various core processors. What stands out is the correlation between the cooling systems and the performance. Nvidia and AMD have come up with custom made cooling systems that are embedded on every graphics card.
The goal of trying to regulate temperature also touches on the clarity and solidity of the frame rate in the computing experience. Low-end graphics cards have a better time with the regulation of temperatures, with most processors fitted with fans and wide slits that assist in dissipation. Ardent gamers will tell you that a high resolution and the best frame rates are what make for a great experience. They take into account a lot of factors, including the cooling system, because, as we saw, it plays a huge role in the gaming and computing experience.
It is imperative to keep up with the times and avoid using old gaming GPU. The newer versions will also help in the playing of modern games using a compatible GPU. Imagine you are fully engrossed in a game, only for it to pause and freeze awkwardly on the screen due to some malfunction.
It is also important to know what experience you want to be going for as there are those graphics cards that do not support VR or SI. The graphics cards also help in choosing which one to use for the low-end tasks and those to go for in case of high-end tasks. Minecraft, League of Legends, and DOTA 2 are able to use cheaper graphics cards.
Invest in a good monitor to assist in the workings of the graphics cards by easing pressure on their processing power. Those interested in playing games that need constant refreshing, get a model that will enable you to accomplish this with ease. In these cases, the monitor should be in good working condition. This also affects the resolution, so if you want a good 4K experience, a good monitor will go a long way in assisting you to achieve this.
Best Budget Graphics Card Buyers Guide
There are only two main manufacturers of graphics cards. These are Nvidia and AMD. Both of these offer the best range of graphics cards. There are a lot of different models that offer different features like ray tracing or have more memory bandwidth. As such, deciding on what graphics card you need is a lot more difficult than you would first think.
AMD vs. NVIDIA for Budget Gaming
The best cheap graphics card completely depends on your preference.
Some graphic cards can run at 60 fps, some burn through more energy, others have better technology that can offer things like ray tracing.
Without going into it too much, Nvidia seems to be better overall for gaming. However, AMD is very quickly catching up. Cards like the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT pack a punch.
I personally think the best budget GPUs are made by AMD. I run an AMD setup myself.
How / Can I upgrade my graphics card?
With new games being released all the time with fancier graphics you’ll likely find your good old trusty PC may start coming up short in the FPS department. FPS stands for frames per second. If you ever experience a low FPS it is not the game lagging, it’s actually your computer struggling to keep up.
There’s a good chance you don’t have to purchase a completely new system, instead, you could potentially update the graphics card and it will solve your problems!
However, do your research before you go out and purchase something like the GeForce gtx 1650 or invest into something like the GeForce RTX 2080 TI Graphics Card. You need to make sure your computers GPU can even be upgraded. To do this, you need to check your motherboard to see if it can fit your new GPU.
You also need to check the power requirements from your new GPU. Some gpus require as much power as the rest of the parts of your system combined. So make sure you have a sufficient power supply.
Purpose of the Graphics Cards
While similar to a CPU, gpus have some fundamental differences which make them better suited to gaming. GPU’s are much better at performing one task more efficiently rather than the CPU which can do many different tasks at once which allows you to multitask on your computer.
The job of the graphics card is simple, it’s to render graphics. This involves doing millions of similar calculations at the same time. These calculations decide on what changes on your picture and as you get more detailed graphics your GPU needs to do more calculations per second. If your GPU can’t keep up with these calculations then you end up losing frames. This is because it cant calculate quickly enough what is supposed to show up on your screen. It fixes this by skipping and moving onto the next one. This is why your GPU should always be running at least 60 fps when you are gaming.
Monitor’s Refresh Rate
If you are running games at 60 FPS then your monitor should ideally run at 60Hz refresh rate. If you plan on playing games at 120 FPS then you wont get any benefit if you don’t have a monitor which can run at 120Hz. For this reason some of the best gaming monitors have a refresh rate of 144Hz meaning it can make use of the best graphics cards on the market.
The fancier your GPU is the more FPS it offers. Everybody loves more frames! Have you ever seen a game stutter or seen any graphical lag when playing? This is likely down to out-of-sync rendering. Nvidia released a solution to this called V-sync which forces the GPU to run at the same frames as your monitors refresh rate.
How important is an SLI?
SLI and crossfire are essentially the same thing. Crossfire is for AMD while SLI is for Nvidia graphics cards. SLI stands for Scalable Link Interface. Both of these are just ways of connecting multiple graphics cards together. This means you can use two GPUs which will give you a very high performance. However having 2 cards is generally not as good as one higher performance cards.
Games in the past have not been designed to take advantage of multiple GPU’s but as with everything, this is improving fast! VR is a great example of where 2 GPU’s is incredible, each GPU can render each eye for VR and speeds this up alot.
The downside to this is that much more heat is generated in the interflops of the model, thereby causing the fans to operate at high speed and thus causing a lot of noise. This obstruction is invasive and uncomfortable. Check to see the cooling system on this and if your graphics card’s SLI or Crossfire compatible before you do anything with them.
The balance of powerful GPU to CPU is important. If you use a rubbish CPU and great GPU you will have a CPU bottlenecking performance. The same goes if you have a good set up but very little RAM.
Just dont spend 90% of your budget on one component. Instead, its better to make sure you have decent components all round. But i would still recommend the most expensive component in your set up is the graphics card
What is Ray Tracing?
Ray Tracing is a rendering method that has become very popular since 2018. It is probably one of the most significant upgrades for the game development industry in years. This method is an advanced way of rendering light and shadows.
Is 1080p gaming enough
Yes! 1080p gaming is still the standard. Esports gamers prefer this because of the response time offered on a 1080p monitor.
Does GPU affect FPS?
Yes, your choice of graphics card will affect the FPS of your game.
Do I need a high end graphics card For Modern Games
It honestly depends. Some games are more strenuous on your system than others. Below is a nice graph that shows the minimum requirements for some popular games.
Games like Fortnite, Overwatch and Call of Duty Warzone all have different requirements.
Luckily for you, we have created a focussed article on them all. Use the search bar above to find them.
Well, that was everything laid out to you about model numbers, boost clock speeds, 8 pin, memory limit, ray tracing, and all you need to know to make a purchase decision. I personally prefer AMD and have done for years. It’s because I’m a fan of AMD processors over intel. AMD works better for certain software like photoshop, which is why I tend to like AMD more.