The best graphics cards in 2018

Searching for the best graphics card? We can help. Whether you prefer the grunt power of Nvidia or the driver stability of AMD, in this list we’ve selected the very best graphics cards right now – for all budgets. 

First, we’ll explain a bit about graphics cards and what you need to know before you pick one. Already clued up? Jump straight to our ranking of the best graphics cards 2019.

Graphics cards (or GPUs) serve two roles in modern computers. In games, they accelerate 3D visuals with all their under-the-hood hardware power used to determine the frame rate and resolution for those visual effects, whizz-bang explosions and pyrotechnics we’ve come to expect in modern games.

For digital creatives, including graphic artists, designers, illustrators and 3D professionals, the same hardware can be harnessed in tools such Adobe Creative Suite (both Premiere and Photoshop), Blender, Maya and 3DS Max, to dramatically boost rendering times – at least in specific parts of the software, such as when applying certain plugins, filters and effects. A powerful graphics card can make a huge difference with some tools, and some effects can not even run on a CPU alone. 

It’s also worth noting that for each graphics card, there is a generic kind of reference model, which often isn’t for sale. Then each manufacturer (MSI, Asus, Gigabyte, and so on) will sell their own versions, which will all look slightly different.

Quadro vs GeForce vs Radeon vs Radeon Pro

Nvidia and AMD make two kinds of graphics cards that are roughly aimed at either gaming or design use. For Nvidia, you probably already know the GeForce gaming brand, while it’s the Quadro cards that are for professionals, and with AMD it’s Radeons for gaming and Radeon Pro for creative software. The catch is that the professional-grade cards cost a lot more.

If your livelihood depends on your design work, it’s the Radeon Pro and Quadro cards you should be looking at

For the higher pricing of Quadros and Radeon Pros, you get basically the same hardware specification found in much cheaper gaming cards. They’re the same underlying design, the same architecture, and similar specifications, but with a few crucial differences. Quadro and Radeon cards have certified drivers. That means they have been tested for compatibility with specific software, offer better performance with design software (in certain circumstances) and are (allegedly) less likely to run into issues. They have ECC memory for extra precision. And sometimes they run at lower clock speeds, meaning they have lower power requirements and less thermal demands.

These aren’t niche features. If your livelihood depends on your design work, you don’t care about gaming, and want absolute reliability, it’s the Radeon Pro and Quadro cards you should be looking at.

Another difference you’ll find is how the two classes of graphics cards are manufactured. With gaming cards, Nvidia and AMD produce and sell reference designs, but a long list of other manufacturers, including Asus, MSI, Zotac, EVGA and Sapphire, sell variations on the reference specification – with different cooling systems and faster clock speeds, but generally always the same core design. For Quadro cards, Nvidia works with a single manufacturer – PNY – to produce all its hardware.

Jump to: How to choose the best graphics card

Jargon buster

Look at any graphics card review and it will be full of three-letter acronyms that are used to illustrate the kind of software performance you can expect. But it can leave you wondering which of these figures matter in a modern graphics card.

The key specifications often quoted in reviews and by manufacturers are memory (capacity, bandwidth and speed) the number of cores (basically the guts of the hardware) and the card’s clock speed (in MHz). These specifications vary between GPU generations and across the various tiers, and the cores in Nvidia and AMD cards aren’t the same. Nvidia uses the term Cuda cores while AMD refer to its GCN cores. Performance between AMD and Nvidia absolutely can’t be compared by suggesting an AMD card has more or fewer cores than an Nvidia card.

Got all that? Now for our pick of the best graphics cards available now. 

The best graphics cards: Creative Bloq’s rankings

01. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080

The flagship graphics card

GPU Cores: 2,944 | Base Clock: 1,515MHz | Boost Clock: 1,710MHz | GFLOPS: 10,068 | Memory: 8GB GDDR6 | Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s

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