Updated on August 14, 2022
The focus of this article is on single-GPU gaming systems at various pricing points. From $100 to $600, we search for GPUs for PC builders of all levels, from budget to high-end. In light of the recent flurry of game debuts, we’ve done comprehensive testing on the cards below. Battlefront, Fallout 4, AC Syndicate and Black Ops III are some of the games where these cards have been tried.
We spotted some of the top graphics cards of the year on sale for a big discount during Black Friday. The GTX 970, R9 380, and GTX 980 are just a few of the bargains that can be found below.
Other Recent Buyer’s Guides
Some of our other recent buyer’s guides include sale items through the holiday season, particularly Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check these out for additional buying assistance:
- Budget Gaming PC Build with i3-6100 & GTX 950 for $490
- Best Intel Motherboards for Gaming 2015 – Black Friday Edition
- Best Monitors for Gaming 2015 – Black Friday Guide for 1080, 1440, & 4K Displays
- Best Gaming CPUs 2015 – Black Friday Guide
|ASUS R7 370 2GB||($130 – $20 MIR)||$110|
|MSI GTX 950 2GB||($160 – $30 MIR)||$130|
|XFX R9 380 2GB||($173 – $30 MIR)||$143|
|(Alternative) MSI GTX 960 2GB||($205 – $25 instant – $30 MIR)||$150|
|EVGA GTX 970 4GB||($350 – $60 instant + Prime)||$290|
|ASUS R9 390X 8GB||($440 – $50 instant – $20 MIR)||$370|
|MSI GTX 980 4GB||($500 – $70 instant – $30 MIR)||$400|
|EVGA GTX 980 Ti 6GB||($680 – $50 instant – $20 MIR)||$600|
Recent Gaming Benchmarks for Graphics Cards
Before talking about each card independently, let’s scrub through some GPU benchmarks for the most recent games:
- Overwatch Benchmark – Best Video Card for Blizzard’s Team Shooter
- Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Video Card Benchmark – Big 2GB vs. 4GB Deltas
- Star Wars Battlefront Graphics Card Benchmark
- Fallout 4 PC Video Card Benchmark
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III GPU Benchmark
Best Black Friday Sale on an Ultra-Budget Graphics Card – R7 370 ($110)
ASUS’s 2GB version of the AMD R7 370 costs $110 if you want to get the most out of it. The R7 370 ($300) easily surpasses the GTX 750 Ti ($120) in the vast majority of games. In games like DOTA2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, you won’t be able to handle the R7 370’s performance, but it’s an excellent pick for those who prefer a more straightforward visual style such as CSGO or League of Legends.
In every way, this is a credit card for people on a tight budget. Upgrade to a higher capable gadget for $30 if you want to play games other than those on this list. The R7 370 is an excellent alternative in those situations where it’s not always viable to upgrade.
Best Black Friday Price on an Entry-Level GTX 950 ($130)
There were some concerns when the MSI GTX 950 2GB ($130) came out because it was priced below the then-$200 MSI GTX 960. Because of the maturation of the industry and the stability of AMD and nVidia products, the GTX 950 is now a reasonably-priced graphics card. When it’s on sale, like today’s post-MIR price of $130, that’s the case the majority of the time. Depending on the game, you’ll see performance gains of up to 10% above the 750 Ti, but it’ll cost you less than the R9 380 or GTX 960. It’s possible that the R9 380 ($142) is too expensive for you, but if you like nVidia’s lower power consumption and thermals, the GTX 950 is an excellent mid-step solution.
Best Black Friday Deal on an Entry-Level AMD Video Card
The XFX R9 380 2GB ($142) is an excellent graphics card. In GTA V, GRID: Autosport, and Metro: Last Light, the R9 380 surpasses the GTX 950 by an average of 20%. In general, the 380 has a tiny advantage over the GTX 960, although some games with more nVidia optimization (AC Syndicate, Witcher 3’s 1% & 0.1 percent lows) will favour the GTX 960 over the 380. When it comes to sustained framerates, the 960 has the edge (1% highs and 0.1 percent lows), but the R9 380 is capable of pushing high averages across the board.
Both the R9 380 and GTX 960 are available in 2GB and 4GB configurations, with the R9 380 2GB going for $142 right now. Most games use 4GB of RAM these days, especially those with high-quality textures, but even so, the majority of them can get by with just 2GB (to include Battlefront, BLOPS, and GTA).
If you don’t need AMD’s CUDA or nVidia capabilities, we recommend the $150 GTX 960 2GB, which has a better price-to-performance ratio. Our tested games can run at ‘high’ settings near 60FPS with these two cards, but those that are more demanding on the framebuffer will necessitate a drop in texture quality (due to limited VRAM capacity).
We’d recommend upgrading to the R9 380X 4GB ($230) at this point if you’re interested in 4GB versions of these cards. Our staff gave the 380X a thumbs up a few weeks ago.
Best All-Around Video Card at the Mid-Range: GTX 970 for $290
With the exception of higher resolutions or multi-monitor setups, the EVGA GTX 970 4GB ($290) remains one of the top all-around performance. The GTX 970 can handle 1440p in a number of the titles we tried (links above). The 970 is generally around $330-350, so getting it for $290 is a no-brainer on our list. At 1080p/ultra, the GTX 970 performs roughly 22% better than the R9 380X (40.6% better than the GTX 960 4GB) and about 4% worse than the GTX 980 in Fallout 4. While playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the GTX 970 is just 13% slower than the GTX 980 and 29% faster than the GTX 960 4GB & R9 380X in terms of performance.
With 1080p, the GTX 970 can play most games on our benchmark at “ultra” or “near-max” settings with a high degree of confidence. In our Battlefront benchmark, the GTX 970 achieved 68FPS at 1440/ultra on a 1440p display.
Moving to the High-End: R9 390X for $370, GTX 980 for $400, GTX 980 Ti for $600
As of right now, the R9 390X is in a weird place in the market, with an MSRP of $370 for 8GB of RAM. As a result of nVidia’s hardware optimizations, certain recent games, such AC Syndicate, actually play better on the GTX 970 than the more expensive GTX 980. That holds true in Fallout 4, where the GTX 970 outperforms the R9 390X by a slim margin (5.1 percent).
R9 390X has a lead in some games, but not in all of them. At 1080p, the R9 390X is just behind the GTX 980 (-5.8 percent) and equalises as the resolution increases. The R9 390X marginally (+3.6 percent) outperforms the GTX 980 in Metro: Last Light. In Shadow of Mordor, the 390X has a 1.2 percent advantage over the GTX 980 (at 1080p). Unfortunately, we can’t just advise you to “purchase this” because it’s dependent on the games you’ve played. The GTX 980 and GTX 970 are excellent graphics cards for games like The Witcher 3, AC Syndicate, and Fallout 4. In other games, the R9 390X is on par with, if not better than, the GTX 970 or GTX 980 in terms of performance.
A $400 MSI GTX 980 4GB is the next apparent choice for the list of sales. The MSI 980 retails for $450, but with rebates and other reductions, it can be had for $300 less than the SRP. This card, which originally cost $550, has dropped significantly in price with the debut of more expensive models (such as the 980 Ti and AMD’s Fury series). Any game can be played at full settings with 1080p on the GTX 980, with careful tuning. At 1440p, the card performs admirably, but falls short at 4K with higher settings. We’ve learned time and time again that 4K gaming on a larger scale is impossible without a multi-GPU configuration. Alternatively, a significant reduction in the impact of 4K resolution can be achieved through setting compromises.
At $600, the EVGA GTX 980 Ti 6GB is the most expensive. On the other hand, the $70 off SRP price on EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti ACX card isn’t quite as impressive as the other cards on sale. EVGA’s “Hybrid” liquid-cooled version of the 980 Ti has topped our rankings once again. If you set the setting to “high” instead of “ultra” on a 980 Ti, you can play all of these games at 4K. We always use this high-quality single card.
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All credit goes to Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke, who contributed the above details.