According to the Steam Hardware Survey, over 64 percent of all PC gamers run 1080p monitors. 1440p and 4K put together account for less than 7.5 percent of gamers. While this article is being typed out on an inarguably awesome 4K monitor, 1080p is still extremely important. In the here and now, and for at least the next couple years, the vast majority of gamers will need graphics cards that can power exceptional 1080p experiences, not necessarily 1440p or 4K. Without further ado, here are the best graphics cards for 1080p gaming.
Best Budget 1080p graphics card: MSI Radeon RX 5500 XT MECH 4G OC
Price: $159 (Link)
At $159, MSI’s Mech variant of the Radeon RX 5500 XT is easily not only the cheapest Navi 14 GPU but also the best budget 1080p graphics card. While the 4GB VRAM might turn some people off, we’ve done extensive testing that proves the 4GB buffer won’t be an issue. It consistently beats NVIDIA’s GTX 1650 Super by a fat margin, all the while costing less.
Best 1080p Graphics card Overall: EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Super
Price: $229 (Link)
When Nvidia launched the vanilla GTX 1660, it was a disappointing card all around. At $219, it cost more than an RX 580 but didn’t deliver meaningfully better performance, especially up against factory overclocked 580 variants. Worse still, 6 GB of VRAM meant that it wasn’t in a good spot with regards to future-proofing. In contrast, the GTX 1660 Super is an excellent midrange 1080p offering. It costs just $10 more than the vanilla GTX 1660.
Nvidia un-gimped the GTX 1660’s memory configuration by bringing back 14 GHz GDDR6 memory. This, together with the fact that the 1660 Super uses a nearly intact TU116 die means that performance is in spitting distance of the GTX 1660 Ti. This is a whole tier above the RX 580, RX 5500 XT, and their ilk. While the 6 GB of VRAM is still an area of concern in the long haul, the GTX 1660 Super guarantees high/ultra settings at 1080p for at least the next 1-2 years.
Best RTX Graphics Card for 1080p gaming: EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 KO Gaming
Price: $299 (Link)
AMD and Nvidia played a nice little game of cat and mouse with the RTX 2060 and RX 5600 XT. Team Red meant to launch the 5600 XT as a slower model that competed directly with GTX 1660 Ti, offering better performance for the same $279. Nvidia, however, slashed prices on the RTX 2060 at the last possible moment. EVGA’s RTX 2060 KO lineup used salvaged TU104’s stuck to a 1660 Ti PCB to bring pricing down to $299.
This changed the equation: the RTX 2060 was not only as much as 10 percent faster than the 5600 XT’s original configuration, but it also supported Nvidia’s RTX ray-tracing. For a $20 price premium, this made the RTX 2060 a no-brainer. That is until AMD decided to revise RX 5600 XT specs at the last moment. The “new” RX 5600 XT featured 14 GHz memory and a higher TDP. It beats the RTX 2060 in rasterized workloads and even took the fight to the RTX 2060 Super in some titles. It, of course, lacked RTX ray-tracing: for $20 less, you got better performance but no fancy RTX effects.
By default, that makes the RTX 2060 the best choice for a 1080p RTX card. The RTX 2060 delivers exceptional performance at 1080p in rasterized workloads. You’ll get in excess of 60 FPS in just about any title in existence. eSports titles like Overwatch will easily run in excess of 100 FPS. And it does, of course, feature RTX. With DLSS enabled and medium/high RTX settings, you should be able to get by with 1080p/60 FPS in titles like Metro Exodus.
Best Future-Proof 1080p graphics card: ASRock RX 5700 Challenger D
Price: $329 (Link)
When they arrived last year, AMD’s Navi 10 lineup would have shaken up the midrange market if it hadn’t been for Nvidia’s last-minute introduction of the RTX Super refreshes. This meant that the RX 5700 received a somewhat lukewarm reception at launch. It was a neither-here-nor-there card: the Radeon RX 5700 beat the RTX 2060 in most rasterized workloads while costing the same, but lacked RTX ray-tracing. Meanwhile, the $399 RTX 2070 Super cost just $50 more, while offering ray-tracing and superior raster performance. The situation has changed since last July.
The RTX 2060 Super prices have gone into the low $400s. Meanwhile, the RTX 2060 price-cut has seen that particular card retailing at $299. The RX 5700 prices have also trended downwards. This particular model, the Challenger D is priced at just $329. This is actually cheaper than some AIB RX 5600 XT models. You get a full 8 GB VRAM buffer as well as higher memory bandwidth, thanks to a 256-bit bus. The dual-fan cooling solution is a bit frugal. However, with tweaks to the voltage, power limit, and core clocks, you should easily get RX 5700 XT levels of performance out of this card. That actually makes the RX 5700 an excellent option for 1440p gaming in the here and now. This means, though, that it’s a very future-proof card for 1080p gaming.