You’re probably thinking that budget and graphics card don’t really go together at this time, especially when they’re hyper-inflated no matter where you shop. At the same, you’re probably thinking too that budget graphics cards are not up to par with the newer and more expensive cards.
Both assumptions are wrong because a budget GPU will limit you to pixelated and low resolution gameplay. It’s not even possible for a low budget graphics card to hinder you from playing some of the newest games too.
Today, we’re looking at the best budget graphics cards in the market, coming from different GPU generations. You’ll be looking at graphics cards that are best value and some a bit older but still really powerful than a lot of the newer cards.
Are These Refurbished Units on the List?
All the graphics cards you’re going to see here are brand new, and with their original MSRP considered (not the inflated pricing right now).
Any of the budget GPUs we list down here are capable of playing non demanding games at medium to high settings, and some of the future games at low to medium settings.
First on this list is probably the best value graphics card, simply because it’s an RTX 3000 series. The first of a handful of Nvidia Geforce graphics cards on this list is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, which was first announced back in CES 2022. The RTX 3050 is the company’s budget entry into the graphics card market, starting at $249.
The RTX 3050 was designed to undercut the company’s first entry level GPU, the RTX 3060. The latter was formerly priced at $329, so you’re looking at spending $80 to get a mid range graphics card that has excellent ray tracing performance and allows you to play some of the more recent games at ultra graphics settings. Its performance can be somewhat compared to the likes of its older brothers, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 and GeForce GTX 1050Ti. There are also gaming laptops in the market that run on the RTX 3050 as well.
The RTX 3050 runs on a graphics power of 130W, so Nvidia recommends getting at least a 550W PSU to run this GPU. This graphics card is definitely the choice of upgrade if you’re coming from the older 1600 series graphics cards. It’s also a solid pick if you’re going for a midrange PC build.
Coming in at a sub-$100 price tag is the Gigabyte GeForce GT 1030, and is probably the cheapest video card on this list. If you’re upgrading your old GPU from an old PC, or you want to build a gaming PC but on a restrictive budget, the GT 1030 is a solid choice.
It has a 2GB DDR5 integrated memory and while it may not let you play a few games that are graphically demanding at max settings or medium settings, it does a good job at letting you play some of the older games at medium to high settings.
The GT 1030 is an entry level GPU that may not work for most gamers out there, but if you’re tight on your cash and need a quick GPU upgrade to tide you over before the next Black Friday sale, then the GT 1030 is GeForce card for you.
Before the launch of the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT, AMD introduced the RX 6600 and presented it as the best 1080p option for gamers. The RX 6600 came out October 2021 and was marketed for most gamers who were used to playing games at 1080p but still need the high refresh rates.
If you wanted to get you hands on the best budget graphics card for 1080p gaming, look no further because the AMD Radeon RX 6600 is everything you need without making you shell out a ton of cash.
AMD Radeon brags that the RX 6600 can play demanding PC games such as AC Valhalla and Resident Evil: Village at 100FPS and at max settings. This is super impressive for a GPU that’s relatively affordable.
Like the RX 6500 XT and most of the AMD Radeon GPUs, the RX 6600 is available through partnered OEMs such as Gigabyte, ASRock, ASUS, and so on. The AMD Radeon RX 6600 comes in at a price tag of $329, which is slightly more expensive than the AMD Radeon RX 6500XT and is probably in line with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, but who’s complaining?
If you’re building a gaming PC, the AMD Radeon RX 6600 is the best choice out of the budget AMD graphics cards on this list if you can’t get your hands on an RTX 3050.
The second entry for AMD Radeon into the budget graphics cards is the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT and yes, it’s another GPU meant for gamers who want to play games at 1080p resolution. Considered as one of the best budget graphics cards, the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT blows out most of the midrange graphic cards and competes right along side the high end ones.
Being an AMD graphics card, it doesn’t have ray tracing and it’s about close to the $300 price tag. If you’re on a tight budget with a $300 ceiling, stretch it further by just getting the AMD Radeon RX 6600 instead.
But for what it’s worth, AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT is a solid choice still for cheap graphics cards and should be able to play the not-so demanding games at ultra or max settings (when available).
Going back to the Nvidia GPU, we have the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super and it comes in with a price tag of less than $200. While the RX 5500 XT clearly outperforms the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super and the RX 580 having more VRAM than the 1650 Super, you’re probably wondering why people should even consider buying this Nvidia card.
Well it’s still a powerhouse card. You’re looking at a 1755MHz base clock speed, dual fan configuration, and 4GB VRAM. Playing games and doing some video editing won’t be a problem for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super. When the price tag of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super comes down, this should make it even more enticing to consider buying and might even be a strong contender for best budget Nvidia graphics card.
Another addition to the AMD Radeon 6000 series is the AMD Radeon 6500 XT. This new AMD card joined the 6000 series back in January 2022 and was marketed as another budget offering (together with the 6600 XT). The AMD Radeon 6500 XT comes in at a $199 price tag, which is cheaper than the RTX 3050 Radeon 6600 XT by a $100 or so.
Specs-wise, we’re looking at 2,610MHz game frequency and with a boost frequency up to 2,815MHz. It’s a 4GB GDDR6 VRAM with 18Gbps and uses a 64-bit interface to offer more memory bandwidth by as much as 144GB/s. The AMD Radeon 6500 XT requires a 400W PSU to equip this on a new gaming PC.
For those on a tight budget, the gaming experience with a AMD Radeon 6500 XT compared with the RX 6600 XT and RTX 3050 may not be as impressive. You can still play games at ultra or max settings with the AMD Radeon 6500 XT, or at the very least for the older titles, Future games at ultra and max settings might be too much for the AMD Radeon 6500 XT.
All in all, when we’re talking about pure graphics card performance on a budget, the AMD Radeon 6500 XT packs a punch and might be one of the best cheap graphics cards out there. The boost clock speed isn’t as fast as the RTX 3050, and it lacks ray tracing cores, but the AMD Radeon 6500 XT is categorically good enough for PC gaming.
If you’re just looking for graphics cards under $200, the AMD Radeon 6500 XT is a solid pick out of the other AMD cards on this list. AMD’s reference designs are impressive and competes just as well with Nvidia cards that have ray tracing performance.
Considered as the cream of the crop for budget graphics cards, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super is right up there with the RTX 3050. It’s a competitive graphics card for gamers who want to game at 1080p resolution at high or max settings. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super sits at about $200 or so, but inflation might drive it up to $300 to $400.
Compared between the GTX 1660 and the GTX 1660Ti, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super sits comfortably right in the middle. It offers a significant increase in performance compared to the GeForce GTX 1660 and easily matches the GeForce 1660 Ti’s performance at $50 less. This makes the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super one of the best buys for cheap graphics cards that give you unmatched gaming performance without breaking bank.
Let’s look at the specs. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super comes in with a 1,530MHz base clock speed with a 1785MHz boost clock speed. Memory configuration sits at 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM, so on paper it beats the GeForce GTX 1650 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 altogether. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super draws in 130W of power and recommends you run with a 500W power supply unit to build a gaming PC with this graphics card.
So between the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super and the RTX 3050, which one’s a lot better? The newer models of the Nvidia RTX 3000 series come with Tensor and RT Cores (ray tracing cores) that will let you support ray-tracing and DLSS, but if you don’t really care about those, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super is the best bang for buck GPU for 1080p gaming, video editing, and multiple displays.
Its gaming performance alongside the RTX 3050, previous generation of 2000 series and 1600 series, and other AMD GPUs is marginal at best, meaning it’s not exactly better but it’s not also more underwhelming than the RTX series. But unfortunately, not every GeForce card on this list will be close to what its MSRP is. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super is one of those GPUs affected by hyper-inflation brought about by global shortage.
For those who don’t have $200 to purchase a GTX 1660 Super, the next pick is the AMD Radeon RX 580 Gaming Edition. The RX 580 has been around for years but the gaming experience guaranteed by this card is still at par with the other graphics cards on here.
The AMD Radeon RX 580 Gaming Edition comes with 8GB VRAM and requires a 500W PSU to run it. It also has the WINDFORCE 2X Cooling System that’s also equipped on the RX 5500 XT. While it’s a previous generation AMD GPU, don’t underestimate it. The AMD Radeon RX 580 Gaming Edition has always been one of the go-to budget graphics cards, even today.
It may not match the RX 5500 XT’s gaming performance, but it doesn’t lag behind as well because it can dish out 1080p gaming without any problem. . If you want to save money on buying a cheap graphics card, the AMD Radeon RX 580 Gaming Edition is a solid choice.
This is probably the best graphics card that’s right around the $150 price point. The XFX Radeon RX 570 may be the last on this list, but definitely not the least performing graphics card. It’s a bit underperforming compared to the RX 5500 XT and RX 580, but the XFX Radeon RX 570 is a beast of a GPU still that it runs games on a 1080p monitor without breaking a sweat.
The XFX Radeon RX 570 has 4GB of VRAM with 1264MHz, so it’s a powerhouse when you’re not nitpicky about the specs. It’s not nearly as impressive as the other graphic cards on here, but it’s a powerhouse nonetheless.
Frequently Asked Questions About Budget Graphics Card
Should You Consider Purchasing Secondhand Graphics Cards?
When we’re talking about budget graphics cards, we weren’t exactly referring to buying secondhand GPUs, but going for this budget route isn’t exactly a bad idea either. Years from now, the RTX 3000 series and the RX 6000 series will become previous generation graphic cards to make way for the new ones. You’d probably be looking at the 12GB or 16GB GPUs that’s really expensive now, but fall right under the budget graphics card category in the future.
Picking up a used GPU might be a good idea, but you have some considerations to make. You have to make sure that the GPU hasn’t been abused as much, or hasn’t been overclocked (if it’s capable), or if it works as intended. Personal warranty on a used GPU can only go so far compared to purchasing a new unit with manufacturer warranty.
Another point of consideration is the price of the used graphics card. The discrepancy between buying a secondhand RTX 3060 and a brand new RTX 3050 might be significant, but will it be worth it to spend more on something that’s used with no added manufacturer protection?
It boils down to the amount of research you’ve done if you want to purchase a secondhand GPU. You also want to see it for yourself or if you’re not familiar with the hardware jargon, bring along a friend with you when you inspect the unit (when possible).
Brand new is still the best route for buying cheap graphics cards. The price you pay for used RTX 3060 will never come close to buying an RTX 3050 brand new and with manufacturer warranty.
Can You Buy a GPU Used For Cryptocurrency Mining?
This question would’ve probably tied in with purchasing a secondhand unit, but we feel this deserved a separate section. Since 2017, we all saw how GPU prices skyrocketed when scalpers left and right were buying GPUs. This instance created a price bubble for graphics cards and hyper-inflation became the new normal.
When the cryptocurrency bubble burst, the GPU market suddenly got a huge stockpile of secondhand units that were used for mining. These units were used 24/7 at full capacity for months, or even years. To put it simply, you were looking at video cards that were abused to the full extent of their technological capabilities.
This would be the equivalent of buying a car that’s been used for drag racing. The salesman might tell you the engine’s still running, but you’re not exactly sure how the other components are after all the driving.
Now, would it still be worth it to purchase a secondhand unit that was used for mining? Our instinct here would probably be to tell you NO because you’re not exactly sure how long the graphics card will last. Remember, these GPUs were running 24/7 with no break. The hardware and materials have deteriorated to the point where it just might die anytime soon.
At best, it’s a gamble to purchase a budget GPU used for cryptocurrency mining. You either hit it big with an affordable RTX 3000 series, or lose out on money when that RTX 3000 series bricks.
Why Are Graphics Cards So Expensive?
This is a blanket question but not every graphics card out there has been affected by hyper-inflation. The top-tier graphics cards, and some of the graphics cards on here like the GTX 1660 Super, were primarily the big targets for scalpers and miners alike.
Miners drove the price up to a point where MSRP was no longer being followed. At some point, a graphics card that cost $200 when they first released ended up increasing up to 200% in MSRP. For example, the GTX 1660 Super was about $200 or so and then if you go to Amazon, it’s right about $300 to $400 give or take.
Scalpers also contributed to the inflation of the GPU market when they hoarded the graphics cards and sell them for double or triple the MSRP. And with a global shortage for GPUs, basic economics dictated that there wasn’t enough supply for a strong demand.
To prevent this from happening again, manufacturers such as AMD and Nvidia have put certain technological limits on their GPUs to discourage miners from purchasing them. This in turn would lead to higher availability to the actual consumers these graphics cards were meant for.
What’s The Right Budget For a Graphics Card?
Ultimately, the better your graphics card is, the higher framerates you get for your games. Most of the graphics cards you see on this list can run most of the new games at medium to high settings. A few might even push that further to 1080p resolution gaming.
It will boil down to how much money you’re willing to spend on a graphics card that will meet your needs (both gaming and otherwise). If you want to consider a budget graphics card, an ideal price range would be between $150 and $300.
That’s a price range that allows you for more room for compromise without having to sacrifice performance for price. Playing games such as Rocket League or League of Legends will suffice with a GT 1030 or RX 550, and these cards cost about $80 to $150.
You also want to consider how powerful you want your graphics card to be if you’re restricted by budget. Sometimes, you’ll find a few gamers here and there who’ll think that paying $150 for a card that could run League of Legends at sub par quality is a waste.
The bottom line is this: if you just want a cheap upgrade to your old gaming rig, or you want to build a new gaming PC on a budget, any of the graphics cards listed here is more than capable of giving you excellent gaming performance. If you don’t mind the added features such as ray tracing and DLSS, then a graphics card from this list should do just fine.