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The Best Graphics Cards for 2021

 The Best Graphics Cards for 2021

Editors' Note: Graphics-card pricing has gone through the roof from mid-2020 and continuing into 2021, making card list prices a mere starting point for many GPU families and the shopping situation highly volatile. See the section on the current pricing and availability crunch ("The Elephant in the Room") at the end of this roundup. Also note: Our picks above are based (in ascending order) on your target gameplay resolution, with picks for the most appropriate Nvidia and AMD cards for each usage scenario (unless one is an unequivocal clear choice). We've factored in just a sampling of third-party cards here; many more fill out the market. You can take our recommendation of a single reference card in a given card class (such as the GeForce GTX 1660 Super, or the Radeon RX 5500 XT) as an endorsement of the GPU family as a whole.

If you're a PC gamer, or a content creator who lives and dies by the speed of your graphics-accelerated software, your video card is the engine that powers what you can do—or how lustily you can brag.

Our guide will help you sort through the best video-card options for your desktop PC, what you need to know to upgrade a system, and how to evaluate whether a particular card is a good buy. We'll also touch on some upcoming trends—they could affect which card you choose. After all, consumer video cards range from under $100 to well over $1,499 (and that's just MSRP...more on that later). It's easy to overpay or underbuy...but we won't let you do that.

The Best Graphics Card Deals This Week*
VisionTek Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB Graphics Card — $369.99 (List Price $549.99; Save $180)
PNY GeForce GTX 1660 6GB Graphics Card — $209.99 (List Price $280.99; Save $71)
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti XC Gaming Graphics Card — $1,275.09 (List Price $1,299; Save $23.91)
*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains

Who's Who in GPUs: AMD vs. Nvidia
First off, what does a graphics card do? And do you really need one?

If you're looking at any given prebuilt desktop PC on the market, unless it's a gaming-oriented machine, PC makers will de-emphasize the graphics card in favor of promoting CPU, RAM, or storage options. Indeed, sometimes that's for good reason; a low-cost PC may not have a graphics card at all, relying instead on the graphics-accelerated silicon built into its CPU (an "integrated graphics processor," commonly called an "IGP"). There's nothing inherently wrong with relying on an IGP—most business laptops, inexpensive consumer laptops, and budget-minded desktops have them—but if you're a gamer or a creator, the right graphics card is crucial.

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