Best Cheap Graphics Card Under $200
Best bang-for-the-buck graphics cards
While many of us would love to own a GeForce GTX 1080, not all of us have $700 to spend on a video card. Many of you probably just want to purchase an affordable GPU that will play the most popular PC games at 1080p. To find the best bang-for-the-buck video card, we benchmarked four newer sub-$200 GPUs from AMD and Nvidia.
We reviewed EVGA’s Superclocked GTX 1050 Ti, MSI’s 2GB GTX 1050, XFX’s RX 470, and XFX’s RX 460. These cards retail between $110 and $200 and are designed to deliver medium-to-high 1080p experiences on the PC’s most popular games.
Table of Contents
EVGA GTX 1050 Ti SC
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 1050 Ti SC|
|Memory Size||4GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||128-bit|
Like Nvidia’s 1080, 1070, and 1060 graphics cards before it, the GTX 1050 Ti is also based on the company’s Pascal microarchitecture. This means it supports features like Simultaneous Multi-Projection, which offers better support multi-monitor setups, and Ansel, which allows you to take artistic screenshots of games.
EVGA’s Superclocked card features a 1430MHz base clock and a 1544MHz boost clock, along with 768 CUDA cores and 4GB of GDDR5 video memory clocked at 7Gbps. Unlike Nvidia’s previous 10-series graphics processing units, which were built on the 16nm production process, the GTX 1050 Ti uses Nvidia’s smaller, more power-efficient 14nm GP107 GPU.
Speaking of small, EVGA’s card is tiny. Measuring 5.7x1.5x4.4 inches, the card is just a smidgen longer than the PCIe slot that it sits upon. This makes it one of the shortest modern graphics cards. EVGA’s card also has a plastic shroud covering the PCB that features one 3.5-inch fan. The card also offers single ports for HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI.
With its 75-watt TDP, EVGA’s GTX 1050 Ti doesn’t require any supplemental power cables from the PSU and retails for $149.99.
MSI GTX 1050
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 1050|
|Memory Size||2GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||128-bit|
The GeForce GTX 1050 is basically a stripped-down version of the aforementioned 1050 Ti. It’s built on the same 14nm Pascal GPU and features the same 75-watt power draw, but isn’t clocked as fast, has less CUDA cores, has eight fewer texture units, and includes half the video memory. MSI’s GTX 1050 carries a 1519MHz boost clock and a 1405MHz base clock.
Like EVGA’s GTX 1050 Ti, it features single ports for DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI. It’s also a really small card, measuring 6.9x4.6x1.3 inches, and doesn’t require supplemental power from the PSU. The GTX 1050 starts at $109.99 and is the most affordable graphics card in this roundup. The GPU is positioned to handle most games at 1080p with medium to high settings.
XFX RX 470
|Graphics Card||XFX RX 470|
|Memory Size||4GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||256-bit|
The RX 470 is the younger, less powerful sibling of AMD’s RX 480 GPU and is built on the company’s 14nm Polaris microarchitecture. XFX’s RX 470 features a 926MHz base clock and a 1256MHz boost clock along with 2048 Stream Processors and 4GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 7Gbps.
Measuring 8.6x4.7x1.5, the RX 470 is significantly larger than either of the aforementioned Nvidia GPUs. The card uses a predominately black chassis, has three copper heat pipes, and includes a hefty backplate, which helps keep the GPU cool. It also features two removable fans, which you can swap out for XFX’s optional LED equivalents.
The $199.99 GPU offers three DisplayPorts, an HDMI port, and a DVI port. The card supports HDR and FreeSync display technologies. XFX’s variant carries a 120-watt TDP and requires one six-pin power connector.
XFX RX 460
|Graphics Card||XFX RX 460|
|Memory Size||4GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||128-bit|
The last card in our roundup is XFX’s RX 460. Like the RX 470, the GPU is built on AMD’s Polaris micro-architecture. It isn’t as powerful, however, and it features half the ROPs and memory bus width of the RX 470. It also has less than half the stream processors and texture units. Its 1090MHz base and 1220MHz boost clocks are quite close to the 470’s frequencies, however.
Measuring 9.3x4.7x1.5 inches, XFX’s RX 460 is slightly smaller than the company’s RX 470, but it’s significantly larger than the aforementioned GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti graphics cards.
XFX’s RX 460 has some red accents and maintains the two removable fans that its 470 sibling offers. It also has two heat pipes and includes single ports for DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI.
While some RX 460s feature 2GBs of VRAM, XFX’s $139.99 variant offers 4GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 7Gbps.
Because these are budget graphics cards, we’re not going to benchmark them using graphically demanding tests at 1440p and 4K. Instead, we’ve focused on the most popular PC games at 1080p, since those are what these cards are designed for. We also threw in some graphically demanding HD tests for good measure.
To effectively stress test these cards, we benchmarked them at their respective max settings; doing so represents a worst-case scenario for these GPUs. We used built-in benchmarks whenever they were available and Fraps to record average frame-rate data when they were not. We also included some DirectX 12 tests.
The following benchmarks are ordered from least graphically demanding to most.
The first game in our suite of tests is Dota 2, which is currently the most played game on Steam. As you can see from the graph above, it’s not a very taxing title, even at max settings. XFX’s RX 460 was the weakest link, but it was still able to get over 100 average frames per second from our test. MSI’s GTX 1050 got a 145.2 average fps, which means the card is well equipped to take advantage of a 144Hz monitor. The higher-than-necessary frame rates from EVGA’s GTX 1050 Ti and XFX’s RX 470 prove that those cards are overkill for Dota 2 at 1080p.
Rocket League is the next popular game on our list, and it’s slightly more graphically demanding than Dota 2--but it’s nothing our four cards here can’t handle. Once again, the RX 460 is the slowest card, but even it was able to get over 100 average FPS. The two Nvidia cards were able to get over 120 FPS, which means they’d pair well with a 120Hz monitor or higher-resolution display. The RX 470 leads the pack in performance with its overkill 187.3 average frames per second.
Overwatch scales well across hardware, but it’s more graphically demanding than Dota 2 and Rocket League. For our test, we played one round of Quick Play on each card and used Fraps to record average frame-rate data.
XFX’s RX 460 fell a little short of 60 average frames per second at max. Interestingly enough, MSI’s GTX 1050 did end up in a statistical tie with EVGA’s more expensive GTX 1050 Ti, but both cards still got over 60 average fps, which makes them great GPUs for the game. It’s important to note that the Quick Play mode cycles through the maps, and some game levels may be slightly more graphically demanding than others. Surprisingly, XFX’s RX 470 really knocked it out of the park, with a 113.1 average FPS. This suggests the card is capable of running the game at higher resolutions.
The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is pretty graphically demanding. Having said that, even XFX’s RX 460 was able to achieve 30 average frames per second, which is what we consider to be the threshold of playable. Regardless, because the average frame rate barely crossed the threshold and dipped down as low as 23 fps, it’s better to run the card at lower settings. The same goes with MSI’s GTX 1050, which dipped as low as 27 FPS. Up until now, the RX 470 has easily been the fastest graphics card in the lineup, and while it maintains its lead, it isn’t able to cross that coveted 60fps threshold, with a 56.6 average.
Unigine Valley is a taxing synthetic benchmark. We ran the test at its max 1080p settings, and while both Nvidia cards and XFX’s RX 470 were able to garner over 30 average frames per second, XFX’s RX 460 didn’t make the cut with its poor 23.8 average.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the most taxing game in our suite. The only graphics card that was able to make it above 30 average frames per second within the game’s built-in benchmark was XFX’s RX 470--and even there, you’ll probably want to turn down the settings to get a smoother, more consistent experience.
The game’s highest preset does recommend 4GB of VRAM, which the GTX 1050 lacks. Regardless, both the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti performed similarly poorly, so we suspect the VRAM isn’t the primary bottleneck.
Rise of the Tomb Raider DX12
We also benchmarked Rise of the Tomb Raider under its DX12 mode. With the exception of the RX 470, performance suffered across all the cards. MSI’s GTX 1050 received the worst hit from the API, performing 27.9 percent worse. The RX 470 was the only card to perform on par with its DX11 equivalent.
3DMark Time Spy
Our last benchmark is a synthetic DX12 test. As you can see from the chart above, the RX 460 gets within 2.1 percent of MSI’s GTX 1050, and XFX’s RX 460 takes the lead over EVGA’s GTX 1050 Ti by a whopping 48.9 percent. In general, it seems like AMD’s cards are able to handle DX12 better than Nvidia’s equivalents.
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 1050 Ti||MSI GTX 1050||XFX RX 470||XFX RX 460|
|CUDA cores/Stream Processors||768||640||2048||896|
|Memory Size||4GB GDDR5||2GB GDDR5||4GB GDDR5||4GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||128-bit||128-bit||256-bit||128-bit|
One logical way to calculate a graphics card’s value is to divide the price of the GPU with the average frame rate it garners. Averaging our frame rates using this metric, the GTX 1050 represents the best bang for the buck value, costing $1.66 per frame. This is great deal, considering the card is capable of handling most games at 1080p with respectable settings and frame rates.
If you have the spare cash, however, it does often pay to spend a bit more on a video card to at least get better frame rates. EVGA’s GTX 1050 Ti and XFX’s RX 470 are also great values at $2.11 per frame. Performance-wise, XFX’s RX 470 is in a slightly higher tier than the rest of the GPUs here, and it helps that the card recently received a price drop.
The card that we can’t recommend right now is XFX’s RX 460. Currently, it cost a little more than the GTX 1050 but performs worse. Until its price drops significantly, it’s not worth your consideration.