In a subculture where specs rule everything, the GPU is a sign that gamers have tremendous influence on what’s prioritized by the manufacturers.
While the GPU is ranked among the top components in terms of importance, high-end GPUs typically only show their actual value when playing the latest AAA games or taking part in serious video editing projects.
But that’s changing, and the GPU is getting more applications than ever before. As internet video increases in fidelity, powerful GPUs have greater use for users simply looking to stream videos in 4K without interruption.
A good graphics card can even affect the speed with which your browser renders pages, and GPUs are finding steady use as effective tools for mining cryptocurrency.
In other words, getting the right GPU – and the right graphics card – is becoming increasingly important even if you aren’t a serious gamer.
In the article below you will find 12 of the most popular and reliable GPU and Graphics Card brands in the market.
While some card manufacturers may have a deserved reputation for producing the best products, there’s no perfectly consistent brand out there.
You can use these brand guides as a starting point, but you’ll get the best results by comparing specific models side-by-side.
Here’s what you should know about the major GPU and Graphics Card players in the game.
Our Recommended Models
- Best Overall Graphics Card: EVGA GeForce RTX 2060
- Most Powerful: ASUS ROG STRIX NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090
- Best Value for Money: GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
Best GPU Brands
Nvidia and AMD have been jockeying for position as the most respected GPU manufacturer for decades, and the answer to where they stand is the same as it almost always is — that the best brand depends on your price point.
And while Intel has long been a ubiquitous player in the world of laptop GPUs, they’re finally making a play for the more serious consumer market.
Here’s what you need to know about the two big brands and the one apparent dark horse.
Nvidia has long presented themselves as the sports car manufacturer of the GPU world — the best performance in the game but with a premium that scales to that performance.
But strong competition in recent years has caused them to trim down their prices a bit, making the best high-end cards in the game more accessible.
At least, that’s the hypothetical assumption. Supply chain failures have recently led to serious shortages and massive spikes in costs.
But when the dust settles, we can expect the dynamic to stay quite the same.
Nvidia is still the top contender for gamers and creative professionals who demand the best, and the GeForce RTX 3090 is still an absolute beast that dramatically outstrips the competition — as long as you can find and afford one.
Current market fluctuations aside, AMD has long been the brand to beat when it comes to value on the dollar.
Apart from some mid-upper tier models where Nvidia beats out Radeon in terms of both price and power, that continues to be the case.
But things are a little more even than they used to be. After years of lagging behind Nvidia in terms of tech, their latest Navi chip with RDNA architecture has closed the difference some.
In other words, they finally have some cards that can compete in the upper echelon, as evidenced by the raw power of the Radeon RX 6700 XT.
Rarely anyone talks about Intel graphics cards despite the fact that they’re probably in more computers than AMD and Nvidia combined.
That’s because they’re the most common integrated GPU on the market. AMD and Nvidia primarily focus their attention on creating discrete GPUs — graphical processors that exist as their own component within the computer.
By contrast, integrated GPUs like those used by Intel are built right into the CPU and motherboard.
They’re significantly cheaper to produce and a sensible choice for laptops, and they’re equipped to handle the needs of most users who don’t have specialized graphical needs.
Intel has recently entered the market for serious GPUs with the Alchemist line. It’s too early to tell how well they’ll stack up in this highly competitive market, but early looks at the latest specs are certainly promising.
Best Graphics Card Brands
While top market share may fluctuate over the years, the small pool of GPU manufacturers makes it easy to get a lay of the land.
That’s not always the case with the larger number of graphics card manufacturers out there. Here’s what you should know about the biggest and best names.
ASUS is to graphics cards what Nvidia is to GPUs — the highest performance available as long as you have the money to spring for one.
They do a capably job of squeezing every ounce of power out of the GPUs they use, and they always come equipped with serious cooling to match that heat.
You can always pick up an overclocked card from ASUS with confidence that it will perform.
The Republic of Gamers (ROG) line represents the peak gaming performance and comes in three models.
eVGA is known for having the best customer service in the business and a warranty that remains valid even if you’ve overclocked your card.
But that’s not to demean the quality of their work. eVGA cards aren’t always the prettiest, but they’re consistent workhorses that match other top shelf performers in terms of value to efficiency.
While eVGA has focused their attention exclusively on Nvidia GPUs since their inception, they’ve recently expanded to begin working with the latest Navi-powered processors from AMD as well.
Whether they’re working with a Nvidia or AMD GPU, you can always count on MSI to make the most of the hardware.
MSI consumers will live and die by the durability and performance of MSI cards, and it’s hard to argue against their consistency through the years.
But the ace up MSI’s sleeve is definitely the Afterburner software. It’s widely regarded as the best overclocking software on the market, and it provides you with a surprising amount of different variables to tinker with when you’re trying to squeeze every last inch of use out of your GPU.
Gigabyte is living proof that quality doesn’t always have to come with a premium.
While brands like MSI may show up at the absolute top tier, Gigabyte graphics cards deliver incredibly high performance at very cost efficient prices.
Their options aren’t reserved for lightweight GPUs either. They offer a range of cards built around chips from both AMD and Nvidia.
Overclocking doesn’t live up to the dangerous reputation it once had, but that doesn’t mean that you can neglect the cooling for your graphics card.
And if that’s your primary concern, Sapphire is the brand to beat. This manufacturer has developed a niche reputation for packing in some of the most effective cooling systems around.
And these cards manage to keep everything running at the right temperature while also remaining nearly silent.
Above average cards at a great price point is a hard pitch to criticize, but if there’s one thing keeping this brand from bigger recognition, it’s exclusivity.
Sapphire only makes cards built around AMD GPUs, but that comes with the benefit of them knowing the hardware they work with inside and out.
XFX used to have a reputation as the best AMD graphics card manufacturer on the market — and while they have a lot more competition now, they still occupy an important corner of the market.
XFX cards are some of the most affordable around, but that doesn’t mean that they’re cheaply made.
The great pricing on these cards means that they often don’t come with the bells and whistles or the best OC speeds in their class, but they’re refreshingly reliable cards.
XFX GPUs are built to last, and they all come backed by a standard two year warranty and a limited lifetime warranty.
XFX once produced cards based off of both Nvidia and AMD GPUs, but they’ve since reduced their output to AMD products.
ZOTAC cards won’t be going toe to toe with a name like eVGA in terms of raw performance, but they rank among the best budget graphics card producers operating today.
Despite not being that well known, ZOTAC represents one of the best budget choices available to you — and that’s especially important if you’re looking for a decently priced Nvidia card, as the company has a comparatively limited number of partners when compared to AMD.
Their catalog is extensive too, offering nearly a hundred different models to reflect the huge number of Nvidia chips they work with.
The English-speaking world has been sleeping on Palit for a long time, but this Taiwanese manufacturer is actually one of the biggest players in the Asian graphics card market.
Like ZOTAC, most of their models tend to be priced for those on a budget — and both brands share a reputation for reliability despite their low price points.
They’re another brand that exclusively incorporates Nvidia hardware into their graphics cards.
Once a spin-off of the ASUS brand, ASRock has taken the engineering talents and sensibilities from their parent company and created a reputation for producing some truly exceptional motherboards.
But they deserve just as much praise for their graphics cards. First rolled out in 2018, their graphics cards come from an exclusive partnership with AMD.
The value to performance is especially strong in ASRock cards: a reflection on the fact that they were manufactured with the intention of being used for crypto mining.
The Difference Between a GPU and Graphics Card
If the graphics card is your car, the GPU is the engine that runs it. The GPU itself simply refers to the chip — which stands for Graphics Processing Unit.
The GPU serves a singularly important purpose: rendering. And faster rendering from a more powerful GPU can produce a number of different results: displaying the worlds of your favorite games faster, smoothly editing content without hiccups and mistakes, or processing the complex mathematics that serve as the basis for mining cryptocurrency.
The GPU determines how much graphical power you have, but how much you can use that power is predicated on how powerful the CPU is.
Understandably, picking the right GPU model should be your priority before beginning to look at what cards are out there.
The graphics card includes the housing board in which the GPU is placed as well as any connectors and additional electronics.
The video memory is one of the more important factors and can have a major effect on your computer’s ability to multitask when rendering information.
The graphics card you pick will also determine the video ports it uses and any sort of cooling system in place.
If you’re building a computer from scratch, your other components will partially determine what card will work with your machine.
As a result of this distribution model, the number of manufacturers producing GPUs are very limited (Nvidia, AMD), while there’s a significantly larger market for graphics card manufacturers.
In many cases, graphics card manufacturers will establish exclusive relationships with one of the two big GPU brands. In other instances, manufacturers might work with both companies.