4 Best Graphics Cards Under $300 for Quality 1080p Gaming

Making a graphics card choice is one of the most important steps to take when building a gaming PC.  It would be nice to have an unlimited budget, but the majority of buyers don’t have that luxury.

If you’re new to PC gaming, updating an older PC, or just want a good middle-ground without blowing up your wallet, the sub-$300 price point offers some of the best value gaming graphics cards for your money on the market today.

Core Clock: 1400 MHz Base Clock/1615 MHz Game Clock/1750 MHz Boost
Memory Clock: 1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size: 6GB GDDR6

Core Clock: 1500 MHz Base/1845 MHz Boost
Memory Clock: 1500 MHz (12000 MHz effective)
Memory Size: 6GB GDDR6

Core Clock: 1530 MHz Base/1830 MHz Boost
Memory Clock: 1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size: 6GB GDDR6

Core Clock: 1420 MHz Base Clock/1615 MHz Game Clock/1750 MHz Boost
Memory Clock: 1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size: 6GB GDDR6

At this price range, you can expect performance to be at, or above, a 60 FPS average, at Very-High to Ultra settings, in the most graphically demanding titles, at 1080p resolution.

Though our picks are possibly a good entry-level 1440p GPU, we’d recommend you spend a bit more (around $500), if 1440p Ultra is what you’re looking for.

With choices from both AMD and Nvidia to suit your tastes, we will be going through and breaking down, the best graphics cards under $300.

The 4 Top Gaming Graphics Cards Under $300 in 2020

1. Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 5600 XT – Overall Best GPU Under $300 (and Best AMD Option)

Pros
  • Fastest graphics card on our list
  • Premium design
  • Backplate included
  • Dual BIOS
  • Power efficient
Cons
  • AMD’s VCE isn’t as good as Nvidia’s NVENC
  • 2-year warranty could be longer

 

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Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 5600 XT Specifications 
Stream Processors2304
Core Clock1400 MHz Base Clock/1615 MHz Game Clock/1750 MHz Boost
Memory Clock1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size6GB GDDR6
Memory Interface192-bit
Bus InterfacePCI-e 4.0 x16
DirectX12
OpenGL4.6
Output Ports:3x DisplayPort / 1x HDMI

 

AMD has been a strong competitor in the upper mid-range with their RDNA based Radeon RX 5000 series cards. Featuring a 7nm architecture based off of TSMC’s node, and fast GDDR6, they are some of AMD’s most power-efficient graphics cards to date.

Their most recent release, and a stab at the mid-tier market, is the Radeon RX 5600 XT. It carries the same graphics core as the RX 5700, but with RAM cut down to 6GB of GDDR6 to make it a more affordable competitor to the RTX 2060. Despite lacking Ray-Tracing support, it is a solid performer.

Coming in at just under our budget, and only a few dollars over MSRP, Is our winner for the best graphics card under $300: The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5600 XT.

The PULSE is Sapphire’s take on the Radeon RX 5600 XT. Sapphire is one of AMD’s oldest AIB partners and exclusively produces Radeon cards. Their designs are well known for their frigid cooling, quiet operation, rock-solid reliability, and premium quality.

Featured in the card’s design is Sapphire’s well-known Dual-X cooling solution, with ball-bearing fans, Precision Fan Control, and a 0-fan feature. Heat is quickly, quietly, and efficiently dealt with by one of the best dual-fan solutions on the market.

Also included are a stylish and functional metal backplate, robust VRM design, and memory cooling. A dual-BIOS switch helps make overclocking a breeze as well.

This model comes pre-overclocked out-of-the-box, with a 17% increase in game-clock (AMD’s term for sustained boost-clocks), and a 17% increase in memory speed over reference designs, with peak boost clocks of up to 1750 MHz. Enough to edge out the RTX 2060.

While not being as good as NVENC, AMD’s VCE encoder is capable of fairly decent quality should you want to stream or record your gameplay. Support for Freesync and Freesync 2.0 monitors provides an excellent, smooth high-refresh-rate experience with any game.

In our testing, this card pulls an average of 160w, with a peak of 180w under full gaming load. We’d recommend a quality 500w PSU with a 1×8-pin PCI-e power connector at the minimum.

This is an excellent piece of kit and is without doubt the best video card under 300 dollars will find.

2. EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti SC ULTRA GAMING – Best Nvidia GPU Under $300

Pros
  • EVGA build quality and 3-year warranty
  • Compact for smaller builds
  • Power efficient and quiet card
  • Upgraded Turing NVENC encoder
  • Generally more streamlined drivers
Cons
  • Loses out on cost-to-performance vs AMD
  • Availability due to high demand

 

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EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti SC ULTRA GAMING Specifications 
Cuda Cores1536
Core Clock1500 MHz Base/1845 MHz Boost
Memory Clock1500 MHz (12000 MHz effective)
Memory Size6GB GDDR6
Memory Interface192-bit
Bus InterfacePCI-e 3.0 x16
DirectX12
OpenGL4.6
Output Ports:1x DisplayPort/1x HDMI/1x DVI-D

 

With the release of Nvidia’s Turing architecture, Nvidia has further improved on Pascal, in both efficiency and performance.

The high-end RTX cards have no match, but what of the $300 mid-range market? To combat AMD’s Polaris-based GPUs, Nvidia released the GTX 1600 series. Based on the full TU116-400-A1 die, the 1660 Ti offers 1536 CUDA cores and 6GB of GDDR6 memory.

Despite lacking Ray-Tracing support, a feature reserved for more expensive Nvidia cards, the 1660 Ti still offers important features like G-sync and NVENC, giving even those on a budget the opportunity to have a seamless experience.

Our choice for Best Nvidia graphics card under $300 is the EVGA GTX 1660 Ti SC ULTRA GAMING. Whilst the EVGA GTX 1660 Ti isn’t the very best graphics card on this list, it is the best Nvidia option for less than 300 dollars, no question.

EVGA is one of the most popular producers of Nvidia video cards. Widely praised for their outstanding customer service, methodical quality control, and commitment to offering the best quality gaming cards on the market.

The SC ULTRA card comes with a higher boost clock out of the box, 1845 MHz vs 1770 MHz, for a nice bump in performance over reference models. Memory is left at reference clocks but is still at a respectably fast 12000 MHz effective speed.

The cooling solution features a compact, 2-fan cooler that provides great cooling performance, and lower noise levels compared to single fan graphics cards while being compatible with smaller cases. Also included is a backplate, for added rigidity and some passive cooler for the rear of the PCB and its components.

Overclocking and fan control is made easy for this card through EVGA’s Precision X1 software. With a well designed VRM and PCB, you should have no trouble tuning the gaming card for the best performance.

For those who want to stream, GeForce Experience and Nvidia’s improved Turing NVENC encoder give you versatile options with minimal impact on performance.

For those who want the smoothest gaming experience, the 1660 Ti card supports G-sync Compatible and more budget-friendly Adaptive Sync monitors.

In our testing, this graphics card pulls an average of 135w, with a peak of 145w under full gaming load. We’d recommend a quality 450w PSU with a 1×8-pin PCI-e power connector at the minimum.

3. MSI GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER GAMING X – Best Aesthetics Graphics Card

Pros
  • Gorgeous, sleek aesthetics
  • Premium cooler and backplate
  • Fully customizable RGB lighting
  • Good overclocking headroom
Cons
  • $30 more than MSRP
  • Availability due to high demand

 

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MSI GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER GAMING X Specifications 
Cuda Cores1408
Core Clock1530 MHz Base/1830 MHz Boost
Memory Clock1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size6GB GDDR6
Memory Interface192-bit
Bus InterfacePCI-e 3.0 x16
DirectX12
OpenGL4.6
Output Ports:1x HDMI/3x DisplayPort

 

Building off of the original 1660, Nvidia takes the same TU116-300-A1 1408 core chip and adds upgraded 14000 MHz (14 Gbps) RAM. The result is the 1660 SUPER.

Despite having fewer cores, the faster memory gives the 1660 SUPER card enough of a boost to come within 3% of the 1660 Ti’s performance, and for a good chunk cheaper.

Our pick for Best Aesthetics card for less than $300 is from MSI. MSI’s GAMING line has some of the most premium video card designs on the market, and the GTX 1660 SUPER GAMING X offers us just that.

Featuring sleek gunmetal grey design, brushed metal backplate, and RGB. The GAMING X looks as good as it performs.

Speaking of performance, the GAMING X card comes with an out-of-the-box 1830 MHz boost clock and the faster 14 Gbps memory.

The Twin-Frozr 7 cooler provides class-leading cooling, and whisper-quiet performance, even while under heavy loads, coming in at only 30 dBA.

When not in use, or under light load, the Zero Frozr feature kicks in and stops the fans from spinning below 60c. This eliminates noise and helps with fan longevity.

Coming with full compatibility with MSI’s Mystic Light, and Dragon Center, the fully programmable RGB lighting is beautifully implemented.

With accents on both the front and side of the fan shroud, it compliments any RGB lighting effects you may have in your system.

Overclocking support is also superb, with MSI Afterburner making things easy. A secondary heatsink for memory and added rigidity, a thermally conductive backplate for rear-PCB cooling, and a well designed VRM, you can count on stability when pushing the limits.

As with the 1660 Ti, it comes with support for G-sync, G-sync compatible, G-sync Ultimate, and Adaptive-Sync Monitors. As well as the Turing NVENC encoder.

In our testing, this card pulls an average of 130w, with a peak of 140w under full gaming load. We’d recommend a quality 450w PSU with a 1×8-pin PCI-e power connector at the minimum.

If aesthetics is what you are after then this is the best graphics card for you. It offers superb performance and looks for less than $300.

 

 

 

4. MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT GAMING X – Best Cooling GPU

Pros
  • Coolest 5600 XT on the market
  • Brush metal backplate included
  • Good overclocking headroom due to fantastic thermals
Cons
  • Availability due to demand
  • Price over MSRP

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MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT GAMING X Specifications 
Stream Processors2304
Core Clock1420 MHz Base Clock/1615 MHz Game Clock/1750 MHz Boost
Memory Clock1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size6GB GDDR6
Memory Interface192-bit
Bus InterfacePCI-e 4.0 x16
DirectX12
OpenGL4.6
Output Ports:3x DisplayPort/1x HDMI

 

With it’s simple, elegant, performance-oriented approach, the MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT GAMING offers the coolest 5600 XT on the market. With its core temperatures up to 20c lower than it’s competitors, MSI really hit this out of the park and is our pick for the best graphics card for cooling under $300.

Offering the same Twin Frozr 7 cooler as our top Aesthetics pick, The GAMING X card manages stellar performance, at an astounding 56c core temp peak under load, while at only 29 dBA, and is the coolest RX 5600 XT we’ve seen available on the market.

This is all thanks to a combination of MSI’s Heatsink with a unique wavy fin design, copper baseplate, concentrated heat-pipes, and tight mounting pressure; and their TORX V3.0 fans. Providing the best cooling capacity possible.

Aggressively clocked out of the box, the GAMING X provides stellar performance to go with its frigid cooling.

Without being held back by thermal limitations, hitting and maintaining the 1615 MHz Game Clock and up 1750 MHz Boost should be no issue. The VRM has it’s own power cooling plate to keep power delivery cool and stable when pushing the limits.

Overclocking is made easy with full support for MSI’s Afterburner software. With the cooling solution being so good, headroom is also greatly improved for both memory and core frequencies.

Aesthetics on this graphics card are under-stated, but elegant, with a nice little RGB logo that you can customize via MSI’s Dragon Center. The brushed metal backplate adds to this look, while also adding functionality. It improves rigidity, to prevent sag, and helps cool the rear PCB via thermal pads positioned in key places.

Compatible with Freesync and Freesync 2.0 monitors, for those who want a smooth, high-refresh-rate gaming experience.

In our testing, this card pulls an average of 160w, with a peak of 180w under full gaming load. We’d recommend a quality 500w PSU with a 2×8-pin PCI-e power connector at the minimum.

Best Graphics Card on a Budget (If you want to spend less) – ASUS DUAL GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER EVO OC Edition

Pros
  • Great bang for buck
  • Solid performance
  • Great bundled software offers from ASUS
Cons
  • Availability due to high demand
  • Aesthetics are a bit basic

 

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ASUS DUAL GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER EVO OC Specifications 
Cuda Cores1408
Core Clock1530 MHz Base/1830 MHz Boost/1860 MHz OC mode
Memory Clock1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size6GB GDDR6
Memory Interface192-bit
Bus InterfacePCI-e 3.0 x16
DirectX12
OpenGL4.6
Output Ports:1x DVI-D/1x DisplayPort/1x HDMI

 

For those of you who are on a tighter budget and don’t have $300 to spend, but still want a good value gaming graphics card, look no further than the ASUS DUAL GTX 1660 SUPER EVO OC (yes, we know, it’s a mouthful).

Coming in at only $10 over the 1660 SUPER’s MSRP, our choice for best budget card offers a lot of bang for buck.

Out-of-the-box speeds for the core are a 1530 MHz Base clock, with an 1830 MHz Boost clock while gaming, with an 1860 MHz OC mode option if you want that little extra oomph.

Memory is 6GB of GDDR6 clocked in at 1750 MHz (14000 MHz, 14 Gbps effective), which is a nice bump from the 12 Gbps memory on the non-SUPER, and adds an almost 50% effective bandwidth increase.

For cooling, we have ASUS’ DirectCU II dual-fan design, with direct-contact copper heat pipes for fast and efficient heat transfer to the thick, 2.7 slot heatsink. Below 55c, the fans are turned off, thanks to ASUS’ 0 dB Technology. Benefits include lower noise and longer fan life.

Aesthetics are simple, with an all-black design, with a minimalistic RGB strip for a little personal touch that accentuates the rest of your build. Included is a black aluminum backplate, that adds rigidity, and looks good to boot.

With support for G-sync, G-sync compatible, G-sync Ultimate, and Adaptive-Sync monitors, an improved Turing NVENC encoder, Nvidia’s GeForce Experience, the EVO OC offers much for its price.

As a bonus from ASUS, they’re also throwing in a free 1-year xsplit license and a free 6-month wtfast license upon registering your card. For those that plan to record and/or stream. How about that?

In our testing, this card pulls an average of 130w, with a peak of 140w under full gaming load. We’d recommend a quality 450w PSU with a 1×8-pin PCI-e power connector at the minimum.

This is the best graphics card money can buy if don’t want to spend as much on the other cards on this list. It offers superb value for money and good performance.

 

 

Best Graphics Card If You Want To Spend a Little More Than $300 – EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 KO Gaming

Pros
  • Ray-Tracing support
  • Bleeding-edge AI features including DLSS and RTX Voice
  • Good cost-to-performance
Cons
  • Basic aesthetics
  • Ray-Tracing support in only a few games so far
  • Loses out in raw FPS performance to the RX 5600 XT

 

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EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 KO Specifications 
Cuda Cores1920
Tensor Cores240
RT Cores30
Core Clock1365 MHz Base/1680 MHz Boost
Memory Clock1750 MHz (14000 MHz effective)
Memory Size6GB GDDR6
Memory Interface192-bit
Bus InterfacePCI-e 3.0 x16
DirectX12
OpenGL4.6
Output Ports:1x DVI-D/1x DisplayPort/1x HDMI

 

Released to go against the RX 5600 XT, the 2060 KO uses a cut-down TU104-150-KC-A1 die, unique to this model, and different from other RTX 2060s.

Though performance is identical to regular 2060s, this model is sold at a lower price to be competitive.

Despite coming in a few percent slower than the RX 5600 XT in raw performance, it more than makes up for it with its extra features and overclocking headroom.

For those of you who have more than $300 to spend, and wanting to experience Ray-Tracing, we’d recommend taking a look at EVGA’s RTX 2060 KO Gaming.

Differing from the GTX series, the RTX 2060 has native DirectX Ray-Tracing support (DXR), as well as some other premium features, and is Nvidia’s entry-level RTX card.

Experience the most advanced lighting effects available in gaming today. Ray-Tracing revolutionizes how shadows and reflections are rendered, giving you some of the most realistic environments yet.

DLSS boosts your FPS by initially rendering at a lower resolution, and then taking advantage of the Tensor cores, letting advanced AI algorithms fill in the missing parts and smooth out edges. Resulting in improved performance while sacrificing in the way of image quality.

RTX Voice also takes advantage of this AI, though it is still in Beta at the time of writing this article. It takes your mic inputs and separates your voice from background noises. Resulting in a much clearer final audio output. This is particularly useful for streamers.

EVGA’s take on the RTX 2060 is focused more on performance than form. Aesthetics are basic, but not necessarily cheap. The card still comes with an all-metal backplate, EVGA’s well-designed heatsink, and an adequate VRM setup beneath it all. For rock-solid stability and cooling that EVGA is renowned for.

Coming with a 3-year warranty, and EVGA’s stellar customer service, this card offers bleeding-edge tech for reasonable prices. G-sync, G-sync compatible, G-sync Ultimate, and Adaptive-Sync being all supported, your choice of monitors are endless.

In our testing, this card pulls an average of 180w, with a peak of 190w under full gaming load. We’d recommend a quality 500w PSU with a 1×8-pin PCI-e power connector at the minimum.

Lets Put These GPUs To The Test

Synthetic Benchmarks

Using 3DMark’s ever-popular Firestrike benchmark, we compare performance levels between cards.

Synthetic Benchmarks, 3DMark firestrike average graphic score: GTX 1660 Super = 16124. GTX 1660 Ti = 16535. RX 5600 XT = 21975. RTX 2060 = 19668.

 

Based off of a DirectX 11 engine, we see the RX 5600 XT card pull ahead of the pack. Gaining a good lead against even the RTX 2060. The 1660 SUPER comes within 3% of the 1660 Ti as well Though this that doesn’t paint the full story, as we’ll see below

Now moving to 3DMark’s Time Spy, a newer DirectX 12 based benchmark, we see the RTX 2060 pull slightly ahead of the RX 5600 XT. Though not by as much is the 5600 XT did in the previous benchmark.

Synthetic Benchmarks, 3DMark Time Spy average graphic score: GTX 1660 Super = 6062. GTX 1660 Ti = 6416. RX 5600 XT = 7462. RTX 2060 = 7696.

This goes to show these gaming graphics cards trade blows depending on the game and benchmark. The 1660 Ti is also maintaining it’s roughly 3% lead over the 1660 SUPER.

Real-World Testing

Real-world testing gives you a better idea of how each gaming graphics card will perform.

Average FPS at 1080p: GTX 1660 Super = 89 FPS. GTX 1660 Ti = 92 FPS. RX 5600 XT = 108 FPS. RTX 2060 = 106 FPS.

We’ve averaged out the FPS you would get at 1080p by comparing a suite of 15 relevant games with a mix of DX11 and DX12 titles, from our reputable sources. The RX 5600 XT is the winner here in raw performance, barely edging out the RTX 2060 by 2 FPS.

As our synthetics show, the GTX 1660 Ti still has about a 3% lead over the GTX 1660 SUPER, but both are beaten by the RX 5600 XT, and RTX 2060 by about 11% and 10% respectively.

FPS per Watt

By taking our average power consumption for each card, and comparing it with our average FPS chart, we get our FPS per watt.

FPS Per Watt: GTX 1660 Super = 0.685. GTX 1660 Ti = 0.684. RX 5600 XT = 0.675. RTX 2060 = 0.589.

This is a good indication of how power efficient each graphics card is. The GTX 1660 SUPER, 1660 Ti, and RX 5600 XT are all very close to each other. The noticeable difference is with the RTX 2060, though that anomaly can be explained.

Our power draw for the RTX 2060 also includes Tensor and RT Cores being active, while our average FPS testing does not. We did this to be fair as our other 3 graphics cards do not support DirectX Ray-tracing or DLSS. If not for this discrepancy, it would be similar to the other 3.

Brief Buying Guide & Jargon Buster

Stream Processors (AMD) or CUDA Cores (Nvidia)

These are the main rendering components of a graphics card. How fast these cores are operating at is measured in MHz, and usually called core frequency and/or core boost. Faster is better, and more is generally better.

Base, Game, and Boost Clocks

Base clocks are minimum frequency the graphics card core will run at if temperatures or power restrictions do not allow it to boost higher.

Game clock is AMD’s average boost clock that can be sustained while under gaming load.

Boost clocks are generally the maximum frequency a graphics card can hit when temperatures and power limits are ideal.

VRAM: Speeds, sizes, bus-width, and memory bandwidth

The dedicated memory for the GPU cores. Textures are loaded into the VRAM so that the GPU cores can directly access them. Generally for 1080p, you want at least 4GB to play modern games smoothly.

More demanding games and higher resolutions will increase this requirement. Measured in both frequency and Gbps, faster is generally better. Higher frequency gives more bandwidth.

Your Memory Bus is the size of the communication lines between your memory and your GPU Core. Measured in bits.

More Bus-width increases overall bandwidth between the core and memory if comparing similar frequencies. All of the graphics cards in our article here are GDDR6.

GPU Size

All GPUs have their sizes listed on the manufacturer’s website. Please take this into consideration when choosing one for your case.

TDP

TDP, or Thermal Design Power, is roughly what a graphics card will draw under full load. Take this number with a grain of salt though, as they are not absolute. Rule of thumb is to add 20% on top of the TDP when calculating power draw, just to be safe.

CPU and PSU Requirements

For most mid-range graphics cards on our list, we’d recommend a 4-core/8-thread or 6-core/6-thread CPU. Intel 4th gen or later, or AMD Ryzen 1st gen or later, to get the most out of these cards. Older CPUs may vary with performance, but may still provide a good experience.

Our definition of a “quality” PSU is an 80+ Bronze or higher rated unit from a reputable brand such as, Seasonic, EVGA, Corsair, be Quiet!, Cooler Master, Silverstone or Super Flower.

All of our picks will be fine with a 500W quality power supply. Though if you’re planning to overclock any component, or upgrade in the future, we’d recommend a 650W 80+ Gold rated unit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which is better, AMD or Nvidia?

Which is better comes down to which offers the best price to performance in your given budget range, and which option has the features you desire. Each company puts out a quality product and has something for everyone. Neither definitively offers the best graphics cards.

Is AMD or Nvidia better for streaming?

Objectively speaking here, Nvidia wins this one with their Turing NVENC encoder. It outperforms AMD’s VCE encoder, with better quality at the same bitrates, and is supported by many streaming software.

What is the most powerful GPU?

The most powerful GPU for gaming is currently Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti. Though there are faster workstation GPUs, they aren’t really relevant as they aren’t designed or optimized for gaming, and are more expensive than most users can afford.

Thank you for reading this report and I hope that can now choose the best graphics card under 300 bucks to suit your needs.

Here is another great set of reviews that you can read all about the best DDR4 RAM for gaming machines.

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