Guide to graphics cards for 1080p, 1440p and 4K gaming

The graphics card market is still in a complicated situation. Prices are still inflated, and this makes it unwise to buy. However, the price drop that has occurred recently, and the the fear that prices may rise again in the short term as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has led some to take the decision not to wait any longer, and to buy a new graphic card.

If you are one of those who have made that decision, you are probably a bit lost because of the concurrence of different generations that exist right now in the market, and also because of the great variety of graphics cards that can be found within the same range. I am aware of this, and that is why I wanted to give shape to this new guide, totally updated, clear and straightforward in which I am going to share with you which graphics cards we need to play in 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolution with very high or maximum quality starting from two important keys:

  • The performance they offerin order to give you more options and a broader vision, I will differentiate three levels: the minimum, the medium and the maximum, i.e. the level from which it is no longer worthwhile to go for a more expensive model.
  • Your ray tracing performanceand advanced technologies that can make a difference, such as NVIDIA’s DLSS. FSR is a simple spatial rescaling that is compatible with all current graphics cards, and does not represent an added value to the level of that one.

And what does each level mean? Well, it is very simple:

  • Minimum level: the graphics cards with which we will have a good experience. We will be able to play with very high qualities in a fluid way in many cases, but we will not always reach 60 FPS stable, and in some titles we will have to lower the quality to medium levels.
  • Medium level:Â this level will include graphics cards that will allow us to play with total fluidity in almost all cases, maintaining 60 FPS and enjoying maximum or very high qualities. There may be some occasional exceptions, but we will not have to make sacrifices.
  • Maximum level: this is the level from which we can play with all the guarantees at the indicated resolution, reaching 60 FPS stable and with maximum quality in all cases. Normally, it is not worth going beyond this level.

Graphics cards for 1080p gaming

1080p graphics cards

It is a fairly affordable resolution, but offers a good level of sharpness. Therefore, it is one of the most used, especially by gamers with tighter budgets. With this resolution, a little more than 2.073 million pixelsand virtually any mid-range graphics card of the last three generations can offer a good experience.

Keep in mind that, when we play in 1080p, the CPU plays quite an important role, especially when accompanied by graphics cards whose performance is above average, and that an underpowered processor can end up exerting an important bottleneck. If you have doubts about this issue, see the guide we published last yearyou will find all the information you need.

  • Basic level: the GTX 1650 Super, 6 GB GTX 1060, 8 GB Radeon RX 5500 XT or 8 GB Radeon RX 580 are at this level, as they allow us to play smoothly in 1080p and with maximum qualities to many games, but in more current and demanding titles are already showing clear signs of exhaustion.
  • Medium level the GTX 1660 Super, GTX 1660 Ti and Radeon RX Vega 56 are positioned at this level. With them we can enjoy a good experience even in very demanding games, such as Cyberpunk 2077, and with maximum qualities.
  • Maximum level: the RTX 2070, RTX 3060 and Radeon RX 6600 should be “the ceiling” if we are going to play in 1080p, unless we have a very powerful processor and a monitor with a high refresh rate. With both of them we will be able to play any current title in maximum or very high quality and enjoy more than 60 FPS stable.

Please note that NVIDIA’s solutions perform better when ray tracing is enabledand that DLSS can make a significant difference even at this resolution when we activate this technology, because the graphics load increases dramatically.

Graphics cards for gaming at 1440p

1440p graphics cards

This resolution has been underrated on more than one occasion, and quite unfairly. I can attest that it is a remarkable improvement over 1080p, not in vain we went from 2.073 million pixels to 3.686 million pixels. It is clear that the jump is not as big as the one we would have going to 4K, but on the other hand the hardware requirements do not skyrocket, and this makes playing in 1440p much more affordable.

The impact of the processor when we play at 1440p is less, but this does not mean that it is completely canceled, so be very careful, as it binds a very powerful GPU to a processor like the Ryzen 5 1600 or Core i7 4790, for example, will end up causing you a significant bottleneck as well.

  • Basic level: the GTX 1660 Ti, RTX 3050 and Radeon RX Vega 56 will allow us to play most of the current titles with guarantees, that is, with very high quality and good fluidity, although we will find more than one exception, and we will not always be able to maintain a stable 60 FPS.
  • Medium level:Â the RTX 2070, RTX 3060 and Radeon RX 6600 are enough to enjoy an optimal experience in almost all current titles at this resolution and with maximum qualities, although we will find some occasional exceptions in which we will not be able to maintain a stable 60 FPS without lowering the graphics quality a little.
  • High level:Â the RTX 2080 Super, RTX 3060 Ti, and Radeon RX 6700 XT are the “ceiling” options in this resolution, although I maintain what I told you in the section dedicated to 1080p resolution, and that is that if we are going to use, for example, a 144 Hz monitor it would be interesting to buy more powerful models, such as the GeForce RTX 3080 or the Radeon RX 6800 XT.

In this resolution, ray tracing has a much larger performance cost due to the increase in the total number of pixels. This gives a greater advantage to NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards, and DLSS makes a bigger difference than in 1080p.

Graphics cards for 4K gaming

4K graphics cards

A resolution that has been with us for some time, but has not yet become the “standard” level due to its high hardware requirements. When we use this resolution we put on the screen 8.294 million pixelsfour times more than in 1080p, and more than twice as many pixels as in 1440p. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why graphics quality improves so much, and why we need much more powerful graphics cards.

At this resolution, the impact of the processor is greatly reduced because we have a huge amount of pixels on the screen, which means that the GPU has to take on a very large workload, and the processor can go more “unburdened”, since the pace set by the GPU “is slower”. However, we will always have to meet the minimum recommended for each game if we want to avoid a bottleneck.

  • Basic level the RTX 2080 Super, RTX 3060 Ti, and Radeon RX 6700 XT perform quite well in 4K, they can run many current titles smoothly and with very high quality without any problem, but if we want to maintain 60 FPS we will have to reduce the graphics quality in several titles.
  • Medium level: the RTX 3080 and Radeon RX 6800 XT are the best choice for those who want to play in 4K with all the guarantees, as they are able to maintain stable averages of 60 FPS even in the most demanding and worst optimized games, and we will only have to lower the quality a little to gain fluidity in very specific titles, such as Cyberpunk 2077.
  • Maximum level: the RTX 3080 Ti and Radeon RX 6900 XT are at this level, and in some titles they can make the difference between reaching, or not reaching, 60 FPS without having to reduce the graphics quality of the game.

When reaching 4K, the pixel load to be handled by the graphics card multiplies exponentially, and this makes activating ray tracing take a huge bite out of performance. So much so that, for example, Cyberpunk 2077 is unplayable in 4K with ray tracing at maximum, unless we enable DLSS for NVIDIA or FSR for AMD. As I said before, the RTX 20 and 30 series have the advantage because of the higher quality DLSS, and higher performance with ray tracing.

graphics cards

On the topic of DLSS, and its impact on performance, we recently published an article where we used a GeForce RTX 3050 to test if this technology can work a miracle and allow us to play in 4K. The answer was a resounding yes, and as we show you in different comparative images, the loss of image quality that occurred when activating this intelligent image reconstruction technology was so small that the sacrifice in terms of sharpness was, in general, more than acceptable.

I wanted to make this point because yes, it is possible to play in 1080p, 1440p and 4K with graphics cards lower than those we have indicated, but not with very high or maximum qualities and a good level of fluidity. In the end, going below those minimums will force us to make sacrifices which are not always acceptable, and which in some games may be too marked, even starting from the recommended minimum that we have indicated.

In that sense think, for example, that a 6 GB GTX 1060 only reaches an average of 26 FPS in Cyberpunk 2077 with the game set to 1080p and maximum quality, and that when we go down to medium quality it moves in the range of 40 FPS. However, in Gears 5 it can reach 60 FPS without any problem In the end, each game can also make an important differenceand that is why it is better to opt for the medium level.

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