If you’ve recently started to immerse yourself into the world of PC building, you’ve likely already had to find your way back into your body after realizing how expensive graphics cards are. With the supply, labor, and distribution shortages of the past couple of years, prices for GPUs have skyrocketed.
Fortunately, the situation is not as dire as it seems. There are plenty of affordable graphics cards that may not have the bells and whistles your dream build would have, but they still get the job done. After having this realization, the next step is to figure out which of those budget graphics cards offer the best bang for your buck.
In this article, I’ve compiled a list of the four best budget GPU under $150 on the market today. So, once you know what you want most out of your GPU, review this list to find the best fit for your build. (Keep in mind that the graphics cards listed here are $150 MSRP or below, but recent fluctuations in GPU prices have raised the available prices).
Let’s face it: graphics cards are far too expensive if you’re looking at those that offer hyper-fast outputs and stunning visuals. However, not every gamer needs that level of quality, particularly without the budget to support a comparably suited build.
These days, it makes more sense to build a PC (see also the best gaming PC under $700) with every bit of performance you need, without the excess features that drive up the price. You’ll want a high-quality budget GPU, as well as a high-quality budget CPU and motherboard to support it.
This way, you can build a PC that does what you need it to without burning a GTX 3090-sized hole in your pocket. For more RTX 3090 GPUs, check this article.
Before being able to decide which budget GPU is best for your build, you need to know what to look for. Once you’ve identified the main selling points you’re looking for in a graphics card, you can narrow down your search to find the best budget GPU for you.
Historically, the best graphics cards have been produced with Nvidia or AMD chips. Both Nvidia and AMD have licensed their GPU chips for other companies to sell, each with varying cooling systems, clock speeds, and software. However, the Nvidia or AMD chip remains the constant impressive factor.
The best budget GPUs will use an Nvidia or AMD chip since these outperform any others at any price point. Also, since other companies sell variations of these graphics cards, they’re often slightly less expensive (albeit with a slight decline in performance).
Similar to the clock speed of your CPU, your GPU has a variety of cores operating at frequencies that determine how fast it can process graphics. The more cores a GPU has, and the higher frequency each core operates at, the better the GPU will perform.
With budget GPUs, you’ll often find that core count and clock speed are the biggest differences between graphics cards. The best ones will be those that have high core counts with high clock speeds.
Memory & Bandwidth
Graphics cards require RAM to operate and, as with processors, the more memory present allows for faster, smoother performance. 2GB-4GB of RAM is generally enough for most purposes, but if you want hyper-fast, richly detailed graphics, you should look into a card with 6GB-8GB of RAM. If you can’t afford a brand new RAM and thinking about buying a used RAM, just be careful and know what to look into when purchasing a used RAM.
Also worth consideration is VRAM, or Video RAM, which will also improve performance. It’s less commonly used, but you can occasionally find great deals for a decent graphics card with anywhere from 1GB-16GB of VRAM.
Depending on the form factor of your motherboard and case, you’ll want one of these four graphics card form factors:
Compact: These are small graphics cards with a maximum length of 211mm, which allow them to fit easily into small motherboards and cases.
Low-Profile: These graphics cards are also compact, but shorter in width than compact graphics cards. They fit easily into slim towers, making it a good option for a small, budget-oriented PC build.
Single Slot: These graphics cards fit well on small motherboards and vary widely in performance power. With some digging, you can find a powerful single-slot graphics card that will get the job done on a budget.
Dual Slot: These are generally the most powerful graphics cards, but take up two slots on your motherboard. They have multiple ports with large housings, and you’ll need a decent fan setup for cooling them.
Your graphics card, like every other component in your computer, will get hot as it works harder to meet the needs of your system. As such, you don’t want to buy a graphics card with a low-quality heatsink.
Investigate the thermal design of each graphics card to determine its ability to stay cool under stress. The better its ability to maintain a safe operating temperature, the better it will perform. You’ll also want to make sure your case has proper ventilation and fans to aid the cooling.
The GeForce GTX 1650 is a marvel of budget-GPU engineering. With a lasting design, increased efficiency, and the Gefore Experience software, this graphics card will add a level of performance to your budget build that undermines the precedence of budget performance.
Gigabyte’s GeForce GTX 1650 operates on an Nvidia chipset, which is one of the most powerful chipsets available in mainstream graphics cards today. An improvement from the GTX 1050 by a moonshot, this graphics card promises up to a 70% performance improvement from the previous generation.
The graphics card features two fans that give your GPU a cool, smooth, silent functionality that’s hard to find in budget cards. The fans are engineered for reverse rotation as well, for added versatility. And, with an 8002 MHz clock speed, this GPU outperforms most others at this price point.
The card also includes 4GB of RAM, 2 HDMI ports, and DVI-D. With GeForce Experience, you can keep all of your drivers updated and your system optimized. You’re also able to take stunning in-game pictures from an easy-to-use taskbar.
Overall, this is the best budget graphics card for under $150, and I highly recommend picking it up when the prices return to normal.
What We Like
Cooling - With two fans capable of reverse rotation, this graphics card generates little noise while maintaining a safe operating temperature. Ideal for cases with less ventilation, though paired best with a sufficient overall cooling system.
Chipset - As I mentioned above, Nvidia and AMD make the best graphics card chipsets. This GPU uses an Nvidia chipset, which gives it amazing performance for a relatively low price.
Software - The GeForce Experience companion software keeps track of your GPU’s needs to keep it functioning at maximum performance without you needing to worry about it.
Know Before Buying
Price - Again, this is typically a budget card but, with the global shortages, it likely won’t be priced quite so low anytime soon.
The GeForce GTX 1050 Ti is a superb graphics card that, while not quite meeting the performance of the GTX 1650, still provides enough power to play most titles at 1080p at 60 FPS. For the low price, you get a host of great features that are hard to find at this price point.
The 1050 Ti from Asus is a step down from the 1650, but you hardly lose much functionality. With a lower clock speed of 7002 MHz, you still have enough speed to power any of the chart-topping titles.
This graphics card also comes equipped with a dual-fan setup, which keeps your GPU cool and quiet while running demanding applications or games. This card was designed for plug-and-play functionality, which requires no PCIe connectors to install.
Similar to the GeForce Experience, this graphics card works with GPU Tweak II, a software that allows for easy control and monitoring of your graphics card.
For the low cost and high performance, this graphics card offers the best price-to-quality out of all of the cards on this list.
What We Like
Cooling - Just like its successor, this fan has superior cooling abilities with two ball-bearing fans that are sure to last.
Software - The GPU Tweak II software is very easy to use and understand and, with the updated UI, you can easily toggle settings for your GPU and monitor how it performs under stress.
Price - This card was ridiculously cheap to begin with, so even with the uptick in pricing, it’s an affordable graphics card that will get the job done.
Know Before Buying
Clock Speed - While it’s not a huge detractor, this graphics card operates roughly 1000 MHz slower than its successor. It’s still enough for most games, but demanding titles might lag a little bit.
The Radeon Pulse RX750 is a great budget graphics card that performs well and keeps cool under high-stress tasks. It will give most users enough power to play the games they want, albeit with light lagging on demanding, graphics-heavy games.
The RX750 comes with a dual-fan setup that keeps the graphics card cool without making too much noise. But if your graphics card does make an odd noise, read this article to learn the reasons why and how to fix it. Also, the fans of RX750 are not as durable as the ones you’d find on a GTX graphics card, but they get the job done well enough.
This card also has a lower effective clock speed of 7000 MHz, which is still enough to play most games at 1080p, though it may struggle to hit 60 FPS on some games. This card is best used for light gaming or esports titles that don’t require so much graphics power as they do processing power.
This card can support 4k resolutions and has a 256-bit memory bus, which allows you to 3D render easily or watch movies and videos in 4K. It’s not quite powerful enough to reliably run VR games, but it can produce high-quality graphics for less demanding tasks.
Overall, this is a great AMD graphics card and should be heavily considered for budget builders.
What We Like
Cooling - Like all other graphics cards with a dual-fan setup, this card deserves high marks for its cooling ability. Being able to keep the graphics card at a safe operating temperature is crucial for long gaming sessions and demanding tasks.
Chipset - AMD has been around as long as Nvidia has, and as such, they’ve figured out how to engineer high-quality chipsets that perform tirelessly well for all systems.
Know Before Buying
Clock Speed - A clock speed of 7000 MHz is enough for light gaming, but this card will struggle with demanding tasks and graphics-heavy games.
Price - This graphics card is generally very cheap, but the price surge places this card outside of its worth, so you should wait to buy it until prices lower again.
The Radeon RX 570 RS XXX offers many of the same performance features and qualities that the RX750 does, but it outshines in the RAM department. With 8GB of RAM and a 224 GB/s bandwidth, this card can generate graphics quickly in demanding environments.
The RX570 offers high-level performance at an affordable price, and the 8GB of RAM makes it stand out from other cards on this list.
The effective clock speed of this graphics card is 7000 MHz, similar to the two prior cards in this list, but the additional RAM storage boosts the efficacy of its processing power. The card comes pre-overclocked, so you’ll be able to play most titles seamlessly it.
Beyond the speed, this graphics card comes with a dual-fan setup that has been engineered to reduce dB output and maximize cooling, which keeps the card at low temperatures under most tasks.
Overall, this graphics card offers great memory capacity and high performance for budget builders.
What We Like
Memory - With 8GB of RAM, this graphics card has the memory capacity and speed to keep up with your CPU and the needs of your system.
Cooling - The dual-fan setup on this card keeps the GPU cool after long gaming sessions, but will need good case fans to keep the temperature fully regulated.
Know Before Buying
Overclocking - Since this card comes pre-overclocked, gamers might be disappointed that they can’t overclock it further. However, it’s already engineered to perform well, so you shouldn’t need to overclock it further to get the results you want.
In summation, the best budget graphics card for under $150 is the GeForce GTX 1650, but the prices currently are much higher than its budget MSRP. Overall, the best GPU for you will be the one that matches your budget and system needs.
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