The last year has seen a rather nasty skyrocketing of GPU prices, alongside surges in other computer component pricing as well. With shortages across the board, it’s hard to find any GPU priced at its MSRP. That being said, this guide relates to graphics cards under $300 MSRP.
In the overall scheme of a computer build, having a solid graphics card can enhance your gaming experience above what you’d get with a graphics card under $150. By investing a little extra dough into your graphics card, you can get a lot of extra performance for a little extra money.
In this guide, I’ll discuss why GPUs under $300 are essential for any modest build, and I’ll provide an in-depth review for each of the best GPUs under $300 (see also GPUs under $1000). It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find any at MSRP for quick purchase, but you can use this guide to figure out which one you want to preorder.
Having a solid GPU in your computer build will provide the 1080p at 60fps game experiences we all so desperately crave. However, many settle for budget GPUs that provide adequate performance to avoid burning a hole in their pocket.
Luckily, there are many GPUs priced under $300 that will provide steady, stellar performance for demanding games. By opting for one of these, you can enhance your gameplay without blowing all your hard-earned money on a brand-new GPU.
How to Choose the Best GPU Under $300
Since each build and builder requires different things from a GPU, the best graphics card for you will ultimately be the one that suits your needs best. By determining, from the list below, which factors play into your decision most, you can narrow down your options and come to a decision.
The best mainstream graphics cards all include either a chipset from AMD or Nvidia. Both manufacturers have been around for about forty years, and they allow other manufacturers to use their chipsets for variations of the same graphics card.
Nvidia generally focuses most on creating powerful hardware, whereas AMD puts an emphasis on well-balanced graphics cards. The distinction between the two chipsets is evident when you compare specifications for cards with each chipset, so do your research and determine what you need most for your system.
GPUs, like CPUs (see also the best CPU GPU combination), operate at frequencies measured in MHz, the value that determines how quickly a processor can receive and process information. The higher the clock speed of your GPU, the more demanding tasks it will be able to handle.
If you play a lot of solo RPGs in rich, dynamic environments, you’ll want a GPU with a high clock speed to be able to handle that graphics load with stability.
Similar to regular RAM, the VRAM of a GPU determines how fast its memory operates. The higher the memory speed and bandwidth, the better your GPU will be able to process changes and influxes of graphics loads.
Depending on the size of your case and motherboard, you’ll need a GPU with a corresponding form factor. Generally, powerful graphics cards are dual-slot cards that require two slots on the motherboard to operate. Less powerful graphics cards can be either single slot or low-profile, which work great for small cases and budget builds.
Thermal Design Power (TDP)
The TDP of a graphics card determines how much power it consumes and the heat it accumulates when operating at maximum capacity. The lower the TDP, the more efficient the graphics card is. Generally, you want the lowest TDP possible, unless it starts to lower the power of the card as well.
The GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is a powerhouse of mid-range graphics-processing ingenuity. It lacks the beauty of ray-tracing that its RTX superiors offer, but it is more than capable of playing any AAA title on 1080p at 60fps.
The GTX 1660 Ti is a deliciously meticulous addition to the GTX lineup. It provides hyper-fast clock speeds without drawing excessive power from your system. It has a TDP of 140W, a mark lower than most comparable graphics cards, which means it requires a lower wattage to function.
Additionally, it comes with a dual-fan setup that keeps the GPU cool under stressful conditions. It has a boost clock speed of 1830 MHz, which is plenty of power to play most games at 1080p at 60pfs.
It has 6GB of VRAM, which allows it to generate large-scale environments quickly and efficiently, and a total of 1536 stream processors to boot. With a good CPU to combine it with, games like The Witcher 3 are easily generated.
With GeForce graphics cards you get access to the GeForce Experience, which allows you to toggle and monitor your GPU’s settings to boost performance, as well as offers an in-game photography option for capturing the beauty of the game environments.
What We Like
Clock Speed - With a boost clock speed of 1830, MSI has improved the GTX 1660 Ti design to provide even faster speeds, making playing AAA titles on high settings a breeze.
Cooling - Speaking of breezes, the dual-fan setup keeps this GPU cool under pressure which, when paired with a solid case cooling system, can keep your GPU functioning at maximum performance for years.
TDP - A TDP of 140W is rather low for a card in this range, which means this GPU won’t draw excessive power away from the rest of your system.
Know Before Buying
No Ray-Tracing - Unlike the GeForce RTX series, the GTX doesn’t include ray-tracing. This isn’t a huge problem for most people, but for gamers with a particular goal in mind, it will make a difference.
The Radeon RX 5600 XT was AMD’s attempt to stay competitive with Nvidia’s GTX 1600 Ti but, after Nvidia lowered the pricing for the 1660, AMD improved the specs for this card to stay competitive. As such, it’s overpowered for its price range and is a great AMD option for gamers and PC enthusiasts.
A little bit of backstory: Nvidia released their super-powered GTX 1660 Ti as a mid-range graphics card, but it was hard to match that performance at that price. So, AMD produced the RX 5600 XT as a response, which prompted Nvidia to lower the price of the 1660 Ti for a competitive edge.
AMD then improved the RX 5600 XT, resulting in a card nearly as powerful as its successor, the RX 5700. So, what did they improve? The clock speed, for starters.
With a boost speed of 1750 MHz, this graphics card matches the average boost speed of the 1660 Ti. This is paired with an improvement to the VRAM bandwidth, which increased from 12 Gbps to 14 Gbps. Both of these factors resulted in a faster, more powerful graphics card.
Beyond that, it has a dual-fan setup as well that keeps the GPU at a safe operating temperature. With the boosts to VRAM and effective memory clock speed, this GPU outperforms almost every other GPU in its class, save for perhaps the 1660 Ti.
Overall, a superb AMD graphics card that won’t break the bank for the sake of stunning graphics.
What We Like
Memory Speed - With a 14000 MHz effective memory speed and 6GB of VRAM, this GPU can handle extreme task loads efficiently, making it a great option for performance-oriented budget builds.
Cooling - Like the 1660 Ti, the dual-fan setup on this graphics card keeps the component cool under stressful loads.
Price-to-Quality - With the improvements AMD made to stay competitive, this budget card offers very high performance at a relatively low price.
Know Before Buying
TDP - The TDP of this graphics card is 160W, which means it’s a little less efficient than the 1660 Ti. However, not to a worrisome degree.
The GeForce RTX 2060 is comparable to the GTX 1660 Ti I reviewed earlier in this article, with the main benefit being real-time ray-tracing capabilities. The RTX 2060 runs a little slower than the 1660 Ti with RTX on, but adds a nice visual boost to most undemanding games.
Overall, the RTX 2060 is a slight downgrade from the GTX 1660 Ti. You lose out a little on clock speeds, with the RTX having a boost speed of 1680 MHz. It does, however, include more stream processors than the 1660 Ti.
With the extra processing power, this graphics card can provide ray-tracing, though you’ll have a hard time getting 60fps in demanding games with RTX functionality turned on. For some gamers, though, the visual appeal is worth it.
The memory speed and size are similar to the 1660 Ti, though the RTX 2060 has a faster effective memory speed, mostly used for RTX functionality. It comes with the regular dual-fan setup, which comes in handy when running RTX.
In the end, the main reason to choose this graphics card over the 1660 Ti is purely for ray-tracing.
What We Like
RTX - Ray-tracing adds a neat level of depth to in-game visuals, and the RTX series provides exactly that. With ray-tracing on, your display will be able to capture distinctions in the environment with more clarity than a GTX card.
Cooling - As per usual, the dual-fan setup keeps the GPU at a safe temperature, and is always worth pointing out, as some cards come with only one fan, which requires the rest of your system to have ample cooling to counterbalance.
Know Before Buying
Clock Speed - This card has a lower boost clock speed than the 1660 Ti, but you shouldn’t see much of a performance drop if you’re playing on less than max settings.
RTX Speed - Unfortunately, running RTX on this card drops the FPS varying degrees, which means this isn’t a great card for those wanting ray-tracing AND 60fps in all games.
Sapphire has been known to produce graphics cards with relatively stand-out quality for affordable price ranges, and this card is no exception. With 2304 stream processors and 8GB of VRAM, this card can produce quality graphics with decent speed.
It won’t run graphics-heavy titles on max settings at 60fps, but if you’re okay with lowering your settings, this card can run 1080p at 60fps for most AAA titles.
Additionally, it still has a boost clock speed of 1340 MHz, which is fast enough for most tasks and applications. It mostly falls short with an effective memory speed of only 8000 MHz, despite its 8GB of VRAM.
Overall, this is a great budget AMD graphics card if you’re looking for affordable, HDR-capable cards for your build. This GPU is also one of the best GPUs for Ryzen 5 3400G.
What We Like
Price - This graphics card is considered budget even amongst other budget cards, but it is still able to produce quality results. The only sacrifice you’ll have to make is going from high to medium settings on some games.
HDR - This card is capable of HDR display, which gives it a little extra value for the price.
Know Before Buying
TDP - The TDP for this graphics card is 250W, which is much higher than the other cards on this list. You’ll want ample cooling and power to run it if you want to avoid overheating the GPU.
Memory Speed - With only 8000 MHz effective memory speed, it’s not nearly as fast as the picks above. It’s still enough to handle most things you throw at it, but it will struggle to keep up with demanding tasks.
The GeForce GT 1030 is a barebones graphics card that, despite the fluctuations in GPU prices this year, has remained extremely affordable. It’s capable of light gaming with ease, but with larger, graphics-heavy games, you shouldn’t expect 60fps.
The GT 1030 is a super-budget card for small form factor builds. It has a disappointingly low amount of stream processors, but the clock speed is still comparable to other, more expensive options.
You’ll be able to run 4K playback at 60Hz with this card, but with games like GTA V, you shouldn’t expect 60fps. It’s a card best used for light gaming and multitasking.
It only has 2GB of GDDR5 memory and an effective 6008 MHz memory speed, which means it will struggle if you open too many applications at once. It’s a great card for single-track purposes and popular esports titles, though.
It only comes with one fan, which is a bummer, but its TDP is only 30W, which means it has remarkable power efficiency. If you’re building a small form factor rig in need of a low-profile GPU, this is a great option for you.
What We Like
Price - This graphics card has managed to survive the skyrocketing GPU prices this year, but it’s mainly because it’s so cheap to produce. That doesn’t mean it performs terribly, but it’s not going to give you the performance a 1660 Ti would.
TDP - With a TDP of only 30W, you won’t need to invest in an amazing PSU to power it. It also stays cool naturally when operating, since it hardly provides enough power to raise the temperatures drastically.
Know Before Buying
Memory - The 2GB of VRAM is unfortunate, but enough to handle light tasks and general household usage. Don’t expect to have six windows open and running smoothly, though.
Processors - In lieu of the 2000+ stream processor counts of the other options on this list, this graphics card falls extremely short in the processing power department. This makes it difficult to run many games on high settings at 60fps.
In the end, few graphics cards are actually priced at MSRP today. However, using this list you should be able to determine what the best one for you is, and preorder it accordingly to get the best price. You’ll likely have to wait a bit to actually get the card, though. If you have a little more than $300, why not get a GPU under $400?