It is hard to deny that gaming has captured our hearts and has exploded into a massive multi-billion dollar industry that stretches across the globe. We have come a long way since the early days of PC gaming and while there are many graphics card to choose from, the budget category still remains extremely popular among casual gamers. There are two key players in the GPU world and it would be hard to imagine our world without the giants that are AMD and NVIDIA. You will find fanboys on either side of the fence and both offer amazing high-end graphics cards, but we are more focused on GPUs for cheap gaming PCs that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
AMD: The Under Dog
Most people think of AMD as just a chip builder and they never really think of them as the brand behind the Radeon line of graphics cards. And while Intel and NVIDIA have the market advantage at the moment, the underdog AMD offers some great competitive cards for those with tighter budgets. Their RX series have been extremely popular among cryptocurrency miners, though they have had the negative effect of driving up the price of these cards. An added benefit of the AMD cards is the fact that they feature AMD’s FreeSYNC technology and quite a few of the newer more affordable monitors support this feature, unlike NVIDIA’s G-SYNC.
AMD Radeon RX 550
The Radeon RX 550 is part of the latest range of GPUs from AMD and features their new Polaris 12 architecture. The entry-level Radeon RX 550 comes in both a 2GB and a 4GB version and both offer a massive increase in performance over integrated graphics. There is also no shortage of manufactures on the market who are releasing graphics cards with these chips. It offers 1.211 teraFLOPS of performance and will easily allow you to play all of your favorite Twitch chart topping titles such as DOTA and CS: GO. It will run 2017 titles, but expect to turn down those settings to achieve good frame rates. AMD outline a GPU clock speed of 1100 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1183 MHz, some retail cards offer a boost clock speed of 1203 MHz, though this will depend on the availability of the cards.
AMD Radeon RX 460
The Radeon RX 460 might be from AMDs previous Polaris 11 architecture, but it’s still a great choice for gamers on a budget. It also offers more power than the RX 550 with 2.150 teraFLOPS of raw performance vs the RX 550’s 1.211teraFLOPS. However, they can be harder to find thanks to cryptocurrency miners buying them out in large quantities. The RX 460 will still run any current title on the market and is perfect for the casual gamer or e-sports fan. AMD outline a GPU clock speed of 1090 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1200 MHz. Though some retail cards offer a higher clock speed of 1175 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1250 MHz.
NVIDIA: The Powerhouse
If you look at the top selling prebuilt gaming rigs then you will have noticed that almost all of them run NVIDIA graphics cards. While they have the high-end market locked down with their GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti, they do have to compete with the likes of the Radeon RX range in the budget department. Much like the budget cards from AMD, cryptocurrency miners have pushed up the price of the NVIDIA cards and once again this is not something that we as gamers like to hear. While AMD’s FreeSYNC is supported by quite a few monitors, NVIDIA’s G-SYNC is only really supported by expensive high-end monitors.
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
If you are looking to get your foot in the door with a GTX graphics card then the GeForce GTX 1050 is a great choice for you. It won’t break the bank and you can expect to get 1.862 teraFLOPS of performance from this card. You will be able to play the latest titles with this card, though some games will push it to its limits and you will have to run some games on lower settings. Some retail cards offer a clock speed of 1442 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1556 MHz, though NVIDIA outline a GPU clock speed of 1354 MHz and this is what many of the retail cards will offer.
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
While the GTX 1050 is a great card, NVIDIA have a slightly more powerful version right out of the box. The GTX 1050 Ti offers an improved 2.138 teraFLOPS of performance, which puts it just below the Radeon RX 460 in raw performance. While it does offer lower clock frequencies than the GTX 105, the Ti does perform better while gaming and you can expect marginally better framerates for those 2017 releases. However, neither the GTX 1050 nor the GTX 1050 Ti are suitable for VR gaming and you will have to look at spending a bit more for a good VR experience. NVIDIA outline a GPU clock speed of 1291 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1392 MHz. You will be able to find some retail cards that will offer a higher clock speed of 1392 MHz and a boost speed of up to 1506 MHz. A GTX 1050 Ti based laptop will set you back a little bit less than $1000.
NVIDIA GeForce GT 1030
The GeForce GT 1030 is the latest of NVIDIA’s 10-series graphics cards and while its release was fairly quiet, it does mean that you can pick up a Pascal-based GPU for under $100. The GeForce GT 1030 outperforms the Radeon R7 240 by a long shot and will offer up to 1.127 teraFLOPS of performance. While you will get a Pascal-based card, the GT 1030 is not a GTX card and it forms part of NVIDIA’s entry-level offerings. You will even be able to play the latest games with this card, however, you won’t be getting high frame rates at higher settings. It must be noted that most 2017 releases will give this card a real run for its money and is more suited to casual gamers looking to get away from integrated graphics. NVIDIA outline a GPU clock speed of 1227 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1468 MHz. Though some retail cards offer a clock speed of 1290 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1544 MHz.
Both AMD and NVIDIA have great budget friendly cards that offer decent performance for under $150. These cards will easily run the most popular e-sports titles and you can even get away with playing great titles such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Battlefield 1, though you might have to settle for slightly lower settings with the Tom Clancy title. While each card has its pros and cons, at the end of the day when you are buying or building a budget gaming PC the choice is ultimately yours on which card you will be using for your build.