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If you’re into gaming, chances are you might have heard some exciting news in the grapevine – both Nvidia and AMD are coming to the party with some genuinely good gaming GPUs. The bad news is that, if 2021 continues down the same path as 2020, these units are going to be harder to find than hen’s teeth for a while at least. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do your research and decide which is going to be the best graphics card 2021 has to offer and which one you’ll be (figuratively speaking) lining up to get.
Top pick: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
CUDA cores: 8,704. Base clock: 1,440 MHz. Boost clock: 1,710 MHz. TFLOPs: 29.76. Memory: 10GB GDDR6X. Memory Clock: 19 GT/s. Memory bandwidth: 760 GB/s.
We can sum it up in four words: sacrifice-free ray tracing. This generation card delivers ray-traced performance that exceeds what you can get from the RTX 20—series cards when you’re not even running it. And that, friends, is truly exciting.
With all that ray-tracing ability comes the need for great power. If you want this bad boy working to the best of its capability, you’re going to need to bring out the big guns and team it with an 850W PSU at least.
Oh, and one major con is the fact that it’s damn near impossible to get right now too – but we have to hope that will change soon.
A close second: AMD Raedon RX 6800 XT
RDNA cores: 4,608. Base clock: 1,825 MHz. Boost Clock: 2,250 MHz. TFLOPs: 20.74. Memory: 16 GB GDDR6. Memory Clock: 16 GT/s. Memory bandwidth: 512 GB/s.
There really is next to nothing in it when comparing the AMD to Nvidia’s offering – there’s no doubt that this is the best AMD graphics card we’ve seen so far. It’s slightly cheaper than the RTX 3800, and while it’s still a solid choice for gamers looking for an outstanding 4K experience it’s in the finer details where the small differences really stand out. The ray tracing is where the most noticeable difference lies, and if you can spare the extra dollars, the Nvidia might just be the best bet. But if your budget is a little tighter and you don’t want to have to spring for improved PSU as well, the 6800 XT is an impressive piece of kit.
Same as with all the cards at the moment, the major con of this card is that it’s hard to get. It does deliver a slightly slower experience than the RTX 3800 and isn’t quite as strong in its ray tracing performance.
Best budget graphics card for 2021: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
CUDA cores: 4, 684. Base Clock: 1,410 MHz. Boost clock: 1,665 MHz. TFLOPs: 16.20. Memory: 8GB GDDR6. Memory clock: 14 GT/s. Memory Bandwidth: 448 GB/s.
If you’re just starting out with serious gaming and have a bit more of a budget to stick to (and honestly, it’s a good idea to try not to go totally overboard till you know exactly what will work best for you and your particular gaming preferences) then the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is likely going to be your cup of tea. This card delivers decent ray tracing and some pretty impressive GPU boost frequencies that see it hot on the heels of the RTX 3070 and miles ahead of the cards in the 20–series generation.
Honestly, for a card in this price range, you seriously can’t go wrong with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti. It delivers an amazing gaming experience for a budget-friendly price tag and isn’t going to suck the life out of your motherboard to boot. It goes without saying that the biggest con of this card is, like all the others, availability.
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