Best Graphics Cards Under $500: AMD Vs. Nvidia

Competition At The Mid-Range

Both Nvidia and AMD have recently launched a new wave of video cards aimed at the PC players who want high-end performance at a mid-range price. These new GPUs expand the wealth of options for those on tighter budgets, and as you’ll see in our benchmark tests, deliver impressive performance in relation to their predecessors. But the old question for PC gaming enthusiasts is relevant now more than in recent years: AMD or Nvidia? Well, it depends.

While Nvidia has largely remained unchallenged in the most expensive category with the RTX 2080 Ti, its begun to diversify its affordable options by offering a reasonable entry points for the relatively new ray tracing tech–namely, the RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 cards. Now, we have souped up versions aptly named the RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2060 Super. Nvidia’s RTX lineup now has incremental steps between each pricing tier, but these new cards perform well enough (relative to their price point) to render base models obsolete.

AMD, on the other hand, has been largely playing catch-up. The Radeon VII, which launched in February this year, was the company’s strongest GPU yet but had trouble keeping up with its Nvidia’s counterpart. However, AMD has made good on its approach of being the brand that brings value–not only is AMD offering aggressive pricing, its new RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 have the performance to back it up.

For those who count every dollar when it comes to building PCs or upgrading their existing rig, it’s an exciting time to make the jump for a new GPU. The competition is strong, and regardless of your choice, you’re getting plenty of performance for your dollar. In this comparison and review of the new RTX Super and Radeon RX cards, you’ll see how these sub-$500 cards stack against each other.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

RTX 2070 Super And RTX 2060 Super Details

As the names indicate, the “Super” moniker for this subseries of video cards are beefier versions of their original models. For example, the RTX 2070 Super sports more shader cores, RT cores, CUDA cores, and texture units than the RTX 2070, and also has a higher base and boost clock speed–all of that translates to better performance. It also means that TDP has increased slightly from 175W on the 2070 to 215W on the 2070 Super.

What’s more is the card ends up performing a lot closer to that of an RTX 2080. At an MSRP of $500 USD, it packs more than enough punch to justify its price point. The RTX 2060 Super follows the same philosophy packing more CUDA cores, RT cores, and texture units than the standard RTX 2060–but it also features an expanded memory bus to match that of the RTX 2070 cards and up. What’s probably more important for potential buyers is that it retails for just $400.

You can’t talk about Nvidia’s video cards without mentioning ray tracing, which the company has been spearheading with the RTX family of cards. Ray tracing fundamentally changes the way games render lighting, shadows, and reflections. This won’t show up in the performance charts, but it makes a noticeable difference, though it’s up to developers if and how they want to use it. Ray tracing is made possible with Nvidia’s multi-core Turing GPU architecture, allowing the RT cores to take care of the additional workload while the rest of the GPU handles of the main graphics processing. This is an inherent advantage that Nvidia has over AMD right now, so if ray tracing interests you, you’ll have to go with Nvidia.

See the RTX 2070 Super at Amazon

See the RTX 2060 Super at Amazon

Radeon RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 Details

Both the Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700 sport the all-new Navi architecture, built on the smaller, more efficient 7nm FinFET manufacturing process (Nvidia’s cards are 12nm FinFET). While Radeon VII was also a 7nm chip, its Vega 20 architecture and use of HBM2 memory wasn’t very efficient, especially compared to what Navi now offers. Going further back than the Radeon VII, AMD’s new cards pretty much put the Vega 56 and Vega 64 to rest.

These new Radeon RX cards look very similar on paper with their 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM, 256-bit memory bus, and 256 texture units (among other specs). They both use a 8-pin + 6-pin power connector, and the Rx 5700 XT’s TDP is rated at 225W while the RX 5700 is at 185W. The RX 5700 XT has a leg up on the RX 5700 with extra compute units, additional stream processors, and higher clock speeds, which translate to a notable upgrade in performance. And the kicker is that the RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 have MSRPs of $400 and $350, respectively.

See the RX 5700 XT at Amazon

See the RX 5700 at Amazon

Test Bench Specs

For the purposes of testing the new GeForce RTX and Radeon RX cards, we used a high-end test bench. It’s the same one we used for our previous reviews of the first GeForce RTX and Radevon VII cards. Our system is equipped with the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-8700K CPU (6-core / 12-thread, 3.7 GHz)
  • Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero
  • CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken X62 liquid CPU cooler
  • Memory: 16GB (8GB x 2) HyperX Fury DDR4-2400MHz RAM
  • Storage: 1TB Samsung 970 EVO m.2 NVMe SSD
  • Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 850-watt 80+ Gold PSU
  • Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit Home Edition

In order to get a clearer picture of where the new RTX and Radeon cards stand against other high-end options, we tested three additional cards alongside them for a total of seven cards in our tests. At the time of testing, we used the latest GeForce driver version 431.36 for Nvidia cards and the official Radeon Software version 19.71 for AMD cards. Every Nvidia card is a Founders Edition model, and all AMD cards are reference cards:

  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 – Launch Price: $700
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super – Launch Price: $500
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 – Launch Price: $500
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super – Launch Price: $400
  • AMD Radeon VII – Launch Price: $700
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT – Launch Price: $400
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 – Launch Price: $350

Testing Methodology And Benchmark Results

To evaluate each of the new video cards, we included the RTX 2080 since it is the next step up from the RTX 2070 Super and helps bookend our tests. We also brought the base model RTX 2070 to show the relative performance of the Super versions. To paint a clearer picture of where the Radeon RX cards stand, we included AMD’s strongest card prior, the Radeon VII–this also shows just how powerful the new cards are, especially relative to their price.

For measuring performance, we chose seven games that feature comprehensive in-game benchmark tools to represent the more graphically demanding side of PC gaming. Each card was put through each benchmark test in 4K and 1440p resolutions with the highest graphics quality settings available in the respective game. Numbers in the charts below represent the average FPS from every test with the exception of Final Fantasy XV which produces an overall score. The results can be seen below.

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is the premier graphical showcase for PC games in 2019 so far; it also has a convenient benchmarking tool that can push your system to its limits. For these tests, we used the Ultra graphics preset without any brand-specific options enabled. While Metro Exodus is one of the best showcases of ray tracing, we turned it off in order to keep our settings consistent across the board.

Right out of the gate, AMD makes a bold statement with the performance of the RX 5700 XT and RX 5700, both of which outperform the similarly priced RTX 2060 Super–the RX 5700 XT also comes close on a 60 FPS average at 1440p resolution. The RTX 2070 Super manages a few extra FPS on average over the RX 5700 XT and comes really close to the RTX 2080.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey features expansive environments to bring its version of ancient Greece alive, and the built-in benchmark tool can give a good indication of how your system will handle the game. We used the Ultra High preset for these tests which includes a number of post-processing effects, HBAO+, TAA, and more.

Performance is fairly close between the RTX 2060 Super and RX 5700 XT, trading blows in 1440p and 4K, although the differences are largely negligible. Nvidia has a strong showing here in AC Odyssey with the RTX 2070 Super getting the edge on all the new cards. Like Metro Exodus, we see it Super performing almost identically to the RTX 2080, which is exciting to see from a cheaper card.

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV has a benchmark tool that you can download for free. Its world of Eos makes for one of the more stunning visual showcases for PC games, and it’ll also ask a lot from your hardware. We used the High quality preset for all tests. FFXV’s benchmark also doesn’t give an FPS reading, but rather a cumulative score that can roughly translate to 100-times the average FPS.

FFXV tends to struggle with AMD cards, resulting in stuttering in certain sections of the benchmark, and unfortunately this reflects poor overall performance. As for Nvidia’s lineup, again we see the RTX 2070 Super perform very close to the RTX 2080, and the RTX 2060 Super come close to the RTX 2070. Even as the RX 5700 XT lags behind, its 4K performance isn’t far from the RTX 2060 Super.

Forza Horizon 4

The Forza series has always been a graphical showcase, and the latest game, Forza Horizon 4, is no different. It features a ton of graphics options and we cranked everything to Extreme settings in its comprehensive benchmark that spans a full race with various weather effects.

AMD’s cards perform incredibly well here; the RX 5700 XT is on par with the upper-tier RTX 2070 Super in 4K and outclasses it in 1440p. Even the standard RX 5700 can keep up at 1440p and doesn’t trail too far behind in 4K. Nvidia’s cards steadily scale in performance as you go up in tier, but only the RTX 2070 Super will match the RX 5700 XT at 4K. At 1440p, the RX 5700 even matches the RTX 2070 Super’s performance.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was one of the best looking games from 2018 and had a bunch of graphical features–its highest preset includes HBAO+, tessellation, and volumetric lighting (ray tracing is also available for RTX users). Its expansive environments and detailed jungles also make for intense video card tests.

Here, the RTX 2070 Super lands right in the middle of the RTX 2070 and RTX 2080, with the latter standing firm atop all the others. AMD isn’t too far behind as the RX 5700XT handily beats out its direct competitor, the RTX 2060 Super and even surpasses the RTX 2070.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Middle-earth: Shadow of War may not be the best-looking game on the list, but it’s benchmark still pushes the latest video cards. You have tons of options like tessellation, ambient occlusion, vegetation range, mesh quality, and more.

Nvidia pulls ahead ever so slightly as AMD holds its own here, though; when accounting for price, The RX 5700 XT and RTX 2060 Super provide the same value since they perform identically. Jumping to the RTX 2070 Super does offer a noticeable bump, but all cards manage to put up playable frame rates at 4K.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Like Forza Horizon 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is another game that’s optimized for AMD cards. Its in-game benchmark is also known for being very demanding despite it being a camera fly-through of an indoor environment.

The RX 5700 XT stands toe-to-toe with the high-end RTX 2080 at 1440p and only trails by two-frames in 4K, which is very impressive. Even the cheaper RX 5700 performs very close to the RTX 2070 Super.

Temperatures

As for temperatures, peak load for each card didn’t show anything out of the ordinary, though its worth noting that the RX 5700 XT will run the hottest. Your mileage will of course vary between third-party manufacturers such as Gigabyte, ASUS, Zotac, and others. As mentioned earlier, all the cards we used were reference models.

Peak load temps were recorded using CPUID HWMonitor after going through the gamut of benchmarks by running Metro Exodus at 4K a second time.

Verdict

Every generation of video cards will have AMD or Nvidia outperforming one another in certain games that optimize for either manufacturer. And while they trade blows from time to time, each brand stands out in their own right. The RX 5700 XT is largely the top performer in its price range, providing great value for frames-per-second. So unless you’re sold on Nvidia’s ray tracing technology or suite of tools via GeForce experience, AMD’s lineup has some attractive options.

If you’re willing to spend enough to get into the upper tier, the RTX 2070 Super impresses from a different perspective. Not only is its performance much closer to the high-end RTX 2080, but it gets there at a much lower price. For prospective buyers, this essentially makes the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 obsolete. Those who have either of those cards, however, are still sitting pretty with ray tracing capabilities and great FPS output. As for the RTX 2060 Super, it’s a good card in isolation since it encroaches on the RTX 2070’s territory, but the RX 5700 XT being in the same price range makes it a bit of a tougher sell.

PC gaming enthusiasts shouldn’t sleep on what Nvidia is doing with ray tracing–more and more developers are adopting the tech and its fundamentally changing the way games present lighting, shadows, and reflections. You can see it in games like Battlefield V and Metro Exodus, and upcoming games like Control and Atomic Heart further showcase how distinct ray tracing can be. AMD still has some catching up to do on that front, but has capitalized on offering the lineup that gives you more bang for your buck FPS-wise.

Age Of Wonders: Planetfall Review

The fifth and latest in the long-running Age of Wonders series is the first to trade in the staple high fantasy setting for a sleek and shiny sci-fi theme. Despite the change of scenery, it remains true to its roots, delivering a very good hybrid between turn-based tactics and 4X strategy game that is at its best when it focuses on people–both the people you meet and the people you send to war.

4X strategy games tend to present the lands they ask their players to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate as uninhabited. It’s common to begin a new game with a settler unit and the implicit promise that this is a world yet to be settled. It’s there for the taking. The colonialist fantasy extends to indigenous populations, if they exist at all, being treated as incidental. At best they are neutral props without any ambition of their own; at worst they are nothing more than vermin to be eradicated.

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Age of Wonders: Planetfall offers a different perspective. Instead of conquering a new world, you are returning home ages after a calamity drove your ancestors away. There is still war to be had, there are still peoples to displace–this remains a 4X game in the Sid Meier tradition. But in the light narrative touch of a quest system that gives voice and purpose to everyone you meet, there are moments of reconnection and rediscovery. In a sense it becomes a 5X game, allowing you to exhume and reclaim traces of your civilization’s history.

This emphasis on archaeology is more prevalent in the surprisingly substantial campaign mode than in the randomly-rolled maps of the scenario mode. The 13 campaign missions, which let you play as all six of the game’s half-dozen factions, are peppered with scripted story beats that succeed in fleshing out the history of and relations between the various civilizations. Visit a foreign colony and you might trigger a conversation between your commander and another faction leader in which you’re asked to perform a quest to gain their favor. Later you might encounter a third faction who promises you some vital insight into your own objectives in return for betraying the friendship you recently forged.

Such choices are fraught. Each faction, even the minor indigenous ones, is busy cultivating relationships with the others, and it soon becomes clear that every new decision you make will ripple out and meaningfully affect your standing in the world.

The random scenario mode can’t rely on the scripted story of the campaign, but each procedurally generated map still supports the same dynamic quest system. One faction might task you with helping them complete some important research, while another urges you to hunt down a pack of troublesome enemies pillaging their lands. Such quests not only keep you engaged with interfactional diplomacy but also serve to provide clear motivation for exploring new areas and expanding your borders in specific directions.

Regardless of whether you opt for the campaign or a scenario, you begin with a single settlement and gradually take over adjacent sectors to secure access to their resources. You build military units to go to war or to protect your newly acquired holdings. You colonize unclaimed sectors and upgrade them to specialize in supplying your colony with food, energy, research, or production. You have to get your head around the unintuitive sci-fi names of many technologies, structures, and units, but hover the mouse over Kinetic Force Manipulation to bring up the tooltip and you quickly realize it simply means “Better Guns.”

Indeed, it’s all fairly straightforward for anyone who has played Civilization or dabbled in the strategic layer of a Total War, though sometimes it does feel like expansion decisions are not really choices at all. When faced with the prospect of expanding into one of two possible sectors, you’re always going to pick the one that receives bonus production from its quarry over the one that offers no bonuses of any kind. Occasionally you’ll have to weigh the benefits of one resource over another, but they aren’t genuine either/or choices–they’re more akin to whether you need that food-rich river sector now or whether you want it a little bit later.

Among the structures you can build with a colony, there’s also a disappointing lack of variety. Most of what you can construct are incremental upgrades that boost resource production while unique buildings, like the world wonders in Civilization, or anything that truly changes your style of play (rather than merely accelerating it) are felt only in their absence.

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More interesting decisions arrive in combat. Armies can contain up to six units and are lead by a hero unit commander. When two or more hostile armies meet on the world map, combat is resolved via a remarkably full-feature XCOM-style tactical battle. Every unit can move individually, take partial or full cover, attack in melee or at range, and call upon a number of specialized abilities. The range of options at your disposal here is dizzying.

Each unit can be outfitted with primary and secondary weapons and up to three ability mods earned through quest rewards or unlocked on the tech tree. You can apply a template to all units of the same class, so that newly recruited infantry, for example, will all have increased accuracy and healing. But if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy rolling up your sleeves to customize every single unit in your army. Adding to the complexity, hero units can learn skills that not only enhance their own abilities but confer buffs to the units they lead.

I loved having the authority to develop specialized armies. In my current game, I have one army composed of snipers led by a commander who uses mind control debuffs and a second army focused around a melee tank supported by defensive grunts who can throw down portable cover anywhere on the battlefield. The degree of customization allowed is both flexible and powerful.

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This sort of specialization matters because you can bring multiple armies into the same fight–and indeed, it becomes essential as you encounter tougher armies into the mid- and late-game. Any army on the world map that is situated adjacent to the hex where combat is initiated will be drawn into the conflict. Thus, a huge part of the tactical considerations at work here comes from maneuvering your troops to outnumber the enemy. Combat can be auto-resolved, allowing you to either watch the AI simulate the tactical battle or skip straight to the outcome, but doing so results in unnecessary losses in all but the most lopsided contests.

Overall, Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a robust package for 4X players who want to test themselves against a more in-depth combat system than is typically found in the genre. It suffers a little from its sci-fi setting making things just that little bit harder to relate to than, say, actual human history, but it compensates by creating a cast of fictional alien civilizations that are worth getting to know. It might not quite feel like home at first, but you’ll quickly settle in.

WWE’s Charlotte Flair Shares Untold Story Of Her SummerSlam Bout With Trish Stratus

At SummerSlam, it’ll be the queen of one generation versus the queen of another, as 9-time WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair takes on WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus for the first time ever. It’s a dream match for many wrestling fans and could serve as an incredible main event on just about any show WWE could ever present. It’ even more than that, though. Flair, herself, sees the match as fated to be.

“We didn’t get to tell this story on TV, but [in] 2005 when her and Lita main-evented Raw, that was in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I was sitting front row,” Flair told GameSpot and a small group of media at the TCA press tour. “So to know that I’m a [high school] senior watching that happen, watching history be made, watching these two women that were pioneers in their time, [now knowing] that was going to be me 11 years later in the same arena and the same main event spot on Raw–and that was going to take that many years later. But you can’t write stuff like that. So Trish is saying, ‘You can’t tell me that didn’t inspire.’ And I’m like, ‘I just never saw myself as a diva.'”

And in that way, Charlotte is right. Since Stratus retired from competition, WWE has also shelved the “Diva” terminology, instead labeling their female performers as “superstars”–just like the men. Still, she sees the importance of the generational battle she faces at SummerSlam.

“It’s just crazy. And now that woman that I was watching as a senior main event [and] make history… Now I’m walking into Summer Slam [with] her being the greatest of all time and me going, ‘No, I’m the greatest of all time,'” Flair explained. “It’s just crazy. I mean, I don’t have another word.”

This battle to see who is the true greatest of all time is only one of the matches on the SummerSlam card. For the rest, make sure to check out our preview of WWE’s biggest show of the summer and to come back Sunday for live coverage of the event.

Final Fantasy 14 Moonfire Faire Event Now Live For A Limited Time

Final Fantasy XIV’s annual summer event, the Moonfire Faire, is back again for another year. The summer celebration is now underway on PS4 and PC until August 26, giving players a chance to complete special limited-time quests and earn some exclusive summer-themed items.

To participate in the Moonfire Faire, you’ll need to be at least level 30 and speak to Mayaru Moyaru in the Upper Decks of Limsa Lominsa to begin the event. As Square Enix says, “This year’s event marks the return of the Eorzean Nimble Warrior course, revamped to provide yet more high-flying thrills to acrobatically adept adventurers.”

Complete the Moonfire Faire quests and you’ll be able to earn a variety of summer-themed clothes for your avatar, as well as a handful of different decorations for your house. You can see the list of this year’s Moonfire Faire items below. As usual, you’ll also be able to purchase certain items from past Moonfire Faires at vendors.

  • Moonfire Hachimaki (head gear)
  • White Painted Moogle Mask (head)
  • Black Painted Moogle Mask (head)
  • Painted Namazu Mask (head)
  • White Moonfire Happi (body)
  • Red Moonfire Happi (body)
  • Black Moonfire Happi (body)
  • Moonfire Tabi (feet)
  • Portable Pool (outdoor furnishing)
  • Wind Chime Stand (outdoor furnishing)
  • Moonfire Faire Advertisement (wall-mounted)

The Moonfire Faire runs until 7:59 AM PT / 10:59 AM ET on August 26. You can read more details about the event on the official Final Fantasy XIV website.

Final Fantasy XIV’s third major expansion, Shadowbringers, arrived this past July and introduced a wealth of new content to the popular MMO, including two new playable races, the Viera and Hrothgard, new cities to explore and dungeons to conquer, and two new jobs, among other things. You can read our thoughts on the expansion in our full Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers review. Be sure to also check out our Gunbreaker and Dancer guide for tips on mastering the new classes.