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Best AMD graphics cards for gaming 2019

The big talking point in enthusiast PC-gamer circles these days is Nvidia’s latest lineup of super-powerful cards. They’re monstrously fast and fully-featured, but they’re also monstrously priced, and thus only high-end gamers with deep pockets will be plugging them in any time soon, whatever the upsides of doing so may be.

Happily, there’s some competition at the lower end of the market courtesy of the other major graphics-card manufacturer in town, AMD. Advanced Micro Devices offers considerable performance for a comparative pittance – and they’re worth looking into even if you’re building a more advanced machine.

Here, we’ll run through the current roster of Radeon cards, and see which one makes the best match for your budget and gaming requirements.

Radeon RX 550

+ The most affordable card in AMD’s roster

+ Just the job for e-sports fans

– Just 2GB VRAM

We’ll start with the most affordable of the line-up: the RX550. The first thing you’ll notice about it is that it’s small and low-powered, which makes it a great match for low-intensity gaming setups and home theatre PCs. For e-sports aficionados, who aren’t interested in shadows, god-rays or post-processing, it’s sure to be more than sufficient.

It’s a significant upgrade over your CPU’s built-in graphics, and it’ll make games like Battlefield 1 playable, provided that you’re willing to dial things back to low settings. If you’re putting together a gaming rig with a specific purpose, like emulating ancient classics, we’d suggest that this is more than sufficient. For most modern gamers, however, it’s underpowered.

Radeon RX 560

+ Affordable

+ Comes in several versions

– Compares unfavourably with Nvidia’s 1050Ti

The RX 560 has come under a bit of fire as there are considerable differences between the cards bearing the name – you’ll find a 2GB version and 4GB version, for instance. There are also differences in clock speed and the number of compute units available. You’ll want to therefore check carefully before making a purchase, since apparently identical cards can vary considerably when subjected to scrutiny.

We’d suggest going for the 4GB version; it’ll be able to cope with the demands of a modern game at 1080p far more capably than the 2GB, which will struggle once a dose of anti-aliasing is bolted on. It’s difficult to recommend the red team’s offering here, given that the Nvidia 1050Ti performs markedly better for only a little bit more.

Radeon RX 570

+ Affordable

+ Marginal Improvement over 470

– Only 8GB worth considering

This mid-range entry offers some competition to Nvidia’s 1060 cards, and also comes in a choice of two versions: one equipped with 4GB, the other with 8GB. There’s considerable overlap in pricing here, both between the various versions of the 570, and the slightly more senior 580. Whether the card performs better at this point than the Nvidia 1060 will depend on which version you’ve opted for, which game you’re playing, and the resolution of your monitor: the 8GB version will be able to easily render less-demanding games at higher resolutions.

Radeon RX 580

+ Excellent performance for the price

– Power-hungry

– Only a slight improvement over the 480

It’s at this point that AMD’s cards begin to look like serious contenders. But the 580, like the 570, was only released in response to the Nvidia 1060. It boasts the same number of shader units, and the same amount of memory, as its predecessor – and thus it’s a marginal improvement on the RX 480, marketed toward gamers who’ve not upgraded in a while. The 8GB of VRAM makes it a great entry-level match if you’re going to be gaming at 1440p and beyond.

Radeon RX Vega 56

+ Serious high-end power

+ Great price

– Not all that efficient

Here’s where things start to get more serious. This is the entry-level model in AMD’s Vega line-up, and packs 12.5 billion transistors alongside 8GB of lightning-quick HBM2 memory. There are 56 compute units on the card (hence the name). The way Vega is constructed means there’s a significant possibility of performance improvements in the future. There’s a lot of stuff under the hood to get technophiles excited, including a high-bandwidth cache controller for super-smooth interchange of data between the GPU and the RAM.

As a general rule, you can expect to see this card deliver performance at around 10% beyond what you’d expect from a 1070, making it an exciting proposition at this price. And there’s considerable scope for overclocking, too. That said, it does require two eight-pin power connectors, through which it’ll suck quite a bit of juice. We’d suggest matching the card with an adaptive-sync-enabled monitor for optimal performance: this is where the price advantages of AMD over Nvidia are more apparent.

Radeon RX Vega 64

+ The best-performing AMD card

+ Architecture means performance is likely to improve

– Not quite as good value as the Vega 56

As of now, the RX Vega 64 sits at the top of AMD’s roster. It comes with all 64 compute units activated, making it more of a match for Nvidia’s 1080 than the 1070. It’s more expensive, more power-hungry, and produces more heat than its little brother. But in return you’ll get a performance improvement that allows it to compete in 1440p and 2160p games.

Given that the onboard memory of the cheaper RX Vega 56 can be easily overclocked to match that of the 64, the performance advantages of the more expensive card might not be quite so attractive for advanced users who are willing to make sacrifices. Both versions of the Vega cards offer substantial structural improvements under the hood, which developers have yet to explore fully. It’s therefore worth noting that we should expect further improvements to performance to arrive in time, and that the benchmarks recorded at the time of release can be a little bit misleading. If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to Nvidia’s last gen of cards, look no further.

AMD cards can be relied upon to compete with Nvidia’s in terms of price but the company currently lacks a high-end offering to rival the latest releases from the green team. For most modern games, however, they’re more than sufficient – even at higher resolutions.

Powercolor AMD RX 580

Powercolor AMD RX 580
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