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Friday, May 24, 2024

Ah, so this is what an actually affordable graphics card looks like

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It’s been a long time coming but I’m finally able to say there are graphics cards at affordable prices—just waiting to be jammed into a PC build on a budget. We’ve already amassed a healthy pick of the best Black Friday graphics card deals, but I want to hone in on the specifics of a handful of budget graphics cards around, so you can pick the right one and get the most out of your money.

After the surge of demand for graphics cards completely outstripped supply for the better part of an entire GPU generation, you might be surprised to learn that GPU shipments are historically low right now. It’s a bit of a problem for AMD and Nvidia, in fact. But that’s playing into our hands this Black Friday, as PC builders can now scoop up pretty decent discounts on most graphics cards.

While that means we’re now in something of a buyer’s market for graphics cards, it’s so important to actually consider your options if you’re to maximise your budget and get the best graphics card for your machine. Performance per dollar on AMD’s RX 6000-series and Nvidia’s RTX 30-series has been turned on its head, so past conclusions on which is the best to buy don’t often hold true today.

What that really means? It’s an AMD free-for-all. The red team’s RDNA 2 graphics cards are currently going for massively under MSRP and that’s massively changed how I feel about most of them. Cards that were, at best, a second pick to Nvidia’s RTX 30-series have now become the best value, such as the RX 6650 XT and RX 6600.

AMD Radeon RX 6600

MSI Mech RX 6600 | 8GB | 1,762 shaders | 2,491MHz Boost | $279.99

MSI Mech RX 6600 | 8GB | 1,762 shaders | 2,491MHz Boost | $279.99 $189.99 at Newegg (save $90)
MODERN GRAPHICS CARD UNDER $200 ALERT! Yes, it’s finally happened, a proper modern 1080p GPU dropping below the magic $200 mark and one that’s not far off the performance of graphics cards that are twice the price. The RX 6600 is the current budget darling, and is only a shade off the performance of the RTX 3060 in standard rasterized gaming.

View Deal

  • Lowest price we spotted: $189.99
  • Resolution target: 1080p

RX 6600 specs

GPU: Navi 23
Compute Units: 28
Stream Processors: 1,792
Infinity Cache: 32 MB
Memory: 8GB GDDR6
Memory bus: 128-bit
TBP: 132W
MSRP: $329

The Radeon RX 6600 is probably the cheapest graphics card I’m happy to recommend right now. I had it in this guide while it the lowest price we could find it was $210, and then it dropped to $190. While it is resolutely a 1080p graphics card, it delivers the all-important 60fps required of it in modern games at that resolution. At a minimum. When it’s really chugging along nicely, it’ll even match the output of a 144Hz 1080p monitor.

The RX 6600 XT started out as a $329 card, and it wasn’t at all worth it for that price. The RX 6600 lacked the pace to really compete with Nvidia’s equally priced RTX 3060 12GB. With more memory and better ray tracing capabilities, it’s the green team’s GPU that I personally preferred when I reviewed both. That’s all changed now, however. The RTX 3060 is rarely seen close to its MSRP, and if only ever in that sort of region. While the RX 6600 is now asking just a little over $200.

To keep it simple, the RX 6600 is the graphics card you should buy this Black Friday if you can’t stretch your budget any further.

More stats to be found in our AMD RX 6600 review.

1080p performance

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AMD Radeon RX 6650 XT

MSI Mech RX 6650 XT | 8GB GDDR6 | 2,048 shaders | 2,669MHz | $324.99

MSI Mech RX 6650 XT | 8GB GDDR6 | 2,048 shaders | 2,669MHz | $324.99 $229.99 at Newegg (save $95 after rebate)
Again, the smart money is buying AMD graphics cards at the low end of the GPU market. The RX 6650 XT is essentially a new and improved version of the RX 6600 XT, which is both cheaper and faster than the RTX 3060, despite losing out on the memory front. Don’t be fooled by that 12GB vs. 8GB thing.

View Deal

  • Lowest price we spotted: $229.99
  • Resolution target: 1080p/1440p

RX 6650 XT specs

GPU: Navi 23
Compute Units: 32
Stream Processors: 2,048
Infinity Cache: 32 MB
Memory: 8 GB GDDR6
Memory bus: 128-bit
TBP: 176W
MSRP: $449

For a small amount more cash than the RX 6600, you can buy the improved RX 6650 XT. With 14% more shader cores (Stream Processors) than the RX 6600, it’s a great value proposition for the budding 1080p gamer with a desire to push frame rates upwards of 144Hz.

I could’ve also noted the RX 6600 XT here, as it’s roughly the same card for the same price as the RX 6650 XT. It is, however, ever so slightly slower. Supply of the RX 6650 XT does appear to be generally good, so there’s no reason not to aim for that (regional availability depending).

Want more stats and figures? Read our AMD RX 6650 XT review.

1080p performance

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AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT

XFX RX 6700 XT Speedster SWFT309 | 12GB GDDR6 | 2,560 shaders | 2,581MHz Boost | $519.99

XFX RX 6700 XT Speedster SWFT309 | 12GB GDDR6 | 2,560 shaders | 2,581MHz Boost | $519.99 $409.99 at Amazon (save $110)
I am so over XFX’s naming scheme for its graphics cards but suffice to say that this is almost identical to the one below, but with a slightly lower Boost clock. Though how much difference that will make in gaming will be negligible. This one’s cheaper though, which is always important.

View Deal

  • Lowest price we spotted: $409.99
  • Resolution target: 1440p/1080p

Radeon RX 6700 XT specs

GPU: Navi 22
Compute Units: 40
Stream processors: 2,560
Infinity Cache: 96MB
Memory bus: 192-bit
Memory capacity: 12GB GDDR6
Memory speed: 16Gbps
Memory bandwidth: 512GB/s
TGP: 230W
Price (reference): $479

When I say my opinion has entirely flipped on AMD’s cheaper RDNA 2 cards, there was one GPU of the lot that I didn’t think was half bad at launch. That’s the Radeon RX 6700 XT. It’s not really the RTX 3070 competitor it was born to be, but it offers excellent 1080p/1440p performance and plenty of memory for your money. It’s quite the step up from the RX 6600-series, as it uses a wholly different GPU.

Significantly less money than at this card’s launch, too. Nowadays you can find the RX 6700 XT going for around the $400 mark, and the slightly lesser version, the RX 6700, for $350 or so. Importantly, that’s less than the price we’re seeing Nvidia’s RTX 3060 Ti going for.

Speaking of the RTX 3060 Ti, that’s probably the one RTX 30-series card I still look relatively fondly upon right now. It’s not necessarily as cheap as I’d like to see it, as it’s roughly still selling for MSRP ($400), but that card was always the best value 30-series GPU, so it’s still a fairly good deal. At least until its replacement rolls around, but that could be a little ways off yet. While I still feel AMD has Nvidia roundly beat on pricing right now, if you really don’t want to switch to the red team then it’s the RTX 3060 Ti that’s your best bet today.

Check out our AMD RX 6700 XT review for more.

1440p performance

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