For the last few years AMD’s Radeon graphics cards have had the unfortunate honor of being regarded as superior for mining crypto coins — especially Ethereum — because of their compute strength. Their ongoing dominance in that respect (particularly the RX Vega and RX 480/580 lineup) has been a boon for AMD’s profits, but few of those sales are going to gamers. And just like their Nvidia counterparts, the majority of midrange and high-end offerings suffer from crushing price inflation at retail.
RELATED: Here Are The Cheapest Nvidia Cards You Can Buy Today For 1080p Gaming
Yesterday I put the spotlight on Nvidia GeForce GTX cards that have mostly escaped price hikes but still offer decent 1080p gaming capabilities. Today I want to do the same for AMD Radeon cards, although this is more challenging. While you can find a select few GTX 1060s for reasonable prices, a comparable Radeon RX 580 is still priced into the stratosphere. The same comparison can be made for the GTX 1050 Ti versus the Radeon RX 570. That means the overall horsepower found below is a touch less than the Nvidia cards I dug up yesterday — but the prices reflect this.
Still, for those of you craving a long overdue upgrade or your first gaming PC build, these are solid choices. And for the first time an AMD APU — now powered by Radeon Vega graphics — makes the list for affordable 1080p gaming.
Let’s check out the offerings.
#1: XFX Radeon RX 550 4GB: $129
With their RX 550, XFX delivered a no frills single-slot design packing 4GB of VRAM. Nothing attractive in the looks department, but this budget card gets the job done for people focused on eSports games like League of Legends, Overwatch, and DOTA 2. Granted, it launched at around $80, but in the current climate of GPU prices $129 (sadly) feels like a bargain.
While the Rx 550 can churn out north of 100FPS on those titles, it will struggle with graphically intensive games. Are they playable? You bet, but at low to medium settings. As an example, Battlefield 1 at 1080p LOW will push more than 50FPS, and Rise of the Tomb Raider on 1080p LOW will produce about 40FPS on average.
The RX 550 seems to have been designed strictly with eSports in mind, but it does considerably better than most integrated graphics. Bear that in mind when you’re making your choice. On the plus side, having a generous 4GB buffer in a budget card means that if you are primarily devoted to eSports titles, you can game at resolutions higher than 1080p.
#2: Gigabyte RX 560 4GB: $159
I’ll be blunt: if you have $30 more to spend on a graphics card and you want to enjoy pretty much everything at 1080p with Medium to High quality settings, don’t even hesitate. Throw your cash at Gigabyte’s RX 560 while it’s still in stock. It also packs 4GB of VRAM which somewhat future-proofs it versus 2GB models.
60FPS with Battlefield 1 at 1080p/Medium? Check. North of 70FPS on DOOM at 1080p/Medium? Check. It’ll even get just shy of 60FPS on the gorgeous Witcher 3 using the above settings. You won’t rock everything on Ultra, but you can easily crank it up to High if you have a FreeSync monitor, or don’t mind 30 to 40 frames per second in your gameplay. This is the cheapest I’ve seen a 4GB RX 560 in quite some time, so if you’re thinking about a new GPU this is worthy of consideration.
#3: Ryzen 5 2400G CPU with Radeon Vega Graphics: $169
The RYZEN 5 2400G makes 1080p gaming possible on an APU
Is this cheating? Sure, a little bit. It’s not a dedicated GPU, but AMD’s latest APU (technically titled *deep breath* Ryzen 5 2400G Processor with Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics) is a breakthrough, delivering decent 1080p gaming on an integrated graphics solution. So if you’re thinking about a budget PC build and haven’t yet chosen your CPU, you might want to consider this. You can always add a dedicated Radeon or GeForce graphics card down the road when and if prices ever settle back down to earth.
As for performance, don’t expect it to match the aforementioned RX 560, but it’s one hell of a surprising chip considering $169 gets you a Ryzen 5 CPU and integrated Vega graphics.
Some examples of the Ryzen 5 2400G’s performance with 16GB of DDR4 memory.
- Civilization 6, 1080p Medium Settings: Average 45FPS
- Grand Theft Auto 5, 1080p Medium Settings: Average 61FPS
- Overwatch, 1080p, High Textures, 100% Resolution Scale: 68FPS
- Mining hashrate: No clue, but it’s likely abysmal because it’s still selling for MSRP…
Their latest APU falls down a bit with more demanding games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, but they’re still playable at lower settings with a minimum of 30FPS. Dig around the tech sphere for reviews and I think you’ll be impressed what this hardware can do for the asking price.
Anyway, don’t let the insane prices of higher-end GPUs scare you away from PC gaming! And if you’re building one from scratch, hopefully this sets you down the right path. Budget doesn’t have to be a dirty word, even if things are quite as “budget” as they used to be!