Best GPU for Gaming and Esports – The Ultimate Guide
Reaching the top at any given game means hours upon hours of dedicated practice and study. If you want to become the best player you can be you just can’t afford to be held back by your gear and your PC is another critical weapon in your arsenal.
Over the past couple of years we’ve seen pro gamers shift away from using regular 60 FPS (see: ‘What is Framerate‘) setups in favor of 144 FPS setups, and the past year or so we saw the rise of 240 FPS as the de facto standard for most professional gamers. Having a high refresh rate system gives you a myriad of advantages, and with every serious competitive gamer chasing the the perfect setup you can’t really afford to be left behind.
Of course, we have some recommendations for you and came up with three of the best GPUs for gaming and esports; one for 240 FPS gaming, one for 144 FPS gaming, and one budget option. We’ve also compared options for individual games and came up with two GPUs for each game for those people who only focus on one game at a time.
As usual, we want to reach at least 144 FPS since that really is the competitive standard these days. Anything below just doesn’t cut it.
What makes a GPU good for esports?
If you’re a serious competitive gamer you’ll want one thing: all the frames. It’d be easy to end the article at that: ‘just get the most powerful GPU and PC out there and you’re good’ but while that’s true we also know that different people have different budgets. On top of that some games don’t require the latest and greatest GPU to reach respectable framerates, so it’s important to consider your options.
We see 144 frames per second as the bottom limit. Well over 90% of our analyzed professionals play on a setup that’s capable of pushing and displaying at least 144 FPS, so if you really want to be competitive we recommend that you try to reach at least that. There are a lot of advantages here, and once you’ve played competitive games at higher refresh rates you will not want to go back so it’s certainly worth the extra investment if you’re looking for a dedicated card for gaming and esports.
While we’re at it: it’s also important to have a balanced build. It makes no sense to go for a 2080 Ti and stick it in a PC with an i3 CPU and 8 GB of RAM, for example. You don’t want an underpowered system to bottleneck the speeds of your GPU. So in essence: make sure to budget appropriately and consider what your needs are before purchasing something as critical as a GPU.
With that out of the way we can say that it’s definitely important to have a good graphics card in your rig. Getting 60 frames per second in any competitive game is fairly easy (definitely if you turn down some settings here and there) these days but getting a stable 144 frames does require some processing power, and getting a reliable output of 240 FPS is something that only the most powerful GPUs can deliver. One thing is certain though: it’s worth it.
Our List & Options
As you can see on the right, NVIDIA is by far the most represented graphics card manufacturer among the professional gamers that we analyze. We don’t know what the future holds, but at this point in time there’s no denying that NVIDIA is the best option if you’re going for high performance cards, which is why you’ll only see cards from ‘team green’ in this list.
We’ve been taking a look at our analyzed games to come up with cards that should suit every budget and setup so that you’re sure to find the card that’s right for your particular needs in this list. Important to note is that we’ve only gone for cards that are currently in production and being sold. If you can score something like a GTX 1080 Ti at a clearance sale somewhere then these cards are still a good option, but we do recommend to go for the newer RTX line if you’re shopping for something new.
Note: the average FPS you get ingame will severely depend on your ingame settings, as well as the rest of your rig (CPU, RAM, …) so take the estimates that you see in this article with a grain of salt.
Most used GPU manufacturer
1. RTX 2080 Ti
The best 240 Hz option
Gaming at a steady 240 frames per second is no easy task, and you will need a beefy computer complete with a powerful graphics card if this is what you’re after. As such, going for a 240 frames per second setup isn’t something that you can do on a budget. A monitor with a panel capable of putting out these frames will already cost a pretty penny, so this really is a setup for serious competitive players with a certain budget.
The RTX 2080 Ti is the most powerful graphics card on the market right now, and using it will ensure that you get a very steady and reliable 240+ frames per second in the games that can reach said frames. Some games (such as PUBG) are too heavy on resources to reach these numbers, which makes it even more important to go for a card that gets as close as possible.
Just the best out there
As we said: this is the best graphics card that money can buy right now, so this really is only for those people with a large budget who absolutely want to squeeze every last drop of performance out of their 240 Hz rig. If you’re going for a 144 Hz rig this card is going to be overkill, unless you insist on playing your games at ultra settings (which isn’t something that we recommend if you’re a competitive gamer, since frames are more important than distracting eye candy) so we would recommend to look at other options.
Aside from that though, this is one impressive card. Yes, it will cost you a pretty penny, but the power that this GPU delivers will not disappoint.
GEFORCE RTX 2080 TI SPECS:
2. RTX 2070 Super
The best 144 Hz option
If you’re interested in the whole high refresh rate thing but don’t really want to spend a small fortune on building a 240 Hz rig then the RTX 2070 Super is a fantastic card for you. Whereas the regular 2070 suffered from that ‘close, but no cigar’ syndrome for some of our analyzed games the Super version is pretty much the perfect 144+ FPS card.
What you get here is a very powerful mid-high tier graphics card that will run all of our analyzed games at a comfortable 144+ frames per second (provided you drop some settings here and there, depending on the game, but that’s always the case if you want to be competitive) with plenty of power to boot, so you won’t have to worry about a game update or a minor graphics overhaul hindering your performance.
The ideal ‘standard’ eSports card
While it’s obviously always a good idea to get the very best gear that money can buy we do know that that gear costs a lot of money, which is why we love the 2070 Super so much. It’s an ideal card positioned just between the 2080s of this world and the lower end of the segment to give you that ‘best of both worlds’ performance/price. For some of the easier to run games it can definitely act as a 240 Hz card as well, so there’s plenty to love here.
GEFORCE RTX 2070 SUPER SPECS:
3. RTX 2060 Super
The best budget option
NVIDIA has really hit the mark with their Super cards if you’re asking us. The RTX 2060 Super is another great card in that lineup. It offers plenty of processing power in a budget package and it’s our choice for the best budget card for gaming.
With the RTX 2060 Super you won’t be soaring to framerates above 240 frames per second in most games, but that’s not what this card is for. Turn down a couple of settings here and there (or a lot of settings, depending on the game) and you’ve got a reliable 144 Hz card. It might dip below that limit during particularly intense fights, but you can’t expect the world from a budget card and these instances are pretty rare all things considered.
Bang for your buck
This RTX 2060 Super is the perfect budget card. It offers enough power to reach a comfy 144 frames per second in most games (you can even get away with 240 Hz gaming in some of the lighter games if you really turn the settings down) and while it might not hold those frames the entire time it’s a more than capable card for people on a budget who want to get into high refresh rate gaming.
GEFORCE RTX 2060 SUPER SPECS:
Conclusion: Best GPU for Competitive Gaming
While ‘the best’ GPU for competitive gaming is obviously going to be the most powerful card (remember: frames win games) the best card for gaming and esports for you depends on a number of factors. If you’re someone who basically only plays CS:GO, for example, with a bit of 2D indie games on the side for when you want to relax you won’t need a beast of a graphics card. Someone who is deep into PUBG and who wants to enjoy the latest singleplayer games at max graphics will obviously want to go for one of the more powerful cards.
For this reason we’ve taken all of our analyzed games and included two GPUs for each game in the next section; one for 240 Hz gaming, and one for 144 Hz gaming. That way you can get an idea of what kind of power each game requires and make an informed purchase.
Best GPU for each game
In this section we’re giving you some extra options in case you’re mainly focusing on one particular game. We’ve done our research and included a GPU for 144 Hz gaming and another one for 240 Hz gaming for each game. It’s important to note that some games are too heavy to reach a consistent 240 frames per second, so we’ve tried to get as close to it as possible in those cases. As always the actual ingame FPS depends on your exact PC build, and performance can vary between patches and updates, so take the estimates here with a grain of salt.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the easiest games to run so you don’t need a very powerful GPU for this game at all. In fact, CS:GO is mostly CPU heavy, so you won’t even get the most out of a top tier graphics card.
RTX 2070 & RTX 2060 Super
Since it’s abundantly easy to get high framerates in CS:GO (click here to check our settings guide) we’ve gone for two 240 Hz graphics cards here. These are very much budget-oriented cards, but both have an easy time reaching above 240 frames per second so if CS:GO is your main game you’re in luck.
These cards sit at around 245-255 frames per second on average at high settings, and dropping these settings down to low gets you between 350 and 375 frames per second. That’s more than enough to power a 240 Hz display, so which one you should get will depend on availability and price in your region.
If you’re really on a budget you can also go for the regular RTX 2060. That one won’t get you stable 240+ framerates, but it will stick at around 200 at high, making it perfect for people on a 144 Hz setup.
Overwatch is a game that’s not all too hard to run at 144 frames per second, but if you want to enjoy a stable 240 frames each second you will need some powerful hardware.
The RTX 2080 is an ideal card for competitive gamers who want to play Overwatch at 240 frames per second. While it doesn’t reach those frames comfortably at the highest settings it’s important to note that pretty much no pro player leaves all of those ingame settings at max (click here to see our settings guide) since this causes way too much screen clutter that can distract you from the game.
Turn a few settings down and you’ll be gaming at a steady 240 frames per second on average with this RTX 2080, with the card very rarely dropping below that mark. Even at high settings it reaches a respectable 210 frames per second, but if you insist on playing at these settings it’s probably best to go for a 2080 Ti if you’ve got a 240 Hz setup.
RTX 2070 Super
This won’t be the last time you see this card in this article. The RTX 2070 Super is the ideal card for gamers who want to play on a 144 Hz setup. Reaching around 172 frames per second on average at high settings you can even turn the game up without having to worry. Turn some of that visual noise down and you’ve got a smooth and steady 215 frames being produced every second, which means that this is perfect for a worry-free 144 Hz experience.
Fortnite has a pretty big gap between the performance of the game at high settings vs. lower settings, and to top it off the performance can greatly vary between patches, so it can be quite difficult to find the perfect card for this game. For this reason we’ve erred on the side of caution and went for a rather powerful card for our 240 Hz solution.
RTX 2080 Ti
We were doubting between this and the 2080 Super, but since the Ti is the most used card among Fortnite professionals we chose this one. The 2080 Ti handles Fortnite like a champ, and it’s the only card to have a steady 241 frames per second even at high settings. Drop that down a bit and you reach heights of around 288 frames, ensuring that your game won’t drop below the coveted 240 mark for any real period of time.
RTX 2060 Super
Fortnite at high is a surprisingly difficult game to run, as is evidenced by the fact that this 2060 Super ‘only’ gets 121 frames per second at higher graphical settings. Drop it down a bit, though, and you get a super smooth experience at 205 frames each second, making this 2060 Super the ideal card for people who are on a 144 Hz setup. Don’t be afraid: dropping the settings (click here for our Fortnite settings guide) doesn’t mean that your game will look like a pixelated mess, but since pretty much every pro drops some settings here and there this is the perfect 144 Hz card in our book.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is notoriously difficult to run so if you want to play this game at competitive framerates you’ll need a beefy system. Even the most powerful cards don’t manage to run this game at a steady 240 frames per second, so if you’re building a rig specifically for this game you might save a couple of dollars by opting for a 144 Hz monitor, though you obviously never know what optimization patches could do in the future.
RTX 2080 Ti
No card can run this game at a reliable 240 frames per second, so it’s a matter of getting as close to it as possible, and for that you’ll obviously need the most powerful card. This RTX 2080 Ti gets about 169 frames per second at higher settings and delivers a very respectable 194 frames at lower. That’s not enough to enjoy the full power of a 240 Hz display, but it is still a lot better than 144 Hz, so if you’ve got a 240 Hz panel we do recommend that you get the 2080 Ti or perhaps the 2080 Super.
RTX 2070 Super
If even the most powerful graphics card currently in existence can’t reach 240 frames per second it should come as no surprise that you’ll need a decently powerful GPU for 144 Hz gaming. Luckily this RTX 2070 Super reaches that point quite easily, if you can live with lowering your settings (click here for our settings guide) a bit. At low it gets 149 frames per second on average, which means that it’s smooth sailing for everyone with a 144 Hz display, while at high you’ll get a respectable but not-quite-there 130 frames per second.
It’s often said that Apex: Legends runs on the same engine as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and while that’s true the game does utilize a severely modified version of said engine, meaning that it’s sadly not as easy to run as CS:GO.
RTX 2080 Ti
Gaming at 240 Hz is an expensive task in most games, whether you like it or not, and the same goes for Apex: Legends. The RTX 2080 Ti reaches 178 frames per second at high settings, and if you drop those down a bit (click here for our settings guide) you’ll see 229 frames per second on your screen, on average. That’s not enough to get the most out of your shiny 240 Hz monitor, but it is as close as we’ll get with today’s technology, and the frames really only drop below that mark during intense firefights.
RTX 2070 Super
We’ve said it before: we feel like the RTX 2070 Super is ideally positioned to be the perfect 144 Hz card for competitive gamers, and this is proven yet again when we’re taking a look at Apex: Legends. The 2070 Super reaches 140 frames per second at high settings, and if you lower some of those settings you get a super impressive 194 frames per second. That’s more than enough to fully take advantage of a 144 Hz monitor without ever dropping below that mark, meaning that this card is ideal for gamers with a 144 Hz setup, even if you don’t want to lower too many ingame settings.
Rainbow Six: Siege
Rainbow Six Siege is a very nicely optimized game; it’s pretty heavy to run with all of the eye candy set to max, but if you drop some graphical settings down (click here for our settings guide) you’ll see some remarkable leaps in framerate. Just the way we like it.
RTX 2080 Super
While the RTX 2080 Super isn’t quite powerful enough to get a stable 240 frames per second on high (it gets around 228) it does deliver in spades once you drop some settings down a bit. Lower the graphical show and you’ll be treated with 305 frames each second, on average. That’s more than enough for a hassle-free 240 Hz experience, and you even have some headroom to raise a couple of graphical settings here and there if that’s what floats your boat.
If you’re going for a regular 144 Hz setup then Rainbow Six: Siege is a pretty forgiving game on your wallet. This RTX 2060 runs the game at 139 frames per second at high settings, which admittedly isn’t quite enough to fully enjoy a 144 Hz panel, but once you drop the graphics down it rises up to a wonderful 204 frames per second. You could go for a 2060 Super if you really want to get a stable 144 frames even at high settings, but if you don’t mind lowering just a couple of settings then the RTX 2060 is a really good shout.
240 FPS gaming is becoming the de facto standard in the pro gaming scene. To be prepared, you’ll need one of the more powerful GPUs on this list, and that combined with the cost of a 240 Hz monitor and a PC that doesn’t bottleneck your graphics card makes the barrier of entry quite high. For competitive gamers this is easily worth the money but for others this might be quite the jump in price-point. Still, if you want to compete at the top level in any sport you’ll need the best gear out there if you don’t want to handicap yourself, so if your aim is to play at the highest levels you should definitely consider a 240 Hz setup.
Luckily, 144 Hz gaming is getting more and more affordable. Depending on the game you might even get away with a budget GPU if while lowering some in-game settings. Nearly every esports pro is playing on at least 144 frames per second so you are doing yourself a disservice if you’re stuck at 60 Hz. If you want to become competitive, investing in a decent setup has become a necessity. Good that it’s easily worth it.
Hopefully this guide has helped you. Thanks for reading!