Best Graphics Cards for 2020. Plus How Long Do Graphic Cards Last?

With the cryptocurrency mining rig shortage of 2017 fading into rearview, it’s no longer a blood-letting to purchase a graphics card. The downside of this boom in availability is now you have to make a real decision on what card to slot into your rig.

Adding to this difficulty is the question, “how long do graphics cards last?” Should you ride how a sub-par card for a price drop or upgrade now. Buyers remorse and the grass is always greener hit hard with every decrease you push in quality settings.

Graphic card choice also suffers from what is good enough to what is worth it for the near future. Especially as AMD and Nvidia fight to achieve that coveted real-time ray tracing power.

This guide offers some nuts and bolts advice on how to choose a card and what to look for in performance and longevity. If you want the TLDR, our overall choice for perfomance is the RTX 2080TI.

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Breaking Down GPU by Features

One of the easiest mistakes in buying a graphics card is to just grab something because it’s expensive. The idea that high price means high performance has its roots, but it misses the point of every other thing component you put in a gaming rig.

You want components that provide the performance you need, and that work well together. Rig building is every bit as much about nuance and knowledge as souping-up a car. Balance and knowledge are key.

Know what you want in each of these areas to pick up a GPU that will deliver without breaking the rest of your build.

Ray Tracing

Many cards claim to have the ability to perform real-time ray tracing. Outside of the newer RTX cards and the AMD Navi, what you get is upscaled rasterization. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with rasterization for another couple of years as long as the specs let you hit your target quality.

Video Memory Type

The first place to think about longevity, in particular, is with the VRAM. Your GTX 1000 line uses DDR5, the pinch point for that aforementioned mining snafu. The newer RTX cards are looking at GDDR6 or going into the HBM2 realm with Navi and 7nm Vega 2.

The thing to be concerned about is the speed of your processor and how it handles RAM. Running a GTX 2080 through an i5th gen or lower chip will bottleneck your performance severely.

Display Ports

The next most common error in purchasing a top of the line card is not accounting for the display ports. Most new GPU support display input or HDMI. It’s getting harder to find a card with DVI-D and almost nothing covers VGA.

An adapter will at least let you use an older monitor, but you lose a lot of quality in doing so.


The card needs to fit in your case, not break the slot off your board, and not ram into your fans. Measure your case and pay attention to the height and length of any new card to avoid this embarrassing error.

Heat and Noise

Water cooling GPUs is still a newer thing, it saves you some noise but tests are iffy on if it saves you much in the way of centigrade. Blower-style cards have some great temp control but are not the option for an on top of the desk rig.

Remember that coil whine, while annoying, isn’t detrimental to your card and can happen to any card of any manufacture.

Best in Power


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To get the best in 4k ready, UWHD performance for the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 or next evolution in CoD you need a serious card.

This means you are looking to pick up an Nvidia 2080 Super or the RTX 2080 Ti. If you are an AMD fan or are interested to see how well the Radeon RX 5700 XT stacks up, the answer is a bit murky. The next line of AMD CPUs will play nicer with the Radeon cards and are outpacing their Intel counterparts.

If you are pushing for extra power for streaming, consider swapping to a second PC setup with a better capture card to bridge performance gaps.

Best in Price


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For the budget-minded shopper, the GTX 1660 Super ($300 range) and the Radeon RX 590 ($200) will get you to a 1080p experience fast.

For a bit more you can look for the RX 5500 early in 2020 which also upgrades to DDR6 VRAM.

Best for Space


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If you have a micro ATX build that needs a GPU to fit in a small form case, the GTX 1650 comes in a variety of smaller units. Though if you are going really small, the RX 570 has a few manufacturers that come in under 11 by 8.

For a budget card for a small case, the GTX 1050 Ti has a few low-profile options that make for a solid travel machine.

How Long Do Graphics Cards Last?

Obviously, in asking this question you are asking about a full-load and at 8+ hours a day. If you game once a week on Sunday to get to and from church, then you have no business buying your own components, j/k.

The thing is, a card will last you longer than you care for it to last. Even at full load, a GPU has a five-year lifecycle. That’s before the heat starts to get to it and it starts to suffer from decreases in performance. Fans or other cooling may give out sooner, depending on friction and vibrations.

A five-year-old card still functions perfectly well. And you might have fun pulling some old GT750s out of some rig somewhere bought used, but that card isn’t going to run a 3D FPS in 2020.

Sadly, three years is the most you can expect to get out of a card to maintain enough power to run a newer game at even medium settings.

Build Yours

That should do you on an upload of information for selecting your next best GPU for an upgrade or new build. Since the GPU still costs almost half of a solid gaming build budget, asking how long do graphics cards last remains an important question.

For more reviews or information on the builds used by your favorite streamers, check out our knowledge base on the PC specs of top Mixer and top Twitch streamers.