Choosing the right graphics card on a budget is no easy feat, especially since they are pretty much non-existent! Like the latest consoles, GPUs have been almost impossible to find, and when they’re available, they disappear in seconds or their prices are often hyper-inflated. This is largely due to the issue of semiconductor shortages, as well as issues of scalpers. The following guide aims to better inform you on ways in which you can go about finding a GPU, especially for those on the hunt for budget cards.
Three Budget Cards to Look Out For
Current card prices are so inflated that cards that have been designed to deliver an entry-level performance are priced at mid-range card prices, while mid-range card prices are priced at high-end card prices. Three cards that are entry-level cards and therefore technically budget are Nvidia’s RTX 3050, GTX 1660 SUPER, and AMD’s latest Radeon RX 6500 XT. These cards will run modern day games with relative ease at 1080p, with the RTX 3050 being the more superior card with its ray tracing capabilities.
Top Pick – Nvidia RTX 3050
The RTX 3050 is one of Nvidia’s latest entry-level cards and will blow almost all other budget GPUs out the water with its performance. In theory, it should enter the market at $249, but this is being optimistic. Nvidia has suggested that the card should get a constant 60 FPS at 1080p with ray tracing many games. The RTX 3050 is a budget killer and one the cheapest ray tracing cards currently available.
Runner Up – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super
While Nvidia’s GTX 1660 Super ships without the latest ray tracing tech associated with the RTX-series cards, it is a killer in terms of its performance. Its MRSP is usually around $250, but expect to pay around $500 for it in this current market. It manages to push out solid 1080p gaming performances, with Middle Earth: Shadow of War remaining above 80 FPS, and it even managed a decent 1440p performance. This budget card is great for those on a tighter budget looking to maximize performance but are willing to give up on the RT cores.
Bang for the Buck Option – AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT
The Radeon RX 6500 XT is AMD’s latest entry-level card that rivals Nvidia’s budget GTX 1650. With AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution enabled, which is a competitor to Nvidia’s DLSS, most games frame rates are increased without much loss to graphic fidelity. Games such as Call of Duty: Vanguard hit around 89 FPS at 1080p while on high settings and Far Cry 6 even boosts from 59 to 84 FPS at high settings. It is impressive what entry level cards can accomplish these days.
But How Does One Even Go About Finding Cards?
While it is all good and well that these cards exist, they aren’t always the easiest to find. The next section explores some ways one can go about finding the above cards, or any other card that you may be looking for.
1) Online stores
Using sites like eBay could yield favorable results, however this is always a gamble. You can either walk away with the deal of a lifetime, or walk away with nothing at all. Scalpers make a lot of their money here and sell cards at absurd prices, along with scammers. Amazon, NewEgg and BestBuy are naturally good options too, however cards sell out so quickly that you need to be on top of it all the time. So you need to be on top of it at all times! The other alternative is to go directly to the manufacturer websites.
2) Approach local stores
In a world where many rely on online purchasing, they often forget that there are physical shops that may have what they’re looking for. Going down to your local computer store could mean that you get lucky and find some stock of the GPU you are looking for. It is often easier just dealing with someone familiar with the current market in person, allowing you to get clarity on any questions you may have.
3) Stay notified
There are useful servers on Discord that automatically notify you when a retailer has restocked GPUs. YouTube also has channels that are dedicated to monitoring a variety of websites for you and similarly notifying you of availability. And lastly, product trackers like HotStock.io and NowInStock.net are useful for getting notified when a particular GPU you may be interested in becomes available, allowing you to quickly snap it up upon alert.
4) By a prebuilt machine
A somewhat drastic but useful option is to purchase an entire pre-built machine. Given that manufacturers have easier access to GPUs than you will, you can take this step if all else fails, especially since the newer budget cards suited to gaming in 2022 will be found in these machines more readily than the availability of the GPUs on their own. You can either sell your old system, or simply sell the parts in the new prebuilt system that you don’t need.
5) Play Newegg’s Lottery
Newegg Shuffle is Neweggs way of dealing with the current GPU shortages. It is basically a lottery system that allows you to stand a chance to purchase the GPU you are looking for. PCMag have reported that around 100 k people enter each raffle, so your chances are really limited, however it is an opportunity regardless.
6) Ditch the desktop and buy a whole laptop
A more realistic solution is a decent gaming laptop that comes with a decent integrated GPU, especially since you can purchase an entire machine for a few hundred dollars more than a desktop GPU. There are a number of laptops priced under $700 that ship with the latest RTX cards. Here, we can reliably guide you towards three machines that are priced just a few hundred dollars more than a desktop GPU.
Acer Nitro 5
For around $800 you can pick Acer’s Latest Nitro 5 that ships with one of Nvidia’s latest ray tracing cards, the RTX 3050. This is supported by the powerful Intel i5-10300H and a decent 8 GB of DDR4 RAM. Additionally, the display is a sharp 144 Hz IPS display. You will get good gaming performances overall at 1080p with a steady 60 FPS, and given the price, it may well be considered a more cost effective solution to purchasing an overpriced GPU.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15
The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 also packs a punch with its entry-level Nvidia 1650 GPU coupled with 8GB of RAM and the 6-core AMD Ryzen processor. The display is a 15-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display with a blazing fast 120 Hz refresh rate. While the GTX 1650 is super entry level, you are getting an entire laptop for the price of a GPU. 1080p Gaming will be fine on medium to high settings, but you can expect some FPS drops here and there, especially with the more demanding AAA titles.
Buying a GPU in this day and age can be an absolute nightmare given the current issues related to supply, with the only real solution being to wait out the supply issues. There isn’t certainty around when it will end, however there are suggestions that it may be around the second half of this year. If you really need to purchase a new GPU, then perhaps this guide would have been of some use to you, otherwise it may well be worth waiting until later in 2022 to see if the issues persist.