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Technical Tips And Tricks Annual Guide to Buying a Used Graphics Card

Technical Tips And Tricks Annual Guide to Buying a Used Graphics Card

Best Bargain GPU Choices

If your gaming PC is in desperate need of a GPU upgrade and you want to save as much money as possible, strap yourself in, this is the guide for you. For the past weeks we’ve been gathering data for about 80 AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. We've tested them all in 3 representative games using 2 quality presets each, and for the sake of our sanity, limited testing to 1080p performance.
It's not our first rodeo, and because we've been doing this for a few years, we can confidently call this the ultimate second-hand graphics card buying guide. Our hope is to better equip you to snag a great value deal on a used graphics card. This feature also happens to be quite timely this year with many of you trying to save money, while trying to keep youselves entertained indoors at the same time.
For the last two installments we tested with 3 games at 1080p using medium quality settings. We'll repeat that process, but in addition we’ll also provide some high quality preset results. The bulk of the analysis will still rely on the medium quality data, as we're more focused on previous generation GPUs.
Moreover, the current generation of GPUs are constantly benchmarked across the web in all the latest games -- including our own benchmarks -- so finding that data is easier and more readily available. In fact, if you want to buy a new graphics card, we have an up-to-date dedicated guide for that here.
Our focus today instead is in the harder to find comparisons. For example, how the GeForce 900 and 10 series perform relative to Radeon 200, 300 and 500 series GPUs, and then to get the full picture we've included all the newer GPUs for reference.
In choosing the right games we tried to avoid testing titles such as Doom Eternal, which can run poorly on older hardware due to a lack of driver optimization... optimization which hopefully will eventually arrive with future driver updates. We're also sticking to DirectX 11 as this API is better supported by older GeForce GPUs. Finally, we chose to test using Battlefield V, Ghost Recon Breakpoint and F1 2019.
We're using our standard GPU test system featuring a Core i9-9900K overclocked to 5 GHz with 16GB of DDR4-3400 memory. That will ensure no GPU related bottlenecks are observed. Let's get started. 
For all of the analysis we’re looking at the 3 game average data. Anything that can't deliver an average of at least 40 fps under these test conditions, we immediately deem not worthy of your attention or money.
For all of the analysis we’re looking at the 3 game average data. Anything that can't deliver an average of at least 40 fps under these test conditions, we immediately deem not worthy of your attention or money.
Looking at the Nvidia GPUs, that means from the GTX 760 down we’ll be dropping 11 of the GeForce GPUs. While some of the GeForce GTX 600 series did make the cut, we’d be cautious of buying any graphics card with just 2GB of VRAM in 2020. 4GB is the bare minimum now, so keep that in mind as we move forward.
The older Radeon GPUs seem to fare a bit better with products such as the HD 7870 making the cut despite only packing 2GB of VRAM -- though again we’d avoid that unless your intention is to play titles such as Rocket League, CS:GO and Fortnite with competitive settings. Grabbing something like the Radeon R9 380X or R9 290 with 4GB of VRAM, for example, would be the wiser move. As for the more modern Radeon GPUs, anything above the RX 470/570 still has plenty of fight left in it.
With the high quality preset enabled, the GeForce GTX 670 drops below 40 fps on average while the GTX 680 and GTX 770 just skate by. Most of the GPUs below the 40 fps threshold are limited to a 2GB VRAM buffer. Just pushing over 40 fps we have GPUs such as the GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 780 and GTX 1650. Once we reach the GTX 1060 3GB we’ve almost reached 60 fps on average and the 6GB 1060 and GTX 980 get us there.On the AMD Radeon front, jumping to the high quality settings sees everything below the R9 380X unable to exceed 40 fps on average, and for these settings you’ll ideally want a Radeon R9 290/390, or better. The Radeon RX 570 is a great option here and it’s available with either a 4GB or 8GB memory buffer. We tested the 4GB version which did fine with this game selection, but newer games will require you to tweak the texture quality settings if you have less memory at your disposal.

Cost Per Frame

This graph contains a few different data points. Along each graphics card's name, followed in brackets is the number of items sold since the start of the year on Ebay and next to that is the average selling price of the last 12 successful listings. The blue bars show us the resulting cost per frame and in orange the average fps.
So if you take the average selling price and divide that by the frame rate, you get the cost per frame. With this data you could also adjust pricing to your region and work out which graphics card will offer you the most value. Remember, this is the average sale price, so ideally you don’t want to pay more than this and with some patience or luck there’s a chance you can come in under that price.
In order to streamline the selection process we disregarded GPUs that have seen less than 40 sales since the start of the year and we’ve done this because your chances of landing a Radeon R9 Fury X, for example, at a reasonable price is very slim and finding one for sale is even slimer. We also ditched all Kepler-based GeForce models since we can no longer in good conscience recommend them given how poor they perform in a number of new titles.Removing all those GPUs, we’re left with only 32 viable models and rather than sort by price or cost per frame we're going to stick with frame rate as we feel that makes it easier to weed out the best options in each performance tier.

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