2020 has not been exactly been the greatest year overall, and for the PC industry, it has been one of the worst years in recent memory for a whole host of reasons. While there were many amazing product lineups released during the year such as the brilliant Ryzen 5000 series, the RTX 3000 series, and the Radeon RX 6000 series, these products have been plagued with stock availability issues throughout the year that even continued into 2021. At the time of writing, there is still almost no stock of any RTX 3000 series or RX 6000 series graphics cards anywhere, while the Ryzen 5000 series is also struggling with replenishment issues.
The ongoing pandemic has definitely been a major driving factor for this shortage, although it is not the only reason. The Cryptocurrency mining boom has also returned, with Bitcoin crossing $60,000 in value at the time of writing. Scalping is also a major concern as scalpers have employed automatic bots to grab whatever little stock there is of graphics cards and CPUs. In fact, these scalpers are then reselling those graphics cards on sites like eBay for 3 or 4 times the price. Gamers are either forced to pay the exorbitant prices for cards that cost a quarter as much, or wait for prices to normalize and stock levels to rise up again. Given the current situation, it looks like that is still some time away.
In this complicated time, many gamers are unable to buy the graphics cards of their choice. So here are the 5 best temporary graphics cards to buy in the meantime that should be enough to get you by until you can get your hands on a shiny new graphics card.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super is a really solid mid-range GPU that can definitely handle most AAA games of 2021 at 1080p Ultra details. This card can also dabble in entry-level 1440p games in some AAA games and most eSports titles. While yes, one cannot expect the 1660 Super to deliver the same performance as any of the RTX 3000 series cards, it is definitely a solid choice for a temporary GPU that you can rely on until you get a chance to get a newer card.
The 1660 Super is also particularly attractive due to its positioning in Nvidia’s lineup. It is not as expensive as the 1660Ti but offers only 3-4% less performance than the 1660Ti in most titles. This makes it a particularly exciting value in today’s market where even the older generation GPUs are being scalped and sold for a hefty price tag. The 1660 Super also has decent availability and it is often replenished at major retailers to be bought new with a warranty, while you can also try your luck in the used market as well.
The 1660Ti is decently equipped in terms of features as well. It has the amazing Nvidia NVENC encoder that can really come in handy if you’re looking to stream some games as well. The 1660 Super does not, unfortunately, have any Ray Tracing or DLSS support but those features are at a premium right now as we know. For normal rasterized gaming, the 6GB buffer on the 1660 Super should be completely fine as well, especially at the target resolution of 1080p.
Our recommended version is the MSI Gaming X 1660 Super that offers a mild factory OC and pairs it with a strong cooler that can definitely keep the underlying GPU cool. The card is often found in stock at major online retailers. The 1660 Super is definitely one of the best temporary graphics cards you can buy at this time, and it won’t lose much value either as it has solid resale value in the used card market as well.
The Radeon RX 5600 XT is another last-generation graphics card that is an excellent option for a temporary graphics card. In terms of raw performance numbers, it is quite a bit faster than the aforementioned GTX 1660 Super. In fact, it rivals Nvidia’s RTX 2060 in terms of raw gaming performance in rasterized games. The value proposition is also in the favor of the RX 5600 XT as it is often found quite a bit cheaper than the RTX 2060.
The RX 5600 XT was aimed to be the ultimate 1080p gaming graphics card and it still holds quite true to that aim. The card can definitely handle modern AAA games at 1080p Ultra detail while giving more than 60 FPS on most occasions. In fact, it can also dabble in entry-level 1440p gaming with light AAA titles or eSports titles. The card was not really popular when it was released and therefore its availability levels are surprisingly high.
In terms of features, the RX 5600 XT does not offer anything special, however, its 6GB VRAM should be enough for AAA gaming at 1080p which is its target resolution. There is no Ray Tracing, No DLSS, and no special encoder which is kind of disappointing but these are features can you can do without in a temporary card. The RX 5600 XT retains its value quite well as we can see it selling for relatively high prices on the used market, so you should not lose much of your temporary investment.
Our pick is the Sapphire Pulse RX 5600 XT which is one of the upper midrange variants of the 5600 XT. It is not as prohibitively expensive as the Sapphire Nitro+ or some other premium variant, but it does offer fantastic cooling performance and a decent factory overclock which really helps improve the gaming experience. The Pulse variant is seen regularly in stock at major online retailers, as well as in the used market for reasonable prices.
Overall, the 5600 XT is another great option if you’re looking for a temporary graphics card that can handle 1080p gaming at maximum settings for the time being. It has solid resale value as well so you should be able to get rid of it fairly comfortably.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super is in Nvidia’s first tier of Ray Tracing graphics cards along with the regular RTX 2060, however, we picked the Super variant because the regular 2060 loses the battle of value to the aforementioned RX 5600 XT. The 2060 Super, however, is a considerable step up in terms of performance when compared to the cards already mentioned.
The 2060 Super is a card that can handle midrange 1440p gaming fairly comfortably, and that means that it should have no problem playing modern AAA titles at 1440p on High Settings or thereabouts. The 2060 Super should be able to get 60 FPS in most titles, although for some fairly modern AAA titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 you might be better off at 1080p instead of 1440p.
The feature list of the RTX 2060 Super is quite saturated. It does support real-time Ray Tracing and the incredible Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) 2.0 technology. While its Ray Tracing performance might not be the best, the inclusion of DLSS 2.0 is what makes it a really solid option for a temporary graphics card. More and more modern games are implementing DLSS 2.0, and that is driving their system requirements down which means that older RTX cards with DLSS can play modern games at better framerates simply by turning ON DLSS. Moreover, the 2060 Super is equipped with 8GB of GDDR6 memory and also has Nvidia’s famed NVENC encoder to help with streaming.
The RTX 2060 Super is quite a bit more expensive than the RX 5600 XT or the 16 series cards from Nvidia, and for this reason, it might not retain its value that well. However, it can be found in stock regularly at major online retailers and that is a good thing if you are looking for a temporary graphics card. You may also browse the used card market for the 2060 Super but the prices there might not make a lot of sense right now.
Our recommendation for the variant is the excellent EVGA RTX 2060 Super SC ULTRA variant that is a mid-range variant of the RTX 2060 Super. It has excellent cooling performance and a stealthy design which is great for those people who are looking for a blackout build. The RTX 2060 Super is a solid temporary graphics card if you can find it for a reasonable price, and it can provide a lot of excellent features like DLSS as well that can improve your overall gaming experience.
The GeForce GTX 1080Ti is quite simply, one of the greatest graphics cards ever produced. It was so far ahead of its time that Nvidia is still trying to convince 1080Ti owners to update to the latest and greatest that Nvidia has to offer. Unfortunately, Nvidia forgot to provide enough stock of the RTX 3000 series so that the 1080Ti owners could upgrade. Nevertheless, the old Nvidia flagship is still a fantastic graphics card in 2021.
The GTX 1080Ti performs similarly to an AMD RX 5700 XT or Nvidia’s own RTX 2070 Super. It is an incredibly fast video card considering its age, and it can make an excellent temporary graphics card for those of you who are looking for a high-performing graphics card that can handle 1440p and 4K gaming quite well. The GTX 1080Ti can still handle most AAA titles at 1440p High settings and even some moderate 4K gaming with light AAA or eSports titles.
However, being around four years old, it does not have quite the most extensive feature list. It lacks any Ray Tracing or DLSS and is built on the older Pascal architecture. On the contrary, the 1080Ti does have 11GB of GDDR5X video memory which is plenty even for 4K gaming. Our recommendation for the variant is the incredible ASUS Strix GTX 1080Ti which is a really premium variant with excellent cooling performance and high overclocking headroom.
The 1080Ti might be a little more expensive to buy, but it is still one of the fastest graphics cards on the market in 2021. One should look for the GTX 1080Ti if they are not satisfied with the performance level of the cards that are listed before it in this roundup. Keep in mind that the 1080Ti is quite a premium card, so there is a chance that you might have to take a hit on your investment when it comes time to sell it.
One of the main reasons why there is a huge shortage of graphics cards is the recent Cryptocurrency boom. Bitcoin has crossed $60,000 in value as of the time of writing, and crypto mining is rampant. This means that crypto miners are doing all in their power to grab whatever graphics cards they can get their hands on to continue mining. One of the things that crypto miners look for is the size of video memory, and they tend to avoid cards with less than 6GB of video memory.
This is why the 8GB variant of the legendary RX 580 from AMD is virtually non-existent, but the 4GB variant of the same card can often be found on major online retailers or in the used market. Shopping for a 4GB RX 580 might not be the worst idea in the current situation, provided that you tamper your expectations a little bit. The RX 580 4GB is one of the most affordable temporary graphics cards that you might be able to get your hands on.
In terms of gaming performance, the RX 580 4GB can handle most AAA games at 1080p Medium-High settings at around 50-60 FPS. In more competitive games or in eSports titles, it can hit close to 100 FPS quite regularly provided that you play on competitive settings. If you are comfortable with such performance on a temporary basis, then the RX 580 4GB might be a great option that is not too hard on the wallet either.
The Sapphire Nitro+ RX 580 4GB is our recommendation in terms of the variant of the card. It is a premium variant from Sapphire that has excellent cooling performance, high boost clocks, and a large factory overclock. Buyer beware however, the 4GB version of the RX 580 might not have the highest resale value in the used market due to its smaller VRAM buffer, however, it is an easier pill to swallow considering the lower cost of entry.
All in all, the Radeon RX 580 4GB might not be the most powerful card on the market, but due to the general trend of crypto-miners, it might be readily available if you look for it. This can be a good temporary graphics card if you are only looking to play at 1080p with moderate expectations of performance.