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Best Budget Graphics Card Under $200 US

AMD vs NVIDIA in the Current Budget GPU Market (& RX 6500 XT Build Guide)

best budget graphics card under 200

Published: February 2, 2023

If you're building or upgrading your gaming computer in 2023 but the best gaming GPUs are out of your price range, which is the current best budget graphics card for gaming? Nor AMD or NVIDIA have released many good new budget GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) in recent times, with literally all of their new budget GPU releases falling flat.

AMD released its underwhelming Radeon RX 6500 XT and even less impressive Radeon RX 6400. Then NVIDIA followed up with an abomination in the GTX 1630, which delivers very poor gaming performance and which actually costs more than AMD's own and significantly faster GeForce GTX 1650.

You also have Intel entering the graphics card space with their first entry-level GPU in the Arc A380, which also failed to impress in terms of gaming performance and overall value for money. So, with literally every new budget graphics card released in the past couple years failing to impress, what's a gamer to do? What is the best graphics card on a budget under around 200 dollars US? Read on and I'll share my thoughts.

See Also: How to Buy a Used GPU (& Where)

Best Budget Graphics Card Under $200: Radeon RX 6500 XT 4GB

Check Prices: Amazon US

If you want the most bang for buck graphics card under $200 US, and you only want to buy new, the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT is probably your best option right now despite how average of a product it is overall. It's only got 4GB of GDDR6 of memory (VRAM), but that is a passable amount for respectable performance at 1080p resolution in most games (and at medium settings in most cases).

For less demanding titles, you can crank the settings up to high or ultra and get a smooth experience, but for the most demanding AAA games the 6500 XT will struggle unless you really dial down those graphics settings.

The RX 6500 XT isn't a great graphics card, and doesn't even clearly beat the previous-gen RX 5500 XT (the 6500 XT and 5500 XT are neck and neck in terms of performance). The price vs performance of the 6500 XT is not impressive relative to older budget GPU release from AMD and NVIDIA, and at its MSRP of $199 US it is quite overpriced.

But it is technically the best budget graphics card under $200 right now. You can also find it for a bit lower than that price these days, so if you see it for under $170 to $180 then it starts to become a whole lot more bang for buck (though still not overly impressive relative to past budget GPUs).

If you look at the NVIDIA competition around this price range, there's not anything that looks a better buy on the new GPU market. Ignoring the abysmal GTX 1630 which just isn't strong enough for a good 1080p experience at all, NVIDIA's latest low-end graphics card release was the RTX 3050, but that card is even more overpriced relative to its performance, and costs much more than the 6500 XT.

See Also: Best Value Mid-Range and High-End GPUs

NVIDIA's older GTX 1650 Super graphics card slightly beats the RX 6500 XT (in PCIe 4 mode) in most gaming benchmarks, but the 1650 Super costs a fair bit more than the 6500 XT at the time of writing. If you can find a 1650 Super for around the same price as a 6500 XT, it's worth a look, but as prices stand now the 6500 XT is better value.

However, I only recommend the 6500 XT if you pair it with a PCIe 4 compatible motherboard, as unlike many GPUs where PCIe 4 doesn't make much difference, with the RX 6500 XT there actually is a significantly difference in gaming performance when running PCIe 4 vs PCIe 3. In other words, the 6500 XT can be run in either PCIe 3 mode or PCIe 4 mode, depending on which version of PCIe you install the graphics card into.

If the motherboard you choose has a PCIe 4 compatible PCIe slot, and you plug your GPU into there, the card will run at PCIe 4 speeds. But if your motherboard only has a PCIe 3 compatible PCIe slot, the card will run at PCIe 3 (and your frame rate will be lower).

Choosing the Best Motherboard for the RX 6500 XT

So, if you agree with me that the RX 6500 XT is the best budget graphics card under $200 right now, if you purchase one make sure you choose a motherboard that supports PCIe 4, and that also has a PCIe 4 compatible PCIe slot (some PCIe 4 compatible motherboards may only have PCIe 4 on the M.2 SSD slot, and not necessarily on the GPU slot). Most PCIe 4 compatible motherboards should have a PCIe 4 compatible PCIe slot for GPUs though, so this shouldn't be an issue.

To confirm a motherboard has a PCIe 4 compatible GPU slot, go to the official specs on the manufacturer's website and check out the specs. For example, let's say you want to know if the Gigabyte B660M DS3H DDR4, a popular budget Intel 12th-gen motherboard that we'll use for the 6500 XT build example below, can support PCIe 4 graphics cards. Go to its specs page and look for this:

how to know motherboard has pcie 4 gpu slotHow to Know if a Motherboard Has a PCIe 4 compatible GPU slot

What these specs confirm is that the first (topmost) PCIe slot on the motherboard does support PCIe 4.0, meaning that we can run a RX 6500 XT at full speed for the best performance. The other 2 PCIe slots only support PCIe 3.0, but that's fine because we're not installing a GPU in those slots. Whichever motherboard you choose, make sure to check this in its specs before using with a 6500 XT.

If you're wondering which motherboards have PCIe 4 support, on the AMD side of things you have the B550 and X570 chipset for Ryzen 5000 CPUs, or the B650 and X670 chipsets for Ryzen 7000 CPUs (though there's no point spending all that money on the cutting edge Ryzen 7000 series and pairing it with a lowly RX 6500 XT). Older AMD chipsets like B450 motherboards or X470 boards only support PCIe 3, so if you installed a RX 6500 XT on those boards you would only get PCIe 3 speeds and your gaming performance would suffer as a result.

If you're choosing a CPU from Intel for your PC, the motherboard chipsets with PCIe 4 compatibility are the Z590 and B560 chipsets for Intel 11th-gen processors, the Z690 and B660 chipsets if using Intel 12th-gen, or the Z790 or B760 for Intel 13th-gen CPUs.

Build the Best PC for a RX 6500 XT (CPU & PSU Requirements)

If you're planning a PC build with the RX 6500 XT, let's go over the key things to know. To pair with the RX 6500 XT, the best cheap gaming CPUs right now are the Intel Core i3 13100 and i3 12100, so I would choose one of those.

In terms of power requirements for the RX 6500 XT, reviews around the web have found the 6500xt consumes between 90 watts to 110 watts power. You also need a 6-pin PCIe power connector to connect the 6500 XT directly to your power supply, but any modern PSU will come with one. I'd recommend a 450 watt power supply at minimum, and if you plan on upgrading to a more powerful graphics card in future, consider a 550 watt or higher power supply (and 650w or more if you are doing a serious GPU upgrade to a high-end card in future).

Putting everything mentioned in this guide together, here is a template for a RX 6500 XT gaming PC build that includes a PCIe 4 compatible motherboard that is also confirmed to have a PCIe 4 compatible GPU slot.

Best RX 6500 XT Build (2023)

  • GPU: Gigabyte Radeon RX 6500 XT 4GB GDDR6 (or any RX 6500 XT)
  • CPU: Intel Core i3 12100F
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte B660M DS3H DDR4
  • RAM: Any 16GB DDR4 2x8GB Kit (eg Corsair Vengeance 3200MHz)
  • SSD: Any 1TB M.2 SSD (eg Western Digital Blue SN570 1TB)
  • Power Supply: Any 550 Watt Power Supply (eg Corsair CX550M)
  • Case: Any Compatible Mid-Tower (eg Cooler Master NR400)

See Also: The Best PC Builds for Gaming

Trusted VPNs

VPN software is quite important in this day and age and will improve the security and privacy of your PC when online. There are also benefits to using VPNs for gaming.

There's lots of VPNs out there but the ones I recommend most to gamers is ExpressVPN (special link that gets you 3 months off. they also offer a free trial here) and NordVPN which are both highly rated gaming VPNs because they're the fastest and most secure.

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About the Author

Indie game dev currently working on my first public release after years of hobby projects, a story-driven VR FPS built with Unreal Engine (to be announced soon here for anyone into VR FPS's). Also likes writing about tech, which also helps fund development of the game.

My favs of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, HL1, and HL2, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece Alyx. If you want help with a new build feel free to ask on the main PC builds guide. If you found the site extra helpful and wish to support the work I do here, sharing an article with a friend helps a lot and is much appreciated. - Julz