Maybe you’re just getting started on creating your ideal setup, or perhaps you have all of your peripherals already. One thing is for certain, top quality racing simulators can be taxing on your computer, especially if you have all sorts of external inputs such as wheels, pedals, shifters, breaks, and more plugged in. What’s the point of purchasing all these objects to increase realism if your computer simply can’t handle it. Dropped frames, middling graphics, and other technical issues can not only detach you from the experience but cause you to drive below your actual skill level.
For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of the best GPUs for racing simulators available on the market right now.
A note before we get into it: you’ll see that there are two “winners” this time around. This is no mistake. We picked the best card with ray tracing, and the best card without it. This is because ray tracing has become a topic of contention within gaming and sim communities. Without further ado, here are our picks for the best GPUs for racing simulators in 2020.
The Top-Rated GPUs for Racing Simulators
Top Pick (Ray Tracing): Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super
This admittedly pricey GPU is about the best GPU you can purchase on the market overall.
The RTX 2080 Super performs excellently both at 1440p and 4k. Being an RTX it has dedicated ray tracing and DLSS cores, and the games that truly make use of it are wondrous to see. Granted, it doesn’t have any flashy new feature one could perhaps expect from a new model, but that shouldn’t detract from its many praises. It outperforms the base 2080 and 1080 Ti, only falling slightly behind its upgraded version.
Though the 2080 Ti is strictly speaking “better”, with an average 10-30% increase in computing power, we don’t think it’s worth it. Spending slightly less than double the cost of the 2080 (which, again, isn’t exactly free) for a marginal increase seems far-fetched.
All in all, we recommend this incredibly powerful GPU not only for its particularly impressive stats but also in the hope of it being an investment. Currently, there are no racing games with ray tracing, despite Assetto Corsa Competizione having originally planned to do so. As this feature is becoming more and more impressive, and more and more games are coming out with it, your RTX 2080 Super will allow you to be amongst the first racing sim pilots to experience it.
Top Pick (No Ray Tracing): AMD Radeon VII
NVIDIA has long dominated the GPU market, but AMD has really stepped up with the Radeon VII, putting the title in question.
Ray tracing isn’t as important for racing simulators (especially since none make use of it yet) as pure power and frames per second are. For the longest time, the best pick would have likely been an NVIDIA graphics card, but AMD’s Radeon VII is so impressive it can’t but top our list! Sure it doesn’t have NVIDIA’s DLSS features, but what it has is the first-ever card to be manufactured with 7nm lithography.
The Radeon VII delivers incredibly powerful 1440p and strong 4k Ultra performance, analogous to that which you would find in an RTX 2080 for a considerably better price. This is by a longshot the highest offering AMD has to offer, but we’d say it’s one of the best offerings on the market tous court.
(Overall) Runner Up: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super
This only very slightly older model is not about to be forgotten, as it can be an incredibly high-quality bargain
A lot of GPU debates focus on dollars-to-frame. That is, how much money does the GPU cost v how many frames per second does it deliver. Well, in this purely mathematical discourse, the RTXX 2070 Super is up there! Performance-wise it’s not at all far from the RTX 2080 base model, but costing quite a lot less.
This card manages to uphold an impressive framerate at both 1440p and 4k. Moreover, it’s equipped with NVIDIA’s proprietary DLSS hardware. What this does is further increase the framerates of certain games by down-sampling and then using Artificial Intelligence to fill pixels back in, easing the load for the card. All in all, this is a very powerful card at a very attractive price-point for what it offers, making it a clear choice for runner-up.
Third Place: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super
If you’re looking for a “budget” choice that still has ray tracing, then this is your pick.
The GeForce RTX 2060 Super is the oldest model that we can recommend that has ray tracing. It handles both 1080p and 1440p admirably well, better than the base 2070 model, for around the same price! Overall, it has a good QHD and FHD performance. This is also the least expensive NVIDIA card which has both ray-tracing capabilities and DLSS hardware (the aforementioned technique which helps ease heavier burdens for the GPU).
The reason why budget is in quotation marks is because this card is still very much not cheap. Unfortunately, ray tracing graphics can’t but be expensive and even this older model is far from being readily accessible for all prospective users.
Best budget pick: AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT
Not the cheapest pick on our list, but a very solid pick in almost all departments
AMD’s Radeon RX 5600 XT had one purpose when it came out: be better than NVIDIA’s 2060 Super. It accomplished this with flying colors. It’s anywhere between five to ten percent more powerful, requires less power due to AMD’s 7nm process and their RDNA architecture, and also supports Radeon Image Sharpening. For those who are unaware, this is a feature that renders graphics at a higher quality without applying any extra stress on the card.
It goes without saying that (being an AMD card) it doesn’t have DLSS, nor does it support ray tracing. It may also suffer a bit if you plan on playing with very high-quality graphics. Having said that, if you’re looking for the best GPU to run games at 1080p, you’ve very well found it!
Budget Runner Up: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super
Affordable? Yes. Powerful? Absolutely. Other NVIDIA features? Not really…
The GTX 1660 Super is an excellent budget graphics card that delivers a lot of power for a very reasonable price. Let’s start by talking about its other models: the 1660 and the 1660Ti. Simply put, the 1660 Super offers the best of both worlds, achieving the same levels of the 1660Ti, and costing significantly cheaper (only a literal handful of dollars more than the 1660).
The GTX 1660 Super takes advantage of the architecture employed in the more expensive RTX models but uses more affordable parts in order to keep the price as low as possible for consumers. While the 1660 had relatively frequent problems when running 1440p (it often dipped), the super does a much better job.
This card is very clearly NVIDIA’s attempt to seize a large market, and it does so incredibly well. Obviously, it lacks any sort of ray tracing or DLSS, but for a budget card, it delivers everything you could want and more.
Third Place Budget Pick: AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
This isn’t the best card there is, but it’s likely an affordable upgrade to what you have
The Radeon RX 580 8GB is not a titan of a GPU. It’s a bit old and will have some difficulty in dealing with 1440p and 4k ultra. That being said, if your games are 1080p then you can’t but seriously consider this card. First of all, it’s incredibly cheap. It’s unfair to compare it with a top-quality card like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti (but we’re doing it anyway) because the AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB is one-tenth of its price.
This AMD budget option will comfortably take care of all 1080p needs and will continue to do so for at least a while longer thanks to its 8GBs of GDDR5.
What to Consider When Buying GPUs
GPU v CPU
A vast majority of videogames rely heavily on GPUs as their primary point of concern. This is what allows for incredible graphics and a sleek look. These are also central in racing games. Having said that, racing simulators more than most other games make use of the CPU as well. The CPU is what runs the incredibly complex calculations that will make your car feel right when you drive it. It’s thus preferable to have both a good GPU and CPU, rather than a fantastic GPU and a middling CPU.
RTX v GTX
You will come across NVIDIA chips with the same number, but different acronyms, the main two being RTX and GTX. Though the reviews of the various chips will explain this in more depth, the basic difference is as follows: RTX chips are optimized for “ray tracing”. This means that they capable to render light as individual rays. GTXs can’t. Ray tracing is currently not utilized in any racing simulator (that we know of). Not long ago Assetto Corsa wanted to make use of this cutting edge piece of technology, but it was left out. There is however a possibility that it may be employed in future racing simulators or games.
We have a general list available here, but we always encourage you to perform extra research. All these GPUs behave slightly differently depending on the game they are employed in. Seeing as you (likely) won’t be using this GPU solely for the purpose of racing simulators, we advise you to go to one of the many GPU comparison websites out there and mess around with the tools available there.
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