The best GPU for 4K: UHD resolution, ray tracing, and more


Gaming at 4K might be out of reach for some, but if you want the ultimate visual experience, there’s nothing quite like it. The best graphics cards of today are more and more capable of providing comfortable frame rates at that heady resolution, and there are a few different options you can pick from if you want the prettiest and most demanding gaming experience in 2022.

Fortunately, the state of the GPU market has improved, making 4K gaming more affordable (though not cheap). Here are our picks for the best GPU for 4K.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Nvidia RTX 4090

Best GPU for 4K

Pros

  • Huge leaps in 4K gaming performance
  • Excellent ray tracing performance
  • High power and thermals, but manageable
  • DLSS 3 performance is off the charts

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • DLSS 3 image quality needs some work

Why you should buy this: If you want the highest frame rates for 4K gaming and good performance for creative applications, the RTX 4090 is your best bet.

Who it’s for: Users with big budgets who want the best performance in games and apps.

What we thought of the RTX 4090:

When it comes to 4K gaming (or any other resolution for that matter), the RTX 4090 is far and away the fastest GPU available. Not only is the 4090 great for gaming at 4K but also for creative applications, thanks to its massive 24GB VRAM and raw power. At $1,600, the 4090 is as expensive as last generation’s flagship models but vastly more powerful.

In our review, we found that the 4090 averaged a frame rate of 108 frames per second (fps) across several games tested at 4K and maximum or nearly maximum graphics settings. By contrast, the last-generation RTX 3090 only achieved 57 fps and the 3090 Ti 64 fps. In select games, you can enable DLSS to get even higher frame rates without sacrificing any visual details. The RTX 4090 also has support for DLSS 3, and it is arguably the first GPU to make ray tracing at 4K truly possible. In Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K with ray tracing turned up to Ultra, the 4090 was able to hit 43 fps, which is much better than the RTX 3090 but still pretty low; however, enabling DLSS and dropping a setting or two could get the 4090 to 60 fps.

It’s not cheap, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but overall, the RTX 4090 is the best 4K GPU thanks to its excellent 4K gaming performance and great workstation performance.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 24GB

Nvidia RTX 4090

Best GPU for 4K

nvidia rtx 3080 review 07

Nvidia RTX 3080 10GB

Best GPU for 4K gaming from Nvidia

Pros

  • Fast and fluid 4K gaming
  • Attractive new design
  • HDMI 2.1 support
  • Improved ray tracing and DLSS performance

Cons

  • Needs awkward adapter
  • Requires more power

Why you should buy this: The RTX 3080 10GB is the definitive 4K gaming GPU that has performance just shy of the top end while having a more affordable price than the 3090.

Who it’s for: Gamers who want to make good use of Nvidia’s exclusive features and the 3080’s good ray tracing performance.

What we thought of the RTX 3080 10GB:

The RTX 3080 10GB is the iconic 4K GPU of its generation. While it doesn’t have the performance of the RTX 3090 or even the RTX 3080 Ti, it gets pretty close, and it’s much more affordable. The 3080 10GB starts at around $600 to $700, making it significantly cheaper than the 3090 for a close level of performance. Its lower amount of VRAM makes it less suitable for work, but the 3080 is a GPU focused on 4K gaming first and foremost.

In heavier games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the 3080 10GB just barely surpasses 60 fps in 4K with max settings, which is a fine frame rate but not amazing. Just like with the 3090, however, you can enable DLSS for better performance in certain games, and turning down graphics settings is also an option. In older or less-demanding games, you can definitely expect better frame rates; in Battlefield V, the 3080 10GB hit 103 fps, which is really good.

The 3080 10GB is great for ray tracing too, and you can always improve performance by enabling DLSS as well. While it’s nowhere near as capable as the newer RTX 4080 and RTX 4090, the RTX 3080 is far more affordable, making it still an excellent 4K gaming GPU.

Nvidia RTX 3080 Founders Edition

Nvidia RTX 3080 10GB

Best GPU for 4K gaming from Nvidia

The PowerColor Red Devil RX 6900 XT.

PowerColor

AMD RX 6900 XT

Best GPU for 4K gaming from AMD

Pros

  • Can be found for relatively cheap
  • Plenty of VRAM for 4K
  • Great performance at 4K

Cons

  • Poor ray tracing performance

Why you should buy this: The RX 6900 XT is a more reasonable alternative to the RTX 3090 that’s made for gamers and provides about the same amount of performance at a lower price.

Who it’s for: Gamers with a large budget who can live without Nvidia features like DLSS.

What we thought of the RX 6900 XT:

AMD’s RX 6000 GPUs were the first to really offer 4K gaming performance, and the RTX 6900 XT is one of the best for the job. Its performance at 4K is excellent, it has plenty of VRAM at 16GB, and its price is relatively low. At the time of writing, many 6900 XTs are going for about $650 to $700, which is much less than its MSRP of $1,499 and much cheaper than alternatives like the RTX 3080, which the 6900 XT handily beats (outside of ray tracing games).

In our RX 6950 XT review, we found that the 6900 XT was actually a bit faster on average than the RTX 3090, at 78 fps versus the 3090’s 75 fps across five games. Although AMD GPU’s can’t use DLSS, AMD does have its own upscaling technology called FSR. Although FSR 1.0 doesn’t look great, the newer 2.0 version is much better, and FSR 3 is coming in 2023.

The 6900 XT is extremely compelling for someone who doesn’t see themselves enabling ray tracing or using exclusive features like DLSS on an Nvidia GPU. It has a great price-to-performance ratio, and AMD can definitely improve on FSR in the near future.

PowerColor RX 6900 XT Red Devil

AMD RX 6900 XT

Best GPU for 4K gaming from AMD

The ASRock Phantom Gaming RX 6800 XT.

ASRock

AMD RX 6800 XT

Best GPU for 4K 144Hz

Pros

  • Good performance at 4K
  • Relatively low price
  • Lots of VRAM

Cons

  • FSR generally worse and rarer than DLSS

Why you should buy this: The 6800 XT provides good performance at a decent enough price to deliver good frame rates at 4K without needing a top-end GPU like the 3090 or the 6900 XT.

Who it’s for: Gamers who would rather have higher frame rates than higher graphical quality.

What we thought of the RX 6800 XT:

If you want to play at 4K with high frame rates, ray tracing is right out the window, which means AMD GPUs are a great option thanks to their good performance with ray tracing turned off and the lower price that AMD GPUs tend to have in the current market. The 6800 XT can be found for around $500 to $600, making it relatively cheap for a GPU intended for 4K gaming.

In a recent review, Techspot found that the 6800 XT achieved 70 fps on average across 12 games at 4K and max quality settings, while the 3080 10GB achieved 72 fps, an excellent result for the 6800 XT. That’s not 144 fps, which means in many games you will have to turn down some graphics settings to hit 144 fps. But you would have to do that even if you had a 3090 Ti or a 6950 XT, so the 6800 XT isn’t alone in this regard.

Just like with the 6900 XT, you can’t use DLSS on the 6800 XT and you will have to rely on FSR where it’s available. However, since the 6800 XT can be found for at least $100 less than the 3080 10GB, we feel like that’s a good trade-off since FSR 2.0 seems to be taking off much quicker than DLSS did.

Asrock Rx 6800xt 16gb Gddr6graphic Card Black

AMD RX 6800 XT

Best GPU for 4K 144Hz

The EVGA FTW Ultra RTX 3060 Ti.

EVGA

Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti

Best cheap GPU for 4K

Pros

  • Low and relatively affordable price
  • DLSS to boost performance
  • Can support ray tracing
  • Best bang-for-buck midrange GPU

Cons

  • DLSS not in most games
  • Without DLSS, 4K performance is poor

Why you should buy this: The RTX 3060 Ti is the bare minimum for enjoyable gaming and work at 4K while having a relatively affordable price tag.

Who it’s for: Gamers and power users that simply don’t have the budget for high-end GPUs.

What we thought of the RTX 3060 Ti:

The cheapest GPU that could be used for enjoyable 4K gaming, video editing, and other work is the RTX 3060 Ti. A firmly midrange GPU, the 3060 Ti has just enough performance for most 4K applications (except for ray tracing) without costing too much, as it can be found for around $450 to $500.

The 3060 Ti, by virtue of being an Nvidia GPU, is quite flexible. AMD didn’t lock down FSR and make it exclusively for AMD GPUs; it also works on Nvidia GPUs. Because some games might only have DLSS or FSR, the 3060 Ti is in a good position to take advantage of both upscaling technologies in order to boost its performance in 4K gaming. This is the main reason why we opted for the 3060 Ti instead of the similarly priced RX 6700 XT.

In professional applications, the 3060 Ti will lag behind other Nvidia GPUs but is still ahead of other AMD GPUs. In Puget Systems’ DaVinci Resolve benchmark, the RTX 3060 Ti was even faster than the RX 6900 XT. However, the 3060Ti only has 8GB of VRAM, and although that’s plenty for games, it might not be enough for some creative applications. The RTX 3060 actually has more VRAM at 12GB but the GPU itself is much slower so we can’t really recommend it for 4K.

EVGA Geforce RTX 3060 Ti FTW3

Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti

Best cheap GPU for 4K

The Nvidia RTX A5000.

Nvidia

Nvidia RTX A5000

Best GPU for 4K video editing

Pros

  • Fastest workstation GPU
  • Tons of VRAM
  • Workstation-optimized drivers and full Tensor core performance

Why you should buy this: The A5000 is a super fast workstation-oriented GPU with plenty of VRAM for pretty much any workload.

Who it’s for: People who need good performance at 4K in workstation applications.

What we thought of the RTX A5000:

The RTX A5000, by all metrics, is the fastest workstation GPU money can buy. Generally, we’d recommend Nvidia for most users since the software ecosystem for professional applications usually relies on CUDA. The only problem with the A5000 is its price tag, which is usually over $2,000, but if you need to do real work, then it can be worth it. It’s also worth noting that the A5000 is basically the RTX 3090 but with no artificial performance limitations thanks to optimized drivers and unlocked Tensor core performance, so if you need better workstation performance more than better gaming performance, the A5000 is the way to go.

If you can’t justify spending that kind of money for the A5000, then we recommend the A4000, which is significantly slower and has only 16GB of VRAM but is also much cheaper at about $1,100. There’s also the A2000, which is even slower and has even less VRAM at 12GB but retails for around $600 to $700. If you have an even larger budget, you could try the RTX A6000, which is basically an RTX 3090 Ti but with 48GB of VRAM.

AMD does have a competing line of workstation GPUs, but because CUDA is so ingrained into the kind of software you’d want a workstation GPU for, there aren’t many applications where AMD is competitive with Nvidia. If you want to use AMD, you’ll have to figure out whether or not that’s a good idea depending on what applications you use.

PNY nVidia RTX A5000 VCNRTXA5000 PG132 24GB GDDR6 ECC 4xDP 900-5G132-1700-000

Nvidia RTX A5000

Best GPU for 4K video editing

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the fastest 4K GPU?

As long as you have an unlimited budget, the RTX 4090 is the best for 4K gaming, and the RTX A6000 is the best for video editing. However, both GPUs (especially the A6000) are very expensive, so you might want to opt for slightly slower but much cheaper GPUs, like the RX 6900 XT, the RTX 3080 10GB, and the RTX A4000.

Is Nvidia better than AMD?

The RTX 4090 is the fastest GPU you can buy, and Nvidia GPUs tend to perform relatively well at 4K, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good 4K gaming experience on an AMD GPU. Nvidia is a better bet for video editing and other professionally oriented applications, however.

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