Entry-level graphics cards, one of the keystone components in unlocking the world of video games, are cheaper than ever. This means that more people can afford to get online than we have ever seen before in history.
Your graphics card is the part in your computer that controls what you see on your screen. It controls the quality of the image, the speed it loads, and the calculations needed to get to that point.
Graphics cards have become cheaper, but that is on the grand scale. For those that are just dipping their toes into the graphics card world, you should bear a couple of things in mind first.
Graphics cards come in 3-4 price brackets. You have your budget or entry-level cards that cost $150 or below. These are the cards that open the gateway into gaming for most people. You will be able to run all but the most demanding games, albeit on low graphics settings for most of them.
Then you have your mid-range cards, and these cards will cost between $150 and $450. This is a wide category, covering a lot of cards. This is the category that most people who are already into gaming and want to take a step up will choose.
Lastly, you have your High-End and Professional cards, these will set you back over $450, with some cards costing thousands. These cards are for Virtual Reality, video, and photo editing in high definition and professional work stations running deep learning and machine learning protocols.
Graphics Card Under $100 Compared
Base/ Boost Clock
954 MHz/ 1100 MHz
14.4 GB /second
1228 MHz/ 148000 MHz
22.4 GB /second
22.4 GB /second
1100 MHz/ 1183 MHz
112.4 GB /second
800 MHz/ 1103 MHz
28 GB /second
Buying Guide: Choosing A Good Graphics Card Under 100 Dollars
The first thing you should work out before looking for a graphics card is your intended usage. Put simply, what are you buying the card for? Do you want to do some light gaming? Or are you just on the market for a card that will allow you to watch Netflix?
Deciding your usage is the first step in purchasing any computer components. The price of the card will match what you need it to do. There is no point buying a card designed for AAA+ gaming, for example, if you only want to use your computer for Facebook.
CPU and GPU Balance
We have already talked a lot about one particular component, your graphics card. After all, that is what this article is all about, right? Well, now it is time to talk about another important component, your central processing unit, or CPU.
Your processor is perhaps the most important component in your computer besides your graphics card. Your CPU is the brain of your computer, and it shouts its orders and controls every other piece of tech inside your rig.
Your graphics card is no exception, and it relies heavily on your CPU to run efficiently. This can cause problems if your CPU isn't as strong as your GPU. When this happens, you get a bottleneck effect. This means your graphics card will only run at limited capacity.
Do your research and make sure that your CPU is strong enough for your GPU.
Graphics Card Features
Dedicated Graphics cards are primarily made by two computing giants, Nvidia and AMD. For a long time, these two have been the main contenders in the arms race that is graphics card development.
Each brand has its own main players, but overall, Nvidia produces the easiest to install, understand, and troubleshoot cards. They are made for the average user. AMD cards are cheaper and a little rougher around the edges but have a lot more potential for massive overclocking.
Overclocking is where you take the factory restrictions off a computer component and boost it. This requires some knowledge as it is very easy to burn out a card if done incorrectly.
When it comes to graphics cards, you have something called cores. Each core is essentially a miniature virtual brain. Each one is capable of making its own decisions to help with the running of the card overall—obviously, the more cores, the better.
When we start talking about medium-high end GPU's, you also have to consider the type of cores. Tensor and Cuda cores are for high-end cards and run on an A.I deep learning protocol in order to help your card work smarter.
If your card's cores are miniature brains, the clock speed is the intellect of each brain. Each core will run at this designated clock speed. The higher,s the better. The faster the clock speed, the smarter and more capable the brains are.
Memory & Bandwidth
Your GPU will come with its own VRAM, which is the memory onboard the card. This is where your car stores its cheat sheets and processes to help it run smoother. The higher the amount of VRAM, the smoother your card will run.
Every 1GB of VRAM is beneficial as your card will use this instead of using your computers RAM. This means your computer will be more efficient and quicker.
Thermal Design Power
Graphics cards and computer components, in general, produce a lot of heat. This is something that the research and development teams of huge corporations have tried to overcome for years to no avail. Instead, we now work on the thermal design of our cards.
As we cannot stop the production of heat, we now look to disperse it efficiently. A hot card will start to throttle, and this is where it slows down as it detects it is reaching temperatures that could be dangerous to the graphics card.
A good thermal design, with heat sinks and other innovative tech, is crucial in preserving the lifespan of your card.
The design of your card is important for two reasons.
Firstly, the aesthetics. If you are building a pc or have a pc that utilizes glass or see-through panels, your card is going to be on show.
The second, and most important reason, is practicality. Some cards come with different sized slots and port locations. This means that some cards simply won't fit in some cases. Do your research beforehand to avoid this headache later.
Finally, we look at the quality of the warranty, the customer service behind the brand, and the level of cover you get and for how long.
Graphics cards can run into a world of problems and errors, and having good customer service and a strong warranty, instantly places certain cards higher than others.
5 Best Graphics Cards Under $100 Reviewed
1. MSI Gaming GeForce GT 710
- Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce GT 710; Maximum...
- Video memory: 2gb DDR3/memory clock: 1600...
- 300w system power supply requirement;...
- Connectors: VGA, dvi d dual link, HDMI; Form...
Our Top Pick
Base Clock/Boost Clock
954 MHz/ 1100 MHz
The first card on our list, and top pick overall, falls to the might GT 710; a card that can be picked up for under $70 and often under $50 during sales. Don't let the price tag put you off, though. This is an extremely capable card for the price.
Compared to integrated graphics, this card can run almost 10x faster, according to Nvidia. When it was released, it was almost 70% stronger than the previous generation, which is a massive step. It was this massive increase in capability that allowed this card to stay in the spotlight for a lot longer than is common with new releases.
The GT 710 is even capable of powering three separated HD displays. This is extremely impressive, considering how cheap this card is.
Design-wise, you get a low-profile single fan design, more than capable enough when it comes to thermals and cooling. It also only takes up a single PCI slot, making it the perfect card for those who want to build a small form factor pc.
With its 2GB of onboard VRAM, pairing this card with an SSD and decent processor will provide results that are almost unbelievable for what it costs.
In terms of actual specifications, you are getting a core clock speed of 954MHz, which can be boosted to around 1100. You get a memory clock that sits around the 1800MHz mark, and you get 192 CUDA cores. The memory onboard in DDR3 too.
This is a card that will open up a world of gaming to those who are using older or integrated graphics cards. You will be able to push for medium settings in 1080p with a decent frame rate, and if you want to drop your quality, you will be able to run silky smooth high FPS games.
This is our top pick for a reason, and we think this card will be the most suitable for the average user looking for a budget-friendly low-cost card for low-end gaming. It scores the highest when it comes to price to performance and performs exceptionally well considering the price.
Also Recommended: Best Low Profile Graphics Cards
2. Gigabyte GeForce GT 1030
- Core clock (MHertz): 1506 in OC mode and 1468...
- Low profile design with 150 millimeter card...
- Integrated with 2GB GDDR5 64bit memory
- One click overclocking via AORUS Graphics...
Base Clock/Boost Clock
1228 MHz/ 148000 MHz
Our runner up slot falls once again to a card with Nvidia backing. This low profile 2G graphics card is one of the older cards in the GT range. On paper, it performs better than our top pick. It does, however, have a higher price tag. You will be looking at spending around $80 here.
This card is made by one of our favorite sub-brands of Nvidia cards, Gigabyte.
Gigabyte has been making fantastic gaming components since 1986 and has excellent customer service, warranties, and innovation. This card comes with a dedicated fan cooler, designed to keep temperature and noise control low.
It optimizes the airflow sent through the blades to disperse heat quickly and efficiently from the GPU. This means it can run under a higher load without worrying about throttling.
This card is an excellent option for those that want to engage in a little bit of overclocking. The AORUS engine inside allows for simple and effective overclocks as well as allowing those with a higher level of experience to really exploit the card's true potential.
This card will even allow for 4k playback, although it may be a little choppy but for the price, 4K capabilities are pretty mind-blowing.
Under the hood, you get integrated 2GB DDR VRAM and a 64-bit memory interface. You have 384 cores 64bit bus width and a 1228 core clock speed. It can then be boosted to nearly 1500MHz, which is one of the reasons this card is an overclocker's dream.
This card is only runner up on our list because it is closer to the top end of the budget range. If you can afford the step up, though, you will have a card that performs extremely well, has overclock potential through the roof, and is capable of 4K playback.
3. MSI Graphic Cards GT 1030
Best Low Profile Graphics Card Under $100
Base Clock/Boost Clock
Next, we have the winner of our best low profile budget card. Low profile cards are handy when it comes to building small form PC's. These PCs are great for those that want to make computers that take up less space and are often used for offices or multimedia PCs for the living room.
Under the hood, you are getting a clock speed of 1518, which is really high for a base clock at this price range. You also get 2GB of onboard VRAM. This card uses the slightly older GT architecture, but don't let that fool you, at the time it was released, this was a top of the range card.
Luckily for you guys, older cards like this become incredibly cheap when they are phased out by newer flagship models, so you should be able to find one of these for a steal.
If you are looking for a graphics card for a system that is going to be used as a multimedia center, this card is perfect. It has 4K playback and comes in a low form factor build. It also makes a great addition to any low-cost budget gaming systems.
It will allow you to play games like Fortnite at a very high frame rate and will even allow for some AAA+ gaming, albeit on very low graphics settings.
4. XFX RX 550
Best Value Graphics Card Under $100
Base Clock/Boost Clock
1100 Mhz/ 1183 Mhz
Our winner of the best value graphics card under $100 when it comes to performance and first appearance on the list for AMD is the XFX RX 550. This card was hailed as the e-sports card.
When it was released, it instantly became a roaring success. Thanks to the fact that for under $100, you had a card that could run E-sports titles like Overwatch, League Of Legends, and Dota 2.
This was the first budget-friendly card that did not compromise on frame rates and resolutions during these games. Up until now, you needed at least a mid-range card, costing more than $150 more than the XFX.
The XFX even has native broadcasting support, with FreeSync capabilities, and is capable of being a beastly card for home cinemas. You have support for HRD video and 4K resolution and a great range of ports, too, from HDMI 2.0 to Display port 1.4.
One thing to bear in mind with the XFX is the size. This is one big card, bigger than anything Nvidia put their name to at the time. If you are building small form factor builds or lack space in your case, you might want to look elsewhere.
If you are currently using integrated graphics or an ancient card, the improvement you will see by swapping in an XFX RX 550 is vast. The difference will be immediate and obvious. You will be able to play all e-sports settings in amazing settings, stream your games to Twitch and watch 4K movies with ease.
If you can pair this card with a FreeSync display later on down the line, you will be grateful, the buttery smooth gaming experience that you will get will more then make up for the slightly increased price tag of the card.
There are a couple of bad points; as we said, this is a massive card, so allow for that. For just $40 more, you could also pick up the beefier 560.
No matter which way you look at it, this is an amazing card, and that's why it sits at the top of our list for performance alone.
5. ASUS AMD Radeon R7 250 1GB
- BRAND : BIOSTAR RADEON RX 550 Boost Frequency...
- Powerful GPU Memory : High Performance Gaming...
- Support Rendering formats : HDMI 4K Support,...
- Connectivity ports : DisplayPort 1.4 HDR,...
Best Value Graphics Card Under $100
Base Clock/Boost Clock
800 Mhz/ 1103 Mhz
Last but certainly not least, we have our best value card. This is the card that is best suited for those who need to watch every dollar spent. If you only have a certain budget and need to keep costs low, this card performs the best for a very low price.
This little 1GB card doesn't have any fancy features or looks, but what it lacks in features, it more then makes up for in performance. For under $100, you won't find many cards as reliable as this. The R7 250 has 1GB DDR5 RAM and supports 2K resolution. It is also a low profile and has a dust-proof fan, designed to increase the life of the card by over 25%.
You also get performance customization In the form of ASUS's Tweak II software. This lets you change the performance of your card instantly and on the move. For those that aren't into overclocking, Asus has included a simple one-click booster for gaming, which overclocks your card for a quick boost in potential.
This is a straightforward card that doesn't need any shiny bells or whistles to be impressive. Instead, for an extremely low price, you get a card that has the potential of a much more expensive GPU at a price that you can't say no too.
Common Applications for a Graphics Card Under $100
When people are looking for graphics cards under $100, they are usually doing so for several reasons. You might want some more gaming ability, or to watch 4K television on your monitor. You might want to just browse the internet and watch Youtube videos.
Gaming is the most popular use of dedicated graphics cards. The quality of your display, the frame rate, and the ability to even play games all ride on your graphics card.
For watching movies, you will want a smooth jitter-free experience that you cannot hope to match with integrated cards. If you plan to do some light photo editing or graphics design, you might be a little bit limited in the under $100 section, and you should look at our recommended cards under $200.
How to Boost Performance with GPU Overclocking
When your card is shipped from the factory, it has a limiter placed upon it. This is very similar to when you buy a card. In order to guarantee the life of your card, the manufacturer puts a limiter on your card to make sure it does not work to its full potential.
Overclocking is the art of removing and reprogramming computer components. Overclockers will take the limiter off and boost the card to its full potential.
Extreme overclockers will use things like liquid cooling and dedicated CPU coolers to boost their components past the level they should be able to go.
Overclocking deserves an entire article on its own, so I won't go into too much detail. The best thing I can advise is that you do a lot of research and watch a lot of Youtube videos before trying your first overclock. A simple mistake can ruin your card for life.
Video Card Maintenance & Troubleshooting
Computer components have a mind of their own, anyone who has worked around computers long enough will tell you that. They like to break for no reason, show error messages, and glitch without warning. If your GPU is having problems due to a fault, here are the tell-tale signs and what to do next.
If your screen is glitching, the first thing you should do is restart your computer properly. Next, find your graphics card drivers and update them if they need updating. If all else fails, you can disconnect your GPU and remove any dust from the connector before re-plugging it.
If your fan speed is low, your card will heat up faster and may even start to throttle. To avoid this, regularly spray air cleaner through your fans to dislodge any dirt.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Will having more fans help with GPU temperature?
More fans doesn't always mean more airflow. The quality of your fans is much more important, as well as cable management and airflow inside your computer case. If you have some good fans and you are noticing higher GPU temperatures, look at your case. Does it have good airflow and cable management? If not, that might be your problem.
What are the common drawbacks of a graphics card under 100 dollars?
The only drawback to buying a card for under 100 dollars is the quality of the card. Obviously, your sub $100 card is not going to perform like a $1,000 card. As long as you bear that in mind, and are happy with that, there aren't really any drawbacks.
Are there any risks of buying used graphics cards under $100?
Graphics cards are like cars, but worse. You wouldn't buy a car without knowing the mileage, would you? A graphics card doesn't even have a mileage counter, and you have no idea what the previous person has done. For this reason, we highly advise against buying used GPU's
Which is better, Nvidia, or AMD?
This is a hard question, in every price range, there are always options from both brands that are appealing. AMD is better for those who want more overclock potential, and they are also a little bit cheaper. Nvidia makes much more user-friendly cards that are more compatible with a wide range of components.
Integrated vs. dedicated graphics – What’s the difference?
Integrated graphics are the graphics that you get as standard with any budget PC. They will allow you to browse the internet and watch videos. Anything more demanding and you will have a problem.
Dedicated graphics cards are designed to give you graphical performance increases. They are 100% necessary for gaming, photo editing, video editing, and basically anything that requires a display.
One of the benefits of living during the golden age of computing is the inevitable decrease in prices to computer parts. Gone are the days where you had to spend $500 on a card just to get basic level gaming performance.
Hopefully, by reading this article, you have learned that there are lots of great cards for under $100. If you are still unsure as to which one you should buy, our top pick the GT 1030, is the best overall pick for the majority of users.
Holly Curell is a US-based freelance writer & editor extraordinaire. With over a decade of writing technical manuals, blog articles, & even company communications, Holly has a passion for providing value to readers on everything she knows about tech-related topics. When she’s not writing, Holly enjoys reading, hiking, wine, & wandering the aisles of Trader Joe’s. Holly is currently based out of North Carolina, where she lives with her husband Ken & their three children.