Gaming GPUs bring out the best and worst in gamers, generating strong opinions about every single aspect. The best graphics cards rarely see as much or as intense coverage as the worst ones. This is probably because spending a decent chunk of one’s entire budget on a graphics card and then getting disappointed later is not a good feeling. Hence, I decided to include five such GPUs in this list that may not be the worst GPUs of all time, per se, but didn’t age well at all.
1 GeForce GTX 1060 3GB: It’s not just the VRAM
Shady tactics aren’t new to Nvidia
To keep things fair in this list, I decided not to look at cards more than two generations prior. But the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB deserves a special spot. Now, don’t confuse this GPU with the GTX 1060 6B variant, which was one of the best things Nvidia has put out in years. This younger sibling was never marketed like it should have been. Consumers were made to believe that the 3GB variant was just that, a GTX 1060 with 3GB VRAM. But it was anything but.
The GTX 1060 3GB was a cut-down version of the GTX 1060 6GB GPU, featuring both fewer shading units and texture mapping units. This made the 3GB variant much slower than the 6GB one, effectively duping the customer. It’s not unethical to sell a slower card for $100 less, but the marketing needs to make it clear that one’s buying a lower-tier SKU, and not just the same GPU with less VRAM.
Neither 6GB nor 3GB VRAM was as big an issue five years ago as much as it is today. The misleading positioning by Nvidia was the issue, ensuring a lot of the customers ended up buying the wrong card and regretting the sub-par specs after their purchase.
2 GeForce RTX 2080: It’s obsolete now
Early adopter curse
The GeForce RTX 2080 was one of Nvidia’s top products in the RTX 2000 series. After the success of Pascal, Nvidia intended to create another hit with Turing, by bringing hardware-accelerated real-time ray tracing to gamers for the first time. Now, ray tracing was one of the biggest PC gaming innovations in recent years, but Nvidia thought so highly of the tech that it priced the RTX 2080 at $800.
There were multiple problems with this. First, the RTX 2080 cost around $100 more than the iconic GTX 1080 Ti, without being much faster. In fact, some tests showed it was barely 10% faster than the Pascal flagship. Second, the much-hyped ray tracing tech was absent from the games available at the time the card launched. By the time gamers had enough of an “RTX library,” the much-superior RTX 3000 series had become the better option. Plus, with ray tracing on, the RTX 2080 couldn’t cross 60 FPS in many games.
Third, the 8GB VRAM on an $800 card might not have seemed like a big issue in 2018, but for those hoping to play modern titles at 1440p or 4K resolutions with the RTX 2080, things don’t look so good. Games are frequently consuming more than 8GB VRAM at 1440p, with some titles crossing that threshold even at 1080p. It didn’t help that the much-cheaper RTX 3060 Ti matched or even beat the high-end Turing card at just $399.
3 GeForce RTX 3070: Just not enough
Nvidia’s VRAM problem at its peak
With the launch of the Ampere graphics cards, there was a hope for a reversal in the PC gaming market. Nvidia had made pretty astounding claims, one of which was that the $500 GeForce RTX 3070 would match or surpass the $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti. The performance claim turned out to be right on the money, and the RTX 3070 comfortably outshone the higher-priced competition in the Radeon RX 6800. But what never saw the light of day was the $500 price point of this mid-range GPU.
Amid global supply chain and shortage issues, the entire Ampere lineup sold at ridiculously high prices. Scalpers and miners made bank while gamers postponed their upgrades. But the horrible pricing that lasted for a few years wasn’t what was inherently wrong with the RTX 3070. It was Nvidia’s inflexibility to provide enough VRAM on a card of this caliber. In late 2020, VRAM had started to become a genuine concern. While the RTX 3070 was a big leap in performance over the previous generation, the 8GB VRAM held it back from achieving its true potential.
Just a year or two after its launch, it quickly became clear that the cripplingly low VRAM had permanently curtailed its longevity. Plus, the RTX 4070 is better than the RTX 3070, considering the price-to-performance and the absence of Frame Generation and Ray Reconstruction on the Ampere card. Overall, the RTX 3070 was a bad purchase, albeit in hindsight.
4 Radeon RX 6500 XT: Laughably bad
AMD’s hands aren’t clean either
A few months after Nvidia had announced the Ampere lineup, gamers were waiting for AMD to offer something truly competitive, and AMD delivered. Barring ray tracing performance, the $1,000 RX 6900 XT was nearly as fast as the $1,500 RTX 3090. But this price range was the domain of the enthusiast buyer. AMD still didn’t impress with the RX 6800 or the RX 6800 XT, despite those cards being faster than the competition in some cases. But the budget segment is where AMD truly dropped the ball.
Launched more than a year after the flagship SKUs, the Radeon RX 6500 XT was intended to be one of the best budget GPUs that didn’t cost a bomb. For $200, the 6500 XT was pretty affordable in a market that was still reeling from GPU prices hovering in the stratosphere. But as it turned out, this AMD offering wasn’t even worth the lower asking price. With just 4GB VRAM and severely limited internals, the RX 6500 XT was really a mobile GPU that AMD somehow cobbled together and aimed at the desktop market.
At a time when any available GPU was flying off the shelves, no matter the value, AMD probably hoped to accomplish the same with the 6500 XT. It was incredible that the 6500 XT was slower than even the GTX 1650 Super and the ancient GTX 980.
5 GeForce RTX 4060 Ti 8GB: Dead on arrival
Harbinger of doom for GPUs
You might be wondering why a card that launched barely six months ago is on this list. But the GeForce RTX 4060 Ti 8GB is worthy of mention, if only as a product that was always going to be a dud. Nvidia’s entire RTX 4000 series isn’t particularly great value when you compare it to the previous generation (if you were able to buy an RTX 3000 card at or around MSRP). But the RTX 4060 Ti 8GB is a particularly dismal example.
At $400, the RTX 4060 Ti 8GB is barely any faster than the RTX 3060 Ti, with the latter even beating it some scenarios. This is not a good look at all for a modern mid-range card featuring all the latest bells and whistles of the Ada Lovelace architecture. The 8GB VRAM is mind-numbingly bad, and at this point, I don’t know what more I can say about that. AMD’s RX 7700 XT is easily the better buy at $449, featuring 12GB VRAM and being generally faster.
Gaming GPUs are losing their sheen
There was a time when you could buy a high-end graphics card and not worry about an upgrade for at least four to five years. But of late, GPUs are getting obsolete at an alarming rate. My RTX 3080 is barely able to deliver 60+ FPS consistently at the highest settings in the most demanding titles, even with all the upscaling help it can get. Granted, that’s how it has been for high-end SKUs, but even mid-range cards are failing to justify their cost over the long term. If Nvidia and AMD don’t shift their focus from the datacenter AI market back to the gaming market soon, your next GPU upgrade might remain a dream.