5 Best GPU For Emulation and Retro Gaming – Expert Reviews

Do you feel like going back in time when it comes to playing games? Or you would like to play console games on PC.

However, the hardware and software used to run console games are very different.

You might also run into some compatibility issues when trying to play on PC. That’s where emulators or emulation comes in.

Emulators make it possible to play console and hand-held games on PC.

If you plan on building a PC for emulation GPU is very important. Perhaps, the second most important hardware after the CPU.

In this article, we list the best GPU for emulation and retro gaming. GPUs that will handle console and retro games on 1080p or higher resolutions.


Position
First Place
Runner Up
Best Budget
Snapshot
Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super Overclocked 6GB Phoenix Fan Edition HDMI DP DVI Graphics Card (PH-GTX1660S-O6G)
ZOTAC GAMING GeForce GTX 1650 OC 4GB GDDR6 128-bit Gaming Graphics Card, Super Compact, ZT-T16520F-10L
MSI GT 1030 2GD4 LP OC Computer Graphics Cards
What You Need To Know About The GPU

Best Graphics Card For Emulation

Best Value GPU For Emulation

Best Budget GPU For Emulation

Prime
-
Rating
Position
First Place
Snapshot
Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super Overclocked 6GB Phoenix Fan Edition HDMI DP DVI Graphics Card (PH-GTX1660S-O6G)
What You Need To Know About The GPU

Best Graphics Card For Emulation

Prime
Rating
Position
Runner Up
Name
Snapshot
ZOTAC GAMING GeForce GTX 1650 OC 4GB GDDR6 128-bit Gaming Graphics Card, Super Compact, ZT-T16520F-10L
What You Need To Know About The GPU

Best Value GPU For Emulation

Prime
Rating
Position
Best Budget
Name
Snapshot
MSI GT 1030 2GD4 LP OC Computer Graphics Cards
What You Need To Know About The GPU

Best Budget GPU For Emulation

Prime
-
Rating

Last update on 2021-09-22 at 06:01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Preview
Name
Clock Speed & VRAM
 
Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super Overclocked 6GB Phoenix Fan Edition HDMI DP DVI Graphics Card (PH-GTX1660S-O6G)
1530 MHz & 6GB
ZOTAC GAMING GeForce GTX 1650 OC 4GB GDDR6 128-bit Gaming Graphics Card, Super Compact, ZT-T16520F-10L
1485 MHz & 4GB
MSI GT 1030 2GD4 LP OC Computer Graphics Cards
1228 MHz & 2GB
ASRock Phantom Gaming D Radeon RX 570 DirectX 12 RX570 4G 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card
1168 MHz & 8GB
PowerColor AMD Radeon RX 550 4GB Red Dragon Graphics Card
1100 MHz & 2GB

Best GPU For Emulation [N64, PS1, PS2, PS3, PSP, Switch, Wii, Xbox 360]


GTX 1660 Super – Best GPU For Emulation

Asus GeForce GTX 1660 Super Overclocked 6GB Phoenix Fan Edition HDMI DP DVI Graphics Card (PH-GTX1660S-O6G)

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Pros

  • Affordable
  • Excellent performance
  • Doesn’t get too hot

Cons

  • No RT cores
  • Limited ports

Clock Speed: 1530 MHzCUDA Cores: 1408VRAM: 6GBMemory Bandwidth: 336GB/s

Arguably, one of the best entry-level gaming cards for 1080p gaming. The GTX 1660 Super is an overclocked version of the GTX 1660.

At its price point, the GTX 1660 Super provides excellent performance. You will be able to get 60+ FPS on graphics-intensive games when played on high resolutions (1440p and 4K).

Furthermore, the GTX 1660 Super runs cool under heavy loads and you won’t experience GPU throttling.

Overall, the GTX 1660 Super is the best GPU for emulation. It will handle a lot of console and retro games easily when run on high resolutions. We highly recommend this GPU for PC emulation build.


GTX 1650 OC – Best Value GPU For Emulation

ZOTAC GAMING GeForce GTX 1650 OC 4GB GDDR6 128-bit Gaming Graphics Card, Super Compact, ZT-T16520F-10L

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Pros

  • Affordable
  • Good gaming performance

Cons

  • Not suitable for 4K gaming

Clock Speed: 1485 MHzCUDA Cores: 896VRAM: 4GBMemory Bandwidth: 128GB/s

The GTX 1650 is a solid GPU for emulation. Not only is it affordable. The performance is great and more than enough to handle emulation.

Just like the GTX 1660 Super, the GTX 1650 will run the games on 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions smoothly.

Because it has high clock speeds, memory bandwidth and 4GB VRAM which meet the recommended system requirements for emulation software.

To sum it all up, you will get 60+ FPS on all games when played using an emulator.


GT 1030  – Best Budget GPU For Emulation

MSI GT 1030 2GD4 LP OC Computer Graphics Cards

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Pros

  • Starts at $70
  • Remarkably low 30W TDP
  • Single-slot/low-profile form factor

Cons

  • Not suitable for demanding PC games

Clock Speed: 1228 MHzCUDA Cores: 384VRAM: 2GBMemory Bandwidth: 48GB/s

Perhaps, the greatest advantage of the NVIDIA GT 1030 is it is a single slot and low-profile card. Most GPUs have several slots and are massive in size.

This makes the GT 1030 perfect for mini-PC emulation builds. You don’t have to get a large case to house the GPU. But, a mini-case is sufficient enough for the GT 1030.

Moreover, it has low power consumption – less power, less noise, and less heat.

This cheap GPU is perfect for a budget PC emulation build with this GPU. You can keep costs below USD400. Provided all other components are cheap.

Unfortunately, there is a downside of the GT 1030. Although it’s a cheap GPU. You will get an average of 30 FPS on graphic intensive games.

We don’t recommend this GPU for high resolution emulation gaming. But for 1080p gaming. The GT 1030 will do just fine.


RX 570  – Best AMD GPU For  Emulation

ASRock Phantom Gaming D Radeon RX 570 DirectX 12 RX570 4G 4GB 256-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card

Where To Buy

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Pros

  • Excellent 1080p gaming performance
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Runs hots

Clock Speed: 1168 MHz Stream Processors: 2048VRAM: 8GBMemory Bandwidth: 224GB/s

If you belong to team red. The AMD Radeon RX 570 is the best AMD GPU for emulation. A solid and popular card amongst budget gamers.

Plus, most of the console use AMD hardware. So, it’s no surprise that, the AMD RX 570 is highly compatible with emulation software and will run the console games well.

It has a reasonably high clock speed, 8GB VRAM and high amount of bandwidth. Components that make the RX 570 a reasonably fast GPU.

The only downside is that this GPU runs hot. You have to make sure it’s properly cooled to prevent GPU throttling.

Even with this downside, it’s still the best GPU for emulation.


RX 550 – Best Cheap GPU For Emulation                   

PowerColor AMD Radeon RX 550 4GB Red Dragon Graphics Card

Where To Buy

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Pros

  • Low power, low heat
  • Compact form factor
  • Serviceable 1080p performance
  • No auxiliary power connector

Cons

  • Not great for high-performance gaming

Clock Speed: 1100 MHz Stream Processors: 512VRAM: 2GBMemory Bandwidth: 112GB/s

An awesome budget GPU for your PC emulation build. The AMD Radeon RX 550. It’s quiet and runs cool because of its low power consumption.

That means less fan noise and GPU throttling under heavy loads.

Cemu, Yuzu, Dolphin, PCSX2, etc. will run smoothly on the RX 550.

Overall, this is a solid low-profile GPU that will handle emulation very well. We highly recommend this GPU if you want to keep budget costs under USD400.


Which GPU is the Best For Emulator?

The GTX 1660 Super is the best GPU for emulator. Considered as one of the “big guns” GPU when it comes to emulation. It’s affordable, has high clock speeds and a lot of VRAM.

This GPU will certainly dish out high FPS when you play games on emulators.

Moreover, the GTX 1660 Super is able to run AAA title games on medium to high settings 1080p resolution.

If you like to play high resolution emulation games. Rest assured, the GTX 1660 Super will be able to handle it.

Does GPU Matter For Emulation?

Yes, GPU certainly matters for emulation. Although, it comes in second after the CPU with the RAM being the third most important component. Newer emulators are greatly affected by the GPU.

So having a good enough GPU is very important when you want serious performance. GPU are responsible for computing and processing graphics data.

The more powerful your GPU the faster it processes graphic data.

The video below shows how GPU matters for emulation. It was released a few years back. But, it greatly shows how GPU affects the performance when playing emulation games.

How Important is Your GPU For Emulation?

Do I Need a Good GPU For Emulation?

Yes, you need a good GPU for emulation. Most emulators are fine with integrated graphics cards. But the newer emulators require at least a decent dedicated GPU.

Also, if you want to play the games on high resolution. An integrated graphics card might not be up to the task.

That’s why it’s advisable to get a decent dedicated GPU to save you the trouble of experiencing sub-par gaming performance.  

Is Emulation More CPU or GPU Intensive?

The CPU is more important when it comes to emulation. However, it’s only true for older emulators.

Newer emulators for PS3, PS4 and Xbox require a capable dedicated GPU. They are graphic intensive and a strong CPU alone won’t cut it.

You need a capable and dedicate GPU to run the game smoothly especially on higher resolutions.

Do I need GPU for PCSX2?

According to the PCSX2 system requirements, you need a GPU that supports DirectX 10 or OpenGL 3.x and has 2GB VRAM.

That’s for the minimum system requirements for the GPU. When it comes to the recommended system requirements.

The GPU should support DirectX 11 or OpenGL 4.5 and 4GB VRAM.

In short, yes you need a GPU for PCSX2. A dedicated GPU to be precise.

Buyers’ Guide For The Best GPU For Emulation and Retro Gaming

Clock Speed

Just like CPUs, GPUs also have clock speeds. Clock speed is how fast a GPU can complete instructions and it’s measured in GHz or MHz.

The faster the clock speed the faster an instruction is completed and powerful GPUs have high clock speeds. However, you can’t depend solely on clock speed to judge the performance of a GPU.

For example, the RTX 2060 has a clock speed of 1365 MHz. The GTX 1650 has a clock speed of 1485 MHz which is high than the RTX 2060.

But, we all know which graphics card is more powerful. Don’t only look at clock speed when judging the performance of a graphics card.

VRAM

Just like how having a lot of RAM helps in system performance and multitasking. VRAM is RAM specifically used by the GPU.

That means the more VRAM a GPU has the more it can handle graphical loads. At the same time, it allows you to game on multiple monitors and higher resolutions.

Graphic cards with a high amount of VRAM are more often powerful cards.

For example, the RTX 2060 has 6GB of VRAM whiles the GTX 1650 has 4GB VRAM. The RTX 2080 Ti has a whopping 11GB RAM.

Cores

Just like how CPUs have their own cores. GPUs also have cores except that GPU cores are far more numerous than CPU cores. Furthermore, the more powerful the GPU. The higher number of cores it has.

For example, the RTX 2060 has 1920 NVIDIA CUDA Cores whiles the RTX 2070 Super has 2304 NVIDIA CUDA Cores.

Also, NVIDIA calls their cores NVIDIA CUDA cores whiles AMD refers to theirs as Stream processors.

Budget

When it comes to build a PC for emulation. You need to know how much you are willing to spend.

Are you planning on building a budget emulation PC?

Or a high-end gaming PC not only for emulation but also demanding games.

These kind of questions will give you a fair idea on how much you are willing to spend and how powerful you want your PC emulation build to be.

Final Thoughts                    

The CPU is known to be very important when it comes to emulation.

The more powerful your CPU the better and faster the games will run. But, that up to a certain point. If you plan on playing graphic intensive games (PS3, Xbox, etc.).

The GPU becomes as important as the CPU. To smoothly run them, you need a capable GPU.

The GTX 1660 Super comes out on top as the best GPU for emulation PC builds.

Second in line is the GTX 1650 which we consider as the best value when it comes to price and performance.

Thirdly, the RX 570 is highly recommended because it’s from AMD which most consoles base their hardware on.

You will have great compatibility when running emulation software (Cemu, Dolphin, Yuzu, PCSX2, RPCS3, etc.)

Finally, the RX 550 is the best budget GPU for emulation PC builds. It provides solid performance at a very affordable price.