A good graphics card can significantly improve a computer’s performance in tasks involving graphics-intensive operations, such as video editing, 3D rendering, and gaming. If you want to play the latest games or doing work that requires a lot of graphical processing power, having a good GPU is vital. You must choose a suitable GPU to get the most out of your computer.
But, unfortunately, figuring out how to choose a graphics card might take much work. You have to consider many factors, like the monitor type, the size of your PC case, and your expected gaming resolution. Still, there is much to cover and consider when choosing a graphics card for your computer. Read this in-detailed GPU buying guide to uncover all those factors.
- A suitable graphics card for your computer is essential, especially if you are interested in playing games or doing work that requires a lot of graphical processing power.
- You must consider several factors such as budget, model numbers, and discrete versus integrated graphics that you need to consider when purchasing a graphics card.
- It’s also essential to compare the estimated prices of some current graphics cards from popular manufacturers such as AMD and NVIDIA and choose one according to your budget and usage.
What budget do you have for the graphics?
GPUs come in various prices, some as cheap as $100 and others as expensive as $2,000 or more. But, it’s important to note that the costlier high-end cards are only worth the investment if you need high-end performance or work in a field where even a slight boost in speed is impactful.
If you’re looking to save some money, you may consider stepping down a level or two. For example, the RTX 3080 12GB, available for less than $1,000, is half the cost of the RTX 3090 Ti and offers roughly 15% lower performance on average. The same applies to AMD’s lineup.
The RX 6700 XT is available at half the price of the RX 6900 XT, typically costing around $1,050. While the 6900 is undoubtedly faster, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth twice the price. Below is a list of the current cards in development and their most competitive prices.
|Graphics Cards||Estimated Price||Store|
|EVGA RTX 3090 TI||$1,999.99||EVGA|
|MSI RTX 3090||$1,679.99||Newegg|
|MSI RTX 3080 TI||$1,269.99||Newegg|
|EVGA RTX 3080 12GB||$1,107.94||Amazon|
|EVGA RTX 3080 10GB||$919.99||EVGA|
|EVGA RTX 3070 TI||$759.99||EVGA|
|Gigabyte RTX 3070||$729.99||Newegg|
|MSI RTX 3060 TI||$579.99||Newegg|
|PNY RTX 3060||$488.99||Amazon|
|EVGA RTX 3050||$249.99||EVGA|
|MSI RX 6900 XT||$1,019.99||Newegg|
|Sapphire RX 6800 XT||$859.00||Newegg|
|ASRock RX 6800||$799.99||Newegg|
|ASRock RX 6700 XT||$528.99||Newegg|
|XFX RX 6600 XT||$429.99||Newegg|
|ASRock RX 6600||$335.99||Newegg|
|PowerColor RX 6500 XT||$199.99||Amazon|
|XFX RX 6400||$179.99||Neweg|
What do the model numbers mean?
AMD and NVIDIA both use various categorizations to classify their graphics card products. For AMD cards, a higher series number generally indicates that the graphics card is newer than one with a lower series number. Similarly, a higher number for NVIDIA cards signifies that the card is designed for gaming and offers better performance, while a lower number is intended for everyday use.
Both companies produce graphics cards for laptops and desktop computers, with higher model numbers typically corresponding to higher performance. For instance, the RTX 3080 generally provides more powerful performance than the RTX 3060. Utilizing the model number, researching the card, and consulting the official website for additional information is recommended to better understand it.
How to choose a graphics card?
The following are a few essential factors and aspects you must consider when buying a graphics card.
Discrete vs integrated graphics
Integrated graphics refer to graphics processing units (GPUs) built into a device’s CPU (central processing unit), such as a laptop or desktop computer. While integrated graphics can be found in desktop PCs, they are more common in smaller form factor devices like laptops.
One of the primary benefits of integrated graphics is that they consume less power, which is especially crucial for devices that rely on battery power. They produce less heat than dedicated graphics cards. However, integrated graphics are unsuited for graphically demanding activities like high-resolution gaming or content creation.
In these cases, investing in a discrete graphics card is essential to achieve the necessary performance. Discrete GPUs are separate from the CPU and are designed to handle intensive graphics workloads. But, integrated graphics are meant for regular graphics, such as basic photo editing.
Desktop vs laptop graphics card
Graphics cards are a crucial component of laptops and desktops, but they differ in their requirements and cost. Desktop graphics cards are typically less expensive than their laptop counterparts due to their larger and less compact hardware, which results in lower manufacturing costs.
On the other hand, laptop graphics cards must be smaller to fit inside the narrow chassis of a laptop, which requires smaller components that can increase the cost. Additionally, these cards may contribute to a laptop’s weight and reduce its portability, as they require more power and generate more heat than other laptop components.
While desktop graphics cards can handle more demanding graphics workloads and provide better performance than laptop graphics cards, they are unsuitable for those requiring portability. Laptop graphics cards are designed to provide adequate performance for basic graphics usage and light gaming while maintaining a lightweight and portable form factor.
Overall, the choice between a laptop or desktop graphics card will depend on the user’s needs and priorities. Those who require the highest performance and have no concerns about mobility may prefer desktop graphics cards, while those who prioritize portability and basic usage can go for laptop graphics.
The amount of VRAM or graphics memory on a graphics card significantly impacts the graphics capabilities and overall performance of a computer. VRAM is a type of memory specifically designed to handle graphical data and is separate from the computer’s main system memory or RAM.
Regarding gaming at a resolution of 1080p, getting a graphics card with at least 6GB of VRAM is recommended. Ideally, a card with 8GB or more would be even better. This amount of VRAM allows for smooth and efficient gameplay at 1080p resolution.
However, if you intend to install high-resolution texture packs or play games with all the settings turned up, you will need a graphics card with more VRAM. High-resolution textures and graphics require more memory to store and process. In such cases, it is recommended to have a graphics card with more than 8GB of VRAM.
If you play games at higher resolutions, such as HD (1440p) or 4K (2160p), having a graphics card with more than 8GB of VRAM is crucial. Higher resolutions require more memory to store and process the additional pixels. Therefore, having more VRAM will provide a smoother gaming experience.
In summary, when choosing a graphics card, it is essential to consider the amount of VRAM it has and ensure it meets the requirements for the specific use case, such as gaming at a specific resolution or using high-resolution texture packs.
A tiny 3-5% variance in frame rates may result from the manufacturer overclocking of cards with the same GPU (for example, an RTX 3060 Ti). However, memory speed, the number of cores, and the architecture must also be considered, so clock speed is only part of it. On cards with the same GPU, better cooling usually overclock speed.
Memory bandwidth and speed
Faster memory can make one card faster than another, similar to a higher clock speed. Because of the improved memory bandwidth, the GTX 1650 GDDR6 is, for instance, 15% quicker than the GTX 1650 GDDR5. The number of memory accesses can be decreased by features like AMD’s Infinity Cache on RDNA 2. Thus bandwidth is one of many things to take into account.
Some monitors use DisplayPort, others use HDMI, and some older models only have DVI. A few monitors can also route DisplayPort signals over USB Type-C. However, these are currently very uncommon. To avoid purchasing an adaptor or even a new display, make sure the card you plan to buy has the connectors you require for your monitor unless you want to.
The term “thermal design power,” or TDP, refers to a measurement of thermal transfer that also provides an estimate of the amount of power needed to run your graphics card at its default settings. AMD and Nvidia appear to be moving toward TBP, or typical board power, which refers to the total power of the card.
In any case, that is what most of us assume when discussing graphics power. If you have a 95-watt overclocked CPU and a 400-watt power supply unit (PSU) and want to add on a card with a 250-watt TDP, you almost indeed require a PSU upgrade. A 600W PSU was typically sufficient for many older cards.
However, if you intend to overclock your RTX 3080/RX 6800 XT or higher graphics card, it is better to get a higher-wattage PSU. With GPUs like the RTX 3090 Ti and the potential for next-generation 600W GPUs, extreme users will likely require a 1200–1600W PSU. Yuck!
All serious gaming cards use more power than the x16 PCIe slot’s typical 75W limit. Additional PCIe power connections, available in 6- and 8-pin types, are needed to connect these cards. The RTX 30-series cards by Nvidia have 12-pin connectors and 8-pin to 12-pin adapters.
There can be 6- and 8-pin ports on the same card; some cards have one of these connectors, others two or even three. Upgrade your power supply if it lacks the additional connectors you require; adapters that depend on a few SATA or Molex connectors are not guided as long-term solutions.
CUDA Cores / Stream Processors
Similar to clock speed, but only tells you a portion of what you need to know when attempting to estimate the GPU’s performance level. Core counts within the same architecture can be compared more meaningfully than core counts between different architectures.
TFLOPS and GFLOPS
A GPU’s highest possible theoretical performance is measured in TFLOPS, or trillions of floating-point operations per second. The GHz clock speed times the core count times two will give you the TFLOPS for a GPU. Comparing chips with the same design, TFLOPS often indicates how faster one chip is than another.
Comparisons between different architectures, such as AMD Navi 10 vs Nvidia Turing TU106, either AMD Navi 10 vs AMD Vega 10, are less helpful.
Check for Ray-tracing
Ray tracing is one of the interesting new technologies found in more recent graphics cards. Ray tracing is a graphics method widely used in video games and creates extremely cool lighting effects. This is done by using an algorithm that represents the light that interacts with things in the real world by first tracing a path of light.
Ray-tracing, representing how the human eye sees light reflections and shadows, is frequently used in games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs Legion, and Control. Although ray-tracing technology has yet to reach its full potential, game makers are actively utilizing it.
Although movie studios have long employed the technology, particularly in high-budget action movies, it is more challenging to display in real-time in a PC game. Game developers have used Rasterization to convert 3D polygonal models into 2D images and pre-render lighting effects. You may still expect outstanding performance from current graphics cards, even with the early stages of ray tracing.
A few quick tips when buying a graphics card
Here are a few quick tips for users who have not purchased a graphics card earlier. Make sure to read these tips before you visit some online stores and the nearby computer market. Those tips are as follows:
First-time PC buyers should expect something other than top-tier graphics because they won’t perform as well in gaming. Spend less on the CPU since it will perform better on fake benchmarks, but real-world frame rates will suffer.
A powerful graphics card for games with 4K resolution and high settings is required. Most common cards are adequate for 1080p gaming at 30 to 60 frames per second.
You’ll need a strong graphics card and processor to get the most out of a display with a maximum refresh rate of up to 120,000.
Make sure the card you’re contemplating will fit in your PC case and that your power supply has extra watts available.
Before purchasing, check the card’s MSRP or launch price. Tools like CamelCamelCamel can help distinguish between genuine deals and offerings marked up and discounted.
Dual cards are not worth the cost. Multi-card SLI or CrossFire systems no longer have any games that support them. Purchase the best single card you can. In most cases, adding a second card is not worth the bother.
Don’t expect significant performance increases from overclocking. Purchase a more potent card if improved performance is required. Usually, only 5–10% of graphics cards have a small amount of overclocking headroom.
Choosing a good-quality graphics card is essential since it supervises a computer’s overall graphics capabilities and performance when playing games or creating content. Therefore, we have written this in-detail buying guide to purchase a suitable graphics card according to your needs.
Read the quick tips, which are the article’s last section. This will guide you about some essential factors a user must consider before visiting an online eCommerce store or the nearby market.