Image: Nvidia

Beginner’s guide to buying a Graphics Card – Detailed and Updated

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Graphics cards are one of the central building parts of a computer. They are usually the most expensive parts too, but it’s not like a computer can’t run without graphics cards, many consumers stick to their integrated GPUs rather than buying a fancy one if their system is only for work purpose or surfing internet.

The necessity to buy a powerful graphics card comes from video gaming on PC or running heavy software. Gamers run intensive benchmarks to see where their PC stands and whether they need a specific type of GPU to run their beloved, enhanced graphics video game. But buying the right type of GPU that you need require some technical analysis, thus this guide will help beginners in buying a perfect graphics card for their PC.

Check your current hardware

This step is same if you are a  tech geek or a beginner who does not know anything about his computer. It is the time to know your computer. There are many apps that will let you know what processor you are rocking, what GPU you currently use and how much memory your PC possesses, but the app that I like the most is called cpuZ.

The most important piece of information that you need from this is what motherboard you are using, a quick Google search of your motherboard model will tell you if it has a PCI-express slot or not.

Graphics cards hook in the motherboard at the PCI-e slot. Now the first decision would be either to swap the motherboard with a new one that can synchronize with as many Graphics cards as possible. On the other hand, if your PC is not old, the motherboard will be compatible with most Graphics cards in the market.

Image: Techworld
Image: Techworld

RAM is also the component that you should look for if your PC is too old you may want to upgrade your RAM too. If your current RAM module is DDR2 or even DDR3 you should get the DDR4 module or you will suffer heavy stutters while gaming. Upgrading RAM will also make your other applications smoother, faster and efficient. The capacity matters too for gaming 8GB RAM is barely enough.

The power supply also plays a major role in deciding what Graphics card you need, or if you would require to upgrade your power supply. The common rule depends upon your budget low-end Graphics cards get the power from the motherboard, while if you are looking for a mid-range Graphics card then your old power supply would barely be enough. Lastly, if you are getting a high-end Graphics card then you will need to upgrade your supply.

Lastly, the case also matters since the Graphics cards come in all sizes. Your choice should be aligned with the case you have, or you may have to buy a new case so that the Graphics card that you get can fit in easily. The higher end Graphics cards usually have a three slot design while the subsequent Graphics cards shrink in sizes and hence the entry level Graphics cards are usually one slot cards.

Image: PC world
Image: PC world

So, your choice of Graphics cards should be aligned with your motherboard, RAM, power supply and case.

Set your budget and try not to deviate

This step is also the same even for both types of consumers. If your PC is meant for gaming then the Graphics card is the hardware that you would want to spend most of your budget on. However, if you want to stream your games while playing you would have to get a decent CPU too. Now, the prices of the Graphics cards range from below $100 all the way up to $1000. There are three categories.

Low-end Graphics cards

If you are looking for a Graphics card that can help you in your daily tasks (Graphics cards can help in many scenarios other than gaming). The low-end Graphics cards can play some games mainly the e-sports titles or old AAA titles easily. If you want to play games at the lowest settings and don’t want to spend a fortune on Graphics cards then the entry level Graphics cards are the best deals.

Now if you are looking for AMD’s lowest end offerings the Radeon RX 460 4GB should be the way to go, as it can play moderately demanding games at 1080p while many AAA titles can be run at 720p. The price tag too is not much in $100 you would get a decent gaming boost especially if you come from the integrated Graphics environment. If you do not like spending even a 100 dollars then the AMD Radeon RX 550 2GB is also a good option and it is retailing at around $80 nowadays but the performance boost is not huge compared to the RX 460.

Image: SAPPHIRE
Image: SAPPHIRE

If you are into Nvidia’s Graphics cards then there are not many options, there are only two lower end Graphics cards in the pascal series of Graphics cards and only one of them comes at a price that is less than $100. The Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 is the entry level GPU that gives the almost similar performance to the RX 450 but due to Nvidia’s greater software integration, it surpasses RX 450 at times.

The other Graphics card is the GTX 1050 SKUs, it has three options considering the amount of VRAM that you require the 4GB version is called Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti and it is the most powerful of the bunch. If you want consistent 1080p performance in the moderately demanding game then give the GTX 1050Ti a shot.

Image: Gigabyte
Image: Gigabyte

Mid-range Graphics cards

It is the most competitive category as most of the Graphics cards that are listed as mid-range performers excel at 1080p gaming while they can often play games at 1440p. They are costly and usually have a shelf life of 4 years.

The mid-range Graphics cards start at $200, they provide huge performance boots compared to the low-end Graphics cards. If you decide to get the Graphics cards you may want to upgrade your power supply too as all of the graphics cards in this category require a 6-pin power connector.

If you want Nvidia’s mid-range offerings then you have two options either you can GTX 1060 which comes in 3GB or 6GB VRAM configurations or the GTX 1070 SKUs.  The GTX 1060 is the best mid-range Graphics card as it provides the best price to performance ratio and its 6GB VRAM variant is also future proof since the coming games require more and more VRAM to work at higher resolutions.

On the other hand, the GTX 1070 and the GTX 1070Ti are the best Graphics cards if you want 1080p gaming at more than 100 frames per second or even games at 1440p with consistent 60FPS.

Image: Nvidia
Image: Nvidia

On the other hand, AMD has no Graphics card that comes at the mid-range prices to go against the GTX 1070/ GTX 1070Ti. However, the RX 580 and the RX 480 are the similar performing graphics cards that can perform slightly better than the GTX 1060 but have variants that provide 8GB of GDDR5 memory. However, they are cheaper than the Nvidia’s mid-range Graphics cards. If you are stuck because of the budget AMD’s graphics cards would be the way to go.

Image: PC world
Image: PC world

High-end Graphics cards

If the amount of money you possess has no bounds then you would want to go for the high-end Graphics cards, these Graphics cards provide impeccable performance and are meant for the consumers who want the best gaming performance and the best pixel production.

They are priced according to the performance they produce, hence if you are looking for a high-end Graphics card then buying would cause a huge dent in your wallet.

For the high-end Graphics card market, AMD has only two Graphics cards they are not as much powerful as the Nvidia’s Graphics cards but they are less costly and have a slightly better price to performance ratio. These include VEGA 56 and VEGA 64. Both these cards are the sub 500 Graphics cards which mean you can get both at a cost that is less 500 dollars. VEGA 64 can give a decent 4k performance while the VEGA 56 is a competent 1440p performer.

Image: PC World
Image: PC World

Nvidia is the main player in the case of the high-end Graphics cards, it offers a range of high-end Graphics cards that the consumers can be considering their budget.

The high-end Graphics cards from Nvidia are spread across the Pascal series and the newly announced Turing series Graphics cards. The least Graphics card that you could find in the high-end lineup is the GeForce GTX 1080 that can output decent 4k performance similar to what the VEGA 64 offers. You can get the used GTX 1080 at almost $450 while the new one would cost almost 500 dollars.

Then comes the Turing hardware called RTX 2070 which performs better than the GTX 1080 with the additional benefit of ray tracing that can make the Graphics of the supported games as good as real but with a huge performance hit. It is currently retailing at $500 while the founder’s edition model would cost around $600.

Image: Nvidia
Image: Nvidia

Then comes the GTX 1080Ti which was initially launched with a price tag of $649 but nowadays can be found at a price tag of $550 and it can still push games at 4k at the highest possible settings but it struggles to keep the frame rates at 60. The RTX 2080 is the other Graphics card that can provide similar performance with the additional benefit of the Raytracing and it costs $699.

Lastly, the overkill Graphics card in the market is the Turing’s masterpiece called the RTX 2080Ti which costs $1000. It pushes every game to its limits while producing framerates consistent at 60 while some in some games it can output 100 frames per second at UHD resolution.

Image: Nvidia
Image: Nvidia

Final words

The most important decision that you would want to take while buying a Graphics card is your budget. The higher the budget the better the Graphics card that you can get. The case, power supply, and motherboard are secondary but important choices.

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