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How to Buy the Right Graphics Card: A Complete Guide

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graphics card

Nowadays the market is flooded with hundreds of GPUs belonging to different price range, and it is becoming extremely confusing for users to pick the right one. A lot of factors comes into question when you are about to purchase a graphics card for your system.

So users either go for popular models or end up buying a graphics card which is not appropriate for the PC. To clear the air of confusion, our team has created a detailed guide that will assist you in buying the most appropriate GPU for your setup.

• Usage

– The usage is probably the most critical consideration of all like the type of usage will determine the graphics card you should buy. If you are into casual usage like watching movies, listening to music, web browsing, working on word, etc., then you can comfortably work with an integrated GPU. However, if you are planning to play 1440p, Ultra HD or 3D visuals, then you might need dedicated GPU.

However, if you are planning to utilize the PC for casual gaming, then we would recommend you to opt for a cheap or budget card as it will suit your requirement. Getting a GPU like GTX 1030ti, RX 550, RX 480, GTX 1050, RX 580, GTX 1060 or GTX 1050ti would be a smart move as it will be able to run all sorts of games including many AAA titles.
Are you planning to play all significant AAA titles at ultra-high settings? Already bought a high-end PC configuration? Then you need to buy a GPU starting from mid-range to high-end that has DirectX 12 and 4GB minimum VRAM. You will have numerous option of GPUs like RX Vega 64, RX Vega 56, GTX 1080ti, RX 570, RTX 2080, GTX 1660, GTX 1070ti, RTX 2060 but all depends upon your budget. In addition to gaming, you can also utilize these GPUs for animation work or graphic design.

• NVIDIA or AMD

– After deciding the GPU usage, now comes the biggest that is Nvidia or AMD?. Nvidia and AMD are currently the only two manufacturers who are making GPUs in the market and the brand you will choose entirely depends upon your preference. Both the manufacturer offers a terrific lineup of GPUs ranging from somewhere near $100 to above $2000.

If budget isn’t your concern and you are looking unparalleled graphics performance, then Nvidia should be your pick especially for their latest RTX 2080Ti. Moreover, they have a massive lineup of GPUs that caters to different users with different requirement.
AMD, on the other hand, is suitable for users who are looking high-performance GPUs at an affordable range. Nvidia can’t AMD when it comes to pricing. Like Nvidia, AMD also has an excellent lineup of GPUs starting from budget to high-end models like RX Vega 64.

However, most of the card from them aren’t power efficient, and they tend to heat up quickly. Moreover, the modern RTX cards from NVIDIA are much more powerful than current models of AMD. So depending upon your usage, you will have to choose wisely as you will hardly find any difference in performance in most of their models.

• Getting the Right Cores

– When you will look for specifications, the most critical factor that you should look into is CUDA cores for NVIDIA or Stream Processors for AMD. The CUDA or Stream Processors figure to determine the number of cores of a GPU and the more the number of cores; better will be the GPU performance. It would be best to never go below 2300 Stream processors and 760 CUDA cores because they serve as the benchmark of efficient GPU performance. However for the finest performance always go above 2000 CUDA or 3500 stream processors.

Having higher cores will not only allow you to play all games in high settings but also in high frame rate. Remember, you should never go overboard with core count as it will lead to the bottlenecking issue.

• Clock Speed

– In addition to cores, when you are choosing a GPU you should also pay attention to the clock speed. The base clock speed determines the speed of the GPU in gaming or parallel processing, and higher the clock speed greater will be the performance of the GPU. If you are looking for casual graphics usage and won’t work on a graphics-intensive task, then look for models having base clock between 1000-1500Mhz. However, you shouldn’t confuse it with the boost clock which determines the maximum speed that a graphics card can achieve under heavy load.
A low clock speed won’t be useful when it comes to graphics intensive works and high-end gaming as they won’t be able to handle it. You need to go beyond 1500Mhz and opt for models having a base clock around 1700 or 1800Mhz. When choosing high-end models, it would be smart to get a high base clock and high boost clock.

GPU Memory

– It would be incorrect to consider that by having a large virtual memory, you are going to get a significant boost in the graphics performance. A graphics card of the same family with 3GB memory will offer the same performance as other models with 4GB memory.

However, the RAM size will make a difference when you utilize the GPU for 1440p resolution, 4K resolution or multi-monitor setup. To stay on the safe side, always prefer to stick 3-4GB RAM for the budget to mid-range GPUs and 6-8GB RAM for high-end cards.

You should also pay attention to the memory bandwidth along with the memory size. Never settle with a GPU having GDDR3 memory as the current GDDR5 offers double bandwidth than older GDDR3 memory. You might think 4GB GDDR3 VRAM would be more efficient than 2GB GDDR5 VRAM, but in reality, 2GB GDDR5 is much more efficient than the former.

• Thermal Design Power

– It has been seen people often ignore the TDP value of a GPU but you shouldn’t because it depicts how much heat is produced by GPU. In addition to heat dissipation amount, it also represents the amount of wattage your GPU will incur while it is running at stock settings. So you can understand a higher TDP value not only depicts that the GPU will consume a tremendous amount of energy but will also produce a large amount of heat.

You won’t certainly want a GPU that will always bug you with overheating issue and will force you to update to a high wattage PSU. So go for a GPU that has a low TDP value. Being said that, if you can install a high-wattage PSU and can handle the heating problem by using modern coolers, then you can freely use any GPU.

• Port

– Currently HDMI and DisplayPort serve as the standard connecting port for GPUs, and they are available most of the monitors. However, if you are using an old monitor, then you might need a DVI converter to connect your GPU with the VGA port of the monitor. So make sure you have all the right ports and adapters to connect your GPU.

• Compatibility

– Compatibility is a huge concern while you are about to add a new GPU to your existing rig. First and foremost, you need to find out whether your case can accommodate the GPU you are planning to install, and different cases offer different sizes. GPUs with larger coolers takes a massive amount of space, so you measure the length before purchasing.

Likewise, you should also check out your power supply’s amp rating at 12V and watt rating. Find out how many PCIe connectors it has because nowadays modern cards require more than one six and eight-pin connectors.
With case and PSU, you also need to assess whether your motherboard has a PCI Express x16 slot (2.0 or 3.0). Most of the motherboards offer at least one x16 slot, but if SLI or Crossfire is your priority, then you should look for a motherboard that has at least three slots.

Consecutively, you have also to make sure that your CPU can keep up with the GPU you are intended to add. Suppose if you are planning to buy a GTX 1080ti, but you have an Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen 1200 processor, then the processor will bottleneck. So choose a GPU that will perfectly compliment the CPU.
The RAM may not serve as a crucial compatibility factor but blending high-end GPU with low RAM might offer poor performance. 4GB-8GB RAM support is sufficient for the budget to mid-range GPU as it can handle all the RAM requirements. However, for high-end GPUs, you need to have minimum 16GB RAM support.

• Display

– When you are investing in a good GPU, you need to have an excellent monitor that will showcase the sheer performance of the GPU. There is no point on investing on a $1000GPU if you are using an old display that can only offer 60Hz refresh rate at full HD. If you are on a budget and have a low-end GPU, then having a Full HD display with 144Hz refresh rate would be a steal deal.

However, if you want to explore the full potential of your mid-range or high-end GPU, then having a QHD or 4K monitor along with 144Hz or 240Hz refresh rate would be a smart deal.

• VR and Ray Tracing Support

– Both VR and Ray Tracing is the current rage in the market as it opens a new dimension to the users while they purchase a GPU. VR support is only found in mid-range and high-end GPUs, so you are not likely to find VR if you go below RX 570 or GTX 1060.

Similarly, ray tracing is only available in current NVIDIA RTX 20 series, and Ray Tracing is only available in few games as well as software.

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