How to find the right graphics card (video card) for your computing needs?
Posted by jenny on April 3rd, 2021
Choosing the best graphics card is a very important factor in building or maintaining a computer. This is true whether you a building an entirely new PC from scratch, or upgrading your current one. In particular, if you are putting together a machine with the primary goal of PC gaming in mind, it’s probably the most salient decision you will be making.
Knowing which graphics card (or “GPU”) is right for you will depend largely on metrics such as budget and application. From a gaming, video editing, or 3D rendering perspective, a more powerful unit is almost always desirable. However, it is possible to over-budget on your new GPU and end up paying for more processing power than you’ll ever use practically.
Here are a few tips on GPUs, including how they work and the key features and differences between them. They should help give you a leg up when planning your next purchase!
What is a graphics card and why do I need one?
In many cases, this means that your graphics card will be the primary factor in the intensity of the tasks your PC will be capable of performing. Users who prioritize PC gaming are among those who will benefit the most from a higher-performance GPU. Those who use high-level applications for tasks such as video editing and 3D rendering also require a capable GPU to speed up processing times.
Integrated graphics or discrete video cards
Those looking for even a modest “hobby” gaming experience on the other hand will want to consider their GPU purchase with more scrutiny. A standalone GPU (or “discrete video card”) is ultimately ideal—if not necessary—to properly run games (and editing programs) beyond those with basic performance demands. Discrete graphics cards are available from economical, entry-level options through to pricey, ultra-powerful enthusiast models.
Where you end up landing on this spectrum really depends on exactly what type of performance you are seeking. In PC gaming, for example, games will often let users choose from a sliding scale of graphical quality. The higher the performance benchmark of your GPU, the higher the quality of graphics it can push out to your screen.
Inevitably, the newest games will always push the limits of any card, with entry-level graphics cards likely to handle medium to modestly higher settings, and high to ultra-high enthusiast-level settings requiring the latest and most powerful discrete GPU hardware.
Key factors in choosing a graphics card
NVIDIA vs. AMD
Other companies will also manufacture models of these GPUs independently. However, they will regularly be building on the foundation of NVIDIA or AMD processors. You’ll be able to find models of NVIDIA or AMD graphics cards from familiar manufacturers such as ASUS, MSI, and many more.
The difference between unique manufacturers will boil down to additional features beyond NVIDIA or AMD’s core processor architecture. This may include factors such as the amount of GDDR VRAM available, or the quality and number of fans built in to keep the GPU cool. These factors may inform not only the overall potential but also the cost of unique models of the same GPU processor.
NVIDIA’s most recent line of graphics cards is the RTX 30 series, featuring their new Ampere architecture. AMD on the other hand is competing with their latest lineup of Radeon RX 6000 Series GPU’s. Each manufacturer offers a sliding benchmark scale of GPU options for consumers.
The word on the street is ray tracing
In essence, ray tracing technology “traces” the path that light would take to travel to a viewer’s eye in a 3D space. It takes into consideration reflections, opaque objects and shadows, and even light refraction. Ray tracing uses all this information to calculate the final color of every pixel on the screen, and it does it all in real-time.
The result is a level of authenticity and realism beyond anything that has come before. Naturally, it’s also an incredibly resource-heavy process. PC gamers who want to take advantage of ray tracing innovations in the latest games will want to ponder this when considering the benchmark of their next graphics card purchase.
Consider your other hardware and components
The thermal design power (TDP) of a GPU is also a very important factor. TDP is in part a measurement of how much power a GPU draws, which measures in wattage. If your power supply unit delivers less wattage than the minimum amount your graphics card recommends, you’re going to have a bad time.
A few more components to consider include peripherals (such as your PC monitor), and your PC case itself. There may not be much point in shelling out for a powerful GPU capable of 4K graphics at 120 frames-per-second if your monitor does not support it.
Furthermore, the more powerful a graphics card, often the larger it is. Not all PC cases are equal in size. Make sure in advance that your case can actually accommodate the girth of your new GPU!
How to find the right graphics card for your computer
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About the Authorjenny
Joined: March 18th, 2021
Articles Posted: 7
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