How to Choose a Graphics Card?

The graphics card is a specialized card that has its processor and memory which are specifically designed to perform tasks related to 3D imaging, video rendering, etc. Most modern CPUs have integrated graphics processors (IGP) built-in that can handle many basic computing/graphics functions natively without the need for a separate GPU altogether, but you’ll still see higher performance when using a dedicated graphics card.

CPUs with an IGP will typically outperform those with no IGP at all, but it should be noted that they are also less powerful. Also, note that most motherboards these days usually only support PCI Express x16 slots for adding a dedicated GPU rather than AGP or PCI ones because of their power requirements as well as the fact that they tend to be more powerful.

CPUs with onboard graphics processors usually don’t support multi-GPU setups, but you can still get a system with multiple GPUs if the motherboard supports it. You’ll just need two compliant motherboards and enough PCI/PCI Express slots for them. Having an AMD CPU with a dedicated Radeon GPU may allow you to add another card at some point in the future even if your current motherboard doesn’t officially support it.

Important Graphics Card Specs

Brand:

When choosing your GPU, it’s important to decide what brand you prefer when gaming.

Any of these brands generally produce quality parts but certain brands tend to appeal to different personalities and help deliver a certain performance experience. This is usually pretty subjective though and dependent on the person’s preferences and experiences with said specific brand.

There are some major differences between brands, however, so if you’re looking for a good GPU it may be best to read reviews from other people who bought that specific part or look up benchmarks online using Google Images/Bing Image Search. You could also compare prices side by side with at least 2 manufacturers.

Model:

You should find the model that has the best performance compared to the price. The performance generally comes in 2 factors, graphics, and memory bandwidth. Don’t get an older graphic card with 2GB RAM when you’ll need 8GB RAM for your gaming experience to be good enough because if it doesn’t have enough memory bandwidth your framerate will go down even at low settings.

You can always buy another one later or downgrade in certain areas if necessary but if possible try to keep those two considerations together on a single choice since they’re both important for getting the best gaming experience out of your build. Also check what type of Video Outputs (HDMI, DVI) are supported by the card.

Cost:

Decide what you want to spend on your GPU and try to find parts that fit within budget while still providing a quality experience. If the price is too high it may be possible to buy parts from different manufacturers together for less money. It’s important to balance performance with cost to get a good gaming experience!

If choosing online, make sure you have enough information about the part before buying since a lot of product listings don’t provide detailed information or misrepresent specs just so they can make more profit off of people who don’t do their research. 

Power Requirements & Power Connector Type:

When building your PC, there are several different power connectors/sizes available depending on which region you’re in. This will require you to match the power cable with your PSU type and if they don’t match, the PC won’t start. It’s always good to get extra power cables/connectors for future use since there are many different types of connectors available and this way you can switch out parts without having to buy a new PSU.

When choosing which GPU to get it’s also important to check which connector size it needs because not all power supplies have the same connection port sizes.

Video Outputs:

The number of video outputs (HDMI/DVI) on your card depends on how many monitors you want to connect at once. If getting 2 or more monitors, make sure the GPU supports connecting that many by looking in the specs or comparing it to other models.

Memory:

Again, check what memory bandwidths your GPU can support and compare them to the one you’re looking at since there are some differences between manufacturers/models that need to be taken into consideration.

Anything lower than 1GB of memory bandwidth is generally designed for non-gaming use cases like programming and video editing (unless you plan on doing low graphics stuff) so if gaming is your main interest try getting a high memory bandwidth GPU which should give you better performance in games. 

Also depending on how much RAM you have available on your Motherboard, check how much the GPU needs because not all motherboards support more than 4GB of RAM fully even though they technically could.

Monitor Outputs:

If you plan on connecting more than 1 display device (2 or more monitors, TV, Console, etc) to your computer it’s important to check which video ports are available on the GPU and how many. The total number of outputs depends on what kind of connectors and ports are supported by the card.

For example, an HDMI 2.0 port can be used to output 4k video while a DVI port can only do 1080p but not as easily. There are also DisplayPort 1.4 that support 4k however it isn’t as commonly used yet so try checking reviews before buying something that uses DP1.4/HDMI 2 because some motherboards don’t fully support them yet. 

Overclocking:

Some GPUs support overclocking so if you want to get more performance out of them, check to see if they’re able to be overclocked and then decide whether or not it’s worth the risk.

I wouldn’t bother with this because most gaming systems are cheap enough that you could just buy a new GPU later on without too much trouble plus there are many risks involved when modifying hardware like extra heat output, higher power consumption which will require you to upgrade your parts sooner for example.

If you don’t care about electricity bills and have a lot of patience then fine but I’m not going to suggest doing anything other than stock speeds since most people aren’t interested in overclocking their stuff. Most cards also ship with a higher clock speed than what they’re rated for so you’ll be getting better performance if you leave them at stock speeds.

SLI/Crossfire:

A lot of high-end GPUs support connecting more than 1 graphics card to boost performance which is called SLI (Scalable Link Interface). It used to be limited to Nvidia cards but has since spread to AMD as well and is very popular among enthusiasts since it gives a significant boost in games. 

It’s also possible to connect 2 or more low-end GPUs which isn’t effective and is just an alternative way for gamers who don’t want to spend all their money on a single top-of-the-line GPU. If you do decide to go this route, check to see whether your motherboard supports it or not.

Some cheaper GPU can be easily modified to support SLI/Crossfire by connecting them in series but this is for advanced users only since it’s easy to break the card when backing them out and there are no guarantees that modding will work 100% so again, check reviews before doing anything risky like forcing 2 cards together because they may not even function as a single unit on some configurations.

Game Drivers:

It’s important to keep updating your drivers regularly since they fix bugs and give performance boosts over time, however, make sure you’re getting proper ones from the manufacturer or official sites because there are many sites out there that have broken drivers which can cause problems if you install them instead of the real ones.

PCIe Bus: 

You should also check the PCIe bus which is how many lanes are available for connecting your motherboard components in case you plan on using multiple high-end peripherals that support PCIe such as graphics cards, SSDs, and soundcards. Most motherboards provide 16x slots so with a 17x CPU you’ll be able to have another GPU installed.

Some motherboards can even go up to 32x or more but I wouldn’t recommend going over 16x since most games don’t see much of a performance gain from having more than 1 GPU unless there’s a very large number of them used together which again, isn’t worth it compared to spending the money on just 2 or 3 higher-end GPUs instead.

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