Understanding which graphic card is best a without any doubt the most important aspect of any PC build.
On this blog we have previously talked about how to go ahead and choose a CPU for your build.
We also went into great details to understand what is needed to choose the best motherboard for your system.
And we have also looked into various factors that are involved in choosing the best monitor that you can possibly have for your need.
In this post we are going to discuss possibly the most important question that our readers ask continously.
A question that every PC builder it doesn’t matter if he is an experienced or completely new to PC building has.
Fun thing is many tech YouTubers and tech bloggers or people who know about the computers and stuff say that choosing a graphics card is tough.
I find that very funny.
Once you have the right knowledge basis. Right and precise to be exact.
How can anything be tough.
Sometimes I think they say that so that they can present an aura to you that they know too much.
Let me tell them this. Do you know how big this cosmos is ?.
Even if you say you know everything about something you don’t know a Goddamn thing about anything.
Something to think about. In any case,
Building Up A Good Knowledge Base Is Important To Know Which Graphic Card Is Best For You.
And that’s all there is to it.
If you have sufficient knowledge base. Using the understanding from that base, knowing which graphics card is best for you is actually a cakewalk.
And possibly the easiest thing that you will do because there is not much technical awareness you need to know which graphic card is best for your use case.
Yes, there are certain essential technical parameters that you need to be aware of.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be an expert or hold PhD in electronics to understand which graphic card is best for your need.
And that is precisely why I am here.
Once you are aware of the technical parameters that you need to understand.
And when you are also aware of what are the other factors that you need to account for such is form factor, case size etc.
You will see it becomes incredibly easy to know which graphic card is best for your need.
In this particular post we are going to cover every single thing that is required for you.
We are going to cover everything that is essential to choose the best graphics card for your system.
And I’ll make sure that I create this post elaborate and beneficial enough so that you don’t have to go anywhere else on the Internet to learn about which graphic card is best for you.
Latest Happening And Introductions In Graphic Cards
Since the release of not so impressive GTX 1650 from Nvidia the gossips about new graphic card lineup from them have been elusive.
From the AMD side, there have been some rumors about introduction of new lineup.
Though these are supposedly a refresh on the company’s adrenaline drivers.
So to a great extent these are just refreshed products from the previous products that AMD has released so that is not something to be put too much importance to at this point.
One thing that is definitely worth looking out for is, the introduction of new NAVI cards from AMD at Computex In Taiwan.
The RX 5700 cards from AMD are set to compete with RTX 2070 and 2060 from Nvidia.
But nothing can be said for sure right now as the performance capabilities of these cards will be clear only when these cards hit the market and review units are available.
And there is also news from Nvidia that will try to hit back at AMD’s Navi by maybe introducing a new line of graphics card or maybe cutting down the prices on their RTX lineup.
But that is something that may happen in the future.
As of now let’s look into how do we go ahead and learn which graphic card is best for your computer.
Some Pointers Before You Understand Which Graphic Card Is Best For You
In this segment we are going to look into the various points that you need to keep in mind before you choose which graphic card is best for you.
These pointers can be also perceived as TL;DR for people who are already little experienced with pc building.
But if you are a beginner and you don’t know how to choose a graphics card.
I recommend you to go to go through this post completely.
Because little knowledge can be very deceptive.
And I can assure you that if you just read through this post once completely.
I can almost guarantee that you will be able to pick a graphics card right now.
And since I am going to make this post in a general sense.
This knowledge base will help you pick a graphics card in the future as well or maybe when you want to upgrade your computer.
Be Wise and Save Up For CPU.
I can understand, if you think graphics card is the most important part of the computer.
To a certain extent and in one level of perception that is true.
But you also need to understand that graphics card is not the only thing that is that makes a computer. Because of this fragmented perception we sometimes overlook on important choices such as monitor, power supply unit and CPU.
And if you invest budget towards your graphics card which is not in balance or in tandem with other parts of your computer.
You may have a computer in your hands that may not perform optimally with respect to the amount that you have spent.
Therefore, it is very important to have a balance between your CPU,graphics card and other components so that you can have a holistic or a balanced computer in your hands.
It should do the task that you need it to do in a very efficient manner and not in a fragmented sense.
So it is always wise to save your money depending on need.
And invest that money either into your CPU, a good SSD and efficient power supply if you want to have a computer that performs incredibly well.
Be Mindful Of The Monitor Resolution
While it is important to hunt for a graphics card that exudes maximum performance with respect to other components in your computer.
It is also important is to see what is the extent you want to push it to.
And the expression of a computer is its monitor.
It is in your planning that you need to understand what is the pixel resolution you want your graphics card to push.
So if all that you are looking for is a great computer that games well and does productivity and rendering task at 1080p well.
It doesn’t make sense to invest too heavily into graphics card because any decent mid-range graphic card will do the task just fine.
For example, the computer in which I am writing this a blog post rocks 1080p gaming.
And video editing at 1080p is something that I created this PC for primarily. It does all of that and so much more.
So before fishing for parts I had this plan in my head based on what I wish to have.
I wanted a computer that games at high detailing at 1080p.
And more important than that I wanted a computer that edits and renders videos with absolute ease.
Now see, with that understanding I knew I needed the best 1080p rendering compute unit.
First, I wanted a GTX 1060 from Nvidia.
I absolutely love this system ❤️❤️.
Hope this was clear.
Considering Refresh Rates
Although, this is a subjective topic worthy of its own post.
Let me just simplify it out for you.
If you have a monitor that features a refresh rate in triple digits there is a good chance you know what you are doing.
Maybe you want to do high refresh rate competitive gaming such as CS GO.
If that is the case, you will probably need a very powerful GPU for yourself such as the all new GTX 1660 Ti.
But if you want to enjoy games at 60 fps 1080p any mainstream graphics card like RX 580 would be more than enough for your need.
Point is buy what you need. Not necessarily what you can.
Case and Power
Since this is an in-depth topic.
We are going to talk about this more in our graphics card design segment.
But as of now what you need to understand is graphics card come in a variety of different sizes.
So be mindful of the fact that your graphic card that you are choosing should fit in the case that you have your eyes on.
And as I already told you which graphic card is best for your need is not necessarily depicted by the graphics card itself.
What is also important is to see whether the power that is drawn is complimented nicely by the power supply unit at your going to be choosing for your computer.
I see so many people skimping out on power supply unit.
For Tech Jesus’s Sake.
Don’t do that.
Therefore, it is very important to understand that yes graphics card is one of the most important part of your computer but you should also not a skimp on choosing a great CPU and a great power supply unit.
Be Aware Of the Graphics Card Prices
There was a period in mid 2018 when pc gamers witnessed a terrible time.
Graphic card prices skyrocketed thanks to mining.
And all the RX cards from AMD where either heavily priced or looted from shelves to be put on mining rigs.
You should have seen tech forums. It was a ice all over the place.
Thankfully, that is not the case anymore.
The WINTER IS GONE, although it didn’t go away as early as was the case in some scenarios. If you know what I mean ???.
And if you are not bent on having a new graphics card or maybe you don’t have a big budget.
You can find many deals across the internet where you can grab a great graphic card for a relatively cheap price.
How are you going to know whether the price that you are getting is up to the mark and relatively cheap ?.
In order for you to understand that, it is always wise to look at the msrp of the card it was launched at.
Using that as a reference, you can go ahead and see whether the card that you are getting second hand is actually made available to you at a great price.
Because the good thing about the graphics card is that they are made of less number of mechanical moving parts.
Apart from the cooling fans that are being used to cool down the graphics card, there is not much in the card that moves.
And because of that the longevity of graphics card is very good.
This is the precise reason why you will see graphics card providing minimum warranty of 3 years or maybe 5 years in some cases (Lovely EVGA).
So this is again indication that you can do well with having graphics card which is a second hand.
The whole point is just be aware of the msrp of the graphic card and just navigate your way from there if you are going to choose a graphics card which is already being used by someone.
Should I think Of Multi GPU setups
If you are new to this, I would say no.
But if you know what you are doing. Maybe yes. But at this point of time I have a feeling you will too act against it.
Because extracting the maximum performance out of your multi GPU setup especially for gaming heavily depends on the game too.
And majority of the game engines that are being developed as of now benefit most by a more powerful graphics card rather than combining two or more cards in tandem.
So if you are new to PC building I would say rather than thinking about having a multi GPU setup you would be much better off if you just go ahead and pick a single powerful graphics card.
What About Overclocking
If you are an experienced overclocker, overclocking is definitely something that you would want.
But don’t do the mistake of expecting a huge performance boost just by overclocking.
Plus, it’s not just graphics card that you need look at for overclocking. You might also want to look at the cooling system as just a simple CPU cooler won’t cut it.
Because if you are willing to overclock a GPU, I am sure you would want to overclock your CPU as well.
So looking into liquid cooling or AIO liquid coolers is something you would want to.
Therefore, the same logic goes as we mentioned previously.
If you are building a computer for the first time and you just want the computer that gets the task done.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to go ahead and increase the overall cost just for overclocking.
It would be much more beneficial to just go ahead with a more powerful unit.
Or invest into a better SSD like the Samsung 860 EVO.
All of this doesn’t matter, if you are an overclocking nerd and you know what you are doing.
Reasons then for overclocking can be many.
You like me like to push boundaries :P. You may want to see what is the maximum limit you can push your PC through. Yada, yada, yada.
Amd Or Nvidia
Ahh, The mother of all Battles ???? .
AMD or Nvidia.
Intel or AMD.
If you are into tech and if you are into computers this is something that you might have seen in a variety of different colors.
Especially, in the CPU space where the battle is at its all time high.
Where in AMD is hitting the main stream CPU product lineup segment out of the park by its Ryzen 3 introduction at computex.
But as far as graphics card is concerned, the battle is not heated to the extent that it is in the CPU segment.
And in that post we also discussed how to choose a CPU that you want on the basis of your need and not on the basis of any brand consciousness.
Look At What Is Needed Rather Then Your Personal Alignment
The same concept applies here as well.
Here also we need to look into what are the demands you have.
What is it that you want out of a computer and depending on that we will look into which is the best graphic card for our need.
There are other factors also.
For example, let’s say you picked a monitor that has a freesync support. just like I did in my case.
In this case choosing a graphics card from AMD is not even a thinker.
Similarly, if you are having a G-sync monitor, choosing an Nvidia graphics card is just a clear answer that doesn’t need any thought.
The scenario is supposed to be getting more interesting in 2020 when Intel is planning to enter the graphics card market.
But as of now this is all that you need to be aware of as far as Nvidia and AMD are concerned.
As far as mid range graphics card are concerned AMD has a slight competitive edge.
But at the same time in these graphics card also tend to have an inefficient power management subsystem.
Whereas in the high end segment Nvidia has no competition whatsoever from AMD.
Every introduction from Nvidia at its high end segment as of now is outperforming every introduction from AMD hand down.
Because there doesn’t seem to be anything that is going to come close to beating RTX 2080 Ti out of the competition. You will be future proof??.
What’s Your Budget ?
Truth be told that is what it all comes down to, isn’t it ?.
How much should you be willing to spend on a graphics card !!.
Many reviewers out there are actually trying to explain how much you should spend on graphics card using percentage budget allocation.
While, in one perspective that is fine. But this doesn’t necessarily help a beginner builder to know which graphic card is best for them.
Because here is the thing.
Everything in technology changes at a very rapid rate.
So the percentage that you might have cut out today may not be the exact percentage you might be cutting off from in the coming times.
In other words, which graphic card is best must be decided on the basis of need and situation rather than just going ahead and taking a percentage before hand and then going on from there.
There are various levels into which you can look over onto spending for your graphics card.
The Ultra low end graphics card main cost anywhere from $90 to $100 and as you move up the ramp the pricing may vary from somewhere between $1200 to $2500, if you include in graphics cards such as Titan RTX.
So unless you are on a very constructed budget.
You must look somewhere into spending 200$+ for mainstream graphics card.
Several hundred dollars if you want a mid range powerful graphics card.
And around $1000 if you are looking to have an high-end ultra performance graphics card.
Current Budget Based Graphics Card Division
The very reason why people get confused when choosing a graphics card is that there are just so many of them.
First there are different brands.
Then there are various sub division in different brands on the basis of what kind of cooler the brand offers.
After that there are also reference cards that are sold in the retail market by the manufacturer themselves. And RGB. oh so much RGB.
And you know what is the fun part.
The fact that all of these cards for the same GPU perform at a margin of error of around 1% to 2% from each other.
A new pc builder is likely to get confused among such options.
If you are one of them. Don’t worry, I have been there too. And that is precisely why this post is here.
In order to avoid any confusion, it’s very important to have a knowledge base as to what graphics card are currently active in different budget segments.
This will put which graphic card is best for you question in perspective and will allow you to see various graphic cards in a systematic sense.
Here is a table in which you can clearly see what budget graphics card belong in which segment.
And what is the relative performance that you can expect of that card.
|Graphic Card (Ordered By Performance)||Budget Segment||Use Cases|
|AMD Radeon RX 550, Nvidia GTX 1030||Ultra Low Budget Cards||Use them to upgrade old computers. For new systems avoid them or buy them only if gaming is not a priority and for some reason you are not going with an APU|
|AMD Radeon RX 560 ,Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti||Low Budget Cards||Will allow you to game at 1080p or less at medium settings. Can be found really cheap now. Form decent cards for a secondary computer|
|AMD Radeon RX 570, Nvidia GTX 1060, AMD Radeon RX 580, AMD Radeon RX 590, Nvidia GTX 1070||Mid Range Cards||Probably the best performing cards if you want to game at 1080p 60 fps at high settings. Basic VR experience available|
|Nvidia RTX 2060, AMD Radeon RX Vega 56, Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti, AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, Nvidia GTX 1080, Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, Nvidia RTX 2080, Nvidia Titan XP||High End Cards||Best For QHD 1440p gaming and high refresh rate gaming at 1080p. Smooth VR experience with VR headsets|
|Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, Nvidia Titan V||Premium Cards||Best For QHD 1440p gaming and high refresh rate gaming at 1080p. Smooth VR experience with VR headsets|
Once you have logged on to which graphic card is best for your need, then you can go ahead and see how to choose a specific card from different manufacturers.
Specs Don’t Lie : Understanding Parameters
Any technical device or gadget that you have or looking to have must be cemented with the specs it poses.
Move out of this habit of picking up a gadget just because your friends think it is good.
Because it is very important for you to understand what is it that the graphics card or the device that you are interested in is bringing to the table.
And parameters are how you understand that.
I understand there is a chance that if you are reading this you might not be technically very sound.
And you may not care about these parameters and say, I don’t care about parameters.
I just want to pick up a graphics card and be done with it.
While I understand your predicament, but I don’t necessarily agree with that route of choosing things.
Plainly so because I think you should have a comprehensive understanding of the device that you’re going to pick up.
It is very important that you understand what are the parameters that dictate its performance.
Therefore, let me present the various parameters that will help you decide which graphic card is best for you.
Don’t worry if you are not technically very sound.
I will explain everything in a very simple sense that even if you are not technically very sound you will be able to understand what is it that makes a graphics card good.
Here are the parameters that you need to look forward to my love.
Graphics Card VRAM
A very important factor to consider especially if gaming is your priority.
It is very important that you pick up a graphics card that has at least 4 GB of VRAM if you want to game comfortably at 1080p 60 fps.
In this resolution range any graphics card with VRAM greater than 6 GB would or higher is ideal. But don’t go below 4 GB.
But if you want to look forward to gaming at 4K resolution at maximum refresh rate with every setting maxed up, it is very essential that you pick up a graphics card with the VRAM of at least 8GB or more.
Form Factor & Slot Requirements
This is another very important factor to consider and also one such factors that people tend to overlook the most.
Although we will be discussing this point in the graphics card design segment in detail.
But it is also important to point some little things out over here so that you are aware of what is it that you need to look into.
The two dimensions from a graphics card that you must pay attention to is the length for obvious reasons. So that it fits properly with the case and aligns itself properly.
And also the number of slots that it will require to adjust itself nicely with the motherboard and with the case.
For most graphics card when it comes to the slots they require at least two.
Yes there are graphics card that may require just one slot to fit into but those graphics card are rare at this point.
But even if the the manufacturer tells you that there are two slots that your case needs to have for the graphics card to fit properly.
It is always wise to expect that the graphics card may occupy the space for 3rd slot also purely because of the extra thickness that the shroud and the heat-sink adds to the graphics card.
Check image for reference.
Especially so if you are going to build a MINI-ITX computer, it is important that you take into consideration graphic card slot requirement.
As far as length is considered, again it is very important that you choose a case that features a sufficient space within.
So that the graphic card card that you may be looking forward to installing in your computer fits appropriately.
Don’t worry all the size requirement whether it be from the case side or whether it be from the the graphics card size are provided appropriately and in its proper place within the the specification guide of the individual component.
A very very important parameter to consider.
What makes this parameter very important.
This is one parameter that is tandem or in relation to every other component that you are going to be using in your computer.
TDP stands for thermal design power and it represents the amount of power that the component is going consume for its optimal performance.
So if your graphics card consumes X TDP it is very important for your power supply unit to provide that amount of power to your graphics card.
The best way to see what is the total power supply unit that your complete system is going to be using is by using an online power supply calculator like this one.
And if you are done with your planning phase and looking forward to which graphic card is best out of the various options of graphics card that you have lined up.
You can go ahead and see the specification sheet of the graphics card you are interested in and see what power supply unit will be able to provide that much power or not.
One thing also that you need to consider especially if you are willing to overclock your graphics card.
See the specification sheet attentively to see what is the maximum power that your graphics card will require.
And according to that you need to pick up the power supply unit.
How to pick a power supply unit is something that we are going to discuss in a later post and I will create a video about it as well.
But as of now understanding TDP and seeing what is its impact on the entire system and the choice of graphic card is very very important.
TDP also becomes important if you are upgrading your graphics card from an older version to a newer version.
So let’s say you are running a computer that is rocking a CPU whose TDP is 100 Watt.
And you are also at the same time running a graphics card whose TDP is 250 Watt.
The power supply which is powering all of this is let’s say 400 Watts.
If this is the system configuration that you are running, it is definitely important for you to go for a power supply unit upgrade as well, if you want to upgrade your graphics card.
That is why being aware, conscious and cautious about the wholesomeness about your computer.
Don’t just slap things in there mindlessly.
Therefore, graphics card TDP is very important regardless of whether you are upgrading your graphics card or you are getting a new graphics card all together.
So this is one area that I overlooked when I was building my computer.
The very computer on which I am writing this post right now.
I looked at everything I am discussing here but somehow forgot to see what is connector the graphics card that I chose which is RX 580 is going to be using.
I was lucky that nothing went wrong but this is something that you should never ever ignore.
Most standard graphics card that you will be getting as of 2018 and 2019 will require more than 75 wattage of power which is provided by the PCI-E Express standard.
So this extra power hunger in the case of graphics card is provided by the the connectors from the power supply unit.
The PCI-E power connectors from the power supply come in 6 pin and 8 pin variety.
Some cards have one of these varieties some have both of these varieties and there can be cards that use 6 pin and 8 pin together.
So just have a quick look at the graphics card specification sheet or its sideways snapshot to see what are the connections it requires from the power supply unit.
And make sure that the power supply unit you will be choosing provides that connector for power as well.
It is very important to see what are the ports that your graphics card is offering.
And match whether the same input ports are also available with your monitor as well.
The ports that are most widely used as of now are Display Ports and HDMI.
Having said that there are monitors that feature a combination of these and also some older ports such as DVI-D and VGA.
Although interchangeable adapters are available that can interchange between any kind of adapter.
That being said its is always good to double check that matching ports are available at both monitor’s and graphic card’s end.
And as I said earlier in this post that building a PC is not a fragmented task.
Ultimately you want a complete system and when you are creating a complete system it is very important that everything complements everything.
So this is just one more checkbox that you need to tick while knowing which graphic card is best for you.
So the two clocks that you will invariably hear when comparing graphic cards are the base clock and boost clock.
Base clock as the name indicates is the clock that designates a graphic card’s base speed.
And boost clock is the clock at which the card will automatically overclock itself for maximum performance.
Now the different cards that you see from the same manufacturer offer different cooling mechanism over on to the basic graphics card.
And therefore will feature different boost speed and this higher speeds will be accomplished by manually overclocking these cards.
That is why you will see different price bracket for same graphics card provided for different variants by the same company.
That is why there are a huge number of cards.
Don’t worry we are going to talk about this more in our graphics card design segment.
But as of now what you need to understand is that it is an important factor to see what are the clock cycle that the graphics card offers.
All the higher bandwidth cards are mostly used as compute cards for scientific purposes and mathematical calculations.
But as far is daily use, gaming and editing purpose is concerned this parameter isn’t very important but I would be lying if I say it doesn’t have any impact.
Cards with higher bandwidth when compared with another card will perform slightly better.
Ray Tracing / Tensor Cores
In late 2018 and early 2019 you might have heard these terms Ray Tracing and Tensor Cores thrown all around the tech community.
The primary reason for this was ray tracing and tensor cores were introduced for the first time by nvidia in its 20 series graphics card lineup into the mainstream graphics.
Although, these cards truly hold a lot of potential but they are not as applicable as you would want them to be as of now.
But as of now what you need to understand is Ray tracing demands game engines to create games very specific to ray tracing standards.
So as of now there are not a lot of games that support ray tracing.
That is why you won’t find ray-tracing implemented in mainstream budget graphics cards.
If you are looking for Ray tracing you will find them in high end cards starting from RTX 2060.
It is priced as of writing this post at around 350$.
But I want to express the fact that if in mid 2019 you are looking to build a decent computer that can play 1080p at 60 fps high settings, you don’t necessarily need to go for RTX cards.
Because there are not a lot of games out there that are supporting ray tracing as of yet.
When looked at from one perspective this parameter can be very important.
Because in a graphics card this relates to when compared with the CPU as having more number of cores.
But when I look at independently CUDA cores or Stream Processors don’t necessarily depict a lot about a graphics card performance.
Ray Tracing, VA and AI : An Objective Comparison
Nvidia introduced its Turing based graphic card lineup early in 2019.
And the groundbreaking feature that they stressed upon introducing with Turing architecture was Ray Tracing.
These Turing based graphic cards featured real time Ray tracing and tensor cores for AI enhanced performance.
Truth be told yes it’s incredible that introduction of such technology into mainstream graphics has happened.
But as of now this technology is still young.
And is also heavily dependent on the game engine.
What that means is there are not a lot of games that are currently supported. If your question is why is that so ?.
Then, I would request you to go through this post on ray tracing and learn how ray tracing is an actual implementation of physics in graphics.
And what kind of complex code it would require from the game developers to achieve what we are trying to achieve.
Should I Get An RTX Card Now ??.
So as far as using high end cards is concerned.
Can you get them ?. Is it sensible ?.
Oh absolutely. These are powerful card with extraordinary capabilities.
And if you have the budget for it and more importantly the need for it.
Go ahead with them.
Here is the reason why.
Yes in the main stream budget segment Nvidia has good competition from AMD.
But as of high end segment there is no competition whatsoever from AMD to Nvidia.
It can be very safely said that for the foreseeable future you can expect that the RTX card that your going to invest in is going to be one of the top performing cards.
But the most wise decision is not always based on looking into future but by looking as to what your need is.
If your need as of now is having a computer that performs incredibly well at 1080p gaming and also can chew through daily productivity tasks such as video editing, photo editing, video rendering and stuff like that.
It wouldn’t be a wise decision to invest in such a high end cards.
So the point I am trying to make here is that if you are going for a high end computer where budget is not necessarily an issue.
Investing in RTX cards would be beneficial in the sense because they won’t be having any competition for the foreseeable future.
But if your needs are specific and you are very sure as to what you want your computer to do.
I don’t think it is necessary to invest in these cards.
As far as VR is concerned if you want to use one of the two leading PC VR Technologies i.e., HTC vive and Oculus Rift in its optimum performance you at the very least need a high end card like the GTX 1080 for higher.
That is not to say that you won’t be able to see VR at mid range budget graphics card like RX 570 or higher.
But if VR is something that you are putting at a very high priority.
It would be wise for you to go with higher end card as we discussed right now so as to get the maximum performance and perfect experience.
This will require High End VR ready graphics card to perform optimally.
Here you cannot compensate by budget end segment graphics card.
Card Design : Most Essential Aspect To Know Which Graphic Card Is Best
Let’s understand how graphic cards have changed over time.
In the earlier years of pc gaming, if you went ahead and bought something like GTX 9800.
You would have found a graphic card that features a blower type cooler rather than open air type cooler because at that point of time open air type coolers were not even in production from graphic cards manufacturer like Nvidia.
And Nvidia used to be in the retail space competing with its own AIB board partners
Over the time we have seen cards like to GTX 660 Ti from Asus where the cards started seeing custom cooling solutions such as DCU.
Late 2018 and early 2019, after the whole bitcoin mining graphics card fiasco.
There have been a lot of changes when it comes to graphics card.
New graphics card have been continuously introduced in the market at the mainstream budget segment to the point where people are absolutely confused as to which graphic card is best.
Evolution From Blower Type To Open Air
Now, you don’t see any blower type fans over graphics card anymore.
And what you see even in reference cards (founders edition cards) are open style coolers.
Where in they suck the air from the top over onto the cooling mechanism for radiators and a combination of heat Pipe and out from all around the graphics card. Just like this.
The problem with the blower type coolers deployed over onto graphics card was these graphics card because of inefficient cooling mechanism used to make a lot of noise.
They reached relatively higher temperatures and when they worked at higher temperatures what happened was it lead to graphics card inefficiency.
And it is also fairly easy to understand why that is so.
Because when you have just one cooler pulling air in and cooling the entire PCB.
At times when the power requirements from graphics card are high you will see the cooler working overtime or working at its highest capacity.
And because of that it tends to produce more noise.
Since one cooler is insufficient in tackling the entire heat that is being generated, you will see elevated the temperatures will result in increased inefficiency of the entire card.
Total Evolution Into Open Air Type Coolers
So from late 2018 and early 2019, graphics card manufacturer for their reference cards also (Nvidia RTX 2070, RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti) are producing the open air type coolers that take the advantage of pulling air in from a larger surface area and pushing it out from all around the card for effective and efficient performance and cooling.
The thing to consider in this case is your cabinet must have effective heat releasing mechanism.
Truth be told the basic case that pulls air in from the front and pushes out from the back would be very sufficient.
But you get the point right, that your case needs to be very effective in throwing heat out otherwise the entire system can get heated pretty easily.
Does that mean that blower style graphics card are bad ?
Absolutely not !!.
There are certain situations where blower style graphics card are far more effective than your Open air cooler graphic cards.
And one such case is building an ITX build.
In Mini-ITX builds, since form factor of the entire system is very small.
There is not much space for effective heat exhaust when compared with an ATX case.
In this case, blower style cooler can be a good solution.
All it needs is a little bit of space through which it can pull air in and since the exhaust of the heated air takes place from the ventilation that is behind the card.
Exhaustion of hot air happens from the back of the card you and don’t need to worry about accumulating heat in the cabinet.
Because it is not going to exhaust heat from all around the graphics card as is the case with open air coolers.
And you can lock them to perform at fixed temperatures.
So blower style coolers are absolutely effective for Mini-ITX builds but not as effective when you are creating build which has a large open space.
Single Fan, Double Fan Or Triple Fan ?
Now graphics card cooler design is something that confuses a lot of new builders as well as people who who want to upgrade their graphics card but are not in touch with the computer world at a regular basis.
What happens is, there are just too many options available.
And there are also graphics card whose cooling system is supported by just one fan.
So if that is a confusion that you are in you do not need to worry this is what we are going to cover in our next segment.
Different Types Of Graphic Cards Based on Cooler Design
Now let’s take the example of GTX 1660 Ti.
There are no 1660 TI reference cards produced by Nvidia.
What that means is all the cards that you will possibly see on to the market are being created by AIB board partners.
So the three versions in which you can find 1660 at this point are,
So which of these three should you go with.
The funny thing is all of these three cards will perform almost same when compared with each other.
The most essential aspect of a graphics card that determines what kind of performance it will give will depend on a what kind of cooling mechanism it has.
And the primary aspect of a graphics card that contributes most to its cooling efficiency are its its HEAT spreaders or radiators.
Because they provide the extra surface area for proper release of heat out from the system.
So these three cards although may seem to be of different sizes, feature different number of fans, the performance is almost same because the volume of heat spreaders in all of these cards is same almost similar or same.
Single Fan Type Cards
So what EVGA is doing is instead of elongating the card they decided to increase the height of the heat-sink so that it gets more lateral area for the heat spread into.
Double Fan Type Cards
Graphic cards that feature two coolers are longer and thinner than their single fan counter parts.
But again here also the effective volume that the heat sink has remains more less the same.
And does this card also provides performance which is quite similar to the EVGA card.
And since the heatsink has become longer one fan would not cut the the task.
It would provide insufficient cooling because it will lead to creation of hotspots over onto the heatsink.
So two coolers are needed to blow out heat evenly from the entire surface of the heatsink.
Triple Type Coolers
Graphics card that features three coolers like the one by ASUS, is as you might have guessed longer.
Although it will have a longer heat sink the volume is going to be similar to the two cards that we just discussed.
But of-course the height of the heat sink would be a little more less as compared to the other two cards and the fins of the heat sink will be spread across a larger area.
But one thing of concern when taking a graphic card of higher form factor or more than two coolers is the size that graphics card will bring.
You need to be very cautious of what kind of case you are going to be using and whether the case supports a graphics card of that size.
Check the spec sheet of both the parties before finalizing.
Performance Difference Between The Three Cards
Now the fun thing is all of these three cards will perform almost similar.
And within a margin of error of around 3% from each other.
Because when it comes to cooling and I think you can see the logic behind this the overall volume over which the heat is going to be spreading is almost the same.
So here is how you go about choosing which graphic card is best for you from the options available.
Once you have locked onto which GPU (not graphic card) you want, for example in our case it’s 1660 TI. What you are assured of is the universal specs are going to be the same.
As the architecture the GPU is built on, CUDA cores, Texture Units and VRAM.
All these we have already discussed in our previous segment.
What will change though are factors/parameters such as :
- GPU/memory Frequencies
- Cooling Performance
- Aesthetics Etc.
So since every graphics card irrespective of the AIB partner is powered by the same GPU they all have what I call the base operating frequency or base clock. And a certain boost frequency called the boost clock.
The AIB (Add In Board) partners can tweak the designs and provide an impression that they can push beyond the base overclocking threshold of GPU.
There are various way that this can be done like,
- creating a new custom PCB and enhancing the power delivery mechanism.
- providing massive surface area for proper heat absorption
- and providing massive coolers to fend of hotspots from the heat-sink
What Impact Do These Designs Have ?
Now let’s look into how much performance improvements actually take place.
The direct impacts that can be expected are lower temperatures and quieter operations.
As we mentioned earlier the overall raw performance impact among each of these card is within a margin of error of 3% from each other.
So if you really really want a raw performance boost, you can look into binned cards. I am not going to go in extreme details as to what they are.
I will rather make a separate post about them.
But in short, these are cards tested by AIB’s to perform better than the lot that is directly provided by the GPU manufacturer. But these cards carry with them a very ridiculous price premium.
And I almost never recommend going with them because the price boost doesn’t justify the performance received.
Unless you are an overclocking nerd and want to break some overclocking records.
Beginners should not even think about having them.
So all the fancy mechanisms on AIB cards are directed towards enhancing the headroom that you can overclock your card into.
Different graphic cards will through their own personal software will allow you to overclock the card over the basic clock featured by the GPU.
And yes there will be difference between the extent to which you can overclock the cards.
These cards can be overclocked good. But may not necessarily yield great performance as you might expect.
And any significant overclock that you might achieve may also be a result that you might be lucky to receive a binned ASIC quality GPU with your card.
So the gist of all of this is you need to look into other factors that we pointed out and not just GPU clock to buy a specific card.
Unless you want to manually overclock the card.
The other difference between different AIB cards, is going to be the different bios they have and their specific software.
And to be clear I am not talking about MSI afterburner or any exclusive software provided by the graphics card AIB.
I am talking about the actual BIOS software that drives the graphics card.
Let me try to explain this in a little bit more detail so that you understand what I am going to explain you in the for the sections.
When manufacturers such as Nvidia create a graphic card they put in a base clock and the boost clock over which the graphics card is supposed to perform.
So the base clock as the name suggest is the best operating frequency of the graphics card and boost card clock is that frequency to which is the graphics card will overclock itself.
What AIB partners do is, depending on the cooling mechanism they add in a little bit more operating frequency to the boost frequencies.
And once that has been done what is going to happen is you will find a 10 to 25$ difference between all of these graphics card from the same model.
On this criteria, depending on the manufacturer, for the same card you are going to find three different variants which are priced differently.
Other Overclocking factors
Now what is also going to happen is GPU boost is also going to come into play.
It is a technology that is implemented by Nvidia and you will have something very very similar with AMD cards as well.
GPU boost means if the temperature and power limits are kept well under the limits, and excess voltage is available.
Overclock the graphic card automatically.
Because of this headroom available and the boost clock that is being depicted by the BIOS you will sometimes find that some graphics card operate at a frequency which is much higher than what you might expect.
So I hope you understood the mechanism behind the whole operation of the graphics card as to why it exudes the frequency it exudes.
Now what you might be thinking is a what is the need for the BIOS speed states that are inherently programmed into the graphic card ?.
Because that is not coming into the play when it comes to the operation of graphics card.
And that is a good question actually.
What we have to understand here is that graphics card are intelligent devices.
They are operating in a state where when they if extra headroom is available.
They execute the instructions that are being offered in a much faster rate.
Therefore, graphics card will ramp itself up to perform at that heightened frequency.
And thus you will have much more performance coming out of your graphics card when it performs in this way.
And the only place for the inherently programmed BIOS frequency is, if the graphics card exits its temperature limit/power limit.
Then what is going to happen is the graphics card is going to fall back into its original base and boost frequency that is depicted by the BIOS that is present in the graphics card.
And the precise reason why all of these cards are going to perform a within a margin of error of one to two percent from each other is because of the BIOS.
And this also answers one of the most asked questions when it comes to comparing graphic card is why does let’s say 1060 from MSI perform different from 1060 by Asus.
Because the very way AIBs design the card they are capable of having different BIOS that is capable of pushing the cards beyond the universal base and boost clocks etched on the GPU.
Both of these cards have different BIOS an have different values for parameters such as a p states, boost curves and cooling curves.
It All Comes Down To This
So the honest recommendation in a choosing from the different graphics card that are available in the same segment is choosing the card that costs minimum and provides the best cooling solution.
Because unless you are eyeing a specific parameter (such as aesthetics), it doesn’t necessarily make sense to pick a card just because of GPU clocks.
Because although some of these cards may overclock better than the other but the overall raw power won’t be what you would expect.
For example, let’s say you are confused between two 1660 TI cards.
The EVGA card is smaller is thicker and is stacked with cooling fins of heat sinks close to each other.
And the MSI card is longer, has its heat sink which is thinner and the fins of the heat sink are spread over a long distance.
But in terms of operation what may surprise you is both of these cards are touching the same boost clock despite the build difference and the price difference.
The reason why this is happening is because the GPU boost Technology may come into play for EVGA as I explained previously.
And also you might not be able to enjoy the extra frequency that is being offered by the MSI unless you go ahead and manually overclock your MSI card at a higher clock point.
And the funny thing that you will observe is when you overclock these two cards, there is a very good chance that the basic card may match or even outperform the beefed up card.
This will happen because you might be the lucky one who got a binned ASIC quality GPU with your card (silicon lottery) which overclocks higher.
So two cards with all their parameters kept at the most optimum level such as the cooling curve and P states.
The seemingly less customized card can still outperform the apparently powerful one.
Should You Overclock Though ?
Now the whole things comes down to the age old question whether you would want to overclock your card or not.
Frankly, this should not be a sole equation on the basis of which you decide which graphic card is best for your need.
I am very keen in creating a video about this.
But as of now since we need to make a decision, let’s answer this in very very simple terms.
If you are a kind of person who is not into computers and just want to create a computer to execute a task that you wanted to execute.
There is absolutely not need to get into this.
If you do not want to tinker with anything and create a computer that gets your task done.
Investing that extra money on a graphic card that is closest to MSRP is the best way to go.
The saved money can be invested into a nice SSD like the Samsung 860 EVO.
On the other hand you are the kind of guy who knows what they are doing and wants to extract the maximum performance that you can.
Or you are one of those people who want to break overclocking records and you are very experienced.
Then of course investing in external graphics card that has excellent cooling mechanism like the ones we discussed just now is something that you can do.
Budget Doesn’t Mean Cheap
And one thing that I want you to understand is I don’t look at budget as cheap or lack of capital.
For me budget is not equivalent to skimping.
Budget for me is threshold that I am willing to expend on the parts that I want to buy.
So you can build a budget computer if you have $600 with you or you can also build a budget computer if you have 1200$ with you.
So when it comes to high-end PC building, there also you can bring in budget under your understanding.
And make your decision based on that.
Another very important and essential thing that you need to keep in mind while finding which graphics card is best for you is what is the kind of vicinity in which the graphics card is going to be placed in.
We discussed how a blower style graphics card can be very effective when it comes to a building a mini ITX computer.
Choosing a long graphics card you need to be very aware of what kind of cabin or case you are going to use for your build.
So let’s say you went ahead with ASUS 1660 TI three cooler type card.
You need to be very cautious with choosing your case as well.
Every case manufacturer and every graphic card manufacturer gives the product dimensions in their spec sheet.
Looking at various factors that we discussed,if you decide to go with the graphics card that has a longer length.
Please make sure you are choosing an appropriate case as well that will allow it to fit without interfering with other components.
When it comes to case and you also need to look into what are the number of slots that the graphics card will require for setting it up.
The back side of graphics card where input ports fabricated require some slots to be removed from the case.
So have a case that presents sufficient slots that can be taken out to install the graphics card properly.
Having enough space for the heat from the graphics card to emanate and spread out properly is also important.
Difference Between Manufacturer Retail And AIB cards
So this was one question that I was pretty curious about when I was looking to get a graphics card for myself.
I was like if the retail cards offered by the graphics card manufacturer are available.
Why would the company promote a third party card with various kinds of add-ons implemented on it.
Yes, I understood that the custom designs from AIB’s provide extra performance.
But why give third party companies an insight into your own graphics card.
With my experience in digital marketing, and the recent happenings I slowly found the answer to that.
There is a very specific retail business strategy that goes behind it which is actually a topic for another post.
But as of now what you need to understand is, the custom designs and design improvements from the AIB’s enable extra performance output from what you might expect from a base card with same GPU.
Both Nvidia and AMD launch reference cards.
Nvidia is itself in the retail market and sell the reference card on its own website.
AMD on the other hand licences its reference card to third party.
Both company’s reference cards are used by third parties for modification and reselling, AIB (Add-In-Board Partners)
Third party companies such as Asus, Gigabyte, MSI apply their own technologies that result in higher boost speeds and enhanced performance capabilities.
Which truth be told for a normal user is not that big as compared with the reference design.
Having said that the tinkering of third parties with the reference cards results in more often than not higher clock speeds, quieter operation, improved temperature portfolio (especially if you game for long periods) and voltage headroom for overclocking.
The price difference that you are going to see on these cards can be quite high when compared with reference cards.
We talked about all this in detail in our card design is segment.
And I hope you would have understood which is the best graphic card option out of the two.
What’s your Need
As of now we have covered almost all essential details and knowledge base that you need to have in order to know which graphic card is best for you.
And now you are absolutely ready to browse through the sea of graphics card that the internet will throw at you and analyse whether the graphic card that you are looking at is the right fit for you and your system.
But I know there are guys out there who don’t want to bother too much with the technical details.
And just want to know which graphic card is best pick for their build right now.
They don’t want to wait, they don’t want to go into technical specification.
They just want a card right out of the box that executes the task they want perform perfectly.
I hear you guys. Your wish is this man’s command.
So here are my recommendations in various budget segments. Just go ahead and pick without thinking anything.
Best Budget Pick : AMD RX 570
So let’s say you definitely want a graphic card in your system but don’t big budget for it.
And your need depicts that you won’t be satisfied with the computer without one.
Because yes there it is possible to build a computer without a graphics card using an APU Chip and have a decent gaming.
Of course gaming will also depend on what are the requirements by games themselves.
But yes it is definitely possible to build a computer without a graphics card that can game at decent settings.
Let’s say you want a build that is slightly better than that and you don’t have a lot of budget that you can put forth.
In in this case is RX 570 by AMD is the card that you need to go with.
You can comfortably have high detail gaming at 1080 pixels. But if you are willing to deploy high texture packs and want to game continuously at high detailed settings.
I want to make you aware of the fact that RX 580 is are available at very reasonable price.
Because of the newer editions of graphics card that are doing now promised by AMD, you can grab one RX 580 for less than $200 at various places on internet.
Depending on a where you are you can even check out the second hand RX 580 is in your your local market.
This graphics card from AMD performs significantly better than RX 570 and should definitely be your choice if you want to play at high settings for a long period of time.
1080p FHD Pick : RX 580
At this point in time RX 580 is the best possible graphics card that you can pick for a gaming at 1080p and Very High settings.
RX 580 is based on the same polaris architecture as its predecessor RX 480 which was a very successful card into itself.
The very next year RX 580 was presented with dialed up clocks that improved overall performance.
So if you are looking for something that is a complete gaming machine at 1080p and does tasks like video editing with absolute ease.
A combination like the one I have is going to be awesome.
Pairing these CPUs with something like RX 580 is a match made in heaven.
QHD High Performance Pick : GTX 1660 TI
If what you are looking for is high refresh rate competitive gaming at 1080p.
Or a decent performance at 1440 by 2560, GTX 1660 Ti is the best possible graphics card you can go ahead with at this point.
As of now these features are not applicable to a lot of games.
So if you are not constricted on budget then yes RTX 2060 is an incredible choice that will future-proof your computer for long.
But if what you are looking for is an optimal performing PC keeping budget in mind that can be used to play at high refresh rates at 1080p 1660 TI is where it is at.
Great VR Experience Card : RTX 2070
If VR experience is what you are after, at this point of time RTX 2070 can be one of your best choice.
Here are the reasons for that.
- RTX 2070 is powerful and fast enough to give you a continuous stream of 90 Hertz which provides for a smooth VR experience.
- It also includes a virtual link port which as of now might not look as applicable.
But as VR technology improves and enhances, this is something that is going to be deployed in all VR headsets in the future.
Best 4K gaming Experience : RTX 2080 TI
When it comes to high-end gaming options RTX 2080 TI has no competition whatsoever.
And it’s not like it has no competition right now and may have some in the coming time.
For the foreseeable future, it seems like won’t have any.
It has everything to give you the best gaming experience that you can possibly have at the point in time with everything maxed up.
Now I can understand that you may be a little hesitant in getting RTX 2080 TI because of its price.
But believe me when I say this that 2080 Ti is well worth the prize not only because of its performance.
But because of the simple fact is that for the foreseeable future there is no competition that will match it in its performance.
Even the new RX 5700 XT that AMD introduced at computex is also targeting performance which is going to beat RTX 2070 by just 10% in one benchmark presented by AMD.
So if you are confused whether you should get an RTX 2080 Ti for its price I think you should go for it because it will give you the bang for your buck and will serve you and your computer for long time to come.
I hope you liked this post on how to decide which graphic card is best for your need. I know the post was long but I am positive you might have learnt everything that you need to learn.
In the beginning of this post, I promised that after reading this post you won’t need to go anywhere on the planet to learn which graphic card is best for you.
I hope I delivered on that promise.
Leave your comments below on that and if you have any question or doubt regarding anything, nothing would make me happier than resolving your queries.
I will see you in the next one.
Lots of love 🙂