Building a PC of your dream always presupposes hard work. It’s a time-consuming process which consists of several stages and requires profound knowledge of specific notions, and graphic card is definitely one of them.
That is why we’ve prepared some basic information you should take into account when choosing the graphics card for your computer. Besides, here you will also find the list of best graphics cards, which includes models suitable for both common users and zealous gamers.
What to consider when choosing a graphics card?
1. What do you need a graphics card for?
Model, size, price – all this comes later. Your first step is to make a final decision concerning the aim of your purchase. What do you need a new graphics card for? If you are planning to play games round-the-clock then make sure your card is fast and has enough RAM.
But if you are planning to work with 3D animation or video production, for example, then you have to pay more attention at the image quality than speed. In this case you may choose either high-grade cards or even work-station class video cards. Besides, if you are going to use your PC as media center then check whether the output connector matches the device you want to connect the system to.
Still, if you do not have such serious plans concerning your PC and all you will need it for involves net surfing and some casual games then you may choose a midrange graphics card or a hybrid system.
2. Budget issues
In fact, budget issue is often a starting point of any further research. Your needs, requirements and dreams won’t play any role if your budget doesn’t coincide with them. The general principle here is simple – the more powerful a card is the higher price it has. Thus, if you belong to the category of gaming fans get ready to spend a pretty penny on your new graphics card.
3. GPU: AMD or NVIDIA?
Graphics Processing Unit (i.e. GPU) is a basis of any graphics card and determines its capabilities. If you want to get a high-end piece then pay attention at the part number because the higher it is the better performance a card can offer.
There are two providers of graphics cards you will have to choose between – AMD and NVIDIA. Which one is better? Well, it’s up to you to decide which graphics card will be the most suitable for your PC. The point is that both brands have pluses and minuses. Your task is just to take them into account and select the best card namely for you.
The most wide-spread fact about the difference between AMD and NVIDIA is their price. It is considered that AMD is cheaper than NVIDIA. In fact, we do have doubts concerning this idea. Prices are mostly of the same level and if you compare, for example, NVIDIA GeForce 980Ti and AMD R9 Fury X models you will be even surprised to find out that AMD product is much more expensive (cf. $550/NVIDIA & $750/AMD).
Nowadays AMD is working hard to reach NVIDIA status and to join its high-end niche. Its new Vega GPUs released in June, 2017 is a definite proof. Still, NVIDIA shows better performance. It has effective memory speed and a host of exclusive technologies. As to AMD, it offers more autonomy for its users – for instance, you can download its drivers any time you want direct from AMD official website.
In a nutshell, AMD and NVIDIA seem to be participants of everlasting races, which motivate them to improve their products. And that’s their main benefit.
Whatever brand you will choose, NVIDIA or AMD, you will have to check the basic options their cards offer. One of them is memory. Obviously, more memory in video card guarantees better speed and improves its general performance.
Note that different types of graphics cards offer different RAM. This may be DDR3, GDDR3 or GDDR5. All of them differ in speed and, consequently, price. The best option here is GDDR5. It offers high bandwidth and can open two memory pages at the same time. Such option simulates the dual-port nature of other VRAM technologies.
By the by, always pay your attention at such feature of graphics card as bandwidth. Poor bandwidth can turn to be a real pitfall for a PC user. That is why don’t forget to check this characteristics in order to get a graphics card with excellent performance. On the whole, modern types of RAM have much better bandwidth than their forerunners.
One more thing you need to know is that the amount of memory affects the type of resolution a graphics card can be compatible with. For example, a PC with a display higher than 1680×1050 is compatible with 1GB of RAM. Monitors with lower resolution require just 512 MB of RAM. So, if you need PC for gaming and you’re planning to use several monitors then you will have to get at least 3GB of RAM. You can read more about the best RAM for gaming purpose here.
5. GPU cooling system
Cooling is another aspect which affects the card’s productivity greatly. The general principle is simple – if a graphic’s card has more ventilators then it is able to show better performance.
First of all, you should know that there are reference and non-reference coolers. The point is that AMD and NVIDIA providers sell their cards not only directly to customers but also other companies that add some changes to the cards and sell their own versions of graphics cards which are already modified. Thus, cards which are sold directly to consumers get the reference title while those with modifications – non-reference.
Consequently, original cards have somewhat different cooling systems. Reference graphics cards have got a single fan offset to one side that sends hot air out of your PC case. As to non-reference cooling systems, they often have two fans which blow hot air away from the card but not from the computer case. As a result this can lead to overheating. Though, they do have their own benefits – non-reference coolers are quieter.
Before choosing between these two types of cooling systems, you have to know the average temperature of your CPU during your usual activities. If it gets higher than 55° C then it’s better to get a reference one as it will blow hot air out of your PC case. Still, if a cooling system of your PC is powerful enough then you can choose the other one.
6. Graphics Card Compatibility
Whatever card you will choose you must be sure that it will be compatible with the other elements of your PC. Usually weak points are the size of graphics card, PSU and PCI.
Your first step is to check whether a selected card can be connected to the system. Your PC can have an old type of connection called PCI (peripheral component interconnect) slot, its improved version – AGP (accelerated graphics port technology), or the newest PCIe slots (PCI Express), which are faster and more flexible.
Therefore, before your purchase you have to know what cards will be compatible with the expansion slots of your computer. Besides, if you’re building a serious gaming machine then probably your PC case can support from two to four cards. In this case note that both slots and cards should be the same. These technologies have got the following names – SLI in NVIDIA cards and CrossFire in AMD cards.
As to the size issue, top-notch graphics cards are longer. Still, the best option here is to measure the card and the space inside your PC case in order to be sure that the card will fit it. What is more, pay attention at the slots at the back of the computer case – they must be big enough to match the output. Of course, you can use adapters for card outputs but it’s always better to have the card which is originally compatible with your PC.
Almost all budget cards get power directly from the PCIe slot. However, graphics cards of higher quality may require connection to PSU. It is usually done by means of 6-pin or 8-pin connectors, though sometimes they may be used both. Thus, if you have such high-end gaming card you will need to check whether your PSU is good enough for this purpose.
In order to show you how the best graphics cards look like we have prepared the list which consists of 8 best NVIDIA and AMD cards.
8 Best Graphics Cards in 2018
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Best NVIDIA graphics card
This representative of NVIDIA family has something to surprise you with. GTX 1080 Ti provides 1480 MHz of real base clock and 1582 MHz of real boost clock. Another impressive feature is its memory – 11264 MB GDDR5X. And as you remember GDDR5X is the newest version with great bandwidth characteristics which guarantee high performance.
There is also NVIDIA G-SYNC technology thanks to which you will get only smooth and high-quality images. The point is that this technology diminishes lag and removes screen tearing. What is more, due to GPU Boost 3.0 this best graphics card for gaming can boast of a supersonic speed. By the by, GTX 1080 Ti is optimized for VR games as well.
As a proof of its high quality NVIDIAGeForce GTX 1080 Ti provides 3 years of warranty. Besides, you can always rely on EVGA’s 24/7 Technical Support.
- great 4K performance
- very overlockable
- high speed
- improved cooling system
- could be quieter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
Another great NVIDIA graphics card for gaming
Less memory but higher clock rate – that’s what you’ll find in this graphics card comparing to the pre-cited NVIDIA model. Its GPU has a 1506MHz clock speed and 1683MHz boost clock speed both of which make this card definitely one of the best for gaming purpose, including VR games too.
GTX 1070 has 8GB GDDR5 on-board memory suitable for creation of high-grade images. Furthermore, its 1920 CUDA cores as well as memory bandwidth with up to 256GB/sec help this card to show great performance. Add to that NVIDIA Ansel technology of 360-degree image capture and G-SYNC technology, and you get the graphics card of gamers’ dream.
This NVIDIA child is highly compatible and has a host of outputs (DVI-D, HDMI and 3 x DisplayPort) to expand its connectivity. It also provides NVIDIA SLI-Ready to transmit synchronization, display and pixel data for reliable connection between several GPUs.
By the by, this example of best graphics card has also got Vulkan API and supports the latest Microsoft DirectX API.
- very overlockable
- SLI capabilities could be expanded
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
Great budget NVIDIA graphics card for gaming
Here is another NVIDIA product which deserves your attention. GeForce GTX 980 Ti has 6GB of GDDR5 RAM and 7010 MHz of Memory Clock. Its base clock reaches up to 1102 MHz while its boost clock has 1190 MHz. As a result, being accelerated by NVIDIA Maxwell architecture, GTX 980 Ti provides top-notch 4K and delivers great virtual reality experience what makes it one of the best graphics cards on today’s market.
Moreover, this card excels the pre-cited NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 in CUDA cores and has 2816 instead of 1920. EVGA ACX 2.0+ Cooling Technology and a memory MOSFET Cooling Plate (MMCP), which reduces MOSFET temperatures up to 11°C, help to keep the card always cooled. Note that ACX 2.0+ coolers have optimized swept fan blades, double ball bearings and an extreme low power motor in order to deliver more air flow with less power. This allows it to unlock additional power for the GPU.
What is more, there is optimized Straight Heat Pipes (SHP) which can reduce GPU temperature by additional 5°C. All these features won’t let the card get overheated and will provide you with reliable performance.
- great 4K performance
- hefty GPU
- easily overlockable
- great cooling system
- no backplate
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
Best NVIDIA graphics card for the money
Like all the graphics cards mentioned above this one is designed to cope with 4K gaming on its highest level. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 guarantees sharp images and exquisite details.
A unique feature which distinguishes this card among the other NVDIA products is its Pascal GPU architecture. The point is that this revolutionary technology built inside GPU takes its performance to the new level which includes over 5 TeraFLOPS of double precision performance for HPC workloads.
GTX 1080 model has an impressive clock speed – up to 1733MHz, what makes it one of the best graphics cards for demanding gamers. What is more, you will get 2560 CUDA processing cores with up to 320GB/sec. Here you will also find PCI Express 3.0 interface with DVI-D, HDMI and 3 x DisplayPort outputs and OpenGL 4.5 Support.
Such technologies as NVIDIA Ansel, NVIDIA G-SYNC as well as Vulkan API are also provided by GTX 1080. In fact, that’s a real monster among NVIDIA cards with a wide range of various options.
- great 4K performance
- Pascal GPU architecture
- high clock speed
- high price
AMD Radeon RX 580
Best AMD graphics card for the money
AMD Radeon RX 580 has a reasonable price and a good set of options to correspond it. Its GPU has 1366MHz of clock speed and 1386MHz of boost clock speed and there is 8 GB of GDDR5 (256-bit) on-board memory. Like all other representatives of NVIDIA family mentioned on our list, this graphics card has PCI Express 3.0 interface with DVI, HDMI and 3 DisplayPort outputs which guarantee high compatibility.
Some unique features of this AMD card include AMD Eyefinity which allows connecting to 6 displays and delivers great panoramic views as it can multiply a screen area. Besides, this card also supports CrossFire technology, the analogue of NVIDIA-SLI Ready. This option lets you combine up to 4 GPUs for more efficient graphics performance.
AMD TrueAudio technology will take care of rich sound while OpenCL, Mantle, DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5 and Vulkan support will help to create smooth and detailed images as well as improved lightning effects.
- reasonable price
- AMD Eyefinity
- CrossFire technology
- high power consumption
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
Good silent graphics card
Comparing to all previous graphics cards this NVIDIA product is a nice budget option with a bunch of characteristics for fine performance. GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5 on-board memory has also got PCI Express 3.0 interface which makes it compatible with other systems. Still, don’t forget to make sure that your power supply has an extra 6 pin connector in order to give this card some power.
A reliable cooling system won’t let this card get overheated and at the same time you won’t suffer from any noise as its performance is very quiet. By the by, NVIDIAGeForce GTX 1060 support Windows as well as Linux operating systems.
- silent performance
- great cooling
- no SLI option
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
Great performance at a reasonable price
This graphics card is one of the most affordable but at the same time efficient products you may find on today’s market. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti has GPU with 1290MHz of clock speed and 1392MHz of boost clock speed. Its 4 GB GDDR (128-bit) on-board memory provides great 112.16GB/sec bandwidth and 768 CUDA processing cores what is important for fast and efficient card functioning.
Thanks to NVIDIA GameStream Technology this graphics card provides super-smooth and low-latency performance which you can easily test on any portable device like NVIDIA SHIELD. Gaming is another thing you can enjoy choosing this card. GTX 1050 Ti has NVIDIA Ansel for 360-degree image capture and a unique NVIDIA CUDA technology. The last one uses GPU power in order to optimise computing performance.
Besides, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti offers DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5 and Vulkan support. This helps to deliver realistic images and improve lightning effects. What is more, you can rely on its compatibility as this NVIDIA card has PCI Express 3.0×16 interface which includes DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs for expanded connectivity.
- low power consumption
- Vulkan support
- no SLI option
AMD Radeon RX 460
Great AMD graphics card on a budget
Another AMD product which should be definitely on the list of best graphics cards is AMD Radeon RX 460. This model is not as powerful as NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 or GTX 1080 Ti cards but it is one of the best options for those who want to get a reliable graphics card for a reasonable price.
So, what can this card offer? First of all, it has 4GB GDDR5 Memory (note that some models offer only 2 GB of RAM) and we should admit that it’s really great for just $200. What is more, you will have an access to CrossFire function. It means that adding more cards for heftier performance is available. As to the clock rate, its boost clock can reach up to 1,220MHz.
This AMD graphics card uses Radeon GPUs with the Polaris architecture and supports HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.3. This makes it compatible with a new generation of monitors.
- CrossFire option
- Vulkan support
- not very overlockable
- lacks power
There is no doubt that powerful PC needs a hefty motherboard. But the quality of graphics card you choose for your computer also plays a crucial part. Therefore, if you really want to get the best of the lot you should be aware of all pitfalls you may face when selecting the best graphics card for your PC.