Building a PC of your dream always presupposes hard work. It’s a time-consuming process which consists of several stages and requires a profound knowledge of specific notions, and graphics 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 to the image quality than speed. In this case, you may choose either high-grade cards or even workstation-class graphics cards. Besides, if you are going to use your PC as a 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 to 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 a bit more expensive.
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 anytime 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 graphics 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 to such feature of the 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 characteristic 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 a 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 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.
9 Best Graphics Cards in 2018
*Please note: product prices, ratings and availability that are shown above are applicable for Amazon.com Marketplace only! Any prices, ratings and product availability from other Amazon local marketplaces such as Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.in and others may be different from the ones shown in this table.
EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Best NVIDIA graphics card
The EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card has a 1556 MHz/Real Boost Clock and 11264MB GDDR5X memory detail. EVGA iCX Cooling delivers industry-leading cooling with L-shaped contact fins to improve contact surface area for better heat dissipation lends high performance to your Graphics Card. With a new vented heatsink fin design and pin fins for optimized airflow, this graphics card is an excellent addition to your gaming build.
- New vented heatsink fin design and pin fins for optimized airflow
- Great 4K performance
- Good choice for overclocking
- Runs hot and loud
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
Another great NVIDIA graphics card for gaming
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1070 Ti is the ultimate gaming graphics card with Twin Frozr VI. Featuring smooth heat pipes, a squared shape at bottom maximize heat transfer from the copper base plate, and the ability to stop the fan in low-load situations, this graphics card is a great addition to your gaming stack. The MSI GeForce GTX uses a TORX 2.0 FAN to be supremely silent, a dispersion fan blade Steeper curved blade accelerating the airflow, a traditional fan blade providing steady airflow to massive heat sink below, and a double ball bearing for a strong and lasting core for years of smooth gaming.
- Military Class certified components
- Deflectors thrusts air onto heat pipes for lower temperatures and better gaming
- Fans might not run without MSI Afterburner software installed
ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1070 Ti 8GB
Very Quiet and Powerful Graphics Card
Powered by NVIDIA Pascal, the ROG Strix GTX 1070 Ti delivers a whack of power. MaxContact technology delivers increased cooling efficiency while Auto-extreme manufacturing with Super Alloy Power II components ensures premium quality and reliability. GPU Tweak II can push your performance up to 1759 MHz with just one click. All ASUS graphics cards are now produced using Auto-Extreme Technology, an industry-exclusive, 100% automated production process that incorporates premium materials to set a new standard of quality. Auto-Extreme Technology ensures consistent graphics card quality as well as improved performance and longevity.
- Extremely quiet
- Runs at low temperatures
- Automatic overclocking with GPU Tweaker II
- Only 1 8-pin aux power connector needed
- Large in size
- Lighting software can be glitchy at times
XFX Radeon Rx Vega 64 8GB
Decent Contender For GTX 1080
The XFX Radeon Rx Vega 64 has 8GB High Banwidth Cache, is Radeon VR Ready Premium, has Next-Gen Compute Units, and FreeSync 2 Technology. The Radeon Rx Vega graphics is designed for extreme gaming. Radeon RX Vega graphics cards feature a High-Bandwidth Cache and Cache Controller that rise above regular GPU limitations by enabling faster access to much larger memory capacities. The new geometry engine hosts efficient load balancing, and the next-generation geometry path offers up to twice the peak geometry throughput per clock cycle. The GPU core has been redesigned to work smarter, and faster, with next-gen compute units2 and an optimized pixel engine designed to speed up the latest games.
- High-Bandwidth Cache
- VR premium ready
- Can run loud
ASUS Radeon RX 560
Great Cheap AMD Graphics Card
ASUS Radeon RX 560 comes equipped with dual fan design for twice greater air flow and three times quieter performance. The fans are IP5X dust-resistant for improved reliability and a longer lifespan. While exclusive Auto-Extreme Technology with Super Alloy Power II components for superior stability. GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster that provides intuitive performance tweaking and instant gameplay streaming. Redesigned with an intuitive, all-new UI, GPU Tweak II makes overclocking easier and more visual than ever, while still retaining advanced options for seasoned overclockers. The Gaming Booster function maximizes graphics performance by removing redundant processes and automatically allocating all available resources. XSplit Gamecaster lets you easily stream or record your gameplay right from a convenient, in-game overlay.
- Affordable despite the price spiking affecting some other graphics cards
- Powerful for the price
- Very quiet
- Solid and well-made
- Runs hot during use for long hours
- Only one DVI output
ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX 580 T8G
Best AMD Graphics Card for the Money
The ROG Strix RX 580 O8G Gaming graphics card outshines the competition with ASUS Aura Sync RGB lighting while MaxContact technology provides improved thermal transfer with twice the GPU contact. GPU Tweak II and FanConnect II enable effective system monitoring and cooling performance. Featuring Aura RGB Lighting on both the shroud and backplate, ROG Strix graphics cards are capable of displaying millions of colors and six different effects for a highly personalized gaming system. ROG Strix graphics cards also feature ASUS Aura Sync, RGB LED synchronization technology that enables complete gaming system personalization when the graphics card is paired with an Aura-enabled gaming motherboard. Auto-Extreme manufacturing technology delivers premium quality and reliability with aerospace-grade Super Alloy Power II components.
- Quiet fans
- Great for overclocking
- Uses a single 8-pin power connector
- Stays cool during high-power usage
- Customer service are known to be unresponsive
- Large in size and might not fit in some cases
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1080
Best NVIDIA graphics card for the money
The MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card offers smooth heat pipes with a squared shape at the bottom to maximize heat transfer from the copper base plate. By stopping the fan in low-load situations, the card keeps a noise-free environment. Airflow control technology keeps the card running cool by using its deflectors to thrust air onto heat pipes for lower temperatures and better gaming. Double Ball Bearings give the unique MSI TORX 2.0 Fans a strong and lasting core for years of smooth gaming. They also remain virtually silent while spinning under load, keeping your graphics card cool during intense and lengthy gaming sessions. A powerful graphics card needs a strong build to harness its performance. MSI GAMING X graphics cards are fitted with a solid metal back plate to make it extra tough. The matte black finish completes the TWIN FROZR VI design to perfection.
- Stays cool under duress
- Affordable for the features included
- Loud under high pressure
Gigabyte GTX 1050 Ti
Great performance at a reasonable price
The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GV-N105TD5-4GD Video Card is powered by NVIDIA Pascal architecture – the world’s most advanced GPU architecture, equipped with 4GB 128-Bit GDDR5 memory, and loaded with innovative NVIDIA technologies, delivering high power. With the AORUS graphics engine utility, the graphics card enables easy one-click super overclocking. In gaming mode, it’s able to be overclocked to 1392 MHz (base clock: 1290 MHz). In OC mode, it can operate at 1430 MHz (base clock: 1316 MHz). The Gigabyte cooling system, composed of a 90mm fan and a fan cooler, provides excellent heat dissipation for reliable performance. The Ultra Durable 2 design takes stability and reliability to a new height. Experience incredible performance in high-definition games, powered by NVIDIA Pascal – the most advanced GPU architecture ever created. Experience incredible performance in high-definition games, powered by NVIDIA Pascal.
- Derives power directly from the motherboard requiring fewer cables in system build
- Price fluctuates due to cryptocurrency mining
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1060 Mini
Good Silent Graphics Card with Low Power Consumption
The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1060 mini graphics card might be small but comes loaded with innovative new gaming technologies and the NVIDIA Pascal architecture, making it the perfect choice for high-definition gaming in one of the smallest sizes at only 6.85” length. Its specially designed aluminum sunflower heatsink allows for direct GPU contact. And even distribution of heat from the center to outer edges. Discover next generation VR performance, low latency, and plug-and-play compatibility with leading headsets – driven by NVIDIA VRWorkss technology. VR audio, physics, and haptics let you hear and feel every moment with super compact solutions.
- Small size at only 6.85” in length
- NVIDIA Pascal architecture
- Low power consumption
- Affected by price spiking and fluctuation
- Plastic shroud is a little fragile
- Only one HDMI cable which doesn’t work with some Smart TVs
- Runs hot under duress
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.