What is the Best Gaming Graphics Card? Upgrading a graphics card is the second most common upgrade for a computer, after additional memory. Even undemanding users may find the need for more graphical power. Any expert gamer will tell you that you need to do your homework before you choose the graphics card for your rig. Without one that’ll match your monitor in performance, it’s just not the same. And with a lot of people making money from gaming online, you’ve got to wonder, can you really afford to use equipment that’s lacking? That’s not to say graphics cards aren’t easy to choose from, or that you need a professional with you whenever you make a purchase. But we’ve brought back our E-Sports Manager to help make the pathway to a decent graphics card easier to navigate.
What is a Graphics Card?
So let’s start at the beginning; what is a graphics card?
ESM: Put simply, a graphics card is a piece of computer hardware that translates the data into a signal your monitor can understand, so that images are produced on your monitor. The easiest way to note the performance of your graphics card is to check its model number. It’ll tell you about the graphics processor (GPU), clock rates and memory bandwidth. It quickly distinguishes between the deceptively impressive looking overclocked product and that of a higher model that looks far simpler.
When game performance is a priority, buying a high-tier graphics card is a must; but that doesn’t mean you need to buy something super expensive. Spending over £150 on a graphics card isn’t always worth it, not in the long run. It’s all about finding a graphics card that compliments your monitor and vice versa. Trial and Error knowledge in this instance is a massive help.
Memory vs. Bandwidth
With regards to memory vs bandwidth, which is more important?
ESM: Bandwidth, every time. People can get incredibly caught up in the idea that more memory is better, but that’s just not the case. Unless you’re running incredibly large resolutions, the quantity of RAM isn’t worth worrying about. High end model graphics cards should have a decent default memory amount. A piece of advice I received when I was first setting up a rig is GDDR5 memory provides twice the bandwidth of a DDR3 at the same clock rate. That means when it comes to your own rig, 1 GB of GDDR5 is going to be miles better than 4 GB of DDR3.
When it comes to choosing either a monitor or a best gaming graphics card, the phrase ‘bottlenecking’ comes out a lot. What does this mean?
ESM: The bottleneck theory is the theory that the maximum total output of any system is equal to the maximum output of the slowest part of the system. In laymen’s terms, imagine filling a funnel with marbles, and watching at one marble at a time falls out. In gamer’s terms, your rig is only as good as your slowest component. You need a graphics card, monitor and processor that can keep up with your demands, as well as keep up with each other. A brilliant graphics card will be worth nothing to you if your monitor can’t keep up.
Pairing Graphics Cards
What about pairing graphics cards?
ESM: Again, this seems to be a fascination with newer gamers, but I’ve never found from personal experience that two is better than one. If, for example, the graphics cards offer links to increase performance then I can see the appeal, or if you have multiple monitors. But scaling performance by multiplying GPU isn’t as easy as that. In fact, multi-card setups can suffer from inconsistency, incompatibilities and micro-stuttering. They can also leech power and generate a lot of noise. I would always recommend quality rather than quantity when it comes to graphics cards.
One Thing Most People Miss
Is there any common but easily avoided mistakes when choosing your graphics card?
ESM: It’s the silliest thing, but I see it all the time where people will buy a new graphics card, and it won’t physically fit. As in, it’s too long or too short. My advice is do your homework and measure how much space your case has to offer before you put the money down and get disappointed. Whilst we’re on the topic of homework, think about your power supply. It’ll make a massive difference if your PC is struggling to handle your new graphics card, and if you do need to upgrade your power supply, remember that trusted brand names are worth more than the maximum wattage advertised on the package.
Care of Your Graphics Card
When it comes to maintaining your graphics card, what should be your priorities?
ESM: Your cooling system has got to be capable of controlling the heat, otherwise your GPU will fry. Reference coolers (the kind that channel heated air out the back of the case) are better because they don’t increase the temperature of your PC, but they are noisier. Some high end gaming graphics cards have been outfitted with high-performance custom coolers. They are quieter and do a better job but they cost more for the privilege. Plus they recycle the hot air back into the case which could put stress on the rest of your system.
What is The Best Gaming Graphics Card?
Which graphics card are you currently using?
ESM: I’m using the NVidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti. For $750 you get 6GB of GDDR5 memory, a cut-back version of the GM200 processor, with 96 ROPs and a 384-bit memory interface that moves 336.5 GB/s of data. I’d recommend it to any hard core gamers; but it’s a bit pricey for mainstream gamers, or anyone looking for a simple upgrade. You’d be better off looking at AMD’s Radeon collection. They’re cheaper, and all have different specs to suit each individual, so of course the Best Gaming Graphics Card is subjective depending on the application.