Choose a Graphics Card for Modern Games

Edited by Batkingnz, Lynn, Eng, jace cotton and 1 other

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Today's modern games have high production values approaching costs and resources used to make blockbuster films, while this has given the gamer a more immersive and realistic experience, there has also been the need for increased capabilities in the components in a gaming PC. As always, the CPU and RAM play an important part in your setup, but now even more than ever before, choosing the right graphics card can make the difference between a frustrating and less pretty experience, and one that would put even the latest generation game consoles to shame in the graphics department. If you're at a loss for what you should even consider in a graphics card for modern games, the article below will get you on board with all the latest trends and technology.

What Does A Graphics Card Do?

If you want your games to look this good, you're going to need a graphics card.

A graphics card is another CPU of sorts that is added to your computer in the form of a PCI card. The card contains a processor as well as its own RAM and other chipsets. The main function of the graphics card is to take the load of the graphics being displayed on screen, opening up your CPU and RAM to handle other functions. This considerably reduces the workload on your main components compared to using an integrated on-board graphics chip (like the Intel HD graphics, which are the most common on-board graphics chips today). Some modern graphics cards even have advanced chips on them for specific tasks. Software developers can write custom code for these chips, which further optimizes and improves the gaming experience. Some examples of this are physics processors and special instructions that render hair on a computer generated character to look life like.

Are My CPU And RAM Still Important?

Your CPU and RAM are still just as important as ever. A slow PC will not complement a fast graphics card, just as a slow graphics card would not do justice to a fast PC with the best CPU and RAM. When gaming, you should still aim for at least a quad core setup (Intel i5 equivalent or higher), and at least 4 GB of RAM. With RAM prices dropping all the time, many gamers are opting for 8 GB of DDR3 RAM in their setups today.

What To Look For In A Graphics Card

Amongst all the marketing, the brand wars and the hype, it can become easy to get lost and distracted when looking for a graphics card. The choice will ultimately depend on your preference, budget and availability of cards in your region, but there are still a number of key areas to which you should pay close attention when choosing your new graphics card.

  1. 1
    AMD and NVIDIA are the only real players in the consumer graphics card industry today. They both push the boundaries of technology and offer comparable chipsets across the different price points. You cannot buy a graphics card directly from either manufacturer. Chips are designed and manufactured by these companies and then licensed out to third parties who build their own solutions for the cards themselves.
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  2. 2
    Card Branding
    With the different OEM partners you will start to see all the variations in the cards. Some of the more notable ones to look out for are Sapphire, ASUS, Gigabyte, EVGA and MSI.
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  3. 3
    Some Games Work Better With Some Cards
    This is a tricky area because it requires a lot of research and most likely you would be playing a handful of games at any given period. Some games work better with a particular graphics card, and this can be intentional if a game is endorsing a certain graphics card or it sometimes happens because the majority of coding and testing was done within a preferred manufacturers architecture. You can check out gaming forums or official pages for games which tell you the system requirements and reviews for games will often give you a breakdown of the games performance on a variety of graphics cards.
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  4. 4
    Core Clock Speed and RAM
    You will see these advertised along with any graphics card that you are looking to buy. The core clock will usually be above 1000 Mhz these days with RAM starting at 1 GB in a good card. Some older or budget priced cards with lower specs will still get the job done in modern gaming but you will struggle to get good frame rates at higher resolutions and as we move along to the next generation of games, some titles might become unplayable at any graphics level approaching industry standards.
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  5. 5
    Memory Bandwidth
    Memory bandwidth will depend on the speed and type of memory (RAM) used in the graphics card. This can range from sub 100 GB/s to anything approaching 300 GB/s for the most high end cards today. The more memory bandwidth, the better. So no matter what your budget, aim for the highest spec that you can afford.
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  6. 6
    Maximum TDP
    This is a rating that tells you what the power draw would be under real use. It's not a maximum figure, but gives you an idea of the kind of power you will require for your chosen graphics card. Graphics cards can draw as much power as the rest of your computer combined, so if you're upgrading graphics cards, you need to make sure that your power supply will handle it. Because some cards will draw up to 250 W, it's always recommended in a gaming PC to start with a 500 W power supply, even for cards that have the lowest TDP rating. If you went with a high end card that was rated at 250 W, you should start looking at a 600 W or higher power supply to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
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  7. 7
    Available connectors
    The available connectors will mostly depend on your current monitor and planning for the future. DVI is a must have connection as most modern HD monitors will use this type. If you want to output to a TV or an HDMI enabled monitor then look for a card with an HDMI port to avoid using adapters in the future. If you're running a dual monitor setup, or plan to in the future, look for a card with multiple outputs (some high end and specialty cards have up to six outputs for multi-monitor arrays).
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  8. 8
    What Kind Of Games Do You Want to Play
    For gamers who are primarily playing first person shooters, a mid to high end graphics card is usually required. Games like Battlefield and Call of Duty push technological boundaries to the limit while producing extremely lifelike and immersive environments. If you're more of an Adventure, Sports, Role Playing (MMO included) or Strategy game fan then your graphics needs probably won't be requiring the latest top of the line card.
    1. The resolution that you want to play at will also be affected by your graphics card choice, with some low and mid end cards struggling to produce usable frame rates at 1080p.
    2. Even further, if you're more of a classic gamer and you're playing older games or just catching up on games from the previous few years, a mid-range to lower end card will get the job done for you.
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As you can see from the above (which only touches lightly on all the technical details of a graphics card), choosing a graphics card can be a confusing and heavily invested experience, especially when it comes to the research stage. Below we will recommend three cards at different prices. You could choose to go with one of the cards below or just use it as a reference. At the end of the day, your decision will come down to your own needs and budget, if you decide to go on the hunt yourself, just be mindful of the points above and you won't have too much trouble coming to a decision. If you just want to know a good, reliable card to play modern games on, and at reasonable frame rates and resolutions, then read on below.

  • MSI HD 7850 2GB. This is the perfect all around for the gamer on a budget. It beats out almost every card in its class but at the same time it gives some of the more expensive cards a run for their money. You will get good frame rates for modern games, even running at a full 1080p.
  • NVIDIA GTX 760. The 760 is one of the leading cards in the higher tier area. While not quite the best on the market, it's enough farther above the entry level cards that it might as well be. You will be able to get close to maximum graphics settings in most games at a full 1080p with this card.
  • MSI AMD Radeon HD 7770. This is an entry level card that can be had for less than $100 if you shop around. While it won't break any records for high end graphics, it's your best bet for modern gaming if your budget is really tight. You will be able to run lower settings on games at 720p, but depending on the type of game and how graphically intensive it is, you could get 1080p at playable frame rates. If you're not playing the latest games or you're looking for an interim card while you save up for the high end, then this should be your go-to choice.

Tips, Tricks And Warnings

  • Keep up with current models and technology. One of the best places to check all the current graphics cards along with professional and user reviews is the enthusiast site, tom's HARDWARE. The users and staff are constantly updating the site with benchmarks and real life performance for all the current graphics cards. Because new tech is released year in, year out, a site like Tom's, where all the cards are consolidated, is an invaluable tool in choosing your next upgrade.

Questions and Answers

I want a graphic card that will play any game thrown at it?

I want a full graphical content with good fps. I have tried: SAPPHIRE TRI-X Radeon R9 280X DirectX 11.2 100363-2SR 3GB 384-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 CrossFireX Support Video Card OC (UEFI)

You have several good options for today:

  • Nvidia: GTX Titan X XTREME GAMING
    • from: Gigabyte;
    • vRAM: 12 GB DDR5;
    • bus: 384 bit;
    • reference model: GV-NTITANXXTREME-12GD-B;
  • Nvidia: GeForce GTX 980 TI
    • from: ASUS;
    • vRAM: 6 GB GDDR5;
    • bus: 384 bit;
    • reference model: STRIX-GTX980TI-DC3OC-6GD5-GAMING
  • Radeon: Radeon R9 FURY X
    • from: Gigabyte;
    • vRAM: 4 GB HBM;
    • bus: 4096 bit;
    • reference model: GV-R9FURYX-4GD-B;
  • Radeon: Radeon R9 390X
    • from: MSI;
    • vRAM: 8 GB;
    • bus: 512 bit;
    • reference model: R9 390 GAMING 8G

You can find their analogues among other brands (ASUS, MSI, Palit, etc.)

Looking for the best video card for modern gaming and CAD/3d modeling at the cheapest price possible running an AMD Phenom quad and 8 gig ddr2 memory , 500 Watt PS?

Games like Subnautica, fallout 4 and the like that are graphic intensive. I have tried: Diff drivers. I think it was caused by: Running an Geforce 9500 gt at this time

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Categories : Gaming Hardware

Recent edits by: jace cotton, Eng, Lynn

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