Graphic cards are very important for your computers. They are so important that most of the central processing units (CPUs) actually include a GPU (graphics card) inside the system. The integrated GPUs are very good when it comes to displaying text and 2D graphics but they are not that great when it comes to playing video games or visually intensive computer operations.
When you want to play modern video games, do some graphic design, or are into videography, the dedicated graphics card is simply a need. GPUs are expensive though so you have to be sure that you buy the one that is very good for your purposes.
The good news is that choosing the best graphics card is not at all something that is difficult, when you take into account the factors that are highlighted below.
Note: Ever since 2017, all the graphics cards are made by Nvidia or AMD. There are some subtle differences that can be highlighted when it comes to these competitors. However, these will not be taken into account since we will rely on the very important aspects associated with GPUs.
We have to highlight the price tag as the very first thing because this is what most people see as the vital factor to take into account. The truth is that it makes absolutely no sense to add the expensive graphics card to the cheap computer that has a very low performance processor.
As a general rule of thumb, the best thing that you can do is to use 30% of the budget that you have for the entire computer on the graphics card. This allows you to buy a card that actually makes sense for what you build.
Cooling And Space
Graphics cards produce quite a lot of heat that is presented as TDP value in card characteristics on websites. This should be taken into account. When the TDP value is very high, the computer needs more fans or heat is not properly distributed.
Fans do need extra power and space. This is why TDP is so important. The smaller computer towers have to use GPUs that have lower TDP values. It is only the larger towers that offer you the flexibility needed to add GPUs with higher TDP.
TDP is practically considered because of space reasons but you need to also think about the power supply. Does it have enough 6-pin or 8-pin connectors for the graphics card to use? Buy a good power supply that is capable of at least the 80 Plus Bronze standard.
When you buy a graphics card, you see that they usually offer between 2 and 12 GB of video RAM. How much you need to get optimum performance is currently highly debated. There are forums that tell you this is not important while others consider this as being a vital aspect to consider as the graphics card is bought.
Video card memory comes with anti-aliasing operations, textures, and various other elements. Basically, it helps with making the images look better. Image quality is highly impacted by video memory, allowing you to play your video games at a much higher resolution.
Note: As a rule of thumb, divide system memory by 2. This is the number that helps you to decide the amount of video memory that you should buy. As an example, if you have 16 GB system memory, optimum performance is gained when you buy a graphics card with 8 GB video RAM.
While we can debate GPU memory, bandwidth is unquestionable. Bandwidth practically means how much GPU memory can be accessed at one point in time. When the bandwidth is higher, data is processed faster. This means that video graphics and games will end up running with a higher clarity.
You can only understand bandwidth when you know how it works. Basically, this is determined when combining bus and memory speed.
- Clock Speed
This is measured with Mhz. It affects frame rate, latency, and input lag. The standard states that GPUs can read at a rate of 64 bits at one time. In order to speed it up, graphics cards are designed to read more than just one chip at one time.
- Bus Width
As an example, when the GPU is capable of reading 2 chips (64 bits) at one time, the card reads 128 bits at one time. The bus width is practically 64 x 2.
Shader cores influence bandwidth. AMD and Nvidia call these by different names. With Nvidia, we have CUDA cores. AMD calls them stream processors.
The shader cores are very important because they bring your graphics to life. They add variations of dark and light to the 3D objects. When the graphics card includes more shader cores, it offers much better image rendering that is faster than the alternative. However, it is possible that games that have fewer shader cores will perform better when you play some video games.
On the whole, when you want to buy a graphics card, you need to think about cooling, space, price, power, bandwidth, memory and shader codes. This can easily get pretty tricky. You will need to take a look at online reviews that are written by professionals. However, when you consider the things mentioned above, you will be able to understand what you read.