Graphics cards are an integral part of any computer technology. They play an important role not only in desktop computers, where they are more popular, by the way, but also in notebooks. And what exactly is such a supplement for?
The graphics card primarily increases the computer’s graphics performance. This means that it enables faster, smoother and better processing of graphics, which can be materialized in various forms. They are not only computer games, but also video processing and other multimedia. It is the purpose of their use that is the most important criterion for making the right choice. So if you want to improve your computer, because you plan to play demanding computer games, you will focus on a completely different category of products than those who need to edit videos.
There is a need to pay some attention to choosing a graphics card, as there are many different models on the market for different orientations. It is definitely not worth following the rule that the most expensive goods are automatically the best. It depends on several circumstances, and it is so good to be well versed in the issue. So if you’re looking for the right graphics card for your computer, start with How to choose a graphics card . In it, we will advise you on which parameters to focus on when choosing and why, for example, it is important to take into account the computer processor.
How to choose a graphics card
Let’s start with the most important. The first chapter will be devoted to the basic division of graphics cards according to their use. Only then will we focus on a more detailed description of individual card parameters. It is, for example, the used graphics chip and memory, but we will not forget the cooling and other parameters.
It is also important to mention the compatibility of the graphics card, including its connectivity. It decides which device you will be able to connect the graphics card to. We will set aside the last chapter to present the acquisition prices of this indispensable component of computer technology.
Types of graphics cards
First of all, it is necessary to introduce the basic division of graphics cards. It can be integrated or dedicated. Integrated uses the computer’s operating memory and is usually a cheaper option associated with laptops. On the contrary, the dedicated one has its own dedicated high-speed memory chips and a much higher number of computing cores. As a result, it tends to be significantly more powerful.
Everyone buys a graphics card for a slightly different purpose. Some want to improve their computer to play more demanding games, while others need better conditions for editing videos, for example. Thanks to this, the basic division of these products is basically created. Each customer has slightly different requirements for this calculation element and should choose a specific model based on them. We basically distinguish three types of graphics cards.
Graphics cards for office use
If you only do office activities on your computer, then you will have essentially minimal demands on the performance of the graphics card. What’s more, you are often satisfied with the performance of an integrated graphics card (iGPU), which is usually an integral part of laptops in particular. It is traditionally fitted to Intel by its processors (all Intel Core processors without the F attribute after the number). If you come across an AMD processor with the G attribute after the number, then know that it is equipped with a solid iGPU.
If you rely on good multimedia performance in office work, a notebook with a good integrated card is the ideal choice. Dedicated cards are also produced to a limited extent, the lower acquisition costs from 40$ to 120$ clearly speak in their favor.
The disadvantage is the smaller graphics performance, which may not correspond to some graphics programs, so consider this option carefully. You need to know what you will be doing in the office on your computer.
Graphics cards for computer games
A completely different type of component is a graphics card designed for gamers or graphics. It has enough power for smooth gaming, but also decoding videos and images. With their help, you will achieve an excellent gaming experience. Powerful graphics chips, large memory and a larger number of fans are typical for this industry . For graphics cards for gamers, to some extent the emphasis is also placed on the appearance of the card, so there is often no lack of RGB backlighting.
Of course, these advantages take their toll, which takes the form of higher acquisition costs and greater energy consumption. As for the acquisition costs, they will depend mainly on the performance of the card. If you buy a graphics card just for the purpose of playing games, remember that it depends not only on how often you play, but also which games you want to play and what resolution you prefer.
Players of online games, such as League of Legends or StarCraft II, do not need as high a performance as players of RPT titles such as The Sorcerer, Red Dead Redemption, or Cyberpunk. Also, think about the future, if you buy a graphics card that only needs to be worn with your ears worn, you will probably change it soon.
Graphics cards for professional use
The third and very specific category are graphics cards for professional use. Under this term you can imagine projection, film and video game industry, scientific calculations or 3D modeling. The main differences between these cards lie in the use of specialized software drivers for optimal performance in professional programs.
More memory and its automatic error correction (ECC) are a must . Some scientific simulations can take weeks, and if the card made a mistake in the calculations, the time wasted would be extremely expensive. The biggest disadvantage of professional graphics cards is the very high price. Graphic performance also doesn’t always suit gaming. By purchasing a professional graphics card, you simply won’t kill two flies with one blow.
The Quadro series from NVIDIA is the optimal choice for engineers using CAD programs, for example. There are agreements between the developers of these programs and the graphics manufacturer that guarantee higher performance when using these professional cards. (Source in English: gpumag.com )
The graphics chip is an indispensable part of the entire graphics card. In essence, it is the basic building block of all performance. The currently selected model line of the graphics chip determines what the graphics card will be able to offer you. In this regard, you will find three manufacturers of graphics chips on the market. Of course, each of them produces different models.
It doesn’t even matter who makes the chip, and we can’t tell you for sure which manufacturer is definitely better. The performance will tell you the most about its quality. But count on the fact that with the performance of a graphics chip, of course, the purchase price of a graphics card also increases.
Interesting fact: In 2021, Intel released the first dedicated graphics card for office use. At the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022, more powerful playing cards are being issued.
Graphics chip performance
Before buying a graphics card, we recommend verifying the performance of the silicon chip according to the Passmark points that differentiate the individual models. The basic performance comparison is offered by the videocardbenchmark.net website . For gaming purposes, in principle, the higher the G3D Mark rating (referred to as the Passmark), the better the card will perform in games. The issue is a bit more complicated, but this indicator is usually sufficient to select a specific chip.
TIP: Choosing the right chip is not everything, pay attention to the cooling capabilities of a particular model of card and its video outputs. In some cases, it is better to prioritize more memory over higher performance.
When choosing the right graphics card, you should also focus on the size of the graphics memory. Its value more or less determines how much data the graphics card is able to store at one time. More memory will have a positive effect in games that contain detailed textures and in 3D modeling or high-resolution visualizations.
If you are not demanding in terms of graphic work, a card with a total memory of around 4 GB is enough. If your goal is more demanding computer games or even professional use, then bounce back from the 6 GB limit and above. Today, you can buy high-end graphics cards with around 12 GB of graphics memory. Professional cards then attack the 50 GB limit.
Other important parameters
While the graphics chip and graphics memory are probably the most important information in the specifications of your chosen graphics card, you should definitely not underestimate a number of other pieces of information. At the very least, it is good to know what else is presented in connection with graphics cards.
Graphics card consumption
Indicates the total consumption of this computer component. This is usually in watts marked with the abbreviation “W”. The smaller the value, the lower the consumption. On the other hand, higher consumption within the same generation of cards also means higher performance. Keep in mind that the most powerful graphics cards “bite” watts a lot. This means that if you do not have enough power , the card may not even work on your computer. Therefore, also check the power supply before purchasing.
The generally recommended minimum power is 450 W, the highest series of game cards will be satisfied by sources with a power of about 800 watts. Even if the manufacturer states a consumption of 300 W, the card can have a peak consumption of over 400 W. Include 200 W on a powerful processor from Intel, a few dozen on other components and you get up to 700 W. So do not underestimate the choice of a suitable power source. The table lists the recommended performance and resource types by GPU model.
TIP: In general, the more expensive the computer, the better the power supply. For the low-end, Bronze certification will suffice, but if you are buying a mid-range or higher-class graphics card, it’s a good idea to look for Gold-certified resources. This is because they can save your graphics card in the event of an overvoltage. In addition, the resource is an investment for many years.
The frequency of the graphics core is another performance parameter given in MHz. Indicates the number of millions of operations that the card is able to calculate in one second. The parameter is important when comparing models with the same graphics core. For example, the RTX 3080 Ti with Boost at 1695 MHz will be less powerful than the RTX 3080 Ti with Boost at 1860 MHz. However, the difference in performance is in the order of percentage units.
There are up to 4 types of graphics card cooling. You will most often encounter passive or air cooling. The most powerful graphics cards can work on the principle of water cooling, but you will hardly find it on the market. The specific embodiment then uses a combination of these approaches and is referred to as “hybrid”.
Passive cooling – this is the quietest variant without a fan present. It works by means of an aluminum block, which exchanges only heat with the surrounding air. You’ll only find it on the least powerful office cards.
Air cooling – the system is cooled by a fan. Because of this, the process is a bit noisier, but also much more efficient. Air cooling is used across all cards, regardless of their purpose.
Water cooling – a variant suitable especially for fans of clocking (increasing the performance of the computer) and for the most powerful graphics cards. It also works with a fan that cools the radiator with fluid and it cools the graphics.
Hybrid cooling – the system uses a combination of water and air cooling. It is usually connected to the water circuit, but at the same time it has one fan cooling the card directly. This design is cheaper than water, more powerful than airy, but usually noisier.
TIP: The basic rule is that the more fans the card has, the better it cools and the quieter its operation. The same applies to the size of the passive cooler, or the number of positions that the card occupies in the computer case. The most powerful models occupy up to 4 positions (plates at the back of the computer case).
You can also pay attention to the noise of the graphics card. This is given in decibels under the abbreviation dB. In general, the more fans the graphics have, the less noise it causes. However, it is also important that the computer case has good ventilation so that the card can draw in fresh, cold air. The noise level of the graphics should ideally be around 40 dB.
Memory bus width
This parameter presents how many bits pass through the bus in a given period of time. The wider the bus, the more data per clock gets from memory back to the kernel and vice versa. Its value is usually around 64, 128 or 192 bits. For more powerful models, it can be 256/384-bit. You do not have to monitor the data , the bus width always corresponds to the performance of the card.
Of course, manufacturers are constantly trying to improve graphics cards. Especially computer gamers will be interested in the latest technology, which offers the latest graphics. It is mainly related to the smoothness and quality of the image when playing. However, not all games support these technologies. For this reason, consider the technologies described below as informational only and do not base your choice of graphics card on them primarily. These are rather interesting accessories.
G-Sync – this is a technology from the manufacturer NVIDIA. It uses different image refresh rates and doesn’t just stick to a fixed refresh rate of 60 times per second, as is the case with most LCD monitors. Frequency adjustment ensures that the screen does not suffer from image tearing and eliminates image lags.
Ray-tracing – Some call it the holy grail of game graphics. It simulates the physical behavior of light, bringing real-time movie-quality rendering to even the most visually demanding games. This technology is currently supported by only a small number of games (so it is not crucial for choosing a graphics card).
DLSS – or Deep learning super sampling is a method developed by NVIDIA, which uses machine learning to significantly increase the performance of the graphics card in supported games. Of course, this is not a completely free performance, the technology works by taking the game in a significantly lower resolution than you require, and using algorithms to increase it to the desired value. Today, this method is at such a high level that few people know the difference from full resolution.
FidelityFX Super Resolution – is AMD’s response to NVIDIA’s DLSS. The principle of technology is the same, but at the time of writing this article (July 2021) it was still in its infancy.
When choosing a graphics card, you should keep in mind that the model you choose is compatible with your desktop computer. In this respect, the interface through which you connect the card to the computer’s motherboard will become your stepping stone. You can most often come across two types of design.
- AGP interface – is used in very old computers
- PCI-e interface – is applied in modern computer technology and is associated with adequate performance
You won’t find the AGP in stores for a long time, PCI-e started replacing it in 2004. However, you could come across it in bazaars. Cards with this interface are so outdated and inefficient that they are placed on a shelf or collection yard rather than on a computer.
A much more important choice is to choose the right dimensions to physically fit the card in the computer case. It may happen that you have an atypical cabinet design or a motherboard full of other components. First of all, watch the length of the card, the cabinet manufacturer states its maximum possible value. If you have a network or sound card in the PCI-e slot under the graphics slot, for example, then monitor the number of positions that the graphics require (its thickness).
Beware of bottleneck
Bottleneck, or “bottle neck” is a relatively vague term that you will hear especially in the community of computer enthusiasts. In essence, it defines that the components should match each other in performance. However, the universality of computer use also comes into play, so if you play games but also need to render images at work, then the difference between the performance of the processor and the graphics card is obvious.
The basic approach is to have the processor match the graphics card and not the other way around. If you buy a lower-end card (such as the GTX 1650), then the difference between Intel Core i5 and i9 processors will be almost irrelevant for gaming. Invest the difference in finances in a graphics card instead. Below we present model cases where one of the components is significantly more powerful than the other and what it means in practice.
The processor is more powerful than the graphics card – In this case, the processor sends commands too fast and the card does not have time to process them. The processor thus operates at very low power, while the card is at maximum. In this case, you spent unnecessarily much money on the processor from a game perspective.
The processor is weaker than the graphics card – In this situation, the graphics card processes information faster than the processor can send it. You make the most of the processor and the graphics are proverbially “bored”. A good improvement would be to buy a more powerful processor.
TIP: While sophisticated RPGs with an open world and beautiful surroundings require the most powerful graphics card possible, e-sports titles such as CS: GO will appreciate a more powerful processor. This is because they typically play in FullHD resolution at high refresh rates (120 Hz and above), and this requires a fast processor.
Do not look at this chapter from the perspective of connecting to a computer. By connectivity we mean the way in which it will be possible to connect a display device. This is, for example, a monitor or television. You will most often encounter the three connectors used.
DVI – belongs to the technologically older connectors. It is usually used where older devices equipped with only this port are connected. You will get a much better result with the HDMI connector. Today, you can find DVI only on office and professional cards, and even here rather exceptionally.
HDMI – is one of the most used ports ever, which is equipped with a lot of electronics on the market today. With the HDMI connector, you will be able to transmit video with sound.
DisplayPort – has the nickname “the most modern” type of port, which you often come across under the abbreviation DP. This is similar to the HDMI connector most commonly found in modern monitors.
The cost of a graphics card is directly proportional to its performance. Don’t forget that you have to think about what you will use it for, so that you don’t waste a few tens of thousands for a card whose performance will be left out and in stock. If you are building an office computer on which you want to work primarily with the Internet and Microsoft Office, the basic models are enough for a few thousand crowns.
There are, of course, several different price categories. Whatever you find in them, always choose graphics cards from established manufacturers, even if the card will be a bit more expensive. They are a guarantee of the required qualities and performances. Cheap brands often suffer from cooling failures, for example. Frequently searched brands include ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte and Sapphire.