How To Choose A Graphics Card (An In-Depth Guide)
If you are a PC gamer, one of the essential components you need to choose is undoubtedly your Graphics card. You may have the beefiest CPU and a ton of ram installed in your rig; however, you will be hardpressed to play anything on your machine without a good discrete GPU.
Now, choosing a graphics card for your PC may be confusing if you are new to PC gaming. Just looking at those strange names with weird syllables like RX, GTX, and RTX does not help determine which graphics card you should purchase.
But, you do not need to worry because I am here for you, and I will help you choose a graphics card in 2023, so keep on reading till the end because I have discussed many things that people tend to miss when talking about this topic.
How To Choose A Graphics Card In 2023?
As a new PC builder, you need to keep many things in mind before purchasing a new graphics card. The most important thing is that you buy yourself a graphics card that does not get bottlenecked by your CPU or the other way around. The perfect blend of CPU and GPU needs to be achieved to get the most out of your gaming PC.
#1- First Decide AMD Or NVIDIA For GPUs
One of the first decisions you are going to make before going to the store to buy your card is to decide whether you will buy an AMD or an Nvidia card. Of course, there are pros and cons to both, so you will need to weigh them together to get yourself the best deal.
Nvidia, no doubt, is the performance king, especially when you venture to the 4K gaming space. The RTX 3090 has no equivalent from Team Red and will give you the best gaming experience possible. With new drivers rolling around every few weeks, Nvidia also has better driver support for all of its cards.
The broadcasting features on Nvidia cards using Geforce Experience are second to none, which allows you to stream or record your games using minimal resources.
In addition, the DLSS feature, which bumps the resolution of an image using deep learning and AI, has also become a huge selling point for Team Green.
On the other hand, AMD is the price king and tries its hardest to go toe to toe with Nvidia. As a result, the cards they produce give you a lot of VRAM than their rivals. However, AMD does not stop and tries to provide a lot of competition to NVIDIA.
As someone, who has used cards from both teams, I can attest that AMD cards age like fine wine as their performance increases after some years with better driver optimization, making them longer lasting than their equivalent competitors.
#2- Integrated Vs Discrete Graphics In 2023?
Integrated Graphics mean that the GPU is soldered onto the motherboard and cannot be changed. These types of Graphics cards are mainly used in Laptops. Other than that Integrated Graphics also comes with CPUs like Intel’s 12th-Gen i9 comes with UHD 770 graphics.
Finally, discrete graphics are the full-blown graphics card used in gaming PCs and can be taken out from the computer.
Now, the last two years have predominantly been hard for PC gamers as due to supply chain issues and silicon shortages worldwide, GPUs have been extremely hard to get at their regular MSRP.
In addition, cryptocurrency miners buying cards in bulk at a higher cost from scalpers have also been a massive contributor to this problem.
Keeping these problems in mind, I would have asked you to go with a laptop with an integrated graphics card a few months ago as their prices were somewhat under control, and cryptocurrency miners did not buy them.
The only downside of purchasing an Integrated graphics card with a laptop is the noise and the heating issues, along with a 10 to 30 percent performance loss against their discrete counterparts.
Going with CPU’s Integrated Graphics is somewhat of a good idea for some light gaming and work but ultimately you will need to get a Graphics Card because these CPU graphics won’t hold themselves very well in power-hungry tasks or gaming.
But, as I am writing this piece, the GPU shortage issue has somewhat been resolved, and GPUs can be found at their MSRP, so I would ask you to go for a discrete graphics card for gaming as this has always been the best and most efficient way to get the most out of your PC.
#3- Reference Card Or Third Party Design?
Reference cards are designed and sold directly by Nvidia and AMD. Third-Party designs are the same cards in different design flavors from companies like ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, Palit, Colorful, Zotac, etc.
Reference cards are somewhat more expensive because they are constrained, and their inventory often does not get restocked. As a result, they can mostly be purchased directly from the manufacturer, and seeing a reference card in the wild for sale can be very rare.
Reference designs are usually single fan designs which does not help much with the cooling. Their blowers are enough to keep the card working for years; however, they get hotter than their third-party counterparts.
On the other hand, Third-Party designs can be found almost everywhere. They are also somewhat cheaper than the reference designs; however, their prices vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Third-Party designs also emphasize more on cooling as they offer two or three fan designs that keep the card’s temperature cool while at the same time last longer than their reference counterparts.
As someone who has had a graphics card die on them due to heating issues, I would suggest that you go for a three fan card from a third-party manufacturer like Gigabyte or ASUS.
#4- What About AI technologies?
Nvidia and AMD are constantly trying to “One Up” each other when it comes to AI Technology as both sides try to offer more and more features to their customers.
Ray Tracing is one of the biggest ones nowadays, and Nvidia provides a slight advantage in RT games. AMD, however, is not very far and is comparable to Team Green in this regard.
DLSS from Nvidia and FSR from AMD are the features that go toe to toe. These technologies effectively allow you to lower your resolution in-game, thereby giving you an FPS boost, and it then uses AI to upscale that image. Nvidia’s DLSS is reserved only for Nvidia cards; meanwhile, FSR is free and can be used on any card.
Gsync and FreeSync are two other Nvidia and AMD features, respectively. In the older days, both were exclusive to specific monitors and GPUs; However, nowadays, some monitors support both these technologies.
#5- SLI, CrossFireX, And NVLink: What You Need To Know?
SLI, CrossFire, And NVLink are, in theory, the same. All three are used to pair multiple graphics cards to that their performances can be stacked over each other, effectively giving us more frame rates and higher resolution in games.
SLI from Nvidia and CrossFire from AMD have been around for many years. The concept behind both is that one graphics card acts as the master card while others work as the slave cards. Then bandwidth is kept at 2 GB/s.
However, this low bandwidth limitation has proven very costly, and diminishing returns increase as you add in more cards. Therefore, PC enthusiasts nowadays mostly stick to one card.
NVLink is a new graphics card pairing technology from Nvidia that cranks up the bandwidth speed to 150 GB/s. All the cards work in tandem, effectively multiplying the computer’s performance.
NVlink is mainly targeted toward business and enterprise cards like the Quadro, and a cut-down version is offered to gamers on the RTX 30 series cards, making it lose its appeal to the masses.
#6- GPU Video Memory: How Much V-Ram Do You Need?
I had a lot of fun testing games and determining how much VRam you need for modern gaming. So I am going to present to you my results. I ran the test on my Intel Core i9-9900K processors paired with my RTX 3090, which has 24 Gigabytes of Vram. In addition, I ran the tests on different graphics settings and resolutions. Here are my findings.
If you are someone that is going to game at medium to high settings on 1080p, then 4GB ram is enough for the time being. However, to find the perfect balance and some future-proofing, you should go for a 6 GB ram card.
Now, to high to ultra settings at 1080p and 1440p, the minimum amount of Vram required would be 8Gb as most of the games I tested ate up at least 5 to 6 GB of ram. Doom Eternal, during my tests, reached 8Gb ram, which was the highest I observed during my testing at those resolutions.
At 4K, you would need about 12GB at least to keep up with all the titles and their demanding requirements. So, in a nutshell, if you are someone that wishes to game flawlessly at 1080p with everything cranked up to ultra, buy yourself a GPU with at least 8 GB of video memory.
#7- Clock Speeds Are Good Or Not?
Graphics card clock speeds can be compared within the same generations; however, their comparison becomes irrelevant once you move up and down a generation.
So, if you compare the clock speed of, say, a GTX 1080 ti with a GTX 1080, then the higher clock speeds will mean more performance.
However, suppose you make the same comparison with a GTX 1070 and a 980 ti. In that case, the clock speeds become irrelevant as the changes in architecture and power draw render any changes in those meaningless.
The 780 and the 1050 ti have varying degrees of Cuda cores and clock speeds and go neck to neck in performance. However, the 780 needs at least 300 watts of power to run with an eight-pin connector, while the 1050 ti sips power directly from the PCI express.
It would be best if you focused more on the performance of a graphics card in gaming or productivity benchmarks, which would give you the answer to which graphics card to buy.
#8- Can It Support VR?
VR gaming has become somewhat popular; however, it still is not mainstream as you need to buy VR headsets and games to enjoy it fully.
However, once you have that type of equipment and software, your graphics card will not let you down, as the Nvidia 10 series from 2016 proudly displayed VR-ready badges on their card boxes.
So, if you are planning to play VR games, get any GPU that is the GTX 1060 or above to get yourself an enjoyable VR experience. However, you should know that you might need to lower your graphics settings for the lower-end option.
#9- Display’s Resolution And Monitor’s Refresh Rate
This is one of the most important factors to consider in your search to buy a graphics card. Before you do anything, you need to check what resolutions you are going to play your games at and what frame rates you will be playing. The higher the resolution and refresh rates, the beefier the graphics card you will need.
So, just as a reference, if you are looking to do 1080p gaming at 60 fps, the best cards for you will be the GTX 1070 and above. If you want 1440p gaming at 60 fps, then go for a GTX 1080 or above. However, if you wish to 4K gaming, buy yourself an RTX 2070 or above.
If you keep my recommendations close to your heart, you will enjoy your games at these resolutions and frame rates for many years to come.
#10- What’s Your Budget?
One of the most critical factors in choosing a GPU is your budget. So instead, I will not target specific budgets but tell you how you can get the best bang for your buck.
Even though the market is stabilizing itself and graphics cards are once again being sold at their MSRP, one of the best things you can do is buy a graphics card that is a generation or two old.
If you care about the new technologies like Ray Tracing, you are more than welcome to splurge on an RTX 2070 or a 3070.
However, if you want great 1080p gaming at high frame rates and ultra settings, the GTX 1070, 1080, and the 1080 ti are some great options.
Going a few generations back will give you the best bang for the buck. My younger brother still uses his 1070 for gaming which I got him for his birthday way back in 2017.
The card still churns out great visuals and high frame rates. So, if you are budget-conscious (most of us are), you should buy a used car.
There are, however, some drawbacks to buying used, so treat this as a disclaimer. Crypto mined cards should be avoided when buying a used graphics card as they have been working continuously for months and stripped out of most of their useful life. So, do your due diligence before buying a used graphics card.
#11- What Kind Of Games You Are Going To Play On It?
The kind of games you are going to play on your graphics cards will be the biggest deciding factor on what sort of card you are going to buy for yourself.
If you are into Esport games like PUBG, Fortnite, or CS: GO, where frame rates are essential but visuals do not matter, then get yourself any mid-range card, and you are going to be gold for years to come.
Likewise, you will not need to upgrade to any other card for the foreseeable future, as Esport games are usually not that resource-intensive.
However, if you are into AAA games like Red Dead Redemption, Eldens Ring, Grand Theft Auto 5, The Witcher 3, or Sekiro, then your mid-rangers will work fine for a few years at 1080p.
However, as newer games come out, you will need to upgrade. So, for AAA gaming, I always recommend that getting yourself the best of the best will future-proof you for many years to come.
#12- Are Intel GPUs Worth It?
Here is the shortest answer to this question, and that is No! This might sound harsh but hear me out for a second.
Intel GPUs are usually integrated within the chipset of your CPU and are only meant to drive your display out if you do not have a discrete GPU.
Therefore, the best an Intel GPU can do for you is consume media or play some very light Esport titles at low settings and frame rates.
So, if you want a GPU that you will game on, keep Intel out of the equation and buy AMD or Nvidia. Intel is trying to get its foot inside the door of creating discrete graphics cards.
However, there is still a lot of catching up to do for them, and it will be a long time until they become a severe competitor to AMD or Nvidia in this sector.
#13- Compatibility With Your Power Supply
Making sure that your power supply is compatible with your graphics card is one of the most important things you will keep in mind. If you do not pay close attention to it, you might brick your shiny new graphics card the moment you turn it on.
Every graphics card specification list has its power draw listed on it, so calculate the entire power draw for your system and buy a power supply that can supply more power. Common sense can also be applied to it as the beefier the card, the heftier the power supply you will need.
If you cannot determine the power draw of your computer, then go online and google which power supply is most compatible with your graphics card.
Do that, and you will get the number and buy the best power supply you can with that wattage. You should never cheap out on your power supply as the life of your components depends on it.
Top 5 Graphics Cards By Nvidia
With everything said, let us get into the best offering of Graphics cards from Nvidia. These cards will let you play every single game under the sun with a resolution ranging from 1080p to 4K.
The RTX 3090 is the flagship Nvidia card that can handle every game on the highest settings and 4K resolution. This card is the best is also the best card in the world for Ray Tracing.
However, with so much power comes a considerable price that you will pay for it if you decide to get this card.
The RTX 3080 and the RTX 3080 ti are also enthusiast-grade cards that will do everything that the 3090 can, albeit a bit slower.
However, the 3090 is the definition of overkill, so you will not go wrong with the 3080 or 3080 ti when it comes to games at 4K.
The RTX 3070 ti and the RTX 3060 ti are cards that can do flawless ray tracing at 1080p and 1440p while cranking your settings up to ultra.
Admittedly, these cards call themselves mid-rangers; however, with the performance they crank out, I can confidently say that these cards will serve you well for years to come.
Top 5 Graphics Cards By AMD
Team Red also has some great options to consider if you are looking for the best graphics card for yourself. So here are the best cards on offer from AMD.
The first category of cards from AMD are the RX 6900 XT, RX 6800 XT, and the RX 6800, which are ranked in performance, respectively.
These cards have been given their separate category because they support hardware-accelerated ray tracing, which is the next big thing in gaming. These cards will keep you happy for many years by letting you play games at 4K and high frame rates.
The RX 5700 XT is my pick for the best AMD mid-range graphics card. This card will crank out high frame rates for years to come at 1080p. This card also has a generous 8GB frame buffer which is more than enough for 1080p gaming.
My final pick from team red is the RX 580, which has become somewhat of a classic as this card was released back in 2017. This card was especially popular with cryptocurrency miners, which jacked up its price to a thousand dollars at one point.
However, nowadays, this card can be purchased at a fraction of that and works exceptionally well if you are looking to game at 1080p.
My Final Verdict:
Choosing a graphics card can be somewhat a complicated process; however, I have tried my best to clear out some confusion and explain how to choose the best one for you.
My best advice to you is to go on youtube after determining your budget and needs and check the benchmarks for all the cards within your budget. This should give you some perspective and help you make the most educated decision.
It would be best to keep in mind that your power supply should be of the required wattage and good quality.
If you have to cut down some budget from the graphics card for your power supply, then do it because this can ensure the well-being of your entire build.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: What is Intel Iris Graphics equivalent to?
The Intel Iris Graphics are Integrated cards with the Kaby Lake CPUs. For comparisons, they can be equivalent to the discrete Nvidia 930m, which are soldered to motherboards of many laptops.
Question 2: Do I need a graphics card for doing some game development on my PC?
Yes! You are going to need a graphics card for game development on PC. Creating a game in an engine requires a lot of horsepowers that a discrete GPU will provide you.
Question 3: Which graphics card will my motherboard support?
Your motherboard should support any graphics card as long as it has a PCI x16 bus. Even a PCI 8x bus would do; however, it will lower performance.
Question 4: What is the best GPU for an i5 9400F for gaming?
Here are some of the best GPUs for the i5 9400F, which will give you the best performance and not bottleneck it. The RTX 2060, RTX 2070 Super, RX 5700 XT, and the RX 6600 XT.
Question 5: In what circumstances should we choose NVIDIA Quadro over Geforce?
The Nvidia Quadro graphics cards are not meant for gaming and mainly serve as cards that can handle professional computational workloads kike mathematical models and simulations. So, if you want to use graphics cards for those purposes, go for Quadro over the GeForce.
Question 6: How do I switch graphic cards from Intel to AMD in windows 10?
Open your search bar in Windows 10 and search for “Power and Sleep” in the settings. Then in the “related settings,” click “additional power settings.”
A new window will open up where you will get three options. First, choose the “high performance” option to switch from Intel to AMD in windows 10.
Question 7: In gaming which is the most crucial RAM or graphics card?
Your graphics cards are more important when it comes to gaming. However, having inadequate ram in your system will hinder you from playing games.