The video card is designed primarily for games. If a computer is needed only for work, the Internet, and watching videos, it does not require a separate video card. The built-in (integrated) processor will be enough. But if you want to build your gaming PC, you must need a powerful GPU. So, you need to know how to choose a video card for games.
Most modern processors have an integrated video core, but if you plan to play modern games, you definitely need a separate (discrete) video card. Also, a video card is used for video editing, accelerating rendering by 5-10 times.
How to Choose a Video Card?
There are some factors that should consider before buying a graphics card for gaming PC. See more details below:
1. Video card brands
Video cards are being developed by two major companies: Nvidia and AMD.
Nvidia works more closely with game developers, and most games are optimized for these graphics cards. Therefore, I prefer NVidia graphics cards. NVidia graphics cards are sold under the GeForce brand.
AMD is not always able to solve the problems with braking and glitches in some games. AMD, in turn, offers slightly lower prices for its graphics cards, selling them under the Radeon brand name. But in my opinion, the price difference of 10-20% cannot compensate for the lag in games.
2. Interface connector
The interface connector is designed to connect the video card to the motherboard. All modern video cards have a PCI Express (PCI-E x16) slot. Motherboards also have a PCI Express (PCI-E x16) slot of the same name.
Currently, you can find video cards with different versions of this connector: 2.0, 2.1, and 3.0. They differ only in the bandwidth (speed) of the bus connecting the video card to the motherboard. Each class of video cards has its PCI-E version, which has a margin covering the needs of a particular video card. All of them are fully compatible and are installed on any modern motherboard. Therefore, in most cases, you can ignore this. An exception may be the desire to install several video cards in one computer at once, which we will discuss in this article.
Very old video cards had an AGP connector, and now they can only be found at the flea market. Such video cards cannot be considered to improve old computers’ performance since the maximum they can handle is games before 2006. It is advisable to purchase a video card with an AGP connector only to replace a one that failed on an old computer with a powerful processor and sufficient RAM.
3. Video processor
Each video card has its video processor (or video chip). Video chips have a different number of universal processors (shader units) and frequency. The performance of a video card fundamentally depends on these characteristics.
The weakest Nvidia video cards have 400-500 shader units with a frequency of about 900-1100 MHz, and they are poorly suited for modern games.
Entry-class gaming video cards have 600-800 shader units with a frequency of 1300-1500 MHz, and this is the minimum option for today.
Mid-range video cards have about 1200-1500 shader units, high-end 1600-1900, and their frequency is already 1500-1700 MHz.
The most powerful pre-top and top-end video cards have 2500-3500 shader units with a frequency of 1500-1700 MHz.
4. Type and frequency of video memory
Modern gaming graphics cards are equipped primarily with GDDR5 memory. In older weak graphics cards, you can find a slower GDDR3 memory, and they are less suitable for games. Top-end Nvidia graphics cards feature even faster GDDR5X memory, while AMD graphics cards feature HBM memory.
Video memory can have a different frequency, which for modern gaming video cards should be at least 5000 MHz. Mid-range video cards are equipped with video memory with a frequency of 7000-8000 MHz, but for top-end ones, it can reach 11000 MHz.
Also, video memory is characterized by the width of the data transfer bus. Gaming video cards have a memory bus from 128 to 384 bits. Please note that even an entry-level gaming video card should not have a memory bus of less than 128 bits. For the middle class, this figure is 192 bits. For the high one, it is 256 bits and above.
Top AMD video cards are equipped with HBM memory with a 4096-bit bus, but with a frequency reduced to 1000 MHz, which ultimately gives a reasonably high memory bandwidth.
In principle, you can generally not pay attention to the type, bit size, and frequency of the memory, you only need to know its bandwidth (PS), which is easy to navigate:
- 80-112 Gb / s – low bandwidth
- 224-256 GB / s – Average PS
- 320-512 GB / s – high bandwidth
Low memory bandwidth limits the GPU (rests on memory). High bandwidth is redundant. Optimal in terms of price/performance ratio are video cards with an average video memory bandwidth.
5. How much video memory is needed
Modern games require 3-4 GB or more of video memory. So it’s optimal that the video card is equipped with 4 GB or more video memory. There are, of course, good models and with less volume. For example, the younger version of the GTX 1060 is equipped with 3 GB of video memory, and it will be more preferable than the GTX 1050 Ti with 4 GB since it is much more powerful in terms of the processor. But in some games, the memory will still be lacking, so in this case, I would advise you to pay extra and take a GTX 1060 with 6 GB of video memory.
Powerful gaming video cards are equipped with 8 GB or more of video memory, which will be enough for modern games. For monitors with high resolution, 4K / UHD (3840 × 2160 and higher) is mandatory.
Many games will go with 2 GB of video memory (for example, on the GTX 1050 graphics card). Still, in the most challenging settings, you will have to screw it low, and in general, I would not recommend video cards with this amount of video memory now. Therefore, for modern games, a video card with 2 GB of video memory should be considered as the most extreme budget option.
6. Power consumption of video cards
The powerful video card consumes the more energy and heats up more. Accordingly, you will need a more powerful and expensive power supply unit and good ventilation in the computer case.
Modern entry-class video cards consume about 75 W, middle-class 120 W, high-end 150 W, pre-top 180 W, top-end 250 W. High power consumption more often leads to problems in the power system overheating. The optimal ratio of power consumption/performance has video cards with a capacity of 120-150 watts.
7. Cooling system
There is a passive and active cooling system for video cards. The passive cooling system consists only of a radiator and has no fans. Such a cooling system is installed on some video cards, and it requires thoughtful ventilation inside the computer case. Otherwise, the video card overheats and quickly fails. I do not recommend purchasing such video cards.
An active cooling system has both a radiator and one or more fans that blow it. Cooling systems for medium and high-end graphics cards often have heat pipes that significantly improve heat dissipation. Such a cooling system is quite effective and copes well with its tasks.
Also quite effective is the turbine cooling system. The turbine captures a powerful stream of air, drives it through the heatsink, and expels it outside the computer case. But on very powerful hot video cards, under load in heavy games, the turbine can start humming.
Modern video cards, due to the fact that they experience high loads and heat, are not reliable compared to other computer components. Therefore, choose the video card that has the guarantee. For a high-quality video card, the warranty should be 24-36 months.
Finally, you know how to buy a graphics card for gaming PC. For a gamer, the video card is one of the most popular components. So, if you are building your gaming PC and thinking to buy a powerful graphics card, you should think these factors. Otherwise, you will waste your money for buying a wrong GPU. By the way, if you have graphics driver problem, you can uninstall graphics drivers and try again it. Thank you