- 5 Best Graphics Cards for Gaming
- What is a Graphics Card?
- GPU Water Cooling
- How Does a Graphics Card Work?
Here’s the deal:
There are a TON of different graphics cards on the market, but not all of them were created equal.
Besides, what does a graphics card even do, anyway? And how much should you spend on a graphics card for your gaming PC?
We’re going to be answering all of that and more in this post.
So, strap in and let’s begin!
5 Best Graphics Cards for Gaming
|GTX 1080 Ti||4K||Check Price|
|GTX 1080||1440p||Check Price|
|GTX 1070||1440p/1080p||Check Price|
|GTX 1060||1080p||Check Price|
|RX 580||1080p||Check Price|
Now let’s take a look at each graphics card one by one.
ASUS ROG Strix GTX 1080 Ti OC
Best Graphics Card for 4K
The GTX 1080 Ti is a monster – if you want to max out just about everything in 1440p with ease, the GTX 1080 Ti is for you.
- Incredible performance
- Crushes 1440p
- Can handle 4K and VR
- One of the most expensive graphics cards
Packing performance often rivaling the Titan XP, this graphics card is reasonably priced considering its insane performance. When it launched in 2017, it was all the rave, and despite being about two years old, this thing still packs a punch.
Packing 3584 CUDA cores, 224 texture units and 88ROPs, it ships with just a tad bit less VRAM than the Titan X. Still, this is the fastest of Nvidia’s Pascal cards, and will be able to handle anything you throw at it.
The GTX 1080 – the 1080 Ti’s little brother – also packs a ton of performance. Though its pricing is a bit on the high side, this card means business.
Packing 2,560 CUDA cores, 160 texture units, 64 ROPs, and 8GB of the latest GDDR5X VRAM, it’s clear to see why so many people were freaking out when this card was released.
Oh, and did we mention its boost clock sits comfortably at 1,733 MHz?
Here’s a more basic way to understand how awesome this card is, if the metrics above were too complicated:
The GTX 980 (this card’s last generation equivalent) could produce 5.5 TFLOPs of power. The 980 Ti could produce 6.5 TFLOPs, and the Titan could produce 7.
The GTX 1080?
Yeah, it’s a crazy power upgrade from one generation to the next, but somehow Nvidia managed to pull it off.
The GTX 1070 is my personal favorite - it’s like the sweet spot for gamers on a medium budget.
All things considered, the GTX 1070 is pretty affordable, and it punches above its weight class.
You’ll be able to comfortably game in 1080p with high-ultra settings no problem. I’m talking about maxing out pretty much everything with at least 60FPS, if not more.
You can pair this thing with a good Ryzen 5 or Intel i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, an SSD, and you’re in business.
The GTX 1060 is a great card for gamers on a budget - I used this card for a year, and my overall experience with it is pretty good.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to be maxing out every title with this card, even in 1080p.
Most games that are well optimised and not very demanding will run fine - but you’ll have to turn down the settings a bit with more demanding titles if you want to maintain a steady 60 FPS.
However, like I said, most games will run well with medium-high settings (sometimes ultra) and you can achieve 60 FPS. I noticed some problems with stuttering on games like Battlefield, but only on conquest mode – smaller game modes like TDM and Rush were fine.
I think the main issue here was with my CPU (Ryzen 3 1200) and not the graphics card. That’s an issue you want to avoid - always make sure you buy a CPU that isn’t going to bottleneck your graphics card.
Overall, for the price of less than $200, you can get a solid graphics card that can handle (almost) anything you throw at it in 1080p. Great for builders on a $500 budget or less.
Yeah, I know, I haven’t included an AMD card yet, so here you go.
The RX 480 is competitively priced to the GTX 1060, and the RX 580 is basically a newer version of the RX 480. Actually, it’s basically a rebranded RX 480, with minor changes.
Its performance is slightly better and its price tag is slightly higher. Overall, I’d say go with the GTX 1060 in most cases, but the RX 580 is also a good card.
If you’re an AMD fan and you’re building a low-medium budget gaming PC with 1080p gaming in mind, this is a great option.
Its 8GB of VRAM will help you game with higher graphical settings without suffering from stutters and other annoying issues.
What is a Graphics Card?
Techopedia defines a graphics card as:
A graphics card is a type of display adapter or video card installed within most computing devices to display graphical data with high clarity, color, definition and overall appearance. A graphics card provides high-quality visual display by processing and executing graphical data using advanced graphical techniques, features and functions.
It’s the part of the computer that handles graphics.
In general, there are two types of graphics cards:
A discrete graphics card is basically a dedicated unit that is separate from the rest of your PC. Usually you install a discrete graphics card in the PCI slot of your motherboard, and power it with seperate cables from your power supply.
The GTX 1070, Titan, RX 580, etc. are all discrete graphics cards. You’ll need one to play pretty much any game on a PC with decent settings and framerates (besides Minesweeper).
Integrated graphics are exactly that – integrated – with the rest of your PC. Integrated graphics are part of your processor.
Computers that aren’t meant for gaming, like most workstation laptops or PCs, for example, have integrated graphics. It’s basically a graphics chip that’s built-in with your processor.
Most integrated graphics are only capable of handling basic tasks like displaying your desktop, browsing the web, and watching videos. Anything that requires more complex graphics, like a modern video game, is going to need something with more power.
However, there are some newer processors – like the Ryzen 5 2400G – that have better integrated graphics than most.
These chips can be used to play light games like CS:GO and Garry’s Mod with pretty good settings. They’re really affordable and allow you to do some light gaming on a budget.
Still, if you want to build a true gaming PC, stay away from integrated graphics. Any title with halfway decent graphics is going to need a discrete (dedicated) graphics card.
GPU Water Cooling
Believe it or not, processors aren’t the only component that you can water cool.
In fact, GPU water cooling is a thing, and we happen to have a guide on it here.
If you want to push your graphics card to the max via overclocking, water cooling is definitely the move.
How Does a Graphics Card Work?
Alright, I’m going to explain this in very simple terms, because it’s a pretty complex concept. Forget about GPU memory clock speed and core clock for now - we’ve got a guide that talks about that here.
As you probably already know, CPUs use cores. Whether the CPU has 1, 2, 4, or 8 cores, each core can handle one process at a time (which basically means using electrical signals to say yes or no really quickly, over and over again).
In layman’s terms, the more cores a processor has, the more things it can do at once. Almost all graphics cards now use a principle developed by Nvidia called CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture).
If you’ve ever checked out the specs sheet of a graphics card, you’ve probably seen the CUDA core count. We even mentioned it above when we were talking about a few of our favorite GPUs.
This isn’t an exact explanation, so keep in mind that this is a basic explanation:
You can think of CUDA cores like processor cores (sort of). While a processor has four to eight cores, a GPU can have thousands of cores.
What’s the difference?
Processor cores can handle different tasks at once, whereas the CUDA cores of a GPU all have to handle the same task at once, such as rendering your graphics, for instance.
Handling the intense graphics of modern titles is a pretty demanding task, which is why GPUs have so many darn cores.
All of these little cores can solve the same simple problem much faster than the cores of a CPU would solve it because, well, there’s a lot of them.
I say simple because they’re basically solving the geometric equations that are required to render and display graphics in a video game.
Using a CPU to solve all of these equations would really bog it down when it could be used to solve other problems. For example, it makes way more sense to solve 100 different geometry equations at once with a few thousand cores than it does with only 8 cores.
So yeah, that’s basically graphics cards in a nutshell. What to Look for in a Graphics Card
You want to dedicate as much money to your graphics card as you can while still having enough for your other components.
Basically what I’m trying to say is, worry about your graphics card first, and the rest of your components later.
Still, you need to make sure your processor is up to par - you don’t want to pair a GTX 1080 Ti with a Pentium CPU, for example.
The GTX 1080 Ti is a monster GPU, and the Pentium line of CPUs is pretty weak, relatively speaking.
Games would be limited by the power of your CPU – a GTX 1080 Ti can game in 1440p and even 4K, but a Pentium CPU is barely able to handle 1080p at medium settings, much less 1440p.
Your end result will be disappointment and a ton of stutters.
You also don’t want to forget about RAM or your hard drive.
All that being said, make sure your GPU is capable of handling the kind of games you want to play, with your desired settings.
For example, if you want to play games in 1080p with high and ultra settings, without having to worry about performance issues, the GTX 1070 is probably your card of choice.
It can handle nearly all titles in 1080p with 60+ FPS max settings. But don’t pair this card with a lowly Ryzen 3 or Pentium CPU.
Instead, go for a mid-tier CPU to match this mid-tier GPU. You’ll want something like a Ryzen 5 3600 or an Intel i5 9600K. This way your CPU will have the same performance capabilities, relative to your graphics card.
What’s the bottom line here?
- Determine what games you want to play, and know your target graphical settings, framerates, and resolution
- Choose your GPU accordingly
- Make sure your GPU choice has enough room left for a good processor, RAM, etc.
That’s what you should look for in a GPU.