How to Pick the Best Graphics Card – Detailed Guide

GPU buyer's guide

With so many different types of GPUs out there, it can be bit overwhelming to decide which to buy. Below, we’re going help narrow it down based on your display and other elements so you can purchase the best one for your needs.

The main factor when buying a GPU is to base it on your display. If your monitor is Full HD, then it wouldn’t make sense to purchase a card that is intended for gaming at 2160p or 1440p. On top of that, you will likely be playing on a 4K monitor and therefore will need a strong GPU to run the games.

As a rule of thumb, you want a mid-level to high frame rate to get the best Full HD quality. If you are going with a Nvidia graphics card check out one between the GTX 1050 Ti to RTX 2070 (you can see a best RTX 2070 comparison guide here). If AMD is your preferred brand, then you will need at the Radeon RX 560 or better.

If you are running even higher with QHD than you will need an even more capable graphics card. For Nvidia, you’ll want a GTX 1660 Ti and with AMD, the Radeon RX 580 or better. It’s a hard concept to grasp gaming in 4K off just one graphics card but the technology is getting more advanced. Some of the newest cards are capable of doing the job, like Nvidias RTX 2080 or the Radeon VII from AMD.

GPU Variations

Once you’ve chosen the best graphics card for your needs you are now faced with another choice; which variation do you pick? Each type of graphics card will have many different variations to choose from.

Even though they are all made by only two companies (Nvidia and AMD), sometimes the sellers or other board partners may make their own variations on the base model. Some examples of these variations are things like cooling systems, overclock settings and more. The GTX 1650 was released by Nvidia, and it had versions like MSI, Gigabyte, EVGA and Asus.

Below, we will explain what these variations are and what features they will add to the graphics card.

Size – Before you buy the GPU, it is important to make sure that the one you’re thinking about getting is the right size. Check to make sure that the card will fit into your computer.

Overclocking – Overclocking essentially means that the GPU has been adjusted to function higher than its rated top clock speed. Most graphics cards will usually be overclocked by the factory. The performance of the card gets better as the number goes up. You’ll be hard pressed to find a graphics card that doesn’t have any type of factory overclock. If you do though, you can use a software like MSI Afterburner to do the overclocking yourself and it’s a straightforward procedure.

Cooling Solutions – Graphics cards work hard and need to be kept cool, so they don’t overheat. You will see many different versions with between one and three fans. Obviously, if it has 3 fans, it will do the best job of keeping the card cool. That being said, 1 fan does not necessarily mean it won’t cool as well.

When only 1 fan is present it is called a blower-style fan. It operates by sucking the air into the fan and then blowing it out the other side. When there is more than one fan it will be operating in an open-air cooling system. This brings cool air into the card, but it escapes openly out of all sides.

If you’ve got a PC in a smaller case, that’s not open, than a blower type fan is best. It will direct the air out at a certain point, which is better for a computer casing with limited space for the air to escape on its own. If your PC is larger (Micro ATX or medium-large tower) than the open-air cooled GPU would be your best bet. This will give more space for the 2 or 3 fans and more area to install it.

What’s better? An RTX card or a GTX?

Nvidia launched the Turing, which are faster and all-around better GPUs. With this came the reveal of the RTX graphics card that has been made with Artificial Intelligence powered deep learning super sampling and the ability to support ray tracing.

The graphics cards in this series (RTX 20-series) are the only cards to date that have these features. Luckily you don’t have to a specifically RT Cored card in order to get the perks of real-time ray tracing. They have been able to turn on this feature on their GTX 16-series and even some of the 10-series cards will be able to as well.

The Deep Learning Super Sampling is only available on the RTX because it needs that specific Tensor core in order to work. This feature functions more to smooth out the performance of the game, while the ray tracing adds incredible and authentic shadow and reflection effects.

Getting the best deal on a graphics card

If you’re looking for the most affordable way to purchase a graphics card it might surprise you. The cheapest option is to purchase a pre-built gaming computer. If you can snag one when it’s on sale than you can save hundreds of dollars. Big and trusted brands include those like Acer, HP, Dell and Asus and these will also come with a decent warranty. You can also trust these have all the necessary and proper components, unlike what you would face if you were building the computer yourself.

They may come basic, but there is always the option to upgrade the parts. They will also come equipped with the latest graphics cards at the time, so this is a big bonus.

You can easily find a laptop for gaming that’s kitted with the new RTX 20-series cards or GTX 16-series. The GTX gaming computers are also a lot cheaper than the RTX but still have great quality graphics cards.