How To Pick a Graphics Card for Different Purposes
Boosting the visual performance of a personal computer (PC) is for everyone – not just gamers. Whether you want to optimize your video editing process or enhance your streaming experience, you can always choose to upgrade to a more powerful graphics processing unit (GPU). So if you think it is time to shop for a new graphics card, also called a video card, we have useful tips on how to pick a graphics card that fits your needs.
How Do You Use Your Computer?
First off, you will want to take a closer look at your current or changing needs. Obviously, the more graphics-intensive programs you run, the better it is for you to buy a higher-end graphics card. Figuring out how to pick a graphics card requires you to evaluate your main uses for your PC.
See which among these common uses for PCs apply to you:
Playing the latest, high-performance PC games is probably the most graphics-intensive activity you can do on your computer. Avid gamers know very well they should not let the finer details of realistic video game graphics go to waste. In this case, upgrading your GPU for PC gaming is more of a requirement.
Many serious gamers consider the GPU as the most important component in their gaming PCs. That’s because a superior graphics card makes gaming a joy, while an underperforming one causes stutters and glitches that can kill the excitement.
But keep in mind that not all games are created equal. Some come off the shelf with less realistic rendering and aren’t comparable with their state-of-the-art counterparts. So, make sure to check the specifications for the majority of games you play and find the GPU that matches or exceeds these requirements.
Video Editing and CAD
Advances in video editing and computer-aided design (CAD) have made it compulsory in both fields to use powerful video cards. Ramping up GPU performance is particularly required when editing large video projects at 4K resolution or rendering 3D designs in AutoCAD. Faster processing and optimized rendering allow for a more efficient workflow, yielding better output for users.
For moderate to average users, switching to a high-powered graphics card is unnecessary. Activities like document editing, web browsing, and watching YouTube videos aren’t too demanding when it comes to graphics processing power. The graphics card built into your system’s motherboard should be enough for your daily requirements. And there’s not much to gain from upgrading to a GPU for PC gaming.
How Much Is Your Budget?
Price is a big factor to consider when choosing a graphics card. There are budget options that cost under $100, but they may not be able to handle the requirements of today’s cutting-edge games. On the other hand, the most expensive cards can range from $1,000 to $2,500, but you probably don’t have to hit the ceiling price to get just the right or slightly higher performance for your applications.
To get the most out of your graphics card without breaking the bank, set a budget and find the most appropriate option within that range.
AMD or Nvidia?
Powering today’s high-caliber graphics cards are the GPUs from two major brands, AMD and Nvidia. Both companies make branded video cards or support third-party cards with their GPU technology.
When choosing between these two big names, you should consider their specialization. AMD has a strong lineup of budget to mid-range GPUs. Meanwhile, Nvidia is known for dominating the higher end of the market.
Aside from the price, you should also consider which adaptive sync technology applies to your monitor: AMD’s FreeSync or Nvidia’s G-Sync. Both synchronize the refresh rate between the monitor and the graphics card to ensure smoother better performance. What if your monitor doesn’t support either technology? Going for either brand should work for you in this case.
What’s Your Monitor Resolution and Refresh Rate?
A video card that matches the resolution of the video monitor means money well spent. This is especially true if you have a 4K monitor and a collection of hardcore games with triple-digit refresh rates. You won’t want your frame to get cut in half. However, a monitor capable of 1080p resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate does not necessarily need a higher-powered GPU.
Will the GPU Fit in Your System Case?
Graphics cards come in all shapes and sizes. Most cards for gamers are dual-slot and full-height, with some higher-powered ones coming with three slots. You should consider how much space you need and have to prevent a mismatch, obviously, and avoid blocking the space above adjacent slots because your video card has a big heatsink and fan.
Do You Have Enough Power Supply?
Make sure your PC’s power supply can handle the requirements of a high-performance GPU. Otherwise, you need to upgrade both your graphic card and power supply.
How do you check if you have enough juice to power a high-end GPU? You can do your research first and look for the card’s Thermal Design Power (TDP) spec. TDP tells you how much heat your unit can generate under any workload and comes with a wattage estimate. Say, a graphics card has 200-watt TDP, this means it will pull 200 watts from your power supply. This is on top of the other components in your system that are drawing power from your supply.
What Connections Do You Need?
Match your graphics card’s output to your monitor’s input. Most modern cards and monitors have HDMI inputs. But keep an eye on older monitors sporting DVI or DisplayPort inputs as you will need an adapter to connect it to a graphic card with only an HDMI output. For a multiplier-monitor setup, you should see to it you have the correct output type for each of the multiple ports.
How Much Memory Does Your Graphics Card Need?
While you can mix and match graphics card memory and your system’s random access memory (RAM), you should consider getting the recommended memory for your GPU usage. In general, a card with 3G to 4G RAM is enough for gaming. But higher-resolution games may require 8G RAM or more.
How Much Speed Do You Need?
Just like your central processing unit (CPU), a GPU is a microprocessor, so its speed is measured in a similar fashion. A faster GPU can render fast-moving on-screen action. Some GPUs are overclocked, surpassing the speed set by their manufacturer, to boost performance. However, this also produces more internal heat for your computer unit.
Also, take note that some GPUs have multiple cores, which practically causes a single GPU to act like multiple GPUs. Typically, a GPU with multiple cores exists to optimize graphics performance.
Do You Need Ray Tracing?
Ray tracing is the latest technology used in some newer games. This technique simulates how light works in the real world, resulting in realistic on-screen graphics. It works by tracing the path that light would follow if it were to travel from your eyes, as if in the real world, through the virtual scene on your screen. With ray tracing, games can include shadows and soft edges, depending on the brightness.
If you’re exploring games that employ ray tracing, you’ll need a GPU that can handle the demands of ray tracing, which means a more expensive graphics card. Not many games currently incorporate ray tracing, but you’re looking at the future of PC gaming right here. So invest in a GPU that supports ray tracing technology to prepare your system for what’s to come.
Do You Need It to Support Virtual Reality?
Last but not least of the tips on how to choose a video card, you’ll want a video card that supports virtual reality (VR) technology if you’re into VR games or apps. This is usually one of the higher-end cards with the capability to bolster PC performance for VR-related activities. You can start with a card that works for either HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, the two leading VR platforms for PC.
Maximize Your Graphics Card on a Well-Optimized PC
When you invest in a high-end graphics card, you want to maintain optimal performance by making sure your device and drivers match and your graphics drivers are up to date. Solve iQ lets you keep your drivers in tiptop shape to ensure you’re getting the most out of your GPU while working or playing games. The Solve iQ app takes care of it so you don’t have to.