If you are a gamer, you will surely know that video cards are a fundamental part of today’s PCs. Even when your computer isn’t dedicated exclusively to gaming, however, a good graphics card is essential for the optimal display of the images and text that appear on your monitor.
The best video cards also take on a lot of the responsibility for your computer’s processor and RAM. This results in better overall performance and also a faster system. Buying a graphics card, however, may not be easy, therefore, in this guide, we offer you some useful tips to choose the best.
The most important things in a nutshell
- Before buying a video card, make sure it is compatible with your laptop or desktop. The power supply, PCI slots, and motherboard are three of the most important elements when evaluating this type of compatibility.
- In addition to compatibility, you need to make sure that your computer can work with the card of your choice. Compatibility isn’t enough if you invest in a graphics card designed for 4K gaming if your monitor or screen only works in Full HD.
- Keep in mind that graphics cards for PCs or laptops are also a kind of complementary memory. That is, they work side by side with your computer’s RAM.
- Having a good graphics card has a positive impact on overall system performance, as it improves screen resolution and multimedia execution.
The best video cards on the market: our selection
Below we show you what we believe are the 5 best graphics cards of 2019. To fit all budgets we have also included cheaper graphics cards along with those aimed at the most demanding users. Each is accompanied by a short technical description to help you decide which is best for your needs.
- The cheapest video card
- The best low-end video card
- The best video card for value for money
- The best NVIDIA video card for the lower mid-range
- The best medium to the high-end video card
The cheapest video card
When the goal is to add video output to a PC or get more than what an integrated graphics card can do, the NVIDIA GT 710 is the best and cheapest choice possible. The 2GB MSI 710 is a low-profile passive-powered video card, offering balanced performance for productivity and multimedia entertainment; it is not a card to play, where it offers very limited performance. It has an HDMI, a VGA, and a DVI-D port.
The best low-end video card
The MSI RX 570 4G OC is an AMD video card with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory suitable for unpretentious gamers, capable of offering excellent performance on the most common multiplayer games but also able to adapt to the most pretentious games. Despite this, it is a VR-Ready card that supports the latest Vulkan and DirectX 12 libraries, as well as AMD FreeSync technology. It has 4 DisplayPort outputs, one HDMI, and one DVI-D.
The best video card for value for money
That last year was AMD’s year is a fact, both for processors and for video cards, and it seems that 2021 is not that different; given the recent price cuts, the award for the best value for money goes to the XFX RX 590, which is one of the best-selling graphics cards on the platform. It has 8GB of GDDR5 memory, with one HDMI 2.0b output, one DVI-D, and 3 DisplayPort. With a cost of just € 200, you can secure the best video card for gaming in 1080p, whose only flaw is the high power consumption: just over 200 W.
The best NVIDIA video card for the lower mid-range
For those wishing to take advantage of NVIDIA drivers and software, the best proposal for the medium-low range and therefore for gaming in 1080p is the GTX 1660 SUPER, in the 6 GB OC version proposed by Gigabyte. It is a graphics card with a clock set at 1830 MHz, 192-bit GDDR6 VRAM, a backplate to protect the back, and a dual-fan cooling system. It offers 3 DisplayPort outputs and one HDMI.
The best medium to a high-end video card
Where the budget is particularly abundant, the 8 GB RTX 2070 SUPER OC proposed by Gigabyte seems to be the most convenient and durable proposal, thanks also to the support for ray tracing technology that more and more games can exploit. This is a card for those aiming to exceed the 1080p60 threshold, with a clock of 1815 MHz and 256-bit GDDR6 VRAM. It has a WINDFORCE 3X cooling system and RGB lighting compatible with the other AORUS components. It has 3 DisplayPort outputs and one HDMI.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about video cards
The processor, storage unit, and video card are the “Holy Trinity” of any PC. Depending on their quality, you will have a better or worse computer. Knowing which graphics card to buy is no easy task. There are many aspects to consider, as well as its components. So here are our tips for you.
What is a video card?
Graphics cards are also called video cards or GPUs. They are essential elements in the functioning of any PC. Standard graphics cards in today’s computers allow for basic tasks such as playing videos or browsing the Internet but cannot support the PC when trying to take it one step further.
It is possible to define a graphics card as an expansion element or an integrated circuit whose mission is to manage the data sent by the processor. This management allows you to convert information into something visible and understandable by the user.
Why is it important to have a good video card?
Even computers intended for occasional use can be affected by user requests, for example, if you want to play with some multimedia element or use the PC for professional purposes. In cases like these, the standard graphics card may be affected.
Thanks to a better quality video card you will be able to obtain greater fluidity and the ability to play games with high graphics requirements. Of course, you need to make sure that the purchase is compatible with your PC and that it maintains its temperature at optimal levels.
Are there different types of video cards?
There are two types of video cards: integrated and dedicated (or discrete). Integrated graphics cards are cards that are located directly on the so-called computer motherboard. Conversely, dedicated cards are connected to the motherboard’s PCI-E slot as extra devices.
The main advantage of discrete video cards is that they can be easily replaced. On the contrary, integrated ones require considerable effort to do so. If you choose gaming with your computer or you want to work on multimedia files, you will need to have a dedicated video card.
What are the most important components of a video card?
If you are thinking of buying a video card for your PC, you need to understand what its two main components are. Let’s talk about the GPU and memory, two fundamental aspects that distinguish the quality of any model, whether it is a cheap video card or a high-end card:
- This is the name given to its acronym in English (Graphic Processor Unit – Graphics processing unit).
- It focuses on processing information to convert it into images later displayed by the monitor.
- This frees the Central Processor Unit (CPU) from its work, allowing it to focus on other processes.
- It stores the information that the GPU needs to transform into images.
- The memory of the video cards is independent of the RAM of the PC.
- The more memory the video card has, the easier it will be to offer good resolutions and graphics finishes.
Why are there different categories of memory on a video card?
The memory of a graphics card can be GDDR or HBM. The number displayed at the end of the abbreviation GDDR ( Double Graphic Data Rate in English) indicates the version of the same. For example, if you buy a graphics card with GDDR4 memory, it means that you are using a fairly modern video card, as well as for HBM.
The higher the number, the more modern the video card and this has a direct influence on the transfer capacity. But not only that, each generation brings interesting developments such as reduced energy consumption or better temperature management. The most modern is the GDDR6 and HBM2.
As Professor Manuel Ujaldón of the University of Malaga points out, “the GPU is an airplane, the CPU is a car”. However, to be able to drive a GPU, you need to be a good driver. For this reason, it is not the case to buy any video card but rather it is good to evaluate some aspects:
- Graphics card type
- User type
- Power and speed of the video card
- Amount and type of graphics card memory
- Connectors, video outputs, and power supply
Graphics card type
For compatibility reasons, we recommend that you have a clear idea of which video card your PC already has. This way you can replace or upgrade it with a compatible graphics card that guarantees optimal performance. If you have lost the instruction booklet and cannot find your video card, you can:
- Type dxdiag in the Windows startup option.
- A window will appear with detailed information about your computer.
- Click on the «Display» tab to access the details of your video card.
If you buy a video card that is compatible with your computer but exceeds its capacity, the dreaded “bottleneck” effect will occur. That is, it will not work properly. The next video will help you determine if it can happen to you too.
Apart from the format of the graphics cards, it is necessary to evaluate for what purpose they are dedicated: we are talking about: gaming, multimedia, and professional use. To know what you need, you should ask yourself what kind of user you are. Do you work with multimedia files? Then you should buy a suitable video card.
Because each graphics card is focused on a specific type of user and therefore this affects the characteristics of the product. If you choose a professional graphics card when all you intend to do is play maybe a couple of old games, you run the risk of wasting your money. On the plus side, these cards can be replaced without any problems.
So if you have a more or less modern PC, but want to play the latest titles, you don’t need to buy another computer. With a new video card, it is possible to extend the life of the PC for a few more years. And in some cases, an additional renewal of the replaced graphics card will be enough in the future.
Power and speed of the video card
One of the most valid reasons for choosing a good video card is speed – the more powerful ones can do wonders. To measure this parameter, TFLOPS gross power and CUDA cores are critical: the figures associated with these two points are clear: the higher they are, the greater the power and speed.
You can easily check these values by comparing the best video cards of different generations. Logically, if your purchase is for gaming you will need a powerful video card that is capable of running the latest titles smoothly.
Amount and type of graphics card memory
While power is the first feature you should consider when buying a graphics card, the type of memory and bandwidth you have (GB per second) are also important. The amount is another aspect that you should take into consideration, but contrary to popular belief, it is not the most relevant.
And sometimes it is more advisable to have fast memory than a large amount of GB. On the models where the memory type and bandwidth match, on the other hand, then yes, you can choose the one that offers the most GB.
Connectors, video outputs, and power supply
Nvidia recently stated that it “is doing everything it can to increase the supply of video cards”. However, these devices are complex and sometimes difficult to access. This is why it is important to consider what types of ports or connectors a video card includes. Depending on the resolution you are looking for, you should use one or the other.
For example, if you are looking for a 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution with a frequency of 60Hz, your graphics card should have a DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 2.0 port. Most modern graphics cards usually include both options. Thanks to them you can enjoy the greater color depth and high dynamic range or HDR images.
It is also important to understand what the main components of video cards consist of. If you have an older PC, you may need cards with another type of connector. VGAs are a little used today, but with these ports, you can certainly find good second-hand graphics cards. In laptops, graphics cards usually offer USB Type C connectors. Some come with adapters.
Video cards are an essential part of the computer. If you are a gamer or use the CPU for professional purposes, you will need a more powerful video card, of course, always adapted to the functionality of your device. This way you avoid the bottleneck effect and get the most out of your device.
To buy the video card that suits you best, you should evaluate different aspects such as the power supply, memory, or connectors it offers you. The latest generation video cards are GDDR6 and HDM2. However, older generations also offer excellent video cards.
If we were able to help you with our guide, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment! Also, share the content on your social networks so that others can also take advantage of it!