The console games and smartphone games have become very popular in the recent times. Although, PC gaming still stands the test of time as there is an army of millions of PC gamers across the globe.
The kind of experience that you can expect from a PC is unmatched, and unlike gaming consoles, you only need to upgrade your graphics card, most of the time, if you want to play games that demand a lot of power and memory.
Every PC gamer understands the importance of graphics cards. GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) drives the performance of games that you install on your system. As the gaming technologies continue to advance every year, GPUs need upgradations more frequently than the CPUs.
What Is A Graphics Card And How Does It Work?
The images that we see on the screen are made of tiny squares called pixels. A screen displays over a million pixels at a time, and the system has to decide what to do with each one. The screen uses a translator to convert binary data from the CPU and turns it into graphics that change continuously. The graphics card is responsible for the translations and rendering images on the screen.
The graphics card job is complicated to understand, but it is easy to look at its different parts to understand how it works. Generating constantly changing images from the binary data such as in high-end video games is a highly demanding process.
Graphics cards first create wireframes out of straight lines to create 3D images. After that, they rasterize the images and fill in the rest of the pixels. The PC goes through this process about sixty times in a minute to generate constantly changing graphics. It continues to readjust the lighting, texture, and color with every changing frame.
A GPU works with the following components of the system:
For connection with other components and power.
For data to render images using the pixels.
To store information about each pixel and images being rendered.
GPU is connected to the Monitor so that the user can see the images and interact with the computer accordingly.
Difference Between GPUs and CPU
CPU(Central Processing Unit) is called the brain of the computer. The brain of the PC is supported by another brain(GPU) which has a specialized role, i.e., rendering graphics. CPU and GPU work together to deliver the best performance to the user.
GPU’s accomplish many multimedia tasks such as acceleration of flash videos, virus pattern matching, image recognition, transcoding videos, etc.
CPUs are the main processing units of the PC, but GPUs are installed to support the CPU and play a limited role highly efficiently. CPUs are responsible for all the computation that goes on your system. GPUs are also the processing unit, but they are responsible for processing the graphics operations only.
Why Do You Need To Buy A Graphic Card?
Every computer needs a GPU for the output of the images on display. Motherboards come equipped with the GPUs, and they don’t need a lot of power to run. However, integrated GPUs are not powerful enough to meet the demands of the system that runs graphic-intense games or do other graphic intense work.
– Dedicated GPUs
Dedicated GPUs are built to deliver the performance that you cannot expect from the built-in GPUs. Graphics card comes with a dedicated memory as well which is used only for performing the tasks related to graphics. Dedicated graphics cards also offer more options for the video ports than a built-in GPU.
High-end GPUs also come with inbuilt-fans to cool the system down as increased power translates to greater heat generation.
You don’t need a dedicated GPU for basic processes like office documents, sending emails, opening pdfs, etc. The most important question that you need to ask yourself is whether your GPU can handle the graphics-centered games and apps that you want to install on your system.
If you want to play the latest top-tier title and want it to run butter-smooth, you will need a dedicated GPU. Non-gamers too need the dedicated GPU for graphics intense applications such as Adobe Illustrate or Fireworks, Maya, etc. There is another scenario in which you will need a dedicated GPU. If you want to power many monitors from the same system, such as your shop, a dedicated GPU will take the load of rendering the images to all the displays. Built-in GPU might not be able to handle the load of multiple displays.
Before you go ahead and purchase a graphics card, you must understand the purpose and also look at the configuration of your system other than the GPU. It makes no sense to install a powerful graphics card on a ten-year-old computer.
How To Choose The Best Graphic Card For You?
You need to take into consideration the following aspects before you go ahead and purchase a graphics card.
Make sure that the graphics card you want to buy is compatible with your system. Look at the size of the card, the power source, system requirements and other things before considering it.
Before you start looking at the processor cores, model numbers, technologies, statistics, etc., understand your requirements. Just check whether the graphics card will be able to perform the task you want or not. For instance, if you want to purchase the graphics card to play Final Fantasy XV or PES18, check the system requirements for these games and see if the graphics card fulfills the requirements or not.
When you purchase a graphics card, you should never ignore the RAM. How much RAM does the graphics card has to work with? The Video RAM of your graphics card is separate from your system RAM, and it is used only to perform the tasks assigned to your GPU. Higher RAM delivers smooth performance.
– ‘Reference’ and ‘Non-Reference’ Cards
You need to understand the difference between the Reference and Non-Reference coolers. Manufacturers, such as NVidia, AMD, sell their cards directly to consumers, but they also sell their cards to other companies that modify them and sell to the customers. Cards directly from the manufacturers are called ‘Reference, ‘ and modified cards are called ‘Non-reference.’
The modifiers often alter the cooling systems of the cards. Non-reference cards often have more than two fans mounted. Though they are more efficient at dissipating the heat away from the graphics card, they increase the load on your computer’s cooling system. Non-reference cards are also quieter, but you need to ensure that your computer’s cooling system is good enough to handle the extra heat.
Top performance costs the highest. You need to understand how much money you are willing to spend on the graphics card. You don’t necessarily need to purchase the most expensive card, but you must ensure that the card does the job for you and you don’t need to upgrade it too soon.
Best Graphics Cards In 2017
Graphics cards can be placed under the categories listed below. You can compare the graphics cards from all categories and buy one according to your needs and budget.
Entry-Level Graphics Card
Entry-level dedicated graphics card don’t cost much at all, but they perform significantly better than the inbuilt cards.
– NVidia GeForce GT1030
This is one of the cheapest graphics card available, and it is good for its price. It has 1.5Ghz core speed and 2GB memory. It is only 150mm in length and needs a power supply of 300W. It can run many demanding games such as DOTA2, League of Legends on mid-level settings.
– AMD Radeon RX 460 –
It is another entry-level graphics card. It has 1.2Ghz core and its memory clocks at 7,000 Mhz. With this card, you can expect to run most games in the steam library at mid-high settings. It is energy efficient, and it can draw power straight from the motherboard.
Budget Graphics Card
(Source: Austin Evans)
Graphics card doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket, and you can expect a decent performance within your budget.
– AMD Radeon RX 64 –
The clock can be boosted up to 1220Mhz, and it has a 4GB graphics card memory. It supports 4K UHD resolution and AMD FreeSync. To unlock the full potential, you can connect the power connectors, but you can expect a decent performance without that too. This card needs a power supply of 400W.
– NVidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti –
This card needs a minimum power supply of 300W. It has a 4GB memory available to it, and it supports DX12. You can expect to get a smooth performance of many top titles, but not at the highest settings.
Mid-Tier Graphics Card
If you want to amp up your system’s performance to another level, but without spending a fortune, you can invest in the mid-tier graphics cards.
– AMD Radeon RX 580 –
With 1440Mhz boost clock, and 8GB memory available delivers you the experience you are seeking. It can run AAA titles at 1440p settings very smoothly.
– NVidia GTX 1060 –
NVidia GTX 1060 has 6GB memory available to it. This card delivers excellent performance and not priced too high at all. It supports DirectX12, and it is VR Ready. You will need a power supply of 400W to power this beast.
Best Value-For-Money Graphics Card
– MSI GTX 1070X –
It is an excellent graphics card with SLI compatibility, high VR performance, and gaming at high settings. You can run the most AAA titles at maxed settings. With an 8GB VRAM available and 1797 MHz boost clock in OC mode, this graphics card will never disappoint you.
– NVidia Geforce GTX 1080 –
With an 8GB VRAM available, memory clocked at 10,010 Mhz, and 1860 Mhz boost clock in the OC mode, you can run AAA titles at 4K resolution at decent settings. This graphics card is perfect for immersive VR games, and you can pair it with a G-sync monitor as well.
HD 4K Gaming Graphics Card
– NVidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti –
This graphics card delivers exceptional performance with a VRAM of 11GB, 11010 Mhz memory clock and 1708 boost clock in the OC mode. This graphics card is built to run any title smoothly. Even the most demanding titles can be enjoyed at high settings and 4K resolution.
– NVidia GTX Titan Xp –
This graphics card has 12GB VRAM available which seems like overkill for most titles. There cannot be any game or application available in the market that this card cannot handle smoothly.
Second-hand Purchasing Options
There is a market for the second-hand graphics cards. Gamers who are looking for exceptional performance discard their good-enough cards and want to sell them. You can purchase second-hard graphics card and expect them to perform well, but you must not buy the cards that don’t have any warranty left.
Every year, technology reaches a new milestone and what is exceptional today will become a norm in two or three years. With the advent of VR technology and life-like graphic intense games, graphic cards play a central role to get the best experience delivered to us.
We are moving to an age where digital world and the real world will overlap each other. Whether it is Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality, the graphics card is a nice investment to make to enjoy what technology has to offer indeed.
We cannot expect our PC to deliver a good graphic experience without a dedicated graphics card. Inbuilt graphics card are made only to perform basic functions. If you want to enjoy what technology has to offer today, such as VR or high-end gaming, you need a dedicated graphics card.
Graphics card work with CPU, Motherboard, Memory, and Display to deliver the experience you expect from a graphic-intense game or application. Besides gamers, designers or artists also need a dedicated graphics card to work on their projects. GPUs are different from CPUs as they are the processing units dedicated only towards the graphic performance of the system.
You need to understand your requirements, ensure that your system is compatible and set a budget before you go ahead and purchase a graphics card. You can choose from various categories such as entry-level, budget, mid-tier, value-for-money or high-end graphics cards. Be ready to spend more if you expect high performance, but you can still get high enough performance without spending a fortune.