How To Choose the Best Graphics Card for Gaming Computer in 2023
If you’re building a gaming computer or upgrading an existing one, choosing the right graphics card for gaming computer is crucial for getting the best performance and experience. With so many different options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Factors such as clock speed, number of cores, memory bandwidth, and VRAM capacity can all impact the performance of a graphics card.
Additionally, different games and applications may have varying requirements, making it important to choose a graphics card that can handle the specific demands of your intended use. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process of choosing the best graphics card for your gaming computer, taking into account all of the factors that can impact performance and value. Whether you’re a casual gamer or a serious enthusiast, this is the one guide that will enable you to make an informed purchasing decision. But let me warn you this is a long-ass read, get yourself a hot cup of coffee before starting this as information overload can very likely happen.
Key points to take away from this article
- Know the Purpose: The purpose of your gaming computer determines the graphics card that you should buy. High-end graphics cards are required for running advanced gaming applications, while mid-range graphics cards can suffice for regular gaming.
- Compatibility: Ensure that the graphics card you select is compatible with your gaming computer’s motherboard, power supply unit, and other hardware components. It’s essential to check the specifications before purchasing.
- Budget: Graphics cards come at different prices. Therefore, you need to set a budget for yourself and buy a graphics card that offers the best value for money. Be cautious of going for cheap options as they may have low performance and not last as long.
- Performance: The graphics card’s performance is a crucial aspect to consider when buying one. This can be determined by factors such as the number of CUDA cores, memory bandwidth, and clock speed. High-end cards have more of these resources, making them ideal for intensive gaming.
- Brand: The brand of graphics card is also important when making your purchase decision. Popular brands such as ASUS, MSI & Gigabyte have a reputation for producing high-quality graphics cards, and their customer support is also reliable.
Things to know before upgrading the Graphics Card for your gaming computer
Before we discuss what to look for when upgrading a graphics card or buying a new one, let’s get in tune with the most important components of a graphics card. By having a basic understanding of how these components work, you will be able to make your purchase decisions with confidence
What is VRAM?
VRAM is a type of memory that the graphics card uses to store and access the data required for rendering images and video. This includes textures, models, and other graphical elements.
The amount of VRAM available on a graphics card can have a significant impact on its performance. With more VRAM, the graphics card can store more data and perform more complex operations, which can result in higher frame rates, better image quality, and smoother gameplay.
A graphics card with insufficient VRAM may struggle to render complex scenes or may be limited in the resolution and detail level it can display. In summary, VRAM is an important component of a graphics card, and having enough VRAM is critical for ensuring optimal performance in graphically intensive applications.
How much VRAM is enough?
The amount of VRAM that is good enough for your needs depends on the types of applications you’ll be using and the resolution and detail level you want to display. Here are some general guidelines:
- For general gaming at 1080p resolution, 4GB to 6GB of VRAM is usually sufficient for most games.
- For gaming at 1440p or 4K resolution, or for virtual reality (VR) gaming, 8GB or more of VRAM is recommended to ensure smooth performance.
- For professional graphics work, such as video editing, 3D modeling, or rendering, 8GB or more of VRAM is recommended to handle the large textures and complex scenes typically encountered in these applications.
Is it better to have 8GB of VRAM GDDR5 or 6GB of GDDR6?
The answer to this question depends on the specific graphics card models you are comparing and the applications you will be using the graphics card for.
In general, GDDR6 (Graphics Double Data Rate 6) is a newer and faster type of memory compared to GDDR5 (Graphics Double Data Rate 5), so a graphics card with GDDR6 memory may offer better performance than one with GDDR5 memory, all else being equal.
However, the amount of VRAM is also an important factor, as a graphics card with more VRAM can handle larger and more complex textures and scenes, which can improve performance in certain applications.
If you are comparing two graphics cards with different amounts of VRAM, then the one with more VRAM may be better, even if it uses an older memory type. For example, if one graphics card has 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM and another has 6GB of GDDR6 RAM, the one with 8GB of VRAM may be better for certain applications that require more memory.
What is Memory Bandwidth in a graphics card?
Memory bandwidth is a measure of the amount of data that can be transferred between the graphics card’s memory and its processing units (cores) in a given amount of time. It is typically measured in gigabytes per second (GB/s).
Memory bandwidth is an important factor in determining a graphics card’s performance, particularly in applications that require large amounts of data to be transferred between the memory and processing units. For example, games with high-resolution textures or complex scenes may require more memory bandwidth to keep up with the demands of the game engine.
The memory bandwidth of a graphics card is determined by several factors, including the memory clock speed, the width of the memory bus, and the type of memory used (e.g. GDDR5, GDDR6, HBM, etc.). Generally, higher memory clock speeds, wider memory buses, and newer memory technologies can result in higher memory bandwidth.
What is the difference between GDDR5, GDDR6, GDDR6X?
GDDR5, GDDR6, and GDDR6X are different types of graphics memory (VRAM) used in modern graphics cards. Here are the main differences between them:
- Bandwidth: GDDR6 and GDDR6X have higher memory bandwidth compared to GDDR5. This means that they can transfer data between the GPU and memory faster, which can result in better performance in memory-intensive applications.
- Speed: GDDR6 and GDDR6X have higher clock speeds compared to GDDR5. This means that they can transfer data at a faster rate, which can improve overall performance.
- Efficiency: GDDR6 and GDDR6X are more power-efficient compared to GDDR5. This means that they consume less power while providing better performance, which can result in lower power consumption and longer battery life.
- Cost: GDDR6 and GDDR6X are more expensive compared to GDDR5. This is because they are newer and more advanced technologies, which require more complex manufacturing processes.
Overall, GDDR6 and GDDR6X are newer and more advanced technologies compared to GDDR5, and they provide better performance and efficiency. However, they are also more expensive and may not be necessary for all use cases. The choice of VRAM technology will depend on the specific requirements of the application and the budget available.
What are the cores in a graphics card?
Cores in a graphics card refer to the processing units that are responsible for performing the complex calculations required for rendering images and video. These processing units are also sometimes called “stream processors” or “CUDA cores,” depending on the brand of the graphics card.
A graphics card may have hundreds or thousands of cores, which work in parallel to perform calculations and render images at high speeds. The more cores a graphics card has, the more data it can process simultaneously, which can result in faster frame rates and smoother gameplay.
When a graphics card’s clock speed is mentioned what does it generally mean? Which clock speed is it talking about?
When a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) mentions a clock speed, it usually refers to the clock speed of the GPU’s core. The core clock speed determines how many operations per second a single processing unit (core) can perform. A higher core clock speed means that the GPU can perform more operations in a given amount of time, which can result in better performance in applications that rely heavily on processing power, such as 3D rendering or gaming.
Some GPUs may also have separate clock speeds for their memory and other components, such as the shader units or texture units. In these cases, the clock speeds may be specified separately.
What are shaders in a graphics card?
Shaders are a type of program used in computer graphics to define how the various elements of a 3D scene should be rendered. Shaders control how light interacts with objects in the scene, how textures are applied to surfaces, and how the final image is presented on the screen.
Shaders are typically written in high-level shading languages such as OpenGL Shading Language (GLSL), DirectX High-Level Shading Language (HLSL), or Metal Shading Language (MSL). These languages allow developers to write code that can be compiled into shader programs that run on the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) of the gaming computer.
There are several different types of shaders, each with a specific function:
- Vertex shaders: These shaders are responsible for transforming the 3D coordinates of objects in a scene into 2D coordinates that can be displayed on the screen.
- Fragment shaders (also called pixel shaders): These shaders are responsible for calculating the color and other attributes of each pixel in the scene.
- Geometry shaders: These shaders can create new geometry, such as adding geometry to a 3D object or creating particle effects.
- Compute shaders: These shaders can perform general-purpose computations on the GPU, such as physics simulations or machine learning algorithms.
Shaders are an important tool for creating realistic and visually appealing 3D graphics in video games, movies, and other applications. They allow developers to create complex and dynamic scenes that would be impossible to render using traditional 2D graphics techniques.
What is the hash rate in a graphics card? Does it impact my gaming experience?
Hash rate refers to the speed at which a computer system can perform calculations related to cryptocurrency mining. Cryptocurrency mining involves solving complex mathematical problems in order to validate transactions on a blockchain network, and miners are rewarded with newly created cryptocurrency tokens as a result.
In general, the hash rate of a graphics card is not a major factor to consider when choosing a graphics card for a gaming PC. Hash rate is primarily relevant to cryptocurrency mining, and while a higher hash rate can result in faster mining and higher profitability, it does not necessarily translate to better gaming performance.
When it comes to gaming, there are other factors that are more important to consider when choosing a graphics card, such as the number of cores, clock speed, VRAM capacity, and memory bandwidth. These factors determine the card’s ability to render complex graphics and handle high-resolution displays, which are critical for a smooth and immersive gaming experience.
That being said, some gaming graphics cards, especially those marketed for cryptocurrency mining as well, may have higher hash rates as a secondary feature. However, it is important to keep in mind that the card’s primary purpose should be to deliver optimal gaming performance, and the hash rate may not be the most important factor to consider in that regard.
What is DirectX and Vulkan API?
DirectX and Vulkan are two popular graphics APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) used to develop video games and other graphics-intensive applications.
DirectX is a collection of APIs developed by Microsoft that allow developers to create applications that use hardware-accelerated graphics and sound. DirectX is primarily used on Windows-based systems, and it includes APIs for 3D graphics, 2D graphics, sound, input, and networking. The most recent version of DirectX is DirectX 12 Ultimate, which was released in 2020 and includes support for ray tracing and variable rate shading.
Vulkan, on the other hand, is a cross-platform graphics API developed by the Khronos Group. Vulkan is designed to provide high-performance graphics and compute capabilities on a wide range of platforms, including Windows, Linux, Android, and more. Vulkan is designed to be more efficient and flexible compared to other graphics APIs, which can result in better performance and scalability in graphics-intensive applications.
While DirectX is primarily used on Windows-based systems, Vulkan can be used on a wide range of platforms, making it a popular choice for multi-platform game development. Both DirectX and Vulkan have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of which API to use will depend on factors such as the target platform, development resources, and specific requirements of the application.
How does DirectX impact my graphics card?
DirectX and Vulkan are both software libraries that provide a set of APIs that game developers can use to access the hardware resources of a graphics card.
When a game or other graphics-intensive application is running, it communicates with the graphics API (either DirectX or Vulkan) to request resources and issue commands to the graphics hardware. The graphics API acts as a middle layer between the application and the graphics hardware, translating the application’s requests into low-level commands that can be understood by the graphics card.
The graphics API provides a set of functions and data structures that developers can use to control the graphics pipeline and manage resources such as textures, buffers, and shaders. These functions and data structures allow developers to create 3D scenes, apply lighting and shading effects, and render high-quality graphics in real-time.
Both DirectX and Vulkan provide similar functionality, but they differ in their design and implementation. DirectX is a more high-level API that abstracts many of the details of the graphics hardware, making it easier to use for developers. Vulkan, on the other hand, is a more low-level API that provides finer-grained control over the graphics pipeline, allowing developers to optimize performance and efficiency.
In general, both DirectX and Vulkan are powerful tools that allow game developers to create high-quality graphics and achieve optimal performance on a wide range of hardware platforms.
Does it matter what version of DirectX my graphics card support?
DirectX 12 is the latest version of Microsoft’s DirectX graphics API, released in 2015, while DirectX 11 was released in 2009. While both versions of DirectX provide a similar set of functionality for game developers, there are some key differences between the two.
One of the main differences between DirectX 11 and 12 is the level of control they provide over the graphics hardware. DirectX 12 is designed to provide more fine-grained control over the GPU, allowing developers to optimize performance by reducing the overhead associated with CPU-GPU communication. This can result in improved performance and efficiency in graphics-intensive applications, particularly on multi-core CPUs and low-level hardware.
DirectX 12 also includes support for new features such as ray tracing and variable rate shading, which can improve the visual quality and performance of games that make use of these techniques. Ray tracing is a rendering technique that simulates the behavior of light in a scene, resulting in more realistic lighting and shadows, while variable rate shading allows developers to adjust the shading rate of different parts of the screen, resulting in improved performance without sacrificing visual quality.
In addition to these new features, DirectX 12 also provides better multi-threading support, allowing developers to take advantage of multiple CPU cores to improve performance. It also includes improved resource management and memory allocation, which can help to reduce memory overhead and improve performance in graphics-intensive applications.
Overall, DirectX 12 provides several improvements and new features compared to DirectX 11, particularly in terms of performance and efficiency. However, DirectX 11 remains a popular choice for game developers, particularly for older hardware and platforms that do not support the latest version of DirectX.
What is Raytracing?
Ray tracing is a technique used in computer graphics to simulate the behavior of light in a scene. It traces the path of light rays as they interact with objects in the scene, calculating how the light is reflected, refracted, and absorbed by every surface it encounters.
By simulating how the light behaves in the real world, ray tracing can create highly realistic images with lighting, shadows, and reflections.
Traditional rendering techniques, such as rasterization, simulate lighting by simplified approximations. These techniques work by projecting a 2D image of a 3D scene onto a screen and then adding lighting and shadows using various algorithms. While these methods can produce fast, real-time graphics, they often fall short of realism and accuracy.
Raytracing, on the other hand, can create highly realistic images, but it is much more computationally intensive than traditional rendering techniques. This means that until recently, ray tracing was only feasible for offline rendering or highly specialized applications. However, with advances in hardware and software, ray tracing is now becoming more widely available for real-time graphics, including video games, virtual reality, and other interactive applications.
What is DLSS? How does it work?
DLSS stands for Deep Learning Super Sampling. It is a technology developed by Nvidia, the leading manufacturer of graphics processing units (GPUs), to improve the performance of video games while maintaining or even improving the quality of the graphics.
DLSS uses machine learning algorithms to upscale lower-resolution images to a higher resolution, resulting in smoother and more detailed graphics. This technique is particularly useful in gaming, where higher frame rates and lower latency can greatly improve the player’s experience.
By using a neural network to analyze and learn from high-resolution images, DLSS can accurately predict and generate the missing details in a lower-resolution image. This approach not only improves the performance of video games but also helps to reduce the hardware requirements for playing them, making gaming more accessible to a wider audience.
DLSS is a software-based technology that works in conjunction with your graphics card’s hardware. When a game or application that supports DLSS is running, the graphics card processes the game’s graphics and sends the final output to your display.
DLSS is integrated into the graphics card’s driver software, which receives the final output from the game and applies DLSS processing to upscale the image. The driver then sends the upscaled image to your display.
DLSS processing is performed by dedicated hardware on the graphics card called Tensor Cores. These Tensor Cores are designed specifically for machine learning operations and are capable of performing matrix operations much faster than traditional processor cores.
When the graphics card receives the final output from the game, the Tensor Cores use pre-trained machine learning models to analyze and predict the missing details in the lower-resolution image. The result is an upscaled image that looks sharper and more detailed than the original.
Overall, DLSS works in collaboration with your graphics card’s hardware to provide improved performance and visual quality in supported games and applications.
Cooling Solutions available on your graphics card
The number of fans on a graphics card can have a significant impact on its cooling performance, as more fans can provide better airflow and dissipate heat more effectively.
In addition to fans, there are several other cooling solutions that can be used to keep a graphics card cool. These include:
- Liquid cooling: This involves using a liquid-cooled system to transfer heat away from the graphics card. This can be more effective than air cooling, but is generally more expensive and requires additional hardware.
- Passive cooling: This involves using a heatsink with no fans to cool the graphics card. This can be effective for lower-power cards, but may not provide enough cooling for high-end cards.
- Hybrid cooling: This involves combining liquid and air cooling solutions to provide a balance of performance and cost.
- Case fans: In addition to cooling the graphics card directly, adding additional case fans can help to improve overall airflow and keep the entire system cool.
When choosing a cooling solution for your graphics card, it is important to consider the specific needs of your system and the type of graphics card you have. High-end cards may require more powerful cooling solutions, while lower-power cards may be able to get by with less cooling.
Why upgrade the graphics card of your gaming computer?
Now we know what things to be aware of before upgrading your graphics card, lets get on with the why and when of it. Upgrading your graphics card can provide several benefits, depending on your needs and the specifications of your current setup. Here are some potential reasons why you might consider upgrading your graphics card:
- Better performance: A newer graphics card will likely provide better frame rates, image quality, and overall speed. This can be especially important if you’re a gamer or use your computer for other graphically intensive tasks, like video editing or 3D modeling.
- More features: Newer graphics cards often come with additional features that can improve your overall experience. For example, some newer cards support ray tracing, which can create more realistic lighting effects in games and other applications.
- Support for newer technologies: As new technologies emerge, older graphics cards may be unable to support them. Upgrading to the latest cards can ensure that; you can take advantage of the latest features and capabilities.
- Compatibility with newer software: Similarly, as software evolves, older graphics cards will not keep up. Upgrading your graphics card can ensure that; you can run the latest software without any compatibility issues.
- Increased VRAM: VRAM is the memory unit that your graphics card uses to store textures and other graphical data. Upgrading to a card with more VRAM can improve performance, particularly in games or graphics-intensive applications
Ultimately, whether or not you should upgrade your graphics card depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you’re experiencing performance issues or want to take advantage of newer technologies, upgrading your graphics card can be a good investment.
When to upgrade your graphics card?
As a standard, after 5 years of using, it is considered fine to upgrade your graphics card. If you bought a high-end graphics card like RTX 4090 in 2023, I would suggest you will be all right till 2030 but the way the gaming technologies are upgrading, I won’t be surprised if I am proven wrong.
But hold on to your horses, some times it’s not the graphics card that needs upgrading, instead, it’s your processor that is bottle-necking your GPU from performing at its best. But this raises another question, how to know your CPU is the culprit? Start a game which is graphics intensive (like Cyberpunk 2077), then once in-game, press ctrl+alt+delete at the same time to open your task manager.
If your GPU usage is consistently below 90-100% while your CPU usage is at or near 100%, it may be an indication that your CPU is bottlenecking your GPU. This means that the GPU is not able to perform at its full potential because the CPU is not able to keep up with the demands of the game or application.
Besides this, you can monitor the CPU and GPU usage during gameplay or other GPU-intensive tasks using software such as MSI Afterburner. Additionally, you can run benchmark tests to compare the performance of your system with similar systems that have a similar GPU but a different CPU. If your system consistently performs worse than similar systems, it may be an indication of a CPU bottleneck.
The biggest conundrum of all – Which graphics card to choose?
Here are some pointers to make your decision easier –
- Budget: Graphics cards can range from Rs.4000/- to over a Rs. 300,000/-. Determine your budget before looking for a graphics card.
- Game requirements: Different games have different requirements for graphics cards. Check the recommended or minimum requirements for the games you want to play to ensure that the graphics card you choose can handle them.
- Resolution: If you are gaming at 1080p, a mid-range graphics card such as the Nvidia GTX 2060 or AMD RX 6500XT should suffice. If you are gaming at 1440p or 4K, a high-end graphics card such as the Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti or AMD RX 7900XT may be necessary.
- Refresh rate: If you have a high refresh rate monitor, such as 144Hz or 240Hz, you may need a more powerful graphics card to take full advantage of the monitor’s capabilities.
- Ray tracing and DLSS: If you want to use ray tracing or DLSS technology in games, you will need a graphics card that supports them, such as the Nvidia RTX 20 or 30 series.
- Brand preference: Nvidia and AMD were the two major graphics card manufacturers before Intel came in with their ARC. They manufacture the chipsets that OEMs like MSI, ASUS, Zotac, etc. use to produce the graphics cards. Each brand has its strengths and weaknesses, and some people have brand preferences based on past experiences.
Ultimately, the best graphics card for your gaming PC depends on your specific needs and budget. It’s important to do thorough research and look at the benchmarks before making a purchase decision.
If you need any more guidance regarding what to look for when upgrading your graphics card you can take a look at this article by HP here. If you need help ugrading any other component for your gaming computer, you can check out our articles here.
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