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Graphics Cards

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A graphics card is an indispensable part of any computer because it generates a feed of output images to a monitor or projector. A powerful dedicated graphics card is essential for video editing, modelling and simulations in CAD/CAM applications, or any other graphics processing, such as 3D rendering.

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What Type of Graphics Card Should I Choose?

  • Multimedia - enough power for Word, Excel, browsing the Internet, Skype, viewing photos, watching movies, and playing undemanding or older games (NVIDIA GeForce GT / AMD Radeon HD R5 and R7).
  • Gaming - suitable for playing in Full HD, non-professional 3D processing and video editing (NVIDIA GeForce GTX / AMD Radeon RX and R9).
  • Professional gaming (high-end) - playing with a very high FPS (frames per second), playing in 4K, VR (virtual reality), eSports (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 / AMD Radeon Pro Duo).
  • Professional - video processing, CAD/CAM workstations, servers (NVIDIA Quadro / AMD FirePro).

Comparison of graphics card parameters according to their usage:

UsageMultimediaGamingProfessional
CardGT1030RX550GTX1050TiGTX1060 6GGTX1080For WX5100
Memory capacity2GB2 to 4GB4GB6GB8GB8GB
Memory speed6000Hz7000Hz7000Hz8000Hz10,000Hz6600Hz
Bus64bit128bit128bit192bit256bit256bit
Stream processor384×512×768×1280×2560×1792×
Core frequency1265MHz1206MHz1290MHz1506MHz1607MHz713MHz
Computing power1 TFLOP1.7 TFLOP2.1 TFLOP4.4 TFLOP9 TFLOP3.9 TFLOP
TDP (Max Subscription)30W50W75W120W180W75W

When playing in Quad HD (2560 x 1440), the graphics card must process 1.8 times more pixels than in Full HD. In the case of Ultra HD 4K, it is 4 times more.

Memory Frequency of Graphics Cards

A graphics card uses its own operating memory, which significantly boosts its performance. With each new generation of GDDR memory, the frequency is doubled. An entirely new category is the HBM stacked memory, which is integrated directly into the GPU.

  • GDDR3 - an old type of memory, graphics cards with GDDR3 are suitable only for multimedia computers or as a replacement for a malfunctioning card in an older computer.
  • GDDR5 - 4 times faster than GDDR3.
  • GDDR5X - up to 2 times faster than GDDR5.
  • HBM - a new technology with a large memory bus, width (4096bit HBM vs. 256bit GDDR5X), which allows the HBM memory to operate at a much lower frequency than GDDR.

In our dictionary, you will find explanations for the terms memory bus and stream processors.

Overclocking (OC)

A higher clock frequency of the GPU and memory of a particular card (eg. 1060 GTX) will provide better performance in games, but at the same time will also require better and more efficient cooling.

  • Automatic overclocking (Boost) - when processing demanding graphics, the graphics card can automatically adjust its core frequency.
  • User overclocking - using specialised software, you can set all the graphics card's parameters yourself. It is, however, more suitable for enthusiasts and requires thorough testing.
  • Factory overclocking - to provide extreme performance, some high-end models come already overclocked. These graphics cards are usually marked with an "OC" in their name.

When processing 2D graphics, all graphics cards reduce their GPU and memory frequency in order to consume less power and work more quietly.

Graphics Card Cooling

If you choose a powerful graphics card or if you want it to perform as quietly as possible, you should also focus on the quality and design of its cooler.

Cooling type

  • Passive (fanless) - sufficient for multimedia graphics cards, usually require good case ventilation, not suitable for gaming or professional use.
  • Active (with fan) - a cost-effective and reliable cooling system, great for gaming and professional use.
  • Liquid - the most effective cooling suitable for overclocking and extreme performance.

Cooler sizes

  • Single-slot (low-profile) - for basic graphics cards that occupy only one position and fit into smaller cases.
  • Dual-slot - standard coolers for gaming and professional graphics cards.
  • Triple-slot - rare, featured only on the most powerful gaming models.

The term 'alternative cooler' is used when the cooling is not made directly by the GPU's manufacturer - AMD or NVIDIA. These are usually made by Asus, MSI, Gigabyte and other brands.

Power Requirements

  • TDP - the maximum power consumption of the graphics card in real conditions (gaming, 3D graphics processing, etc.)
  • Connectors - the power from the PCI-Express slot is sufficient only for basic multimedia graphics cards. High-performance models have to be connected to a power supply unit. To do so, you might need to use a reduction or an extension.
  • Recommended power supply units - aside from the wattage, the quality of the power supply unit is also important. To achieve the best performance, pick one of the recommended models in the category of power supply units.

Interface

To successfully install a new graphics card into your computer, the interfaces of the graphics card and the motherboard must match.

If your motherboard features

  • PCI-Express 3.0 x16 - supports any modern graphics card.
  • PCI-Express 2.0 / 2.1 x16 - usually, it doesn't make sense to install more powerful graphics cards than the basic gaming models, such as NVIDIA GTX/AMD RX, because they would be hampered by the motherboard and processor. When installing cards with a PCI-Express 3.0 interface, it may be necessary to update the motherboard's BIOS to its latest version.
  • PCI-Express 1.1 x16 - for basic multimedia graphics cards, you may need to update the motherboard's BIOS to the latest version.
  • PCI-Express x16 1.0a - installation of modern graphics cards can be problematic, buying a new motherboard is usually the best choice.

Other Parameters of Graphics Cards

  • Manufacturing technology (in nm) - this represents the width of the smallest element of the chip. The smaller the width, the more advanced the technology.
  • Dimensions - especially before purchasing a powerful gaming graphics card, make sure that it'll fit into the case.
  • VR ready - support for virtual reality.
  • CrossFire / SLI - support for simultaneous use of multiple graphics cards on one motherboard.
  • AMD Eyefinity - support for feeding up to six displays simultaneously.
  • NVIDIA 3D Vision - support for playing in stereoscopic 3D.

The PC assembly should be balanced, therefore match your gaming graphics card with a high-performance Gaming CPU.

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Graphics Cards

The graphics card is the part of your computer that takes care of the graphics calculations and sends the resulting image to the monitor. It is usually connected to the PCI-Express x16 slot on the motherboard. The older type of slot is labelled AGP 8x. Two of the largest manufacturers of graphics card chips for general use (office and home, video editing, playing games) are ATI and NVIDIA. There are many manufacturers that produce graphics cards equipped with these chips. Graphics cards for professionals are manufactured by Matrox.

How to choose?
A graphics card should be fully compatible with your motherboard, so make sure that the graphics card's interface matches the slot on your motherboard. Furthermore, the graphics card should feature a sufficient number of outputs. We recommend opting for cards with digital DVI and HDMI outputs. The important parameters are also the chip type and its operating frequency, the type of memory and its capacity, and the support of advanced technologies such as DirectX, OpenGL and Shader Model in their current versions.

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