How to Know What Graphics Card to Get

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If you’re looking to build a top-notch gaming computer, one of the first things you need to consider is the graphics card. This is the single most important piece of hardware for overall performance, as it determines the speed and quality of your game’s graphics. In addition to gaming, high-performance graphics cards are a key consideration for video editing, animation, and more.

The Importance of Graphics Cards

For serious gamers, graphics cards can bring a competitive advantage, keeping reaction times quick and boosting visibility during gameplay. Plus, investing in a solid graphics card can help keep your rig adaptable to new technologies and games, which we all know change constantly, so your setup stays in play for longer and can handle the latest and greatest for years.

The size and power of your graphics card will determine other elements of your build, such as the size of your case. For this reason, it’s one of the first things users choose when building their own gaming computer. But you want to pay attention to the graphics card regardless of if you’re building your rig from scratch or buying a prebuilt gaming PC.

Understanding GPUs

ASUS NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti TUF Gaming Overclocked Triple-Fan 8GB GDDR6X PCIe 4.0 Graphics Card

 Although graphics cards are sometimes referred to as GPUs, which stands for graphics processing unit, the GPU is actually the chip housed within the card’s circuit board. When choosing a graphics card, you’ll want to consider which GPU is best for your needs. These chips are nestled within larger graphics cards manufactured by top brands. 

So how do you know which to choose? The game you play matters when choosing a chipmaker, but you’ll also want to compare features and performance.

What Are You Using Your Graphics Card for?

If you’ve decided which GPU is best for you, then the first thing to consider when selecting the actual graphics card itself is how it will be used. All games have their own demands and, depending on the architecture on which they were built, may perform better or worse on different cards. If you primarily play one game, make sure to pick the card that’s best optimized for it, or at least check that the card will run your game smoothly. Animation and video editing have their own set of needs that lean toward high memory, so keep this in mind if that’s your primary use.

End Game PC by Hillary J

Other Considerations and Specifications

Now that you’ve determined your graphics card needs, it’s time to dive into the specs. If you aren’t sure which range is best for your rig, look into GPU benchmarks to get an idea of what’s good and what’s great.

·       Memory Just like with any computer chip, memory is key to determining how fast and powerful your card will perform, especially at higher in-game resolutions or on dual monitors. In general, the higher the memory, the better performance. Make sure your graphics card has enough dedicated memory to support your most demanding game.

·       Existing Monitor — If you want to make the most out of your monitor’s resolution and refresh rate, be sure to pick a chip with enough power to support it. Gamers and creative professionals will want a card with at least 6 to 8 GB for 1080p and more for 4K.

·       Form Factor — With all this talk about memory, it’s easy to forget about physical space. But you will need to pay attention to the form factor. How much space do you have available in your case? Do you want a full-height or low-profile option? The length and slot width are also important considerations.

·       Clock Rate and Core Count — Clock speed is a key spec of your graphics card that determines how fast the cores of your GPU are and how quickly and smoothly programs run. While aiming for a higher speed — 3.5 to 5 GHz, for example — is important, it’s not the only factor to consider. Pay attention to the number of cores and memory, as these will have a huge impact on speed.

·       Power Supply Unit (PSU) Unsurprisingly, the most powerful and high-performance graphics cards can put a heavy demand on your system and your cords, which can damage parts and even create fire hazards. To avoid this, make sure your power supply unit (PSU) provides enough power for your components. Your graphics card will either have a 6-pin or 8-pin connector. The 6-pin option will supply up to 75 watts of power, while an 8-pin will supply 150 watts of power.

·       Other Features — The card will have a variety of other key features that will help it work at its best. For example, it may have special cooling systems or features that help reduce turbulence. Make sure to pay attention to the unit’s warranty as well to ensure that you get a replacement if something goes wrong.

No One-Size-Fits-All Approach for Gamers

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a graphics card. The games you play, your existing hardware, and your desired performance are all things that should factor into your decision. We recommend visiting the Micro Center Community for advice on which graphics card to buy and more help choosing parts. Our team of experts is always available to assist!

More from the Micro Center Community:

Looking for more information about Building a PC? We’ve got PC Build Guides as well as articles on How to Choose Parts for your Custom PC BuildProduct Reviews, Part Comparisons, and even a How To Upgrade your Desktop PC guide! And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!


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