If you’re an avid gamer, you probably know that graphics cards are a crucial part of modern PCs. Even if you don’t exclusively use your computer for gaming, a good graphics card is essential for an optimal image and text quality on your screen.

The best products will also contribute to your computer’s processor and RAM memory tasks. This will increase the overall performance, while also making your system faster. However, getting the right graphics card can be tricky, which is why we’ll give you some useful tips in the article below.

Key Facts

  • The first thing you need to do is to make sure that a graphics card is compatible with your laptop or desktop computer before buying it. The three key elements to assess this compatibility are the power supply, the PCI slots, and the motherboard.
  • Beyond compatibility, you also need to check that your computer is capable of working with a graphics card. You’ll be wasting your time if you invest in a graphics card designed for 4K gaming and your monitor or screen doesn’t go beyond full HD.
  • Remember that PC or laptop graphics cards are also a form of additional memory. This means that they work hand in hand with the RAM memory of your computer.
  • Having a good graphics card positively influences the overall performance of your system by improving screen resolution and the execution of multimedia elements.

Ranking: The best graphics cards on the U.S. market

In the ranking below, we’ve selected the very best graphics cards available right now on the U.S. market. By choosing models of different performance and value, we wanted everyone to find a product that suits their budget. We’ve also given you a quick technical description of each graphics card to help you pick the right one.

No. 1: MSI Nvidia GeForce GT 710

Nvidia is quite simply the number one company in the world when it comes to graphics cards, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see one of their products top our ranking. As a matter of fact, the only brand that can somewhat challenge them is Radeon. The GT 710 has become Amazon’s Choice in the category, and its overall value for money has a lot to do with this.

This graphics card is a good balance between a multimedia and a gaming card, and it has received great reviews from users looking to play classic video games. While you won’t be able to run the latest titles with it, it still offers a maximum resolution of 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz via the HDMI connector. It also includes VGA and DVI-D Dual Link ports. The GT 710 has 2 GB of RAM.

No. 2: MSI Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660

Here comes another model by Nvidia. As we said above, they are the best in the business, and they truly offer graphics cards for everyone. The GTX 1660 is actually Amazon’s no. 1 Best Seller in the category, offering top performance and real bang for your buck. The video memory of this model features 6GB in GDDR6 — the latest generation from the manufacturer.

The core frequency reaches an incredible 1770 MHz, which can go up to 1830 MHz when boosted. This graphics card also features three DisplayPorts and one HDMI 2.0 connector. All in all, this product will allow you to enjoy the latest video games available out there as smoothly as possible. You’ll even be able to use virtual reality and truly make the most out of it.

No. 3: ZOTAC Nvidia GeForce GT 1060 Mini

Well, well, well, what a surprise. Another Nvidia product. The GeForce GT 1060 Mini offers quite similar performances to that of the GTX 1660 above, but it does have some advantages that justify the price increase. First of all, on top of the three DisplayPorts and the HDMI connector, it also features a Dual-link DVI for greater versatility depending on the PC you have.

With a core frequency base of 1506 MHz and a boosted frequency of 1708 MHz, the difference in performance is almost non-existent. It also features 1280 CUDA cores. One of the most attractive points of the GT 1060 Mini is its super compact size, which means that it can fit in virtually any system. It’s quite simply one of the smallest gaming-grade graphics cards on the market.

No. 4: XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS XXX Edition

We mentioned earlier that Radeon was the only brand to compete with Nvidia, and the RX 580 GTS will provide excellent performances at a very affordable cost. It offers an incredible 8GB of memory with GGDR5, one of the most recent generations out there. Radeon’s CHILL technology will keep your graphics card cool while allowing you to save energy.

This is a great investment in the long run, as it will increase the life of your product while helping you lower your energy bills. XFX’s True Clock technology is also very useful as it will help you find the right performance to always make the most out of the game you’re playing. It can reach a maximum frequency of 1386 MHz and includes three DisplayPorts, one HDMI and one DVI port.

No. 5: EVGA Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 SC

Last but not least, the GeForce GTX 1070 SC is a force to be reckoned with, which explains the more prohibitive price of the product. It’s actually Amazon’s Choice for graphics cards above $400, and the ratings of past customers definitely back this up. It offers a total of 8GB with GGDR5 and a maximum boost clock that reaches 1784 MHz, as well as Nvidia’s Pascal processor.

This is the brand’s latest gaming GPU, and supposedly the most advanced created to date. According to past customers, you can play virtually anything in 4K UHD resolution, and this graphics card will even allow you to reach 8K. That’s the highest resolution possible today, so you’re really getting the most out of your product. If you had any doubt left, know that EVGA offers 3 years of warranty on this model.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about graphics cards

The processor, storage unit and graphics card are the Holy Trinity of any PC. Their quality will basically determine the overall performance of your computer. Knowing which graphics card to buy isn’t as simple as some might think. You have to be familiar with its different components, and there are several aspects to consider. You’ll learn all there is to know about these criteria in the following section.

Having a good graphics card positively influences the overall performance of your system.
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What is a graphics card exactly?

A graphics card is sometimes called a video card or GPU. It is an essential element in the good functioning of any PC. Nowadays, the graphics cards that come as standard in computers allow you to perform basic tasks such as browsing the Internet and watching videos. Its overall efficiency will suffer if you want to go a step further.

A precise definition of a graphics card would be an expansion element or an integrated circuit whose goal is to manage the data sent to it by the processor. This management transforms the information into something visible and understandable by the user.

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Did you know that the monitor is in charge of reflecting this readable information for the user?

Why is it important to have a good graphics card?

Even computers designed for casual use can be affected by a user’s demands. You may eventually want to play multimedia content, or use your PC for professional purposes. These are the cases when standard graphics cards may have a hard time handling their workload.

A higher-quality means more fluidity and the ability to play games with more demanding graphics. That being said, you have to ensure that the product you buy is compatible with your PC. It should also maintain an adequate temperature when running at optimum levels. You can learn how to do that thanks to this detailed video:

Are there different types of graphics cards?

There are two main types of graphics cards: integrated and discrete. Integrated graphics cards are stored directly on the motherboard of your computer. Discrete graphics cards, on the other hand, connect to the PCI-E slot of your motherboard as an extension.

The main advantage of discrete graphics cards is that you can easily replace them. Integrated graphics card, on the other hand, require much greater effort to be removed and changed. If your computer is designed for gaming or editing multimedia content, a discrete graphics card is an absolute must-have.

Graphics cards have different uses and functions.
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What are the most important components of a graphics card?

If you’re thinking of buying a new graphics card for your PC, you have to know what its two main components consist of: the GPU and the memory. These two basic elements will determine the quality of any model, whether it is a cheap graphics card or a high-end model:

GPU

  • It stands for Graphics Processor Unit.
  • It focuses on processing information into images that are then displayed on the monitor.
  • This frees the CPU (Central Processor Unit) from performing this task and allows it to focus on other processes.

Memory

  • It stores the information that the GPU must then transform into images.
  • The graphics card memory is independent of the RAM memory of your PC.
  • The more memory a graphics card has, the easier it will be to offer high-quality resolutions and graphic finishes.

Graphics cards are an essential element in the good functioning of any computer.
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How many ports can a graphics card offer?

Graphics cards can use various ports to connect to your computer monitor. They transmit information from the GPU to your device’s display. Here’s a table explaining the different ports found on a graphics card:

DVI HDMI VGA DisplayPort
Description It offers three different configurations: DVI-A, DVI-D and DVD-I. This is the most commonly found port on modern graphics cards (HDM 2.0). This is an analog signal connector. It is similar to the HDMI in that it can manage data streams of various kinds.
Utility It transmits digital and analog signals. The HDMI can transmit audio, video and other data through a single connector. It offers a default resolution of 640x480p. Its main use is to transmit visual information from the GPU to the monitor.
Special functions It is more powerful and generally offers a higher resolution than VGA. Its ability to offer high resolutions is overwhelming (up to 4096x2160p). It still used but considered completely obsolete in the gaming world. Its incredible performances have made more and more graphics cards bet on it.

Why are there different types of memory on a graphics card?

The memory of a graphics card can either be GDDR or HBM. The number at the end of the GDDR acronym (Graphics Double Data Rate) indicates the version of the card. If you decide to opt for a graphics card with GDDR4 memory, for instance, it means that you’re looking for fairly modern graphics. This is very similar to HBM memory.

The higher the number, the more modern the graphics card. This will also have a direct impact on its transfer capacity. What’s more, every new generation offers useful innovations such as reduced energy consumption or better temperature management. The most modern for both memory types are the GDDR6 and HBM2.

Shopping Criteria

While the CPU of a computer is fundamental, one could almost say that the GPU is an even more important component. However, knowing how to make the most out of the latter isn’t an easy task, and it’s important to pick the right one. That means that you can’t just choose the first graphics card you see on offer, and you’ll have to take the following factors into consideration:

  • Type of graphics card
  • Type of user
  • Power and speed of the graphics card
  • Quantity and type of graphics card memory
  • Connectors, video output, and power supply

Type of graphics card

As you know, compatibility is key. This is why we recommend that you have a clear idea of which graphics card your PC has to start with. It will allow you to replace or upgrade it with a compatible graphics card that guarantees optimal performance. If you’ve lost your computer’s manual and cannot find your graphics card’s information, you can:

  • Write dxdiag in the Windows startup option.
  • A window will appear with detailed information about your computer.
  • Click on the Screen tab to access the details of your graphics card.

If you buy a graphics card that is indeed compatible with your computer but exceeds its capacity, you will be gridlocked by your device. In other words, it won’t be able to work properly. The video below will help you upgrade the graphics card of your computer without damaging it:

Type of user

Put aside the format in which the graphics cards are presented, we can identify three different types of models based on their use: gaming, multimedia, and professional. You have to ask yourself what type of user you are to determine which card you need. If you tend to work a lot with multimedia content, you’ll want to buy a graphics card suited to this.

Since every model is tailored for a specific type of user, it will affect the characteristics of the product. You’ll be wasting money if, for instance, you only want to play a couple of old games but purchase a professional graphics card. The great thing about this component is that it is easy to replace.

There are two main types of graphics cards: integrated and discrete.
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This also means that if your computer isn’t exactly the most modern but you want to play the latest video games, you don’t necessarily have to buy a new computer. A new graphics card can genuinely extend the life of your PC by a few years. You could even add a couple of cycles of life through this process.

Power and speed of the graphics card

One of the reasons that make graphics cards stand out so much is their speed. The most powerful graphics cards can do real wonders. Gross power TFLOPS and CUDA cores are key to measuring this parameter. It is then easy to read the values of these two aspects: the higher they are, the more power and speed your graphics card offers.

You can use this to compare the best graphics cards from different generations. As you can imagine, you will need a powerful card if you’re buying a new one for gaming. This will allow your system to run the latest video games as smoothly as possible.

Quantity and type of graphics card memory

While power is the first characteristic you should evaluate when choosing a new graphics card, the type of memory and bandwidth (GB per second) is also important. You shouldn’t overlook the quantity either, but this actually isn’t as relevant as most people might think.

As a matter of fact, it is often recommended to favor having a fast memory over a large GB quantity. On the other hand, you will want to choose the graphics card with more GB if two different models have the same type of memory and bandwidth.

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The amount of memory affects the ability of your graphics card to store information, which is not negligible.

Connectors, video output, and power supply

Nvidia recently stated that “it is doing everything possible to increase the supply of graphics cards”. However, these components are complex and sometimes difficult to access. The last aspect that will help you choose the right one is the ports — or connectors — a graphics card offers. You’ll want to pick one or another depending on the resolution you want to achieve.

Your graphics card should feature a DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 2.0 port if, for instance, you’re looking for a 4K UHD resolution (3840 x 2160) with a frequency of 60 Hz. The latest graphics cards generally include both connectors. Either of them will allow you to enjoy a greater color depth and high dynamic range (HDR) images.

You have to know what the two main components of a graphics card consist of.
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If your computer is older, you may have to pick a graphics card with a different type of connector. VGA cards are rarely used today, but you won’t have any trouble finding quality second-hand graphics cards with these ports. Laptops usually feature graphics cards with USB Type-C connectors, some of which also come with adapters.

Summary

Graphics cards are a truly fundamental component of any computer. You will need a powerful one if you’re an avid gamer or use your CPU for professional purposes. It is essential that your card is always adapted to the capabilities of your device. This will prevent you from being bottlenecked and you’ll truly make the most out of your computer.

As you’ve learned throughout our article, there is a series of aspects that you should evaluate to pick the right graphics card for you. These include the power, memory and different ports they offer. Remember that the latest generation of graphics cards is GDDR6 and HDM2. That being said, previous generations also offer some of the best graphics cards out there.

If you found our shopping guide on graphics cards useful, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share our article on your social media so others can also learn about this essential computer component!

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