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Are you looking to do a new system build or upgrade your computer with a new graphics card? There are lots of different types on the market that suit various needs. So how can you be sure you’re buying the right one?
Also known as video cards, these cards are a vital component to any system. Its job is to take the data that your computer receives and translate it into the images you see on your monitor.
Deciding on what graphics card to choose is important if you want a great system. Like your CPU and motherboard, you’ve got to do research so you know which is right for your system.
Before you buy your next graphics card, check out our top picks for the best video cards on the market right now.
- What Are the Different Types of Graphics Cards?
- Our Top Picks For the Best Graphics Cards
- MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition
- AMD Radeon RX 580
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
What Are the Different Types of Graphics Cards?
There are four main types of graphics cards available. Depending on the type you choose will determine how good your graphics can be. To enjoy the best visuals, you need your other components to be able to handle the demands.
An integrated graphics card refers to one that is already built into a motherboard. Sometimes referred to as onboard graphics cards, integrated cards are the ones that come with your motherboard. You can upgrade an integrated graphics card to a more advanced option, but you’ll need to mess with your motherboard.
To bypass an integrated graphics card, you can plug a new one into your motherboard so that your computer will disregard the original card. If you’re wondering why you would want to do this, it’s because integrated graphics cards aren’t that powerful.
For the gamer or avid user who wants great graphics, whether it be 1440p gaming or 1080p gaming, an integrated card isn’t likely to produce the images you want.
As you might expect, PCI graphics cards use the PCI slots on your motherboard to connect to your system. To say they are outdated is an understatement—hardly anyone uses them anymore.
You’ll find that older motherboards have PCI slots but lack in connectivity. The only reason to buy a PCI graphics card is if you plan to upgrade an older system that has an old motherboard with unused PCI slots.
Like PCI graphics cards, AGP cards get their name from the slot in your motherboard which they connect to. They can have up to four speeds, with the fastest speed being 8x. But to achieve that speed, you have to make sure your motherboard can handle it.
Some motherboards only support lower speeds, such as 1x, 2x, or 4x. So, it doesn’t make sense to plug an 8x AGP graphics card into a motherboard with 4x speed.
If you do, your 8x AGP card will run at 4x, or whatever the max is that your motherboard can handle. The motherboard caps the speed at which an AGP card performs regardless of its true capabilities.
AGP connections are slower than PCI-E slots (which we’ll talk about in a minute.)
Like PCI cards, AGP cards have technological limits, but there are some reasons why some people prefer them to PCI-E versions. In general, they are more compatible with different systems than some of the more advanced PCI-E cards.
The PCI-Express graphics cards are the most advanced options on the market. They connect to a PCI-E slot in your motherboard. With the right motherboard, they offer incredible graphics and can hit speeds of 16x.
If a motherboard has many PCI-E slots, you can connect more than one card to combine their power.
Keep in mind, if you intend to combine PCI-E graphics cards, you have to come up with a plan to do so. Many users experience compatibility problems if not done right.
Another thing to remember is that some brands of motherboards work best with some brands of PCI-E cards. Make sure you buy one that works with your existing motherboard or one you might buy in the future.
Our Top Picks For the Best Graphics Cards
To help you decide which one is right for you, we’re breaking down the details of our top five graphics cards. From brands such as MSI, Nvidia, and AMD, any of these five video cards will provide you with the best quality.
MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560
With an AMD Radeon RX 560 chipset, this model from MSI Gaming is perfect for gamers who demand incredible graphics.
It has a video memory of 4GB GDDR5, a memory clock speed of 7000 MHz, and a PCI Express x16 3.0 interface. It’s a powerful card with a small form factor that makes it easy to fit in almost any case.
This type features an aluminum core for higher stability with a DisplayPort/HDMI/DL-DVI-D output. It offers the power of a full-size card in a compact shape, but it takes up only a small fraction of the space of a full-size card. This ITX graphics card is perfect for HTPCs and small form factor systems, and it measures at 155 x 113 x 39mm.
With the Radeon RX 560, you’ll enjoy high-quality components and enhanced Polaris architecture. Other features include software for overclocking and AMD FreeSync that minimizes choppy gameplay.
You can say goodbye to broken frames and enjoy a smooth, fluid gaming experience.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition
With the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card, you’ll enjoy reliable, consistent performance. Overheating issues will be a thing of the past, so you can play games for hours on end without interruption.
This type features a die-cast aluminum body with a modifiable back for durability and rigidity. With a thermal solution for cooling, you’ll enjoy better and more consistent cooling than standard blower fan video cards.
Designed to provide three times of the speed of earlier models, this card delivers an exceptional experience. Another great feature is that it is VR-ready.
It has a memory speed of 8Gbps, 8 GB GDDR5 memory, a 1506 MHz clock speed, and a boost clock of 1683 MHz. It is Nvidia SLI ready, G-SYNC ready, and GameStream ready with Nvidia GPU boost of 3.0.
This PCI-E 3.0 features a two-slot width and measures 4.376″ x 10.5″. It also includes DVI-D, HDMI and 3x DisplayPort outputs for connectivity.
The display resolution on this video card is 7690 x 4320, making it a favorite among gamers and video editors.
AMD Radeon RX 580
With the AMD Radeon RX 580 chipset, this model is HDR-compatible and provides enhanced contrast and colors. Pair it with the right motherboard and you’ll enjoy an incredible visual experience. If noise is a concern, you’ll appreciate the Zero Frozr technology which stops the fan in low-load situations and keeps it quiet.
This AMD card is one of the best available.
It features a boost/base clock of 1393 MHz in OC mode, 1380 MHz in gaming mode, and 1340 MHz in silent mode. It boasts a video memory of 8 GB GDDR5 and PCI-Express x16.
This model has a memory clock of 8100 MHz in OC mode and 8000 MHz in gaming and silent modes. Smooth heat pipes form a square shape at the bottom to maximize heat transfer from the copper base plate.
It also has airflow control technology with deflectors that push air into the heat pipes for lower temperatures.
You’ll enjoy a better gaming experience, especially when you’re playing games such as DOOM, Call of Duty, and Battlefield.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
Nvidia calls the GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card “the ultimate gaming platform” — and we agree. It’s powered by Pascal to provide up to 3x the performance of previous cards, and it’s built for an incredible VR experience.
Not only does it look cool, but it runs cool with vapor chamber cooling technology for heat dissipation. It boasts a frame buffer of 8 GB GDDR5X, a memory speed of 10Gbps, and a boost clock of 1733 MHz. Its real base clock is 1607 MHz, with 8192 MB of memory.
This graphics card doesn’t need any extra software to reach top speed. It features DZ12 OSD Support with EVGA Precision XOC. If you’re doing your own build, you’ll appreciate the 3-year warranty and 24/7 technical support. It boasts plug and play compatibility with popular VR headsets and it is Nvidia G-SYNC ready. Measuring 4.376″ x 10.5″, this graphics card features a two slot width with DP 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, and DL-DVI display connectors.
The GeForce GTX 1080 is perfect for the gamer looking for a supercharged graphics card that offers top speed and power efficiency.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is Nvidia’s flagship gaming GPU built with Pascal architecture. It’s a superior graphics card that offers all the latest technology. It boasts next-gen 11 Gbps GDDR5X memory, plus an 11 GB frame buffer.
Powered by Pascal, this graphics card delivers up to 3x the performance as previous video cards. Like the other Nvidia graphics cards that made this list, it features a variety of gaming technologies for the ultimate VR experience.
Made from premium materials, it has a die-cast aluminum body with a 7-phase dualFET power supply.
A radial fan keeps it cool with an advanced vapor chamber. You’ll enjoy a consistent performance, even in thermally-challenged instances.
You can capture screenshots in 360-degree views, capture 4K HDR images, and share those views through your phone, VR headset, or PC.
This model has a boost clock of 1582 MHz, it’s Nvidia G-SYNC ready, and it’s ready for Nvidia GameStream. With 7680 x 4320 resolution, it’s one of the best graphics cards you can buy, making it a favorite amongst avid gamers.
Measuring 4.376″ x 10.5″, this video card features a two slot width with one 6-pin and one 8-pin supplementary power connectors.
Before you buy a graphics card, take the time to understand the different types. Know what each has to offer and what their capabilities are. Make sure you have a motherboard that can handle your demands.
The best graphics card in the world won’t do you any good if the other components of your system can’t support it.
Do your research so you know the difference between PCI, AGP, and PCI-Express graphics card. Take the time to understand the capabilities of your existing motherboard to ensure that your purchase is compatible.
Decide what kind of connections you have available and which ones you want to use to ensure that you’re building a system that meets your needs.
For gamers who spend hours in front of the computer, an advanced graphics card is essential. To get the most out of your games, you’ll need incredible visuals, great resolution, and impressive video memory.
There’s nothing worse than playing a game that can deliver amazing graphics on a system that diminishes its output.
Browse the internet to find the best prices and read customer reviews before you buy. Customers are honest online, so it’s safe to assume that if a specific card isn’t up to par, you’ll find lots of reviews that say exactly that.
If you’re trying to build a serious system that provides excellent graphics, spend the time and spend the money.
Think of your purchase as an investment and you’re sure to find the graphics card that’s compatible with your system and perfect for your needs.