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Picking a graphics card, what to look at and compare.

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
August 17, 2012 8:34:11 PM

I'm looking into building a new computer and I can't decide what graphics card. Instead of just being told "use this one" I want to know why. What should I look at when comparing cards? What numbers are important for gaming? Is it Shader count? Shader speed? what about memory speed? Whats important is what I want to know. I have one person saying that the new 660ti is just a bit better then the 570, but the article here on tom's hardware sounds like it's a good amount better then the 580. Help?
a c 190 U Graphics card
August 17, 2012 9:18:06 PM

Graphics cards work alot like processors. The shaders represent like their own little cores which are clocked at the shader speed. Take this 7870 for example:

See it has 1280 shaders which are clocked at 1200mhz. So its like a 1.2GHz 1280 core processor in a way.

This 670 has 1344 shaders at 1006 MHz. And you get the point.

That's kind of the technical approach, but most of the time the Tom's Hardware chart is a much easier way to go about choosing, because they do this part for you and organize it in a very nice chart:
August 17, 2012 9:22:05 PM

you can compare and other graphic cards
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a c 107 U Graphics card
August 17, 2012 9:28:43 PM

on paper, its near impossible to compare graphics cards unless they are in the same family of chips
a b U Graphics card
August 17, 2012 9:31:26 PM

I go with the strategy just look at toms' chart and advice. Don't try to pick out the moving parts. Save your braincells for something else

You can also find a recent review of the card you are interested in on techpowerup.

They have a summary chart that will just tell you % wise how much "better" one card is over the other in aggregate scoring over all the tests.

a b U Graphics card
August 17, 2012 9:39:59 PM

You can look at the specific specs of the cards, but the only thing that really matters is benchmarks. Case in point, the older 500 series GTX cards will have a lot less cores than the newer 600 series cards, but that's mostly because the cores of the older cards were clocked a lot higher than those of the 600 series cards. Now obviously the 600 series is more powerful, but a direct comparison of the number of cores is useless.

dudewitbow is right, unless the cards are in the same family, a direct comparison cannot be made.
August 17, 2012 9:42:18 PM

Ultimately, what graphics card you choose is dependant on your budget, and what you will be using the card for. Assuming you will be gaming, and are looking for a card around the 660ti bracket -- I'd say wait a week or so and look out for the 7870 to drop in price. The 660ti is definitely a solid card but the 192-bit memory doesn't do justice to the 2GB of VRAM. The 7870 trades punches with the 660ti, losing by a 5~ fps on most games.

However, Pitcairn AMD cards have built up a solid reputation for being great over-clockers, so you could definitely OC the 7870 to stock 660ti speeds and possible even further, without the memory bottleneck. And at a 250$ or so price-point, let's say, the 7870 would definitely win out as the value choice.

When you climb up higher to 670/680/7970 territory, things become teeny bit more complicated, not too much however. I'd say post your intentions with your card, then we can make an assessment.
a c 91 U Graphics card
August 17, 2012 9:43:20 PM

what operating system/32 or 64bit/monitor/resolution/what do you do with the card/what power supply/