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What do you need to look for when buying a graphics card?

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January 3, 2013 7:30:03 AM

I'm going to build a gaming pc soon and i'm having trouble with picking a graphics card, so I want to know what do i need to look for when i'm buying a graphics card.

More about : buying graphics card

a c 185 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 7:34:24 AM

What is your budget what type of gaming are you wanting to do what is your current power supply and what res monitor do you plan on gaming on
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a b U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 10:35:49 AM

Price
memory bandwidth and memory clock speed for higher resolutions
texture units for tf and af during gaming
rop and core clock speeds for frame rates(though fps also depends on various other factors too.)
cooling potential
connectivity
power consumption
looks
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a b U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 12:55:46 PM

Forget specs - just look at benchmarks (performance measure comparison charts) and prices. Factor in other features like adaptive v-sync, PhysX etc that aren't covered in benchmark graphs. Finally, make sure your power supply is sufficient and that the card isn't massively overpowered for your CPU (unless you'll be upgrading CPU soon to unlock the card's full potential).
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a c 259 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 1:26:23 PM

For gaming, the graphics card is the most important component.
Buy the strongest single card you feel comfortable paying for.

My rule of thumb is to budget twice the cost of your cpu for the graphics card.
If your cpu is a 3570K, then a GTX670/GTX680 or 7950/7970 class card is appropriate.
If your budget calls for a i3-3220, then a GTX660 or 7850 class card is appropriate.
If your budget is for a G860, then a GTX650 or 7750 would be appropriate.

For the most part, graphics cards in the same price bracket will perform about the same.
Yes, there may be differences from game to game, but it is hard to detect the difference without a synthetic benchmark.
Ignore the specs, they are all factored into the general performance equation.

For one ranking of good cards for the money, you can look at the latest Tom's article:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car...

Past that, I would favor the newer 28nm based cards(GTX6xx and amd 7XXX).
They run cooler with less power required.

If you favor amd or nvidia, go that way. They both perform about the same.
I happen to like the nvidi drivers better, and have recently begun to wonder about the nvidia's better consistency of response times.
Read this article on comparing a GTX660ti and a 7950 and see what you think.
I suspect it may apply across the lines:
http://techreport.com/review/23981/radeon-hd-7950-vs-ge...
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a c 191 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 1:45:44 PM

Consider your budgetS...money, power, and space. The card you choose must be within all three.
Look at the benchmarks of the [types of] games you want to play. Keep in mind that they will be at specified settings, usually (but not always) as high as possible. Playing with lower settings can dramatically improve frame rates, and a lot of modern games look pretty darn good even down on "Medium."
As to nVidia vs. AMD, ignore fanboys. Performance is similar. Each company has had driver issues, and each company has released some excellent products. The monthly "Best Graphics Cards for the Money" article (already linked a couple times above) is a good rough guide. Do check benchmarks though, just in case your favorite game is an outlier that performs notably better on AMD or nVidia.
Consider your resolution, and if you're planning to upgrade it. A card that works well on a 1366x768 monitor may not produce playable FPS at 1920x1080. Look at the tiers on the monthly article; I'd go at least one tier higher than you want today in order to get some future-resistance.
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a b U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 1:54:15 PM

Geofelt's post didn't strike me as fanboyish at all if that's what you're referring to. He provides proof for what he's saying. If the fanboyism comment was just in general then agreed.
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a b U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 1:57:52 PM

Also, re Tom's roundups, that might be good advice in the States, but if you're in another country it's not relevant. In Britain, we actually get a version adjusted for GBP £ prices, but it's way off. I don't know where they get their prices, but as a result of the inaccuracies, recommendations based on value are totally wrong.

Even if their prices were correct at time of print (which they're not for the British version), prices change daily. You want to be looking for the best exact price 5 minutes before making your purchase. Best thing is to use benchmarks to understand how performance differs, then look at what you're paying for those performance gains and decide if those gains are worth the money to you.
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a c 191 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 2:00:39 PM

sam_p_lay said:
Geofelt's post didn't strike me as fanboyish at all if that's what you're referring to. He provides proof for what he's saying. If the fanboyism comment was just in general then agreed.

No no, it wasn't, and that's not what I meant. You're both right, I've seen some interesting commentary on potential driver differences recently. The concerns raised in that techreport article (and there was another I saw somewhere) on frame-time makes me think that right now, nVidia may indeed have the better overall drivers, but just like the cards themselves, they flp-flop back and forth over the months and years.

In fact, I'm thinking there's a GTX650Ti in my near future, just to do some [subjective] testing...

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a b U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 2:10:13 PM

Onus said:
No no, it wasn't, and that's not what I meant. You're both right, I've seen some interesting commentary on potential driver differences recently. The concerns raised in that techreport article (and there was another I saw somewhere) on frame-time makes me think that right now, nVidia may indeed have the better overall drivers, but just like the cards themselves, they flp-flop back and forth over the months and years.

In fact, I'm thinking there's a GTX650Ti in my near future, just to do some [subjective] testing...


Haha if you can afford to buy cards just for the sake of curiosity, I have to admit I'm a bit jealous :-) I'd love to see the results though - it's not good enough to just have this single comparison of GTX660Ti vs 7950. I know they re-ran and confirmed the numbers for Windows 7, but I'd love to see this tested on a GTX650Ti/GTX660/GTX670, which are typically much better value propositions than the GTX660Ti anyway.

Re the back and forth, I'd agree in general, but the framerate consistency thing is unique - TR have been measuring frame latency since 2011 and this is the first time I've seen GPUs delivering such consistent frame render times. So it's not something either company has ever achieved in the past. Will be very interesting to see if AMD can do the same, maybe with the 8000 series GPUs.
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a c 191 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 2:34:11 PM

Whether that's a wise use of money may very well be what stops me, BUT, I'm in the process of building a PC for my non-gamer father. I might give him my HD7750 (would let me play when I visit them), and then get the GTX650Ti to replace it.
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a b U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 2:40:10 PM

Haha there it is - all you need is some way to justify the cost ;-) I think that's what it comes down to for probably more people on here than you'd think - they are able to spend more, but just have a hard time justifying it. I managed to justify a 5970 purchase three years ago. Because surely that would last me forever right? :-) I pay a bit more attention to warranties now though - longevity isn't worth a thing if the card dies five minutes after a two-year warranty expires.
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a c 191 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
January 3, 2013 3:03:50 PM

Yep, I go for long warranties. That's why I buy WD Black hard drives; that's why my AMD board is a Sabertooth. My wife and I also go for redundancy. We're not "preppers," but we have extras of most things we use. She's got two sewing machines; I've got two decent working rigs, plus a "test" rig (in my avatar). We don't piss away our money on the latest fashions, or eating out all the time. We don't own a big flat-screen TV, or ANY iCrap; we try to stay focused on what we really want. If I "needed" a HD7970 to enjoy my games, it wouldn't be a problem; a HD6670 to sit on a shelf is a pass. I probably need to sell off some spares as it is.
Anyway, I suspect that's enough hijacking (although purchasing philosophy is relevant). If someone wanted my recommendation for the least expensive card able to play today's demanding games with "decent" settings, I'd say get a HD7770 or GTX650Ti.
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