Buying Guide Part 4: GPU / Graphics Card
The graphics card is the most important component for a gaming PC. At least 80% of the games performance is determined by the GPU in my experience.
If, let’s say you had a budget of $2k, and you put most of that into a high-end processor and went with a low-end graphics card, you won’t be able to run the games at high graphics settings.
With the same budget of $2k, if you put most of that into a high-end graphics card setup with a low to mid-range CPU, then you would be able to play the games at the highest settings.
If you’re streaming your gaming online, then you’ll need a really good CPU and graphics card.
Brand: NVIDIA or AMD
When you’re looking at the graphics card on the market, you may see different brands such as EVGA, MSI, PowerColor and so forth. For the most part, these companies are just “reselling” the graphics cards from NVIDIA or AMD.
Traditionally, the graphics cards are actually manufactured by NVIDIA and AMD and then resold through companies such as EVGA. Sometimes, these companies will change the heatsink and fan setup to make it look different but the board of the graphics card is still directly from NVIDIA and AMD.
With these same companies, they may take a couple of models and “tweak” them for better performance such as increasing the clock speed and adding a better cooling system and then branding these cards with a performance label such as FTW. There’s not too many companies that are willing to design and manufacture graphics cards from the ground up for the entire lineup.
In the end, it comes down to choosing NVIDIA or AMD first and foremost. My recommendation and what I have always gone with is NVIDIA.
In my experience working on gaming systems with both NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards with and without SLI and CrossFire configurations, NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards have always been the more stable and better performing cards.
I’ve seen AMD CrossFire configurations give worse performance on brand new games with CrossFire enabled. Once you disable CrossFire, the game ran just fine. This had to do with driver support. On this same system, we changed it out to an NVIDIA SLI configuration and the game ran on extremely high settings just fine.
The reason for the above is that NVIDIA always had great relationships with all the game studios so when you have a studio developing an AAA title, NVIDIA is able to make sure that their drivers are compatible or will be compatible at game launch with a driver update even before the game launches.
For the CrossFire issue we had, we had to wait at least a couple of weeks before we got a driver update from AMD for CrossFire to work on that game. And it was a major game title as well.
Multi-GPU Setups: NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire
I have always been against multi-GPU setups. I’ve seen too many compatibility issues. You’ll also need to spend more on the power supply to support multiple graphics cards as they are the most power hungry components in a gaming PC.
Also, even though you have two graphics cards linked, you don’t get double the performance. It’ll use double the power but you won’t get double the performance. Performance increase can range from 20% or as high as 90% on the rare occasion, which is extremely rare that I’ve only heard about it from others.
In all my tests that I’ve done in the lab, we have never gotten over 50% increase in performance over a single card with either SLI or CrossFire. So why pay for two cards if you won’t get double the performance?
My Recommended Graphics Card
For the more budget minded systems, I recommend the EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card.
For those with a higher budget, the EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 FTW graphics card is a great buy. If you have a 4K monitor, then you’ll need something like this to play on high settings.