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How to Choose the Best Graphics Card

6 July 2018

Ranging from budget to mainstream to high-end, this guide will help you choose which graphics card you should buy depending on your requirements.

How to Choose the Best Graphics Card

               

In early June many people expected AMD and Nvidia to announce a new generation of consumer graphics cards during this year’s Computex. During the tech expo, neither company revealed any details about new generation graphics cards meaning that we are now left with the existing Nvidia 10-series and AMD RX 500/RX Vega series graphics cards. Both gaming and workstation graphics cards are covered in this guide.

 

To choose the best graphics card for your setup, it is critical to identify what types of games you want to play along with your monitor’s resolution and refresh rate. Recommended graphics cards are listed below and go in-depth regarding the suggested gaming resolution and refresh rate. If you are new to PC components or need a refresher, read our “Research before upgrading your graphics cardshere


 

Gaming Graphics Cards
 

Summary Table

 

Graphics Card Suggested Gaming Resolution (AAA Titles)
GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 1080p
GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Radeon RX 580 1080p (including ultrawide) / 1440p
GeForce GTX 1070 Ti GTX 1080 Radeon RX Vega 56 64 1440p (including ultrawide)
GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 4K / 1440p high refresh-rate

 

 

GeForce GTX 1050/GTX 1050 Ti

The best graphics card for playing less demanding games such as Overwatch, Fortnite, CS:GO and DOTA2 at 1080p. Also, turning down some settings in these games can improve 1440p gaming. Some GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti models are available without needing 6-pin PCIe power – improving compatibility with lower powered PCs.

Browse our range of GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti graphics cards here

 

GeForce GTX 1060 6GB / Radeon RX 580

The best graphics cards for 1080p gaming, even running with high-detailed settings on AAA-titles such as Battlefield 1 or Witcher 3. 1440p gaming is possible using a GTX 1060 or RX 580 but running demanding games such as PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) or Battlefield 1, some graphics settings may need to be dialled down to avoid low FPS. Though pricier, the RX 580 (especially 8GB variants) often outperforms GTX 1060 in 1440p gameplay.

Browse our range of GTX 1060 here and RX 580 graphics cards here

 

1080p budget gaming performance

Source: TechPowerUp

1440p budget gaming performance

Source: TechPowerUp

4K budget gaming performance

Source: TechPowerUp

 

GeForce GTX 1070 Ti / Radeon RX Vega 56/Vega 64

If you want to game at 1440p (or 1440p ultrawide) or at 1080p 120Hz+, then the GTX 1070 Ti or RX Vega 56 and 64 will be more than adequate. Note that the 1070 Ti is one of Nvidia's newest graphics cards and is positioned between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 – as such it may be cheaper to purchase an older GTX 1080 and enjoy improved performance.

Browse our range of GTX 1070 Ti/GTX 1080 here and RX Vega 56 / 64 graphics cards here

 

1080p high end gaming performance

Source: TechPowerUp

1440p high-end gaming performance

Source: TechPowerUp

4K high-end gaming performance

Source: TechPowerUp

 

GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

To play AAA-titles at 4K (2160p) or at 1440p 120Hz+, a GTX 1080 Ti is the best option. The GTX 1080 Ti is the fastest and most powerful consumer graphics card available.

Browse our range of GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards here

 

Gaming Performance - Battlefield 1 at 1080p

Source: TechPowerUp

Gaming Performance - Battlefield 1 at 1440p

Source: TechPowerUp

Graphics Card Performance - Battlefield 1 at 4K

Source: TechPowerUp

 

Summary Table

Tier Graphics Card Suggested Gaming Resolution (AAA Titles)
Entry-Level GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 1080p
Mainstream GeForce GTX 1060 6GB / Radeon RX 580 1080p (including ultrawide) / 1440p
Enthusiast GeForce GTX 1070 Ti / GTX 1080 / Radeon RX Vega 56 / 64 1440p (including ultrawide)
Fastest GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 4K / 1440p high refresh-rate

 

 

For those wanting to play games at 4K and 144Hz (e.g. Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ), a second GTX 1080 Ti can be added to enable SLI to fully exploit the 144hz refresh rate. Before purchasing a second graphics card, ensure that you have a multi-GPU ready motherboard such as AMD’s X399 or X470 or Intel’s X299 or Z370 chipset motherboards.

 

1080p gaming performance summary

Source: TechPowerUp

1440p gaming performance summary

Source: TechPowerUp

4K gaming performance summary

Source: TechPowerUp

 

Remember when choosing a new graphics card, it’s important to ensure that it can physically fit inside your PC and that your power supply can handle the increased power consumption. Many graphics cards (especially those with an AIB partner cooler) are extremely large and may not fit in small PC cases.

 

Once you have decided which series of graphics card to buy, it’s time to choose a brand (or AIB vendor – add-in-board vendor) and model – this is what you will be installing in your PC. Differences in brands and models can mean a difference in performance with some models featuring compact PCBs, factory overclocks, liquid cooling and more.

 

Many brands such as Asus, MSI, EVGA and Gigabyte/AORUS feature proprietary cooling solutions such as – Asus DirectCU, MSI TwinFrozr, EVGA iCX and Gigabyte WindForce. These proprietary cooling solutions assist in keeping the graphics card running at a lower temperature thus improving performance through Nvidia's or AMD's dynamic boost clocks while also decreasing the noise produced. Some graphics card models (such as the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti SC2 Hybrid Gaming) are available with factory installed liquid coolers which offer even lower operating temperatures however you will also need space for a 120mm radiator/fan. If you’re seeking the lowest temperatures and are planning a custom liquid cooling loop, then graphics cards such as the Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1080 Ti Waterforce WB Xtreme Edition feature a factory installed water block.

 

Nvidia GeForce GTX 10-Series Graphics Cards

  GTX 1050 GTX 1050 Ti GTX 1060 3GB GTX 1060 6GB GTX 1070 GTX 1070 Ti GTX 1080 GTX 1080 Ti
CUDA Cores 640 768 1152 1280 1920 2432 2560 3584
ROPs 32 32 48 48 64 64 64 88
Core Clock 1354MHz 1290MHz 1506MHz 1506MHz 1506MHz 1607MHz 1607MHz 1481MHz
Boost Clock         1683MHz 1683MHz 1733MHz 1582MHz
GPU GP107 GP107 GP106 GP106 GP104 GP104 GP104 GP102
Transistors 3300M 3300M 4400M 4400M 7200M 7200M 7200M 12000M
Memory

2GB

GDDR5

128-bit

4GB

GDDR5

128-bit

3GB

GDDR5

192-bit

6GB

GDDR5

192-bit

8GB

GDDR5

256-bit

8GB

GDDR5

256-bit

8GB

GDDR5X

256-bit

11GB

GDDR5X

352-bit

 

AMD Radeon RX 500 and Vega Series Graphics Cards

  RX 550 RX 560 RX 570 RX 580 RX Vega 56 RX Vega 64
Shader Units 512 1024 2048 2304 3584 4096
ROPs 16 16 32 32 64 64
Core Clock 1100MHz+ 1175MHz+ 1244MHz+ 1257MHz+ 1274MHz+ 1406MHz+
GPU Polaris 12 Polaris 21 Polaris 10 Polaris 10 Vega 10 Vega 10
Transistors 2200M 3000M 5700M 5700M 12500M 12500M
Memory

Up to 4GB

GDDR5

128-bit

Up to 4GB

GDDR5

128-bit

Up to 8GB

GDDR5

256-bit

Up to 8GB

GDDR5

256-bit

8GB

HBM2

2048-bit

8GB

HBM2

2048-bit

*Note that boost clocks depend on the operating environment.

 

Can I mine cryptocurrency coins on my new graphics card?
 

While in theory you can mine cryptocurrencies using your graphics card, it is no longer suggested for many reasons.

 

 

Power Consumption

  • Mining cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, Litecoin and others are extremely taxing/demanding on the graphics card which in-turn increases the power consumption of a computer.
     
  • Couple this with high electricity costs (Australia has some of the costliest in the world) – this means high energy bills.
     
Heat & Degradation

  • Due to the intensity of cryptocurrency mining, computers can run extremely hot and can reduce the lifespan of components if exposed high stress and temperatures for a long period of time.
     
Market Volatility

  • Many governments are taking cryptocurrency mining (and trading) more seriously with some countries introducing specific taxes and others outright banning the currency.
     
  • The Australian government recently introduced taxes surrounding the trade and use of cryptocurrencies.
     
ASIC Machines

  • Several years ago when Bitcoin experienced a surge, companies developed Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) machines that were designed to be only useful for mining the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
     
  • The introduction of dedicated ASIC machines left many people who mined on their PC wasting their time due to ASIC machines considerably outperforming desktop CPUs and graphics cards.
     
  • ASIC machines have now been developed for a variety of cryptocurrencies (including many that were believed to be unable to be mined on an ASIC).
     

 

 

Workstation Graphics Cards
 

Which Graphics Card Do I Need for My Workstation?

 

If you are needing a new graphics card for your workstation then it is best to consider Nvidia Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards. Workstation graphics cards are designed to handle demanding tasks such as 3D rendering, simulations, VR, AI, Deep Learning and much more. Workstation graphics cards typically feature more video memory (VRAM) when compared to their consumer grade counterparts – e.g. Nvidia’s flagship workstation graphics card (GP100) features 24GB of VRAM vs the flagship consumer card (1080 Ti) which features 11GB.

 

Should I buy Nvidia or AMD workstation graphics cards?

 

It depends, unfortunately there is no easy answer. Depending on what you use your workstation for, an AMD Radeon Pro may outperform the equivalent Nvidia Quadro and vice versa in other tasks. Typically, AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards (especially Vega based cards) are better in cryptography, OpenCL and V-Ray (popular when used with SketchUp). Nvidia Quadro graphics card are typically better in Autodesk CAD, Siemens NX and more. Thanks to its Tensor cores, Nvidia Titan V is especially strong in deep-learning applications such as GEMM and Caffe2.

 

Basic CAD / Photoshop
 

If you require a workstation graphics card for entry-level CAD and/or Photoshop, the Leadtek Nvidia Quadro P400 and AMD Radeon Pro WX2100 provide ample graphics processing power. The P400 and WX2100 can be used in many PCs due to their compact low-profile size and their energy efficient designs (thus not needing 6/8-pin PCIe power). The P400 and WX2100 support up to 3 4K HDR displays enabling a large, colour accurate virtual workspace. If you need extra performance for your workstation, the Leadtek Nvidia Quadro P620 features approximately double the graphics processing power for a small increase in price vs the P400 and WX2100. Quadro P620 also supports up to 4 4K HDR displays.

 

Complex CAD / Photoshop
 

If you are needing extra VRAM, Leadtek Nvidia Quadro P1000 comes with 4GB meaning it can handle larger 3D models than the P400 and P620. Even though the P1000 features extra CUDA cores and a larger 4GB frame buffer, it retains the small low-profile size of the P400 and P620 workstation graphics card. The more powerful Leadtek Nvidia Quadro P2000 features a 5GB frame buffer and 1024 CUDA cores providing extra rendering performance. The P2000 also offers native support for 4 5K displays for extra virtual workspace.

 

Large complex CAD / Video Editing / Medical Imaging / VR Development / GPGPU Compute
 

High-performance workstation graphics cards such as the Leadtek Nvidia Quadro P4000 features an 8GB frame buffer and 1792 CUDA Cores for demanding tasks. Using multiple workstation graphics cards with Quadro Sync II, up to 32 4K displays can be connected simultaneously (Quadro Sync II is support on Quadro P4000 and up). Nvidia recommends using Quadro P4000 cards and higher for VR development due to their higher graphical processing power. Over the P4000, the Leadtek Nvidia Quadro P5000 offers double the frame buffer (16GB) and 2560 CUDA Cores for improved graphical performance. For VR development, the AMD Radeon Pro Duo utilises its two GPUs to render separate images for each display within a VR headset which improves performance significantly. Leadtek Nvidia Quadro P6000 features an even larger 24GB frame buffer and 3840 CUDA Cores for ultra-high performance, especially in VR development.

 

Ultra high-end
 

Although featuring fewer CUDA Cores and a smaller frame buffer than the P6000, the Quadro GP100 offers outstanding Deep Learning and AI performance due to its fast FP16 performance thanks to its HBM2 video memory. Leadtek Nvidia Quadro GP100 also features NVLink which provides the ability to run 2 GP100 workstation graphics cards simultaneously to scale performance.

 

 

Can I play games with a workstation graphics card?
 

Yes! However, it has been noted by some users online that some games will not work with certain workstation graphics drivers. If you do not plan to use your Quadro or Radeon Pro for workstation duties then it makes more sense to buy the cheaper GeForce or Radeon graphics cards which also often outperform their workstation variants in games. Some graphics cards such as the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition offer the ability to run either workstation or game optimised drivers depending on your use case scenario.

 

Nvidia Quadro Workstation Graphics Cards

  P400 P620 P1000 P2000 P4000 P5000 P6000 GP100
CUDA Cores 256 512 640 1024 1792 2560 3840 3584
FP64             1/32 FP32 1/2 FP32
Boost Clock         ~1228MHz ~1733MHz ~1560MHz ~1430MHz
GPU         GP104 GP104 GP102 GP100
Power Consumption 30W 40W 47W 75W 105W 180W 250W 235W
Memory

2GB

GDDR5

64-bit

2GB

GDDR5

 

4GB

GDDR5

128-bit

5GB

GDDR5

160-bit

16GB

GDDR5

256-bit

16GB

GDDR5X

256-bit

24GB

GDDR5X

384-bit

16GB

HBM2

4096-bit

 

AMD Radeon Pro Workstation Graphics Cards

  WX2100 WX3100 WX4100 WX5100 WX7100 Radeon Pro Duo
Stream Processors 512 512 1024 1792 2304 2x 2304
Peak Core Clock 1219Mhz 1219MHz 1201MHz 1086MHz 1243MHz 1406MHz+
GPU     Polaris 11 Polaris 10 Polaris 10 Polaris 10 x2
Power Consumption 35W 50W 50W 75W 130W 250W
Memory

2GB

GDDR5

64-bit

4GB

GDDR5

128-bit

4GB

GDDR5

128-bit

8GB

GDDR5

256-bit

8GB

GDDR5

256-bit

32GB (16GB each GPU)

GDDR5

256-bit

*Note that boost clocks depend on the operating environment.

 

Techgage’s Radeon Pro vs Quadro comparison from earlier this year provides a more in-depth comparison with comparison graphs. See here; Radeon Pro vs Quadro

 

Browse our range of graphics cards here;

 

 

 

References

TechPowerUp, 2016. MSI GTX 1050 TI Gaming X 4 GB Review. [Online]
Available at: https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/MSI/GTX_1050_Ti_Gaming_X/17.html
[Accessed 6 July 2018].

TechPowerUp, 2017. MSI GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8GB Review. [Online]
Available at: https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/MSI/GTX_1070_Ti_Gaming/18.html
[Accessed 6 July 2018].

 

Tags: How to, graphics cards

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