Hi Guys, Well alot of buying guide’s coming up so thought maybe write a GPU buying guide. For the past few days i saw many people having a bit difficulty in buying new GPU’s as Direct X 11 cards have been introduced in our markets. Plus alot of people worried about whether their GPU will runs games fine on higher resolutions and also the power requirements of the card.
A graphics processing unit or GPU (also occasionally called visual processing unit or VPU) is a specialized processor that offloads 3D or 2D graphics rendering from the microprocessor. It is used in embedded processors, mobile phones, personal computers, work stations and gaming consoles. Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics, and their highly parallel structure makes them more effective than general-purpose CPUs for a range of complex algorithms. In a personal computer, a GPU can be present on a video card, or it can be on the motherboard. At the time there are two top most Graphic card manufacturers:
Hardware Limiting Factor:
First of all let me tell you guys one thing, Alot of guys buy high-end graphic cards without even considering their system specifications and blame later for performance issues. Well this is not due to your GPU but your PC being a limiting factor e.g. A guy buying a 5870 or GTX 275 card with a Dual Core CPU will probably bottle neck(A bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources) the card. At this point you may either upgrade your PC first or buy a GPU that is good enough to give out the maximum performance it can with your PC. e.g. Getting a HD 5750 or 9600gt with the Dual Core will get you more out of your rig while paying a lesser price.
Other limiting factor is memory like having 1gb or lesser amount of memory with mid end – high end GPU’s is no use, you need to have at least 2GB memory or more memory for your system to work optimally. Many people are also confused when choosing motherboard’s which support PCI-e x16 and PCI-e x16 2.0, As there’s no GPU which fully utilizes the bandwidth of even a PCI-e x16 slot so don’t worry, Getting a cheaper board with x16 slot won’t make your GPU run slower than 2.0, in fact both are the same. There’s only a mere difference in both, although all the latest boards support PCI-e x 16 2.0 but for those guys going for cheaper budget boards, don’t worry at all.
Now i have seen many members asking whether his PSU is enough for his GPU, Will his GPU fry with his current PSU and many other queries. Well let me make one thing clear, you don’t need a 500-600w for mid-end GPU’s even some high end e.g. A 9600gt/5750 GPU will run fine even on a 300w PSU while mid-end cards like GTS250/5770 will require a 450-500w PSU and higher end cards like GTX275/5850/GTX470 will require a 600w PSU to run. You may need more than 600w for SLI and Crossfire setup’s as multiple GPU’s will always require more power than a single GPU but that’s another case.
Here’s a brilliant guide made by one of PG member’s (Sunny945) which gives each and every detail of the PSU requirements of graphic cards.
[Buying Guide] PSU
Temperature & Noise :
Temperature and noise are also some factors which come in one's mind while buying a GPU. The GPU's runs quite hot for sure and more temps mean the fan will run on higher RPM's resulting in more noise. Some GPU's come with Passive heatsinks, Most of these GPU's are either low-end or used for browsing and general PC usage purposes so they dont require more cooling but the high/mid ebd cards alway's come with Dual-Slot cooler which helps the temps to stay low. Many GPU vendor's design custom PCB's like His ICEQ, MSI Twin Frozr and Inno3d Ichill but these are usually expensive than the stock one's but cool the GPU alot. With better cooling you can also Overclock the GPU well.
Talking about screen resolutions, GPU has alot to do with the resolution it work’s on. Alot of Geeks here at PG own massive 1080P LCD but still there are guys who use Monitor’s and LCD with lower resolution’s or are looking to get a GPU which performs well with their resolution. Also many people go for GPU’s which have a 1 GB tag and waste money on that. I want to clear one thing that spending Extra cash just for 1Gb while you’re playing at a resolution of 1280x1024 or less will give you no gain in performance so better get the 512Mb variant of the card and save the cash instead. Based on the GPU’s performance and LCD’s resolution if have prepared a small table below which shows how well a GPU will perform with the latest games:
The GPU’s mentioned below along with the category they belong to are listed below too.
High End – (GTX275/280/285/295/470/480, ATI HD 5850/5870/5970/4870/4890)
Mid End – (GTX/S 9800gt/240/250/260/275/465, ATI HD 5850/5830/5770/5750/5750/4850/4770)
Low End – (8600GT/9600GT/GT210/GT220, ATI HD 5650/5670/4670/4650)
Saying this again that this table is based on the performance of the cards after looking at their performance with current games like Just Cause 2, Metro 2033 and Splinter Cell Conviction.
Feature’s of the GPU:
Let’s discuss about the feature’s of a GPU, Its the ERA of Direct X 11 but people on budget still go for the mainstream Direct x 10 cards such as 9600gt and 4770 which perform really well on lower resolutions. But buying a lower end Direct x 11 card such as 5670 will perform horribly in games which support Direct X 11. 9800GT and HD 4770 will perform much better in the same game than the other card using Direct X11. Same happened a few years back when Direct x 10 was newly introduced and people switched to mainstream DX 10 cards like 8600gt which couldn’t even handle Crysis on lower settings while the older 7900gtx performed well in DX9 than the newer card. The mainstream cards only perform well with older games but performance in newer titles aint wise.
Here in Pakistan we have the following Graphic cards available, the process of the GPU are also given along with the brand name.
We move on now and Categorize the graphic cards in the following based on their performance and price.
Entry Level / Low End graphic cards:
Entry level Graphic cards are basically for those user’s who want to use their PC only for browsing and watching movies and playing some low end games. These GPU’s are best for those who have a budget under 10K and play at lower resolutions like 1024x768 or 1280x1024. From the list of GPU’s given above, i have taken out those who fall under the Low end category.
Out of these, 9600gt will be the best budget cards as it can play games with a pretty decent frame rate. While if you want to sacrifice performance over visuals than HD 5670 performs well too, but adding a bit more get’s you the more better HD 5750 which is a better invest then HD 5670. If your budget is really low then 9600GSO is a pretty decent card too. The Nvidia cards are best if you want a secondary GPU for PhysX, the 8600gt and 9600gt can perform PhysX really well increasing the performance of the games which utilize PhysX.
Mid End GPU:
The Mid-End GPU are those GPU’s which give you better visual’s without letting you sacrifice the performance and can play at much higher Resolutions , Even 1080P is some newer titles. Alot of ATI graphic cards fall under the Dx11 cards family but there’s only one Nvidia GPU “GTX 465” which is directx11 compliant, while there are new mainstream Fermi cards coming in Mid-August. Here’s a list of all Mid-End GPU’s:
Although not available in Pakistan but the new comer GTX 460 from Nvidia has totally dominated the Mainstream Market with a price of 200$ and a bit more for the 1GB variant, This card is the best bang for the buck featuring performance on par with the HD 5850 and GTX 465 in a cheaper price range. Also great SLI scaling makes this card a better buy then a single GTX 480. With lower power consumption and much lesser temps this card is pure win. Those of you having a tighter budget can go for HD 5750 and 5770 which offer great DX 11 performance in games on resolutions of 1680x1050 and even 1080P HD in some titles. Nvidia Fanboys can choose GTX 260 or GTX 250 as they are still hot buys here. HD 5830 is out of question as its nvidia counterpart offers much greater performance at a lower price.
High End Cards:
Well these are the daddies of GPU in terms of Price and Performance and only meant for High res gaming. These cards are designed to handle each and every games on the largest resolutions and give more than enough FPS than you can ever imagine. Here’s a list of the cards available in the High End Category:
Although these cards are more than enough, but enthusiast will always look forward to them no matter what price they have to pay. This is where SLI and Crossfire Setup’s come in. Getting 2 GPU’s from the mid-range category can give you the same performance of the high end cards by paying a lesser price buy you need to have a PSU capable enough for holding the 2 GPU’s.
Anyways the GTX 470 and 480 perform really well over here, The GTX 470 beats the HD 5850 and comes near to a 5870 with a lower price tag while the GTX 480 beats the 5870 and comes near to a HD 5970, Although not that close but still looking at the price and being a single GPU against a Dual GPU based card , it performs really well. But the Cons of having Fermi are higher TDP and Huge power consumption which ATI definitely have the Lead in. These cards will play each game for you no matter what resolution you play at. HD 5850 also fall's under the high end category.
I hope this guide helps most of you and we get to see lesser “GPU Buying Help” Related threads. If there’s any mistake in the Guide, you can leave a comment.