The inside of your computer is made up of several different computer chips, each one with a specific purpose separate from the others. These can include a hard disk to store memory, a processor, system buses for interfacing with external media, and more.
When considered all together, these components are known as a chipset. Ordinarily, a chipset is designed all together and installed in one particular generation or a production run of computers in an attempt to keep them all on the same software and serviceable by the same standards. The different processors that a chipset can include are generally speaking matched in capabilities.
In the case of a chipset dedicated to one particular task, such as network streaming. You may find that the chipset emphasizes one particular component at the cost of others.
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Sometimes, you may purchase a computer with a good average chipset, but decide to repurpose it later for some particular purpose instead of being a general-purpose machine. Manufacturers today are well aware of this phenomenon and prepare for it by including expansion slots in the motherboard of your computer’s original chipset.
Comparison Table of the Best Graphics Card Brands
|1. MSI GT 710 2GD3 LP||
|2. XFX RX 5700 XT||
|3. EVGA 11G-P4-2281-KR||
|4. ZOTAC ZT-71302-20L||
|5. MSI MD1G/D3||
|6. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Founders Edition||
|7. VisionTek Radeon 5450 900861||
A motherboard is the largest and most important computer chip in your computer. It holds all other components together and serves as the means of communication between them. If you want to repurpose your computer, or just give it an upgrade for any particular purpose you will likely use the motherboard to host your newly installed chip. Most motherboards have a number of expansion slots to host aftermarket modifications.
An expansion slot looks like a long narrow plug with clips on either end and is usually positioned near an opening in the computer’s casing. Most secondary expansion chips come with a universal connector for those narrow slots; when attempting to modify your computer simply line it up and press it in until the clips close, holding your new chip in place.
Although there are many reasons why someone might want to alter their computer’s performance, by far one of the most popular is the installation of a new graphics card. This modification is performed so regularly that many games now publish what graphics card is needed as opposed to what computer should it be used to run the game in question.
A graphics card works by taking over the processing of the image displayed on the monitor from the main processor, freeing up a considerable amount of space that would otherwise be used in rendering fast-paced and high particle count images such as those found in modern games. Many computers have only a basic graphics driver integrated into their central processing unit, which cannot accurately reproduce every single particle in an intense sequence such as those produced by modern game engines.
A graphics card uses the same processing power as most central processing units, effectively devoting an entire computer’s worth of operations exclusively to tracking particles, shapes, and lighting.
With games and videos both getting more detailed every year, and indeed with every title, getting a good graphics card can mean the difference between a choppy and eloquent image, and a silky smooth gameplay experience at incredibly realistic resolution. If display quality is low enough, or the game demanding enough, gamers can also experience a phenomenon known as lag, in which the game simply moves too quickly for the processor to keep up.
Players in a legging game can find themselves jumping around the map, with their computer displaying only a few still frames out of what is supposed to be a long and seamless gameplay.
With all that said, it should come as no surprise that graphics cards are in perennially high demand. Mini-stores that would otherwise not sell any computers at all now tend to stock at least a few of the best graphics cards, secure in the knowledge that their customers need a powerful graphics processing unit to run any of the games they will be buying at that same store.
As a customer intent on getting their games installed and playable quickly, it can be tempting to simply grab the first graphics card that seems to meet your game’s requirements. After one or two experiences trying this, though, for the vast majority of games I understand the need to slow down a step and consider more carefully what graphics card to trust with my favorite game.
Thanks to the multitude of identically demanding games on the market, there are many graphics cards published to meet the same set of specifications. The key here lies in not necessarily trusting the numbers on the box but rather the name. While it is easy enough to print the right specifications, and the card may technically have the required performance, real quality can generally be judged best by way of reputations.
A good gaming card is almost certainly from a tried, tested, and trusted manufacturer, which has earned the repeat custom significant percentages of the gaming community through continually delivering exceptional performance, and at a competitive price.
The various manufacturers, both well-known and less so, are keenly aware of this particular metric and all do their best to appear as the most trustworthy provider of graphics cards on the market. With names and logos designed to attract the attention of the buyer, everything can seem like an inadvisable purchase from a manufacturer that you can trust.
To help you avoid the potential pitfalls of buying from a manufacturer with a bad reputation, we’ve put together some of the best known and liked brands currently on the graphics card market. These companies have been making quality gaming gear for some time now, and have developed a following throughout the world for being the best in their class — or, at the very least, impressive enough to compete with all the other brands on the list.
When you next go shopping for a graphics card, look for one of these manufacturers to ensure that your graphics card is coming from a trustworthy source that has earned the loyalty of gamers worldwide for its excellence. Once you have found the brand you are looking for, you can compare the components specifications and those of your computer and game to make sure that you will become another in a long list of that company’s satisfied customers.
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MSI video cards are a fan favorite among gamers and have been for some time. This brand focuses on innovating and improving, making your graphics card do more and do it better than any competing brand.
One thing that MSI brings to the table is its proprietary Afterburner software, a unique method of overclocking the graphics card that delivers performance above and beyond that of other brands on the market. Other important features for this brand include MSI’s creative cooling solutions, which often combine a passive heat exchanger (also known as a heat sink) and active cooling arrays of either one or two fans.
It is also worth pointing out that MSI uses military-grade concept components to give itself an edge over the competition. These pieces are often not yet available to the consumer market, making MSI the exclusive resource for someone looking to get the next generation of hardware into their machine.
This card showcases all of those facets, putting them together into a leading-edge graphics card so popular it has won the prestigious Amazon’s Choice award for being the best in a very competitive class of product.
MSI GT 710 2GD3 LP
This card is the preferred choice of many gamers for its overclocking and advanced cooling capacity, winning its enormous popularity and the coveted Amazon’s Choice award for being best in its class.
- Three distinct ports
- Single fan hybrid cooling array
- 1600 MHz clock speed
- 64-bit memory bus
What We Like About MSI GT 710 2GD3 LP
There is a lot to like about this card, but the most noticeable feature is definitely the MSI Afterburner overclocking software that lets it consistently outperform the competition.
What We Don’t Like About MSI GT 710 2GD3 LP
This card’s high-performance ratings make it a serious added draw on your computer’s power supply, making it especially questionable for laptop gamers.
- Community favorite
- Proprietary overclocking software
- Hybrid cooling array
- Triple input options
- Highly capable of running even the latest titles on the market
- Significant power demands
- Can be hard to find and install the drivers correctly
This is the proprietary brand of the popular chipset manufacturer AMD, a longtime member of the market for computers of all kinds. These graphics cards are built to amaze both inside and out. Nearly every XFX graphics card comes with a daring and dangerous exterior aesthetic to let everyone you play against know that you mean business.
What makes these cards so cool is, well, what makes them cool. XFX puts a lot into fighting the classic frustration of an overheated graphics card that any serious gamer is sure to have run into at one point or another. By continually improving the cooling technology on their cards, this brand makes theirs one of the most reliable kinds of graphics cards you can get.
Of course, the temperature isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when you’re getting a graphics card, and so this brand has begun a systematic upgrade of their base design that focuses on drastically improving one facet of their base product at a time. Newer designs are hitting the shelves on a regular basis, keeping this brand ahead of the curve.
Here’s one of the most ambitious graphics cards that XFX has brought out recently, with a cooling package that should revolutionize the industry. Similar improvements have been made to the rest of the card, putting all of it at once a generation ahead of the marketplace.
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XFX RX 5700 XT
The central feature of this card is obvious from the moment you unpack it. With three cooling fans and added copper heat dissipation coils, this card will stay frosty no matter what you turn on.
- Portless bracket
- Triple cooling array
- 1905 MHz clock speed
- 256-bit memory bus
What We Like About XFX RX 5700 XT
On top of the all-new cooling design, this card also has an impressive clock speed, keeping the processors on par with the cooling array.
What We Don’t Like About XFX RX 5700 XT
Like many XFX cards, this one is priced so steeply that all but the most dedicated gamers will need to look elsewhere.
- Exceptional cooling array
- Powerful clock speed
- Dual BIOS to optimize the user experience
- Nearly double the bandwidth of older models
- Capable of 8K video support
- More expensive than most people are really willing to pay
- Larger card chassis may not fit inside smaller computers.
In the same way that there’s no real discussion of search engines without mentioning Google, you haven’t actually begun to talk about graphics cards until you’ve discussed NVIDIA’s GeForce graphics accelerator software. This graphics processor program has gained a formidable reputation among gamers and others in need of top-notch graphics handling and is considered by many to be the benchmark of the entire industry.
EVGA is an officially licensed partner for NVIDIA software, which allows them to create and sell their cards preloaded with the very latest edition of GeForce. With driver installation being as it is the sticking point for so many people trying to perform any kind of upgrade at all, not having to deal with the relatively complicated GeForce installation can make EVGA an incredibly attractive choice.
Of course, one good talking point isn’t enough for anyone these days, so this brand adds on a solid graphics card underneath that great software, and at prices that are still reasonable for the casual gamer looking for a bit of a boost. More recently, they have begun adding integrated monitoring software to allow users to more precisely control what tasks are being shunted to the graphics card for more effective use of processing power.
Here’s one great example of an EVGA card that you can use to get in on this brand’s way of doing things. As an added touch, built-in LED lighting helps you get into the mood for whatever you’re intending to play.
As with all EVGA cards, this model comes with the latest NVIDIA software ready to run; this time it’s Turing, the newest graphics accelerator program on the market.
- Dual fan design
- 14000MHz clock speed
- 352-bit memory bus
- 11 GB GDDR6
What We Like About EVGA 11G-P4-2281-KR
This card contains an astounding amount of processing power, running over 10000 MHz to make it quite literally the fastest clock out there.
What We Don’t Like About EVGA 11G-P4-2281-KR
If you thought XFX was pricey, think again — the five-digit clock speed on this card is backed up by a four-digit price tag.
- Unmatched clock speed
- NVIDIA Turing
- Over 10 gigabyte of RAM
- Integrated LED mood lighting
- Ionized copper heat sink for improved cooling
- Prohibitively expensive
- Does not include some of the more popular display connections
Between the cooling arrays and the different modules that need to be included to make a graphics card run properly. It can get hard to understand why these devices are called graphics cards as opposed to graphics bricks. Most of them are fairly thick and heavy and are so clunky that it can be a challenge to fit them into some smaller computers. This can create a significant dilemma for gamers with a narrower equipment profile. Laptop gamers especially often find themselves wondering how they can get their computer to perform better without altering the casing or purchasing a new one.
One brand that people turn to avoid these problems is ZOTAC, a manufacturer noted for creating high quality and low profile graphics cards that suit the needs of the spatially conscious gamer without compromising on his or her gameplay quality. Although these cards don’t appear quite as aggressive as their full-size counterparts, many of these smaller cards are still perfectly capable of bringing your computer into the next generation of gaming.
These graphics cards are defined as “low profile” graphics cards, which means that they function as a stripped-down version of the full-sized components produced by other brands. With the experience of several models, the company has managed to leave the stigma attached to low profile gear behind, creating instead a line of graphics cards that are eagerly sought after for any gaming setup without much space inside the casing.
Here is one of the most sought-after and highly praised examples of brand merchandise, which takes up relatively little space while still performing on the level of full-size components. In addition to the physical return line, this release also benefits from certain technological changes that should make it easier to install and use as well as offer a more enjoyable experience for anyone involved to play on.
Despite being a smaller card than most, this card’s specifications allow it and you to play in the big leagues.
- Triple port design
- Silent fanless heatsink
- 1600 MHz clock speed
- 64 bit Memory bus
What We Like About ZOTAC ZT-71302-20L
The manufacturer has managed to include nearly every feature of a full-size graphics card despite the component taking up slightly more than half the space.
What We Don’t Like About ZOTAC ZT-71302-20L
This card’s lack of an active cooling system makes it more easily vulnerable to overheating, even from the other components around it.
- Extremely convenient size
- The fanless heat sink will never make too much noise
- Highly efficient energy consumption
- Connects all of the three most popular ways to hook up to a monitor
- Price puts it in range of everyday computer users
- FNo active cooling array
- Not particularly faster than the rest without direct user effort
As we’ve already discussed, it’s hardly worth discussing graphics cards without mentioning NVIDIA at some point. This brand is sought after across the gaming spectrum for being the producer of the reading graphics processing software on the market. One of the key selling points of most graphics cards from other manufacturers is in fact whether or not the card has NVIDIA software and if so, is it the latest version thereof?
With such a considerable clientele to think of, it’s only natural that NVIDIA should try its luck at making its own proprietary graphics card. This strategy allows them to cut out third-party costs and the risk of error with third-party components.
To begin their efforts in producing a proprietary graphics card for their GeForce software, NVIDIA came out with a model called the Founders Edition graphics card. This card was intended to be the first in a line of products that would obviate the need for NVIDIA to make third-party production deals. It comes with the latest editions of NVIDIA GeForce and is specially optimized to make installing updates and drivers a breeze.
Although it is intended to be an internal component, NVIDIA elected to go the extra mile with aesthetic styling, making this card something of a collector’s piece even though it was meant to be sealed inside your computer’s casing. The smooth outer housing of the card and flawless integration of the cooling fans create an almost artistic effect on the card exterior that makes it worth having a look at just to enjoy the effort that went into the component’s design
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Founders Edition
This card’s casing is built for maximum heat dispersion while maintaining an aesthetically appealing slender profile that ensures it will fit into more cramped computers
- Dual fan design
- 1770 MHz clock speed
- 8 GB memory
- USB-C compatible
What We Like About NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Founders Edition
This card is designed for the newer generation gaming PCs, with the latest NVIDIA drivers installed and fully compatible with newer HDMI and USB-C cables.
What We Don’t Like About NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Founders Edition
The performance reports on this card are midrange, making many consumers wonder if the price tag is justified.
- Looks great in the growing trend of transparent PCs
- Narrow profile for cramped towers or laptops
- Good heat dispersion
- No third-party software to interfere with the NVIDIA connection and drivers
- Quiet running for a dual fan design
- Hefty price for its statistics
- Continual upgrades to the factory-included software can result in buggy models
Many of the brands cited above suffer from prices well beyond the means of most shoppers. After all, part of having a good product is making it available to those you want to buy it, and those brands’ offerings seem to be out of reach to any but the most dedicated of gamers.
VisionTek emphasizes a stripped-down model of a graphics card with only the essentials for making a PC able to run gaming programs. This allows VisionTek to sell graphics cards well below the prices of its many competitors and a favorite choice for those shopping on a budget.
Most VisionTek cards have an exposed chip and minimal cooling array with one or no fans, making them cheaper and lighter than those produced by their competition. This does bring with it the added danger of damage during transport and installation, as the delicate internal electronics can easily be knocked out of place while manipulating the card.
VisionTek cards tend to have ports that other cards generally do not bother with, making this a favorite brand of those with more limited computers at their disposal.
Another way VisionTek saves money for its customers is by using the AMD Radeon driver package as opposed to the more costly NVIDIA series. NVIDIA cards can run into hundreds of dollars. By staying with the more budget-friendly AMD, VisionTek keeps its cards cheap and plentiful without necessarily sacrificing video quality.
VisionTek cards can be distinguished by their signature red finish, as opposed to the green or black favored by most computer chip manufacturers. This card is one of the more versatile VisionTek cards and is suitable for use in anything with an expansion slot.
VisionTek Radeon 5450 900861
This card contains the essentials for good graphics processing, passing on other features, and passing the savings on to the customers.
- Fanless heat sink
- Triple port design
- 2 GB RAM
- 667 MHz clock speed
What We Like About VisionTek Radeon 5450 900861
No outer casing and a minimalistic build expose maximum surface area on this card, allowing it to cool quicker than other fanless designs
What We Don’t Like About VisionTek Radeon 5450 900861
VisionTek’s decision to cut out functions and features from this card has made it the lower end of the spectrum in terms of performance.
- Runs quietly
- Exceptionally affordable
- Fits in smaller or more crowded computers
- Supports leading gaming software like Dolby and DirectX
- Optimized for dual-screen processing
- Low-performance ratings
- Easier to damage than cards with a rigid casing
While every graphics card brand here has something to offer a buyer, the best overall is undoubtedly MSI. Between the relatively affordable price tag and the considerable boost, it gives to your computer’s graphics, MSI cards represent the best overall value for a customer looking to boost their gaming PC.
Of particular note in this regard is the MSI Afterburner technology that makes overclocking an MSI card both easier and more effective, allowing it to deliver competitive performance without the need to manually monitor the overclocking as it happens.
Another reason to select MSI cards over any other is their use of printed circuitry and material engineering from military or private-sector contractors, giving their cards durability and performance not always available to the public market. Although risky to use without proper public testing, it has given MSI cards a decided advantage over the competition; they are cheaper and more resilient at higher temperatures than similar cards.
It is worth noting that the graphics card’s brand is less important than which exact card you are looking to buy. There are many factors beyond manufacturer policy that can influence a decision of which graphics card to get in one way or the other.
Just to begin with, you should always check the rest of your equipment before heading to the store for a graphics card. There is little worse than spending the money to get a graphics card only to find that it is not compatible with some of your existing software or hardware.
Another thing to consider when getting your new graphics card is your budget. Although MSI was chosen in part because of its budget-friendly products, if you have a slightly more generous budget to work with, you can consider higher-performing models like EVGA cards which easily outperformed MSI cards but are often too expensive to be worth using. Knowing how much you have to work with is important when buying any new piece of equipment, and this is no exception.
The last thing you should think about when buying a graphics card is what exactly you want from it. If you buy a graphics card that does not adequately meet the demands you will be putting on it, you will soon find yourself back in the store looking for a new one, having accomplished little more than putting yourself out the cost of the original purchase.
Knowing what you need before going to get a graphics card can save the extra time and trouble involved in an ill-advised purchase.