Graphics Cards Review

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Whether you’re a gamer, a video editor or a graphic designer, you need a computer with powerful graphics capabilities. Unless you upgraded when you bought your computer, its graphics chipset is likely integrated onto the motherboard. Often called onboard video, such a solution shares system memory and processing power with your computer, which can make graphics-intensive applications work painfully slow. What you need is a discrete graphics card with ample processing power and video memory. Such cards fit into a slot on your motherboard and connect directly to your monitor. We've created side-by-side comparisons and detailed reviews of the best graphics cards, such as the Nvidia GTX 690, the ATI Radeon HD 7970 and the Nvidia GTX 680. You can also read articles about graphics cards and get tips on eking the best video rendering capabilities out of your computer.

Graphics Cards: What to Look For 

Graphics cards continue to get faster and more powerful, and the options can seem overwhelming. To find the right one, first consider how you’ll use it. If you want to play the latest games at ultra-high settings and resolutions higher than 1080p, you’ll be happiest with a high-end card. If you just want to edit videos, a mid-range card will still provide a vast improvement over integrated graphics. This guide will help you choose the right graphics card for your needs.

GPU/Interface
The most important aspect of a graphics card is its graphics processing unit, or GPU. By processing graphics separately, the GPU lightens the load of your computer's main CPU, allowing it to function faster. Look for a card with high pixel and texture fill rates, as these determine the frame rate. Faster frame rates result in smoother scrolling and animation.

Video Memory
Like your computer, your graphics card needs enough RAM to hold information and store data. More RAM is better, provided you choose a card with a CPU that’s fast enough to process the additional RAM. Look for a card with at least 1GB of RAM. Also look for a wide memory bus width (expressed in bits) and high memory bandwidth (expressed in gigabytes). These will enable the card to process more information simultaneously.

Rendering Technologies
The two major players in the graphics-card world are ATI and Nvidia. Each has developed its own rendering technology for processing graphical data. Nvidia uses CUDA Cores and ATI uses ATI Stream technology. While these technologies are measured differently, their purpose is to accelerate the communication rate between the graphics card’s GPU and your computer's CPU. More CUDA Cores or ATI Stream capabilities a card has, the faster it will be, and this will make your program or game run smoother and faster. ATI and Nvidia have also made great strides in offering 3D capabilities.

Supported API
The Application Programming Interface (API) – DirectX, OpenGL and OpenCL – enables the card to interact with your software. Choose a card that’s compatible with the API of the programs you wish to run. For example, if your card supports only DirectX 9 and you buy a game or application that requires DirectX 11, you’ll have to upgrade your card in order to play it.

Display Interface
Display interfaces let you connect your monitors to your computer. Most cards include both DVI and HDMI connections, with dual-channel DVI being the most common. To enjoy high definition on your monitor, make sure the card you choose has a connection that’s compatible with your monitor. Also look for a card that lets you connect the number of monitors you want to use.

Additional Features
We reviewed the base models of each manufacturer. Typically, third-party manufacturers offer additional versions with multiple fans, liquid cooling and other variations. The dimension of the graphics card is important, especially if you have a mid-size or mini tower. The fastest card ever made will do you no good if it doesn’t fit in your computer case. Also consider how much power a card requires. If your computer's power supply isn’t equal to the task, you can either upgrade it or choose a card that will run within your current voltage supply.

There’s no such thing as a perfect graphics card for all situations, but by determining which key features best suit your needs, you can find one that will do exactly what you want it to do. The newest, fastest cards are expensive, but the results can be well worth it.

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Electronics » Computers » Graphics Cards
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Rank #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10
10-9  Excellent
8-6    Good
5-4    Average
3-2    Poor
1-0    Bad
Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 AMD Radeon HD 7970 Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 AMD Radeon HD 7870 Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMD Radeon HD 7850 Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti AMD Radeon HD 6670
Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 AMD Radeon HD 7970 Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 AMD Radeon HD 7870 Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMD Radeon HD 7850 Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti AMD Radeon HD 6670
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Lowest Price
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 690
$938.00
Visit AMD Radeon HD 7970
$456.99
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 680
$469.99
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 670
$399.98
Visit AMD Radeon HD 7870
$258.98
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti
$280.00
Visit AMD Radeon HD 7850
$194.99
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 580
$320.40
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti
$155.99
Visit AMD Radeon HD 6670
$69.99
Ratings
9.98
9.63
9.57
9.40
9.13
8.73
8.25
7.78
7.53
7.15
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
10.00
10.00
10.00
9.75
10.00
9.50
9.50
9.50
10.00
9.75
9.75
9.50
9.50
10.00
9.50
9.38
9.38
9.25
10.00
9.25
9.25
8.75
9.25
8.75
10.00
8.75
8.75
9.38
8.75
8.75
8.13
8.75
8.75
10.00
8.63
9.75
8.75
7.50
7.50
6.25
7.50
6.25
7.50
9.63
8.63
7.50
7.38
7.50
6.13
7.38
9.50
8.50
7.50
7.13
6.25
6.88
8.75
7.50
7.23
 
Max Graphic Settings
World of Warcraft 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Call of Duty: Black OPs 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 95% 100% 90% 90%
Starcraft 2 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
All Points Bulletin 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 95% 100% 90% 85%
Battlefield: Bad Company 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 95% 100% 95% 85%
Metro 2033 100% 100% 100% 95% 95% 95% 90% 90% 90% 85%
Crisis 2 100% 100% 100% 95% 95% 95% 90% 85% 90% 85%
GPU/Interface
PCIe Bus Interface 3.0 x16 3.0 x16 3.0 x16 3.0 x16 3.0 x16 3.0 x16 3.0 x16 2.0 x 16 3.0 x16 2.1 x16
Core(s) 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Core Clock (MHz) 915 925 1006 915 1000 915 860 772 928 800
Boost Clock Speed (MHz) 1019   1058 980       
Stream Processors 3072 2048 1536 1344 1280 1344 1024 512 768 480
Fab (nm) 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 40 28 40
Transistors (Billions) 7 4.313 3.5 3 2.8 3.5 2.8 3.1 2.54 716 Million
Pixel Fillrate & Texture Fillrate 234 118.4 128.8 102.5 32/80 102.5 55/27.52 37.1/49.4 59.2 6.4/
Computing Performance (GFLOPS) 5621.76 3788.8 3090 2459 2560 2459.52 1761 1580 1400 768
Max Single Display Resolution 4096 x 2160 2560x1600 2048x1536 2048x1536 2048x1536 2048x1536 2048x1536 2560x1600 1920x1080 2048x1536
Max Power/TDP (Watts) 300 250 195 170 175 150 130 244 110 66
Processor/Shader Clock (MHz)      1000 915 860 1544 928 800
Video Memory
Memory Type (GDDR5) GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory Clock Speed (GHz) 6 5.5 6 6 4.8 6 4.8 4 5.4 1
Memory Size (GB) 4 3 2 2 2 2 2 1.5 1 1
Memory Bus Width 512-bit 384 256-bit 256-bit 256 192 256 384-bit 128 128
Memory Bandwidth (GB) 384 264 192.2 192.2 153.6 144.2 153.6 192 86.4 64
Rendering Technologies
Parallel Computing Kepler Stream Kepler Kepler Stream Kepler Stream Fermi Kepler Stream
Video Processing PureVideo HD Avivo HD PureVideo HD PureVideo HD Avivo HD PureVideo HD PureVideo HD PureVideo HD PureVideo HD PureVideo HD
3D Viewing 3D Vision HD3D 3D Vision 3D Vision HD3D 3D Vision HD3D 3D Vision 3D Vision HD3D
Multi-Display 3D Vision Surround Eyefinity 3D Vision Surround 3D Vision Surround Eyefinity 3D Vision Surround Eyefinity 3D Vision Surround 3D Vision Surround Eyefinity
Display Quantity 4 6 4 4 6 4 6 3 4 6
Max Multi-Display Resolution 5760 x 1080 4096x2160 4096x2160 4096x2160 4096x2160 4096x2160 4096x2160 5760 x 1080 4096x2160 2560x1600
Environmental Physics PhysX   PhysX PhysX   PhysX   PhysX PhysX  
Supported API
DirectX v11
OpenGL (v4 or higher)
OpenCL (v1 or higher)
Display Interface Connectors
Dual Channel DVI
Mini-DisplayPort
        
DisplayPort   
  
Mini-HDMI        
 
HDMI  
  
Additional Features
SLI/CrossFireX 2 GPU (4 total) 4 GPUs 3 GPUs 3 GPUs 2 GPUs 3 GPUs 2 GPUs 3 GPUs   2 GPUs
Cooler Fan/Vapor Chamber Fan Fan Fan Fan Fan Fan Fan Fan Fan
Power Connector 8-Pin/8-Pin 8-Pin/6-Pin 6 Pin/ 6-pin 6-Pin/6-Pin 6-Pin 6-Pin/6-Pin 6-Pin 6 pin / 8 pin 6-Pin  
Length (in.) 11.0 11 10 9.5 10.16 9.5 10.5 10.5 5.7 7
Height (in.) 4.376 4 4.376 4.376 5.12 4.376 8 4.4 4.376 4
Depth (in.) Dual Slot Dual Slot Dual Slot Dual Slot Dual Slot Dual Slot Dual Slot Dual Slot Dual Slot 2