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 with the CPU or even 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 slowly. 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 graphics card comparisons and detailed reviews of the best graphics cards, such as the AMD Radeon R9 290X, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 770. You can also read our articles on 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 midrange card still provides a vast improvement over integrated graphics. This guide will help you choose the right graphics card for your needs.

Performance
Whatever a graphics card looks like or its specifications are, all you really need to know is how it performs. Can it handle your favorite games at the highest settings, and at what resolutions? We created our graphics card comparison by compiling test data across a slew of modern games. We tested all of the games at 1080p with the highest settings and recorded their average frame rates. Higher frame rates are better, as they provide a smoother rendering experience and are a good indication of more power.

GPU
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 CPU, allowing it to function faster. Look for a card with a high core clock speed and memory clock speed. These two factors help determine a card's memory bandwidth, which in turn affects frame rate. Faster frame rates result in smoother scrolling and animation.

Noise and Power
Generally, the more work your graphics card needs to do, the more electricity it consumes and the hotter it runs. Thus, high-end cards usually use more electricity and run hotter, but they provide you with significantly more rendering power. What you want is a balance. Nvidia does a particularly good job of keeping its cards relatively quiet and powerful. AMD graphics cards are notorious for their fans being quite loud.

Rendering Technologies
The two major players in the graphics card world are AMD and Nvidia. Each has developed its own rendering technology for processing graphical data. Nvidia graphics cards use CUDA cores, and AMD uses stream processors. 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. The more CUDA cores or stream processors a card has, the faster it is, and this makes your program or game run smoother and faster. AMD and Nvidia have also made great strides in offering 3D capabilities.

Supported API
The application programming interface (API) – DirectX, Mantle, OpenGL or 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 have to upgrade your card in order to play it.

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 does exactly what you want it to do. The newest, fastest cards are expensive, but the results can be well worth it.

 
 
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
AMD Radeon R9 290X Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 AMD Radeon R9 280X AMD Radeon HD 7970 Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 AMD Radeon R9 270X AMD Radeon HD 7870
AMD Radeon R9 290X Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 AMD Radeon R9 280X AMD Radeon HD 7970 Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 AMD Radeon R9 270X AMD Radeon HD 7870
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Lowest Price
Visit AMD Radeon R9 290X
$549.99
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 780
$520.00
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 770
$396.16
Visit AMD Radeon R9 280X
$357.14
Visit AMD Radeon HD 7970
$549.99
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 680
$699.99
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 760
$239.99
Visit Nvidia GeForce GTX 670
$425.00
Visit AMD Radeon R9 270X
$194.67
Visit AMD Radeon HD 7870
$219.99
Ratings
9.38
9.15
8.85
8.65
8.25
7.98
7.95
7.75
7.57
7.53
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
10.00
6.25
9.38
10.00
9.38
9.38
7.50
10.00
9.38
8.75
8.75
8.13
10.00
9.38
8.75
8.75
6.88
9.38
10.00
8.13
8.13
6.88
9.38
10.00
8.13
6.88
7.50
10.00
9.38
7.50
6.88
8.75
10.00
9.38
7.50
6.25
8.75
10.00
9.38
6.88
6.38
8.75
9.38
10.00
6.88
6.25
8.75
9.38
10.00
 
Performance
Real World Average FPS 98.6 88.8 76 73 70.4 72.5 60.9 63.6 56 54.2
Battlefield 4 (FPS) 85.6 71.9 66.6 64.2 61.4 62.6 48.6 49.9 47.7 47.2
Metro: Last Light (FPS) 75.33 64.7 55 53.7 51.7 53.8 44 48 40.7 39.8
Bioshock Infinite (FPS) 93.7 97.3 86.8 73.4 69.5 83.5 70.9 74.4 54.2 52.8
Far Cry 3 (FPS) 86.5 85.5 78.8 70.2 68.2 74.3 64.4 66.8 56.6 54.2
Dirt3 (FPS) 168.4 139.9 114.1 121.7 118.4 107.4 95 97.5 96.5 92.8
Thief (FPS) 69.4 61.1 51.2 52.2 50.1 47.8 40.6 41.9 40.3 39.2
Tomb Raider (FPS) 135.6 117 98.8 96.6 95.5 94.6 78 83 73.4 71.1
Unigine Heaven (FPS) 73.9 72.9 56.9 52.3 48.4 53.2 45.4 47.5 38.5 36.7
3DMark FireStrike (FPS) 10851 9657 7868 8020 7683 6971 7215 5841 5841 5773
GPU
GPU Hawaii XT GK110 GK104 Tahiti XT2 Tahiti XT GK104 GK104 GK104-325 Curacao XT Tahiti LE
CUDA Cores or Stream Processors 2816 2304 1536 2048 2048 1536 1152 1344 1280 1280
Core Clock (MHz) 1000 863 1046 1000 925 1006 980 915 1000 925
Memory Clock (MHz) 1250 1502 1752 1500 1375 1502 1502 1502 1400 1500
Memory Bus (bit) 512 384 256 384 384 256 256 256 256 256
Memory Bandwidth (GB/s) 320 288.4 223.3 288 264 192.2 192.2 192.2 179.2 192
Memory Capacity (GB) 4 3 2 3 3 2 2 2 2 2
SLI or Crossfire (Cards Supported) 4 3 3 4 4 4 3 3 2 4
Auxiliary Power Connector 6-Pin/8-Pin 8-Pin/6-Pin 8-Pin/6-Pin 6-Pin/8-Pin 6-Pin/8-Pin 6-Pin/6-Pin 8-Pin/6-Pin 6-Pin/6-Pin 6-Pin/6-Pin 6-Pin/8-Pin
Noise and Power
Noise Idle (dB(A)) 34.2 31.2 30.9 31.2 31.5 33.3 31.8 33.2 31.8 31.8
Noise Maximum (dB(A)) 59.2 41.6 41.3 48.4 48.8 43.2 39.8 39.4 43.9 43.5
Power Consumption Idle (W) 16 10 10 12 11 14 10 14 10 10
Power Consumption Gaming (W) 242 205 175 212 200 172 150 160 109 115
Power Consumption Maximum (W) 305 247 212 244 256 208 157 164 151 153
Rendering Technologies
Max Single Display Resolution 2560 x 1600 2048 x 1536 2048 x 1536 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1600 2048 x 1536 2048 x 1536 2048 x 1536 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1600
Max Multi Display Resolution 7680 x 3200 4096 x 2160 4096 x 2160 7680 x 3200 7680 x 3200 4096 x 2160 4096 x 2160 4096 x 2160 7680 x 3200 7680 x 3200
Max Display Quantity 6 4 4 6 6 4 4 4 6 6
3D Capable
4K Capable
PhysX Capable  
  
  
Supported API
DirectX v11
Mantle
  
   
OpenGL (v4 or higher)
OpenCL (v1 or higher)