How to Choose the Best Gaming Video Card for Your PC

(and the best 2017 video cards)


Learn how to choose the best gaming video card when upgrading or building your custom gaming computer with our following updated buying guide. The video card (also known as the graphics card, or GPU short for Graphics Processing Unit) is THE single most crucial component of all in regards to how well your games and other visually-demanding applications will run, and therefore how much enjoyment you'll get out of your gaming rig.

Choosing the best video card for your specific budget isn't an easy task, especially if you're new, as like most computer parts there are tons of different models in various price ranges all with different specs and features. It's enough to make your head spin, even if you're slightly tech-savvy.

We're here to make things as easy as possible and help you to understand and navigate the current world of GPUs more confidently so you can pick the very best gaming video card for your wants and needs.


GPU Wars: AMD vs NVIDIA

Just like when choosing the best CPU, you've basically got two main choices when picking the best gaming video card; AMD or Nvidia.

NVIDIA dominate the high-end GPU market but also provide great budget to mid-range cards. AMD (formerly ATI, but AMD bought them out) give Nvidia a run for their money in the budget to mid-range tier. 

So which should you choose?

As of right now, it's a simple decision if you're on the hunt for the best of the best as like we said Nvidia are king of the upper end of the market.

But if you're looking for value for money in the lower to mid tier, it's a tough choice and will come down to the exact amount you want to spend and comparing specific models from both companies against each other for any given period of time.

As well as logically comparing cards for your chosen price range, for some people it comes down to personal preference and I know many gamers who only buy AMD because they want to support the underdog. Each to their own, but both companies produce excellent cards with great design, cooling, features, and of course gaming performance.

Finally, certain specific games may run better on either AMD or Nvidia cards due to better optimization etc. So if you're planning on building your PC for a specific game, you may want to consult benchmarks to see if there's a clear winner.


How Much to Spend?

As a PC gamer the graphics card is the single most important part of all, followed closely by your processor, so choose wisely and in general aim to get the best graphics card you can afford.

Put a fair amount of your overall PC build budget towards it - at least 20 - 30% - but don't splash too much on it therefore weakening your other components. Aim for a balanced build too because in a way your PC is only as strong as your weakest link.


Features to Consider

GPUs contain a host of different features, options, connections, etc. Here are the main ones you should keep in mind when choosing the best gaming video card for your PC:


  • Video Memory: The video memory (VRAM) is the amount of memory your video card holds on-board for processing 3D images, and the more the better. The minimum for modern gaming these days would be 2GB, with 4GB being ideal for a fairly future-proof system. Anything more is a luxury, really. But keep in mind that you shouldn't base your decision solely this as the performance in the majority of games isn't going to be that much different if you have more video memory. 
  • DirectX Support: You'll want to make sure your gaming video card supports the latest DirectX technology to be future-proof for years to come. It's not the end of the world if you don't support the latest version though, especially for a budget system.
  • SLI and CrossFireSLI and CrossFire are technologies that allow you to pair up either two or more NVIDIA or AMD video cards for extreme system performance. Only suggested for the advanced and experienced, if you'll be using either technology then you'll need to ensure both your GPU and your motherboard supports it.
  • DVI: This is a higher-definition output used with newer monitors and some high-end TVs. Connecting to your monitor via DVI offers better image quality than the standard VGA connection. If you want to take advantage of DVI, buy a graphics card and monitor that supports it.
  • HDMI Connection: HDMI is the default connection on new HDTVs, Blu-ray players, Apple TV, many new computers and graphics cards, and a range of other video devices. If you need to connect your video card to a TV via HDMI, then obviously make sure to check that your video card has this feature.
  • Dual Monitor Support: If you want to split your video output across two monitors, you will need dual monitor support on your graphics card. This feature is useful for developers, engineers, designers, and multi-taskers who wish to view many different windows on their desktop at once. Sometimes, one output will be VGA and the other DVI. Learn more about dual monitor video card setups here.
  • Power Usage: The more powerful a card is, the more power it will require so you should keep this in mind and make sure your gaming computer's power supply will be good enough to handle your card/s.
  • Size: Then there's the actual size of your video card, which may be an issue especially if it's a large monstrous card and you have a smaller case. Make sure your case will fit your new beast by checking the dimensions of your graphics card against the case specifications which should list what size card they will fit. Power users should also consider case space (and motherboard PCI-E connections) if you plan on adding a second (or more) card later down the track.


Top Value Video Cards in 2017

Choosing the best gaming video card depends majorly on the resolution you'll be playing in, as larger resolutions like QHD and UHD require rendering of exponentially more pixels on screen than say HD or FHD (full HD).

We've broken up our top picks of the best value cards into different resolutions, and included two categories within each resolution as well because not every gamer has the same performance expectations. Not everyone is FPS-obsessed (frames per second).

Smooth performance - An enjoyable experience with perhaps occasional visual slow-down in high action moments of the game, but not bad enough to ruin the experience.

Flawless performance - For the hardcore gamers who don't want anything less than the best experience possible.

Also, our following suggestions assume you'll be maxing out the game (ie turning up the graphics settings to the highest settings, which is usually "ultra").

These picks may be a tad overkill if you don't care to turn down the graphics settings to achieve smooth/flawless performance, or a bit of lagginess here and there doesn't bother you.

And if you're new to PC gaming and wondering which resolution to go for, when in doubt just save your money stick with 1080p which is still the most popular and still looks great in this day and age.

Without further ado, here are the best gaming video cards right now in terms of performance for your hard-earned moolah:


Best Gaming Video Card for 720p (HD)

Smooth AND Flawless Performance: Gigabyte Radeon RX 460 2GB

Best Gaming Video Cards for 1080p (Full HD)

Smooth: EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

Flawless: ASUS Radeon RX 580 4GB

Best Gaming Video Cards for 1440p

Smooth: ASUS Radeon RX 580 4GB

Flawless: EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB

Best Gaming Video Cards for 4K and VR

Smooth: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FTW 8GB

Flawless: ASUS ROG-STRIX GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB


Related Reading:

NVIDIA SLI Quick-Guide

ATI CrossFire Quick-Guide

Installing A Graphics Card




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