Graphics Cards: What You Need to Know

Video games are more popular than ever. They offer visuals that can even beat movie standards. They also have colorful stories and amazing characters. For the most part, playing games is a great way to enjoy a lazy afternoon at home.

The Gaming Evolution

PC gaming has been around since the 1960s and is still going strong. Today, it is one of – if not the most popular way to play video games. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, it even has its own award shows and tournaments.

Best thing is, anyone can learn how to play. All you need is a PC with decent equipment and you are all set. There is one catch however. With rising quality in video games, system requirements also skyrocket. Progress in animations, playable areas, and design all contribute to this. It seems that every year, each new game has a higher demand than the last.

The Assembly

Assembling your PC can be both rewarding and challenging. It requires a lot of research and most importantly, a bit of funding. Think of it as assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Every piece has to connect – each one has to be compatible.

Graphics cards (GPU) are essential in today’s PC. For players, a graphics card largely controls what you see on the screen. How beautiful the graphics, how crisp the movement, and how far you can see in a game depends on the GPU. If you want to improve your computer’s gaming performance, you need to start here.

If you are looking into building a PC to play a specific game, you start here. But, the graphics card is also where the problem begins.

The Bitcoin Mining Boom

A few years ago, Bitcoin mining exploded into the mainstream. Suddenly, the allure of being rich through idling PCs 24/7 made everyone want a piece of the action. Since the main component of these mining rigs are GPUs, people purchased all they could. The idea was that the more powerful the GPU, the better. This created a shift in the supply versus demand among manufacturers.

Prices for higher echelon graphics cards rose, doubling – to even tripling – in price. For those not interested in mining, obtaining a card meant paying a lot more than they are worth. Players trying to build or upgrade their PCs had to make a choice. Pay the blown-up prices, or postpone their purchase. Most people did not like the idea and decided to wait out this mining trend.

If you are on a tight budget, waiting and comparing prices would be best.
Luckily, that trend seems to be slowing down. As of the last few months, graphics cards have hovered close to their original prices.

The Best may not be the Best

When buying a graphics card for your PC, you always want the top selections. But, ‘the best’ may not be the best choice for you.

Think of it this way. A powerful GPU is like a jet engine. It has the potential to take you to the skies. However, that jet engine would be worthless if you try to place it at a horse carriage. Without equally (or something close) powerful parts to complement it, it is worthless.

A good GPU combined with inferior ‘teammates’ may cause an issue called bottleneck. This means that the GPU cannot pull the weight of its team alone. It drags the GPU down, not living to its full potential.

Getting that 2080 TI may not be your best choice if your PC cannot keep up.

The Size Requirements

Another issue is the card’s physical compatibility. While laptops and phones head to the ‘slimmer is better’ route, the GPU is the opposite. The more expensive cards are massive in comparison to cheaper ones. Even mid-tier cards sport double fans and thick casings.

This makes it a problem for people wanting to upgrade their older PCs. Older PCs tend to be smaller. The case may not be enough to fit an entire modern graphics card. The insides are also an issue. You need to have a card that can fit with all the other PC parts inside the casing. Some casings are compact by design, and usually minimizes free space within. Older hard drives can also be very bulky and large. These can compete with the limited space inside.

A graphics card that will not fit is a problem. This means more expenses for you and your upgrade.

The Companion Requirements

When buying a graphics card, bottlenecking is not the only issue. For instance, the stronger cards need more power to function. If you are upgrading from an older rig, odds are you will have to replace the Power Supply as well.

Older monitors are also an issue. These old monitors use VGA cables to connect to graphics cards. Newer cards no longer offer VGA ports on them. Now, it is more common to see HDMI and DVI ports. Monitors who only have VGA need adapters to connect. While this is a possibility, be forewarned. You are hampering your card’s potential by pairing it with an older monitor. This will have poorer results, with the card not living up to its full potential.

For those aiming for maximum gaming potential, keeping your setup cool is mandatory. While cards have fans to help cool them down, when pushed, they are not enough. You should consider investing on a cooling system to help. These systems range from simple extra fans, to complex liquid setups.

The Last Advice

Graphics cards are one of the most expensive single purchases one can make on a PC. It can make or break your computer’s efficiency. It all boils down to how much you are willing to spend. If you have the funds, feel free to reach the skies. For most however, budgets are the limiting factor. Be prepared to either settle for a lower and cheaper card, or wait until prices go down.

You can also wait for sales and promos to find that perfect price.

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