Table of Contents
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It doesn’t matter how a graphics card looks. What really matter is it’s performance. Is it going to withstand your video games at high resolutions? The following graphics card comparisons are all calculated by comparing test data with modern day video games. All at 1080p with the best settings with the average frame rates recorded. 4k performance was also taken into consideration. Higher frame rates are great because it looks smoother and indicates a graphics card has more juice or power.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The graphics processing unit is considered the most important part of a graphics card. The GPU lightens the workload of your computer’s CPU bu processing graphics separately. A high core and memory clock speeds are what you should be looking for. This helps figure how the bandwidth that affects the frame rate of a graphics card. The faster it is, the smoother the animation.
Power and Noise
More electricity is needed the more work a graphics card needs to do. High-end cards are known to use more electricity as well as run hotter while providing you with high quality rendering power. Nvidia is a great brand that has a quiet yet powerful graphics card while AMD is known for their cards to be loud.
AMD and Nvidia are the most popular graphics card providers. Nvidia uses CUDA cores while AMD uses STREAM processors. These technologies are measured differently and their main purpose is for speeding up the communication between the graphics card GPU and a computer’s CPU. More CUDA cores or stream processors means it’s faster. The faster, the smoother. AMD and Nvidia are known to have amazing 3D capabilities.
Application Programming Interface
The API or application programming interface is what allows the card to interact with software. Make sure the card you choose is supported/compatible with the API of whatever software you are using. You wouldn’t want to have to replace it after realizing the fact that it didn’t work. The perfect graphics card solution doesn’t exist, but you can choose which one is best for your situation. Newer and faster cards run on the more expensive side, but results are what make it worth the extra money.
What goes into the best graphics card? If you’re a PC gamer then that would be the price and performance ratio. For a gamer a card should be able to handle demanding games with high settings and a crazy high resolution. 4k is also becoming a very popular high-end selection. The best graphics card shouldn’t be priced too high while at the same time should be very stable for a few years.
Performance isn’t the only factor here, the quality of drivers and other things the card can support are also important things. Noise level, power usage and the typical running temperature are all things that should additionally be considered. Most cards run pretty quiet with temperatures within an acceptable range. Currently, the Nvidia GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 are what we consider the best two graphics cards for gamers so far. This is based off the most recent GPUs as well as comparing power usage, performance and even noise. We understand these may be too expensive for some, but there are still more options specifically for you to read about here. These will also have a chance to improve with time.
In order to get the most out of your graphics card upgrade then you’ll need to seriously thing about investing. This is an investment in your technology, which is important for more than just your gaming. Cutting corners and pinching pennies in these situations will only lead to time wasted, frustration, and more money spent down the long run. Now if you don’t plan on doing things like gaming or video editing, then it shouldn’t be a big deal to you. But those who are avid gamers, video editors, and such will definitely want to make sure the graphics card on their computer can provide enough power to run things smoothly.
We hope these graphics card reviews can you choose what graphics card would be the best for your situation and budget. Every person and computer has different needs so what you’re looking for might be different than what someone else is looking for. Making the decision on what graphics card to get doesn’t have to be hard. Just weigh the pros and cons for each one and you’ll shortly be able to come to your final decision.
1. Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition Review
The GeForce GT 1080 has got to be the best graphics card currently on earth. Overall it’s more than 30% faster than the Titan X and 980 Ti by GeForce and even uses about 30% less power. That’s possible from moving to 16 nm FinFET which can cram more into something smaller thus leading to much less power leakage.
Pascal made some architectural improvements which helped with overall performance when compared to Maxwell. With Pascal there is better delta color compression and a higher memory bandwidth. GDDR5X has 10GT/s meaning that 320GB/s of memory bandwidth works just as well as the Titan X’s 384GB/s. This graphics preemption can improve the balancing of the workload as well as time sensitive work. Simultaneously doing 16 projections in a single pass means the workload ends up being twice as fast as the Titan X. The only drawback about this card is the price. It’s not too much to ask for the performance level since the FTX 980 Ti did super well. At the Founders Edition price, the GTX 1080 is so powerful that keeps selling out. The only other cards that are selling well are above MSRP. You should wait for the cooled cards from Nvidias partners so you don’t spend too much if you’re on a budget.
With the Founders Edition, it offers slightly less performance compared to previous Nvidia cards. The 980 Ti, 980 and 970 typically are at 25% core overclocks when compared to each other. Tweaks to the power target and voltage can lead to a 15% improved performance. To be honest, this chip isn’t the fastest Pascal chip we will see from Nvidia. The GP104 is used for gaming and graphics while the GP100 has much high end features in many aspects with 3584 CUDA cores, that’s more than 1000 more than the GTX 1080. That is more than 20% higher performance and it even has MORE than 2xs the memory bandwidth. How much does this cost? It averages around $1723.
For now, the GTX 1080 is the fastest graphics card. This is good to help with performance, you can even use two cards in SLU. You will need to set up to have a lot of CPU to handle this.
2. Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition Review
AMD can knock the GTX 1070 with the RX 480 depending on what the performance shows. The 1070 exceeds the Titan X and GTX 980 Ti with every setting that was tested on games while having a lower price. You can thank this performance enhancement to be because of the change from 28nm planar transistors to the TSMC current 16nm FinFET transistors. This helps make the GPU size smaller ultimately reducing the power leakage and allowing higher clocks. The Titan X and 98- is at 1000MHz while the 1070 is at 1506MHz. 1920 on the 1070 as compared to the 2816 on the Ti or 3072 on the Titan x, clock speed and physical improvements have kept the 1070 at the top.
This doesn’t mean you need to get the 1070 if you are already the user of a 980 Ti or Titan X. The compared performances are similar so the only thing is the price for the quality of performance when considering the 1070. This can also be said for cards such as the Fury, R9 Fury X and Nano. Whether you’re look at a custom or Founders Edition type, that is a lot of money for a graphics card. The best advice for gamers is to pass up a generation in regards to hardware and only upgrade when your current hardware become too slow for you. This can vary from gamer to gamer so it really depends on you.
Surely you will be tempted to upgrade but keep in mind that the older the hardware, the bigger the change in performance when upgrade. It would certainly be financially smarter to wait until the generation after the next from your current model rather than upgrading every generation. Unless the change is drastic, upgrades don’t need to happen immediately when the next release is out. The GTX 1070 is decent when it comes to overclocking even if it isn’t as big as the GTX 980. The core was able to be increased to 200MHz over stock with higher thermal limits, higher fan speed, higher power and an improved performance by 15%. 9.4 GT/s was reached with memory overclocking. This is better than the Titan X and 980.
The simultaneous multi-projection, or SMP, feature allows up to 16 projections to be calculated by the GPU in one single pass. The reason why you might need this is if you have more than one screen set up, the distortion will be removed. There are potential improvements that can be made in VR performance. Nvidia says that with SMP in a VR, the Pascal can be up to 2 times as fast and up to 3xs more efficient when compared to the Titan X. The GTX 1070 can actually be up to 70% faster than the Titan X under the right circumstances.
Besides the price, availability is the only problem you’ll have with this graphics card. Cheaper cards can run as low as $50 while the GTX 1070 is a bit overpriced. It was quickly out of stock shortly after being released, this card is very nice. When looking at the GTX 1080, it could be a little while until things are settled. When these graphics cards are available, there will always be others pondering the next release in the upcoming seasons. There should be no emphasis on finding the perfect card t the perfect time. That simply isn’t realistic because there will always be something better coming out down the line.
3. Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Review
The second generation of Maxwell architecture was first featured on Nvidia’s GTX 750 Ti. The card titled GM201 manages to combine performance with quiet acoustics as well as low power needs. This is the best single-GPU graphics card available out there. It doesn’t need too much power for it’s pixel push amount, so it’s very efficient. Playing at 1080p or 2160p with the GTX 980, you’ll notice it’s 118.6 frames per second at 1080 p and 58.3 fps at 2160p, it does incredibly well for being only a single carded GPU.
The GM204 Maxwell structure is phenomenal. Even though the 256-bit memory bus is a bit small, the GTX 980 still performs quite well. It can be a little hard to see how it comes in so high on the charts if you just look on paper. The memory bandwidth totals 224GBps and there are less CUDA cores when compared to the GTX 780, so this card only seems like it would perform worse. The GTX 980 however does score higher when it comes to clock speed. When you combine this with the structural efficiency, you can tell the 980 is pushing some serious pixels. Up to 72.1 GP/s can be pumped out and this is higher than the 780 which only handles 41.4 GP/s. When it comes to the 980, you might be disappointed with the texture fillrate as it is 22 GT/s less than the 780 and 32 less GT/s when compared to the R9. Even with this stacked against the 980, the performance and bench marking data shows it outperforms almost every single-card GPU available on the market.
For the top-tier performance it provides, the GTX 980 doesn’t need all that much power. It is noticeable though so while it may not show on the bill, it will show in performance. There are also 2 6-pin power ports which provides a max delivery of 225 watts. This thermal design point ranks in at 165 watts. To make use of all 225-watts safely, make sure you have a cooling system in place because it is referenced that it will dissipate up to 165 watts worth of heating.
Aside form running on little power, the 980 runs quietly and stays relatively cool. The faster the spinning fan then the louder and hotter. To maintain a cool card then you’re going to have to deal with more noise unfortunately. You can render your games at high resolutions to shrink them to fit your monitor for an amazingly clean and crisp graphic display. As one of the best choices for 4k gaming, it comes in at an average of 58.3 fps at high settings. For a single card GPU, this is very impressive. Compared to the GTX 970 a 31 fps and the R9 290X’s 29 fps, the 980 is ahead at 35.4 fps in Unigine Heaven.
Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980 has to be one of the best graphics cards on the market when it comes to performance and efficiency. Although some GPU specs aren’t the best, when tested in the real world the 980 proves to be the best single card GPU out there. If only there was a larger memory bus. At 4k resolutions the 980 can take care of it with decent fps. This is the real deal until AMD releases it’s graphics cards of the next generation.
4. MSI R9 390 GAMING 8G Review
You might be thinking which is better? The GTX 970 or the R9 390? Price-wise, the R9 390 is a better choice while also providing a better performance. This is a great value graphics card, especially if you’re not in favor of the price of the GTX 1070 and don’t want to wait for the next generation.
Based on existing architecture from Hawaii, the R9 390 is double the memory and has 6GHz as well as an increase of core clocks as compared to it’s older sister, the R9 290. With capabilities of mainstream and high-end gaming, expect it to be up to par for several more years to come. Yes, there are faster cards than this one, but it is alive and well with its GCN structure. There are even indications that DX12 games may actually run better on the 390 compared to the GTX 970. It even turns out that it’s better than the GTX 980 with Ashes of the Singularity. Gigabyte is considered the least expensive e390 with a 25MHz core overclock, it surely isn’t anything too special. Overclocking for the user is limited to around 8% as well. With that being said, most games can still be run at 2560×1440 with the highest settings possible.
Again, there is not “perfect” card. This graphics card uses as much power as the GTX 980 but provides up to 30% less performance. The efficiency of Hawaii in a technical standpoint just isn’t up to date. You will need a 6 and 8-pin power connector and enough room to handle the largeness of the R9 390. On a more positive note, the GDDR5 provides a full 8GB of memory as compared to the 3.5GB shenanigans that the GTX 970 offers. It provides a loading power of only 275W, this is still close to what other GPUs are offering. When it comes down to it, the R9 390 is a great value choice, especially if you don’t want to wait for the RX 480 or don’t want to pay so much for the GTX 1070.
5. Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 Review
The Nvidia GTX 970 isn’t as impressive as the GTX 980, it’s bigger brother, you can still expect great performance from it. If you put it in perspective, the GTX 970 actually performs much better than the other graphics cards available in the market. Because of the powerful chipset that comes with the 970, it draws relatively low power and has phenomenal performance in the real-world aspect. You will find disappointment in one thing mainly; the 256-bit memory bus is average at best.
What’s impressive about the GTX 970’s real-world performance is that when compared to the GTX 770, the 970 shows a prominent improvement. What you get is a smoother game play from better frame rates than what you would get from the GTX 780 or even the R9 290X. This difference is only a little bit though. When comparing graphics cards, performance level was examined with the use of many games. The GTX 970 had an average of 94.5 fps. The GTX 770 had only an average of 71.6 fps. As you can tell, the 970 is a real big step up in this aspect of performance.
If you’re into gaming at high resolutions, then the GTX 970 might not be the best choice for you. The GRX 980 and R9 290X are better choices if you’re looking to game at a minimum of 1080p. When used at a 2160p resolution, the GTX 970 averaged out to only 50.2 fps, which is a little lower than the R9 290X, but still quite notable. There are many instances where you could say the R9 290X and GTX 970 are very similar in terms of performance. It’s basically close enough to not make that much of a difference. Regardless, having a few extra frames per second may be a big deal when you’re gaming at a 2160p resolution.
The FTX 970s second generation Maxwell chipset, otherwise known as the GM204, is what makes the performance level so high. With this same chipset you can find in the GTX 980, it’s just a little bit smaller. Instead of 2048 CUDA cores, the GTX 970 offers 1665 CUDA cores. You can also expect the 970’s core clock speed to be reduced when compared to the GTX 980 with the comparison of 1126MHz to 1050MHz. What is great though is that the memory bandwidth is the same with a capacity of 224GB per second.
All coming down to the texture fillrate of 109.2 GT/s and a pixel fillrate of 67.2 GP/s, the GTX 970 is lower than the GTX 980 in both of these respects. This doesn’t mean it’s still decent for what it is. Even with a trimmed GM204 GPU, the GTX 970 is still a powerful graphics card. You can run up to only 3 970s in SLI which is 1 less to the 980. This is silly when you realize that both cards’ chipsets are based on the same make up.
The GTX 970 doesn’t really require much power for how capable it is as a graphics card. It’s average consumption is about 143 watts which is a great improvement over the 770’s 175 watts as well as a big improvement over the R9 290X’s 242 watts during gaming. Another great thing is how quiet the 970 is even with such low heat levels. At a max, the fan is 40.8 dBA which is much quieter when compared to most other graphics cards like it. Simultaneously run up to 4 different displays with the GTX 970. The DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 jacks are all on the back plate of this graphics card. You will find that there are actually 3 different DisplayPort jacks which means you have a lot of room to work with. Aside from being able to use 4 monitors, you can handle any 3D and 4k content with the GTX 970 as well as get full support for PhysX.
Finding the right performance to price ratio is a tough job, but it doesn’t have to be with Nvidia’s GTX 970. It’s still a bit expensive if you’re on a restricted budget, but with it’s graphic capacity, the GTX 970 is a great deal. There are only a couple things that keep it from being the absolute best option that is under $1000, you should still consider it. With amazing real-world performance with games and a low power and sound profile, the GTX 970 is just wonderful.
6. Radeon R9 290X Review
This graphics card delivers on most things, so hardware and gaming enthusiasts better listen up. The fan on the 290x is a bit on the loud side but at the same time outperforms many other single-card GPUs of its kind. The AMD Radeon R9 290x is surely a phenomenal graphics card. When tested for it’s performance levels, the card was sustainable of high frame rates in most of the categories.The Hawaii GPU has incredible power that is easily suited to accommodate multiple display set ups as well as works with practically most APIs. The only problems we had and that you might have with this card is the loud sounds it makes and the consumption of power, which to be honest are short of the average. Even though it’s loud, it does provide a high memory bandwidth, multi-monitor capabilities, and an above average performance to keep this card in one of the top spots on our list.
Handle any game settings with a 1080p resolution with this graphics card. Expect more than 60 frames per second even if your game is graphically intense. Step in to 2160p or 4k gaming then you might not have the best time. Single card graphic cards typically have trouble with running any type of game optimally at a resolution as high as 2160p with only 51 fps. At other settings though, the 290X is able to handle with no problem. If you’re looking for some higher resolution gaming, then this card might not be the best for you.
Comparing the 290x to others of its kind, it’s pretty obvious that this is one of the best graphics cards in this category. Enjoy the 93.3 average frame rate that ruins the GTX 780 as well as some other top card choices. The 290x is a great single card that can handle more than 1080p resolution Based on the Hawaii GPU, the 290x uses Graphics Core Net structural designs. Essentially you can call this the big brother of the Tahiti GPU, it just has more transistors and compute units. It’s GPU has been manufactured with the 28nm process, a typical standard for most graphics cards. You can guarantee the 290X is more complex when compared to the 280X, which is really a good thing.
Get up to 2816 stream processors on this graphics card. This is much higher than many of the other cards we’ve went over already. This is one of the main reasons the 290X is above competition in this graphics card line up. It’s 512-bit memory boosts performance flawlessly. The clock rate is a bit low with only 1250MHz, but it does manage to process 320GB of information each second.
The memory clock speed is what determines the speed of information transferring through the GPU and CPU. Having a high speed is ideal, but with a small memory bus, the information can get “clogged”. Thankfully the 290X offers a good sized memory bus, however it is a bit slower than other memory buses on graphics cards. What happens is there is information moving per the second with these things. A downside of the 290X is how loud it is, it’s the loudest on this list to be exact. If you don’t mind noise too much then this shouldn’t bother you. The card is loud for one reason, the high power consumption it has. It uses on average about 242 watts during a gaming session and can even go up to 305 watts. This power means there are faster clock cycles and definitely more heat. That is why the fan is so loud, the card needs to properly cool off.
AMDs newest graphics cars are able to handle the workload of 4k resolution gaming. This is leading to the creation of drivers that will support 5K. Handling ultra HD and 4K is smoother with the 290X than many of the other cards we’ve talked about. Because the 290X has Eyefinity technology, 4K resolutions are possible, but only on 1 monitor at a time. Keep in mind these happen to run pretty high in price. Eyefinity can also help give you a gaming experience that is spread across up to 6 different monitors. Eyefinity supports 7680 x 3200 on many monitors. If you’re looking to do this kind of gaming, you’ll need to acquire a 2 card set up for reasonable gameplay.
The AMD Radeon R9 290X has to be one of the best graphics cards out there. With a powerful GPU and AMD’s creative technologies, we find that the 290X is a powerful card to provide you with ultra HD and as well as 4K gaming resolutions. Even though the card takes a lot of power and is quite loud, remember it has a high memory bandwidth, eyefinity multi-monitor support and very excellent performance.
7. Gigabyte AMD R9 380 Review
Though a high-end graphics card will definitely provide amazing performance levels, you are able to build a gaming PC for a very similar price. There is a lot of competition when it comes to budget graphics cards, but if you’re impatient then you should consider some of the previous generation hardware that AMD and Nvidia have to offer.
With the Radeo R9 380, you will get better performance then the GTX 950 and 960, even though it does cost more than the 950. You’ll be able to find the card for a pretty cheap price and even cheaper when you factor in mail-in rebates. Ultimately, the performance on the 380 surpasses these GTX models, in both performance and value metrics, but only slightly. AMD’s Polaris takes over the price for this summer, but obviously if you’re not going to wait, the 380 should be your next choice.
Though the card isn’t made to withstand high resolutions like 1440p and 4k gaming, the average fps is 50 fps at 1080p ultra. Drop to 1080p high and you’ll get 60+ fps for most modern games. You’re going to get a 2GB model and it’s important to realize that the VRAM might not work too well with the newest games at the highest settings. This isn’t a fancy high-end graphics card so you need to keep this in mind.
While the R9 380 and GTX 950 are slowing reaching their “end”, the release of the GTX 1050 is going to finalize it. If you’re looking for the best possible gaming experience for at most a couple hundred bucks, then the R9 380 is going to be the best you find until the release of some future cards. There is a power draw of 190W TDP which is more than double the GTX 950’s. When it’s under loaded, it will work up to an average of a 75W difference. Idle power is literally no work for this card.
If you’re really looking to spend even less on your graphics card, then don’t expect too much at all. These cards, like the GTX 750 Ti and R7 360 work, but lack greatly on performance where it won’t even be that much faster than an AMD A10-7800 series APU. If you have an older CPU then you could get the GT 740 1GB or even the R7 240 2 GB, it’s not going to do much for you.