Amazon Graphics Card Store
If you’re looking around for a new graphics card, there’s a high probability that you’re a keen gamer, or planning to become one. Make no mistake about it: the graphics card is the Hercules in that army of components under the hood of your PC. This highly sophisticated add-in board is responsible for the quality of the picture on your screens. That means the games you play, the videos you watch and the webpages you browse. In addition, they’re becoming ever-more sophisticated with every passing year.
Graphics cards share the same basic descriptive format: brand name + model number (e.g., GeForce GTX 780 TI, or Radeon R9 290X). The model number designates the graphics processing unit (GPU) on the card, plus the component’s clock rate (the frequency at which the chip runs, which gives you an idea of its speed) and its memory bandwidth (the higher the memory bandwidth, the faster and more sophisticated will be the images the card can draw).
In general, the wisest policy is to purchase the highest tier graphics your budget can allow. The higher the model number, the better the card. Even if you have a relatively unlimited budget to play with, you shouldn’t need to spend much more than around £200 for a truly high-end card (although the mighty GeForce GTX 980 will set you back about £320 – but you’ll need a 4K Ultra High Definition screen for this).
Don’t get fixated on RAM size – check the bandwidth instead
Random Access Memory or RAM is of course important: it’s the main memory in a computer that allows it to execute its functions as quickly as possible; however, when it comes to graphics cards, memory bandwidth is by far the most important consideration, unless you’re running seriously large resolutions (like a 4K screen or three monitors in surround). The term to look out for is DDR – double data rate-type: the higher the number at the end, the bigger the bandwidth. If you see ‘GDDR5’, you’re looking at a high-end card: for the same clock rate, it will have twice the bandwidth of a humble DDR3 card. Memory bandwidth is a major performance bottleneck – if your budget permits, go for a GDDR5. 1GB of GDDR5 will hugely outperform 4GB of DDR3.