There’s no point buying a brand new modern gaming monitor and not having a decent graphics card to pair with it. The good news is that you can now buy graphics cards that will power all the latest games for a very reasonable price, we’ll help you to decide whether you can get by with a budget card or if you’ll need a full on dual graphics card setup to run your brand new pro gaming monitor.
In this post we’ll have a run down of the current generation of cards and suggest what you might want to spend to ensure you get the performance you need to run the gaming monitor. We’ll update this periodically, at the time of writing the current crop of cards are the GTX 10X0 range from Nvidia and the Radeon R9 5X0 cards from AMD.
Going for a current generation card has some advantages, it offers you access to some of the new technologies out there, for example Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s FreeSync, assuming a compatible monitor. But also, if you are running Windows 10 you can open the doors to DX12, the latest 3D graphics standard from Microsoft. A DX12 compatible card isn’t everything right now as current and older games will work with older cards, but over time support for the older standards are dropped. My recent GPU upgrade was born out of the frustration of not being able to run DX11 games, so it was nice to make the leap straight to DX12.
That said, if you are looking for some savings you may wish to look at some of the older cards from the last generation. You can pick up a last gen GTX 750Ti for example. Personally I would try to stretch my budget to future proof myself but that decision is yours!
As always, if you are looking for specific features, please do check compatibility carefully. Make sure that your motherboard has the correct slot to support the card, ensure you have the correct power connectors and that your power supply is able to support the card. The more powerful the card, the bigger power supply you need. Do contact your supplier if you are unsure, a quick question at this point could save you a lot of hassle.
How do I select a Graphics Card?
Before you rush out and buy a top range card you’ll have to take a good look at your existing PC rig. If you aren’t familiar with your current components then you can use a tool to help work out what’s inside your box.
You need to consider the following aspects of your current rig:
- Do you have an adequate processor? There is little point pairing up a state of the art graphics card with a low end chip from five years ago. There is no hard and fast rule here but modern games will be needing a mid to high end CPU from within the last five years.
- How much RAM? These days you’ll be wanting 8gb as a minimum to run a gaming rig, but really 16gb ensures you can play with the big boys. You’ll likely want more RAM in your system than you have video RAM.
- How much power? One of the great thing about the new generation of graphics cards is that their power requirements have actually been dropping, so if you are swapping out an old power hungry card you should be OK! Most mid range and high end cards need at least one power connector so make sure you have enough 8-pin or 6-pin plugs to feed your new card. There are power supply tools to help work out if you can run the most power hungry cards.
- Will it fit in your case? This is actually commonly overlooked! Some of these cards can be very long or perhaps the attached cooling system needs some head room. It pays to have a peek inside your case and measure up before making your purchase.
- Is your motherboard compatible? See what socket your motherboard has, make sure your new graphics card will fit! Most motherboards will adhere to the PCIe standard which is fortunately backward compatible, ie a modern PCI Express 3.0 card should run in a 2.0 slot. But do check carefully with your suppliers.
If your system is older than five years or so, it might make more sense to consider a whole system upgrade if you want to run with the latest GPU. That said, I actually popped in a lower end GTX 960 in my five year old build to give it year or two more of life. This worked well for me, combined with an Intel i5 2500k, 16gb RAM and SSD, it allowed me to run DX11 and later games without breaking the bank.
OK, so which one should I buy? We’ll take you through a round up of the current crop. Each card will have a number of different versions from a range of manufacturers, some will be slightly faster, some slightly slower. Different models may have different connectors and the cooling solutions can vary wildly from the stock reference models. We’re not going into detailed reviews of each model on this site, there are review sites that do that much better and to be honest, most buyers won’t notice too much of a difference – especially if you just want to slot it in and get playing!
What does matter is the first part of the model number, there is a significant difference between a GTX950 and a GTX980 for example and this is what we’ll cover below.
Entry Level Graphics Cards
That said, the latest generation cards do a great job and if you are upgrading from an ancient card that can’t even start most modern games you’ll finally be able to run the latest software with minimum outlay. From AMD you might want to consider the AMD Radeon RX 550 and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 950 .
The GTX 950, for example, is G-Sync and DX12 compatible, and whilst it won’t allow every game to run on ultra settings you will get great frame rates if you are prepared to sacrifice a little quality. Older games will run great.
The Radeon entry level range also offers great 1080 performance, plus DX12 and FreeSync compatibility.
Bargain Graphics CardsAMD Radeon RX 570 and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 .
These cards are more suited to giving great 1080p performance on current games. Paired up with G-Sync or FreeSync and you’ll get lovely smooth images. They’re not exactly cheap but they’ll give you full access to the best graphics on the latest games, as long as you don’t try to run on a 1440p monitor or hope to get 144 frames per second you’ll go far with one of these cards.
These are the kinds of cards I typically look at, they offer good gaming performance for the casual user with the latest adaptive sync technologies. They will also provide DX12 compatibility so you can enjoy the latest games even if you can’t push the frame rates at “ultra” settings. This shouldn’t bother most casual gamers. If you are looking for “bang for buck” this is the level you should start at, perhaps pushing into the mid range if you prefer a little more grunt.
Mid range graphics cardsAMD Radeon RX 580 and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 .
At this level you are getting some future proofing into your card and can start thinking about powering some of the more premium gaming monitors. You’ll also need more power to run one of these so do check that your power supply can feed it, you may need two power connectors. Bang for buck starts to dwindle with these cards, but they are still better value than the top tied.
Premium, 4K gaming ready graphics cards
Note that unless you are a hardcore gamer and have the monitor and power to run these you might want to look elsewhere. These models are not cheap, they attract a premium price and aren’t what most people would consider value for money.
Looking for the most powerful cards? Try the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X or the Nvidia’s NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti . Unless you have a serious 4K setup or specialist needs for a killer GPU, these cards are likely to be overkill.
The new Radeon Vega range from AMD provides next generation competition for the Nvidia cards which up until now have been the premium card of choice. These have been trickling onto the market in 2018 but can be hard to obtain at a sensible price.