How To How to Pick the Best Graphics Card

In PC gaming the biggest, flashiest star of all is the graphics card (GPU). While many of us are always seeking out the latest technology, different people will have their own hardware needs.


First off, determine the primary use of your PC. If you plan to use your computer for web browsing or browser-based gaming then you can stick with the iGPU on Intel's processors or an APU found on RyZen platforms. These are small components built into the motherboard to use system resources to emulate the graphics processing power of a discrete graphics card.


Gaming build with an A10-7850

If you plan to use your PC to play the latest in AAA video games then you'll need a discrete GPU for the system. A discrete GPU is a standalone component that is installed into the motherboard and adds substantial memory and graphics processing power for improved game performance.

Gaming build with a discrete GTX 1060 6GB
  • Your motherboard needs at least one PCI express x16 slot for a graphics card to fit into.
    • As of October 2020, the latest PCIe x16 slot version is 4.0. This slot is backwards compatible so you can drop in a PCIe 4.0 card into a PCIe 3.0 slot, but you won't get maximum efficiency from the newer hardware.
  • The latest graphics cards are bulky, so confirm you have enough space to fit the card inside your tower, with room for cooling.
  • If your PC is using an iGPU or an APU you're likely going to be fine with only a 450W(or slightly less wattage) PSU.
    • For a discrete GPU you may need to upgrade your power supply unity (PSU) to something efficient enough to handle a substantially increased need for power.
  • Not every power supply has the same connectors, so you'll want to confirm all your components are compatible before making purchases.
  • While not always the case, some games are optimized to run better on specific hardware. If you're upgrading your machine for one specific game, it's good to look into optimization for said game so you can make an informed decision.
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Great stuff again!

What's your view re getting a CPU without integrated graphics if you're going to have a separate GPU?

I remember one of my builds over a decade ago, after reading expert views I went with a Xeon from Intel—no graphics, no overclocking [which I wasn't interested in]. Benefits were:

Dunno if it's still a thing, I don't see it recommended anywhere, or standard part of pre-builts with separate GPUs—wonder why.
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Thank you, kind sir!

In all honesty I can't actually live without an iGPU of some sort. They come in very, very handy when you need to troubleshoot(i7-750+Asus Maximus III Formula+HD5770 for my little brother's rig about a decade ago)! Times when I was flying blind due to not having an iGPU did leave some bullet sweating moments until I managed to find a spare discrete GPU that didn't need supplemental power. Also, lack of an iGPU does leave some more troubleshooting steps on the to-do list when you're trying to diagnose a system that has a black screen...which often times ends up being a PSU unable to drive all components and the GPU is not being powered up.

Don't get me wrong, not having an iGPU or even a graphics chip soldered onto a board/CPU that's rarely ever used means you're drawing less power and you don't have unnecessary componentry on the build. A system with only what's necessary ensures that you're getting maximum performance without the fluff. In an ideal world, they don't croak. Sadly we never are in an ideal situation no matter how many times we might look for one.
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