One of the cool things about PCs is that nothing ever stands still. Whether it’s new video games that redefine immersion, or the ability to edit photos at full resolution with a 4K monitor, progress often means pushing the limits of a video card. If you’ve hit a wall when it comes to your computer’s graphics capabilities, or maybe you  so you can use that big 4K monitor to full advantage, the good news is this doesn’t need to mean shelling out for an all new system. Chances are you can get back to enjoying the best PC technology has to offer by simply upgrading your video card.

Signs that it’s time to upgrade your video card

  • You checked the minimum requirements for the latest and greatest PC video game like Bioshock Infinite and your card isn’t even listed on the box
  • Even with two year-old games from the bargain bin, you have to turn down the settings or the frame rate is so low they’re not playable
  • The manufacturer has stopped releasing new drivers for your existing video card
  • You want to upgrade to one of those , but your PC is having a hard time keeping up with WUXGA, let alone trying to push over 8 million pixels
  • Your existing card is failing (it happens), resulting in symptoms such as onscreen distortion or a black screen

Replacement video card options

You have many options for replacing your video card and before deciding on which one to go with, you should do a little homework. You don’t want to buy too little card (or too much) for your needs, compatibility needs to be taken into account and you’ll want to check for recommendations for cards when used with the software and/or monitor you’ll be using.

Best Buy carries dozens of video cards at all ends of the spectrum and from a variety of manufacturers; here are just two of the possible choices that are popular among typical PC upgraders.

Proving that you don’t have to break the bank to boost lagging graphics performance on your PC, the Diamond Radeon R7 240 packs 2GB of DDR3 RAM, has the outputs most people need (VGA, DVI and HDMI) and supports a maximum resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels. That’s right, you can upgrade your PC to being able use one of those new 4K monitors for less than some people pay for a new keyboard.

For just a little more, you can move up to the Diamond Radeon R7 250 video card. This PCI video card is still priced very affordably but it’s overclocked and uses faster GDDR5 RAM for better gaming performance.

Both cards support AMD’s CrossFire multi-GPU technology —if you find that the games you want to play next year are a little too much for the card to handle, rather than replacing it, you can supplement it with another card and use them in tandem for increased graphics power. Alternately, you can install a pair of these now for a killer gaming system that costs a fraction of one of those ultra high-power video cards.

And if gaming’s not a priority, these cards will still let you take advantage of ultra high definition resolution displays for the ultimate in movie watching, photo/video editing, and Windows 8 mult-app views.

Want some more details on what’s involved in replacing your computer’s video card, or other components? Check out our —the basics are applicable to any PC, not just customized gaming rigs.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.