graphics card buying guide - gamer

Graphics cards are an essential component in any gaming or high-performance computing system. Whether you’re considering NVIDIA graphics card technology, AMD Radeon graphics card, or Intel graphics card solutions, the market is filled with options to enhance your PC’s visuals and performance. This article dives deep into understanding graphics cards, GPU performance, and how to compare GPUs from various brands and types. 

Table of contents

  1. What is a graphics card?
  2. Types of graphics cards
  3. Three things to consider when choosing a graphics card
  4. How to check your graphics card

What is a graphics card? 

A graphics card is the part of your computer that handles rendering images, videos, and animations. From playing your favourite games to working with complex 3D models, the graphics card for PC plays a crucial role. Graphics cards come in various shapes and sizes, and understanding the difference between them is essential when choosing the right card for your needs. They are responsible for providing a smooth visual experience, whether it’s gaming, multimedia work, or daily computing tasks. A great graphics card will improve the performance of any computer. But anyone using a computer for tasks like gaming, video editing, or business applications, will benefit from the boost in performance possible with the newest RTX 40 series cards from Nvidia and the newest Radeon RX 7000 series from AMD.

Difference between GPU, graphics card, and video card

Many people use these three terms interchangeably to refer to the same thing: usually a graphics card! Technically they are not the same. Let’s start with GPU: the graphical processing unit is a microprocessor (essential a microchip) designed to handle the complex tasks of processing graphics data. In some computers it will be incorporated right in the computer itself (called an iGPU) but these days, it’s more often part of a separate circuit board, that includes the GPU, specific memory for video and graphics, and other components to ensure the card stays cool and that information flows as fast as possible. This circuit board with the GPU and other components is a graphics card. A graphics card does a good job of processing video, but for some special applications, people may need a video card. This is similar to a graphics card but has a GPU and other components specifically designed to handle video tasks efficiently (tasks like encoding and decoding different video formats). For all intents and purposes, when you arrive at a Best Buy store, you’ll likely be looking for the graphics card section!

Types of graphics cards

NVIDIA, Intel, AMD: The four main players in the graphics card market are NVIDIA, Intel, and AMD. NVIDIA offers impressive performance and cutting-edge technologies. It’s 4090 graphics card is one of the most potent solutions in NVIDIA’s lineup. It represents the top tier of graphics performance. Intel provides balanced performance solutions, while AMD’s graphics cards are known for their value. AMD graphics cards are well-regarded for their performance and affordability.

GEFORCE RTX 4090 graphics card

External graphics card and external GPU solutions: External graphics cards and external GPU solutions offer flexibility and upgradeability for laptop users or those with specific needs. These units plug into your computer without the need to open up the system. From providing an easy way to enhance a laptop’s performance to enabling quick upgrades, external graphics solutions are an innovative option for various computing needs. 

Whether it’s a 4090 graphics card, an external graphics card, or a budget-friendly solution, careful comparison and consideration of various factors will lead you to the best graphics card for your PC.

3 things to consider when choosing a graphics card

When choosing the best graphics card for your system, it’s crucial to understand what to look for when comparing GPU options. Several considerations will help guide your decision, so let’s unpack them here:

MSI graphics card

1. Performance

First and foremost, performance is a critical aspect. Different GPUs come with varied specifications, including clock speed, memory type, and bandwidth. These factors influence how well the graphics card performs when running high-end games or complex applications. When you’re comparing GPUs, look closely at these specifications. If gaming is your primary focus, then seeking out the best graphics card for your specific requirements becomes imperative. 

2. Compatibility

Compatibility is another key concern. Ensure that the GPU you’re eyeing fits well with your existing system. This consideration is not only about the physical size of the card but also its compatibility with your computer’s motherboard and power supply. Furthermore, some users may prefer or require an external graphics card. These are excellent solutions for those looking to enhance a laptop’s performance or for users who need a quick and easy upgrade without opening up their desktop.

3. Your needs and preferences

Lastly, but by no means least, it’s essential to evaluate your specific needs and preferences. Are you looking to build a high-performance machine centred around an NVIDIA graphics card or perhaps an AMD GPU? Each brand has its pros and cons, and the “best” solution varies depending on your requirements. If you’re intrigued by cutting-edge technology, you might be drawn to the latest NVIDIA GPU offerings like the latest 40 series graphics card. Alternatively, many people are drawn to the value of AMD GPUs. Both brands offer a range of cards at a variety of price points. Intel Arc graphics cards offer exceptional performance at a competitive lower price; these work well for gaming and especially for video editing.

By focusing on performance, compatibility, and your own specific needs, you’ll be better equipped to find the perfect graphics card for your PC, whether it’s an internal or external GPU solution. 

How to check your graphics card

Intel ARC A750 Limited Edition graphics card

Knowing your graphics card’s type and specifications is essential, whether you’re looking to upgrade or simply understand your system. Windows users can utilize Device Manager or DirectX Diagnostic Tool, while macOS users can check via the About This Mac option. For those using external solutions, specific software and manufacturer’s websites can provide details. Understanding your graphics card’s specifications helps you determine compatibility with games or software, plan potential upgrades, troubleshoot issues, and compare performance for optimization. 

Finding the best graphics card for your needs 

Whether you are a gamer, a multimedia enthusiast, or an everyday user, knowing your options will lead you to the best graphics cards for your system. Consider performance, compatibility, and your needs and preferences, to find the perfect graphics solution to meet your needs. 

This article was drafted using AI technology and then reviewed, fact-checked, and revised by a member of our editorial team.

Best Buy (assisted with AI)
Best Buy is exploring ways to use AI technology to help us craft engaging content for our customers and fellow tech enthusiasts. It is important to us that we provide you with articles that are timely, accurate, and helpful, which is why our amazing team of writers and editors review, fact-check, and revise any AI-generated content before we post it on our blog. Learn more about our Policy on the Use of Generative AI Content.


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