Graphics cards like Nvidia Super or RTX 2060 Super are very popular among gamers. We have evaluated and examined the recommendations of numerous external experts. What some find top, is only considered mediocre by others. We have determined the best graphics cards for you that bring you a top visual result on the monitor.
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3090 24GB GDRR6X
- Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090
- Video Memory: 24GB GDDR6X
- Memory Interface: 384-bit
- Output: DisplayPort x 3 (v1.4a) / HDMI 2.1 x 1
- Digital maximum resolution – 7680 x 4320
EVGA 08G-P5-3755-KR GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6
- Real Boost Clock: 1770 MHz; Memory Detail: 8192 MB GDDR6.
- Real-time ray tracing in games for cutting-edge,…
- Triple HDB Fans iCX3 Technology offer higher performance…
- All-metal backplate & adjustable ARGB
- 3 year warranty & EVGA’s top notch technical support.
MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDRR6
- Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
- Video Memory: 8GB GDDR6
- Memory Interface: 256-bit
- Output: DisplayPort x 3 (v1.4a) / HDMI 2.1 x 1
- Digital maximum resolution – 7680 x 4320
ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Twin Edge OC 8GB GDDR6
- NVIDIA Ampere architecture, 2nd Gen Ray Tracing Cores, 3rd…
- 8GB 256-bit GDDR6, 14 Gbps, PCIE 4.0; Boost Clock 1695 MHz
- White LED Logo Lighting, IceStorm 2.0 Advanced Cooling,…
- 8K Ready, 4 Display Ready, HDCP 2.3, VR Ready
- 3 x DisplayPort 1.4a, 1 x HDMI 2.1, DirectX 12 Ultimate,…
XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS XXX Edition 1386MHz OC+, 8GB GDDR5
ASUS ROG Strix AMD Radeon RX 5700XT Overclocked 8G GDDR6
- Powered by AMD Radeon 2nd generation 7nm technology with…
- Supports up-to 6 monitors with 3x DisplayPort 1. 4 and 1x…
- Pci Express 4. 0 delivers double the bandwidth with…
- Triple Axial-Tech 0db Fans increase airflow through the…
- Auto extreme manufacturing and Max-Contact Technology…
XFX RX 5700 XT Triple Dissipation 8GB GDDR6
- Introducing the new XFX triple dissipation 5700 XT. Built…
- Equipped with dual bios. Choose between high performance…
- The XFX RX 5700 XT is built for high-performance and high…
- Boost clock: Up to 1905MHz
Structure of a Graphics Card
In short, the external graphics card consists of:
- Graphics processor (GPU)
- Graphics memory
- PCIe connector
- PCIe power connector
- Display port output
- HDMI output
- DVI-I & DVI-D output
- Slot bracket
Graphics Processor (GPU)
The main processor CPU transfers the data to the graphics card. Since there is a lot of data, the cards need their own processor for support and processing. The GPU is specialized in the calculation of graphics. In particular, it deals with the display and calculation of 3D animations or graphics functions like edge smoothing.
This processor decisively determines the performance of the graphics cards. Earlier graphics cards only had pure output functions and did not have any computing capabilities.
Nowadays, graphics processors are flexibly programmable like CPUs. They are installed as an integrated graphics unit of a CPU, on the mainboard and on PC expansion cards or graphics cards.
The graphics cards have their own working memory and additional memory connection with high clock rates. The memory stores the data and serves as storage for the GPU. The capacity of the memory determines the image resolution and the maximum color depth of the monitor. Many graphics memories today have the size of a RAM of several GB with the corresponding performance.
For control purposes, a memory controller is installed on the graphics card, which controls access to the memory. DDR is an abbreviation for “Double Date Rate” and characterizes a certain type of RAM, whereby the transfer rate is doubled during data transfer. The MSI AMD Radeon R9 390 can point to 8 GB of DDR5 memory, where the 5 is the designation for the fifth version. The working memory of the graphics card is divided into individual memory ranges. These include:
- Vertex and pixel shaders
- Geometry and texture data
Each individual area fulfills different functions. Pixels and related information such as position, location or color depth of a displayed object are stored in the respective areas.
The frame buffer is the part of the video RAM that corresponds to the digital copy of a monitor image. Exactly one area of the frame buffer is allocated to each screen pixel. The color depth of the frame buffer determines the maximum number of colors displayed on the screen. The usual pixel formats specify how many bits per pixel are allocated to the color channels.
- 1 bit per pixel, 2 colors, MDA
- 2 bits per pixel, 4 colors, CGA
- 4 bits per pixel: 16 colors, EGA
- 8 bits per pixel: 256 colors, VGA
- 15 bits per pixel, 32768 colors, Real Color
- 16 bits per pixel, 65536 colors, High Color
- 24 bits per pixel; 16777216 colors, True Color
- 32 bits per pixel
The image resolution indicates the number of pixels of the framebuffer. The aspect ratio can be calculated from the horizontal and vertical number of pixels. Typical framebuffer resolutions are as follows:
- 320 x 200: 64,000 pixels, aspect ratio 16:10
- 640 x 200: 128,000 pixels, aspect ratio 32:10
- 640 x 480: 307,200 pixels, aspect ratio 4:3
- 800 x 600: 480,000 pixels, aspect ratio 4:3
- 1024 x 768: 786,432 pixels, aspect ratio 4:3
- 1024 x 1024: 1.31 million pixels, aspect ratio 5:4
- 1440 x 900: 1.3 million pixels, aspect ratio 16:10
- 1680 x 1050: 1.76 million pixels, aspect ratio 16:10
- 1600 x 1200: 1.92 million pixels, aspect ratio 4:3
- 1920 x 1200: 2.3 million pixels, aspect ratio 16:10
- 2048 x 1536: 3.15 million pixels, aspect ratio 4.3
- 2560 x 1600: 4.10 million pixels, aspect ratio 16:10
Vertex shaders are a special type of shader that run in the graphics pipeline. They are responsible for processing all the vertices. The coordinates of the vertices of the surfaces are transformed so that a displacement, rotation or scaling is performed. In this way, shapes of objects can be influenced, which is also expressed in the lighting.
A typical modification concerns the coordinate systems. Points are only converted, not newly added as with the geometry shader. With the help of vertex shaders, effects such as vertex lighting, terrain/object deformation, water waves or fisheye lenses are possible.
Pixel shaders modify the fragments to be rendered to achieve a realistic representation of material and surface properties. They also modify texture rendering. Examples of their use are phong shading, specular shading, falloff, blooming, lens flaresor HDR rendering. These shaders are part of the GPU and not the CPU. Several shader units are installed in the GPU.
There are several shaders, of which the previous two have been explained in some detail. The shaders and interfaces that are mainly responsible for the most important transformations are divided as follows:
- Pixel shader
- Geometry shader
- Tessellation shader
- Compute shader
- Vertex shader
- Domain shader
- Hull Shader
Since the range of functions is constantly growing, the concept of unified shaders was developed. The graphics driver can decide for itself which shader unit is used. All shader units can thus perform the same functions, which results in a better performance yield for graphics cards. A brief summary of the processing chain as it has worked so far:
- CPU sends geometry data and control commands to the graphics card
- Vertex shader: vertices are transformed
- Tessellation shader: objects are further subdivided
- Geometry shader: further changes
- Rasterization is performed, fragments are created. Information is interpolated over the surface
- Pixel shaders: arithmetic arithmetic units, texture units (texture mapping units)
- After fragment calculation, test for visibility (Z-test), write to framebuffer, Early Z-test
In the beginning the programming is done in assembly language, today in CG, GLSL or HLSL. For the uniform use of the shaders DirectX and OpenGL offer interfaces for the application. Today, the shader units perform more calculations than the CPUs.
Z-buffering is a computer graphics method for concealment calculation. Corresponding depth information is used to determine pixel by pixel which elements have to be drawn and which have to be obscured.
Interface and power connection
Initially, the graphics cards were supplied with power via the internal system bus. As data volumes grew rapidly, more data also had to be processed via the graphics cards. For this, the PCI ports were created, which are located on the motherboard and into which the graphics cards are plugged.
This was later followed by the AGP connector, which was especially used for games. The even faster connector is today’s PCI Express connector (PCIe). PCIe is a bus interface between the graphics card and the mainboard.
Graphics data is transferred from the main processor to the graphics card and from there to the monitor. The PCIe connector guarantees fast data transfer even with large amounts of data. The PCIe interface alone does not supply enough power. The 6- to 8-pin PCI connectors are intended for this. However, there are also frugal graphics cards that manage without an additional power supply, but are still powerful.
External signal outputs
Initially, only analog signals could be processed, for example, through a VGA connection. Today’s graphics cards have interfaces for digital signal output. Digital signals promise a much better image quality than analog ones. The display on the monitor depends to a large extent on the signal quality.
Since graphics cards also transmit sound data, certain manufacturers install TV/video out, component out or cinch connections. Standard graphics cards today have a VGA, DVI, HDMI and recently also a display/port connection.
VGA stands for Video Graphics Array and was the standard display connector for analog connections. It was one of the first connectors of graphics cards and transmission source of image signals. A VGA connector, usually seen in blue, can be used to connect an LCD/LED TV or monitor to the graphics card.
The socket is 15-pin and has 3 rows of connections, via which an analog RGB signal is provided. The colors red, green and blue have one channel each. The connector was mainly intended for CRT monitors, but is also still used for LCD monitors. Only analog video signals are transmitted.
A scaled-down version of the VGA is the mini-VGA, which is used for mobile devices or notebooks where there is not enough space.
DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface and is considered the digital successor to VGA. The images can be displayed sharper on monitors or flat screens. The DVI connector consists of 3 rows with poles on top of each other. On the side of it is another separate connection point.
With DVI, images are displayed with a resolution of up to 1600 x 1200 pixels with a refresh rate of 69 MHz. Only video signals are transmitted, no audio signals. Different versions of DVI connections, which are also wired differently, also function correspondingly differently. Generally, one distinguishes:
- DVI-D: Only digital signals are transmitted. A distinction is made between single-link DVI and dual-link DVI. The latter has twice as many data lines as single and therefore provides a larger bandwidth. This is particularly suitable for resolutions of more than 1920 x 1200 pixels, as the refresh rate is still at least 60 hertz despite the large amount of data. The DVI-D connector is upward compatible and can be converted to HDMI.
- DVI-A: Only analog signals are transmitted. DVI-A is used as an adapter cable to VGA.
- DVI-I: The integrated DVI-I connector can transmit analog and digital signals.
As with VGA, the Mini-DVI variant is suitable for notebooks and mobile devices. Analog and digital signals are transmitted.
HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface and is the successor connector after DVI. HDMI cables have a 19-pin miniature connector and are 5 to 20 m long. Not only digital video signals, but also sound signals are transmitted.
The HDMI connection supports the playback of 3D content and a resolution of up to 4K (UHD). There are different versions for HDMI with different transmission bandwidths and different connectors. These include HDMI 1.1 – 1.2 – 1.3 – 1.3a/b/c – 1.4-1.4a – 2.0 – 2.0a.
This port is a new connection standard for image and sound signals. New graphics cards already have this connection, which is to replace VGA and DVI. The DisplayPort is compatible with VGA, DVI, HDMI and copy protection methods like HDCP and DPCP. Digital video signals and sound signals are transmitted in high bandwidth. Full HD resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels or a 4K UHD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels are supported.
The heat generated by the graphics processor, must of course be reduced to prevent overheating or damage. There are 3 types of cooling solutions
- active cooling solution: radiator
- passive cooling solution
- Water or liquid cooling
The radiator releases heat to the environment and a heat sink transfers the heat to a fan. The disadvantage is that the cooling noise is annoying when the graphics card is heavily loaded.
Graphics Card Board
Graphics cards are processed like a mainboard as a circuit board, which is also a carrier for electronic components. The circuit board contains the electrical connections to the individual components such as the graphics processor, shader or graphics memory. The PCB or circuit board itself is an electrically insulating material, to which the conductor paths adhere as connections.
The material of the circuit board is fiber-reinforced plastic. The conductor tracks are thin layers of copper applied to the circuit board. The components are soldered onto the board or into solder pads.
This electrically connects all the parts together. To hold larger elements on the board, adhesive or screw connections can be used.
When the card is inserted into the slot, the slot bracket is screwed to the housing of the PC. All external signal outputs are then easily accessible. The external signal outputs of graphics cards vary depending on the manufacturer.
Functions of a Graphics Card
When all commands have been sent to the graphics card, the image is displayed. The pixels are processed one after the other in pipelines. A pipeline describes the steps that a graphics system must take to render the 3D image on the screen. The graphics pipeline is divided into several steps.
Application > Geometry > Rasterization > Screen
The shaders within the graphics pipelines give the pixel areas their geometric shapes and colors. If several pipelines are available, the image build-up can be faster.
The functional sequence of a graphics card takes place in the following steps:
- CPU on the mainboard calculates image information
- via bus interface the information is forwarded to the graphics card chip
- Processing of the information in the GPU (graphics card chip or graphics processor)
- Storing of the information in the graphics memory
- RAM-DAC reads graphics memory and forwards the signals directly to the monitor
- continuous signal forwarding to the monitor
Advantages of a Graphics Cards
The advantages and disadvantages of graphics cards also depend on the application. The difference, for which purpose which graphics card is needed, which performance it should bring and how expensive it may be, must first be exactly defined. The following areas of application result:
- Office graphics cards
- Multimedia graphics cards
- Gaming graphics cards
Office Graphics Card
These cards are intended for everyday computer use like office applications, surfing the Internet or watching HD videos. The graphics memory is usually 1 GB here. Older games can be played with a lot of graphics restrictions. These cards are unsuitable for newer games. Mostly, the newer PCs have AMD or Intel processors, so an upgrade or conversion is not necessary.
Multimedia Graphics Card
Multimedia graphics cards have a good price-performance ratio and are suitable for most PC applications. Full HD videos, video and image editing, CAD programs and all applications that work with an office graphics card already work here without any problems.
The connection options are already a bit more diverse, such as DVI, VG; HDMI etc. or also connections for multiple monitors.
Newer games are usually limited in image quality and resolution, but older games run smoothly here as well. The graphics memory has a size between 1 and 2 GB, whereby 2 GB should be available for games.
Gaming Graphics Card
These graphics cards are mainly created for gaming on the computer. The emphasis is on many and current PC games with high graphics performance of these high-end cards. They offer high graphics technology and high performance. Smooth game play with high graphic details, image resolution in FullHD up to 4K quality and edge smoothing are guaranteed.
This includes a 4K capable monitor. The graphics card must be equipped with a strong GPU and VRAM. The graphics card memory is in the range of 4 un 8 GB and more. This card is also well equipped for future game types.
Types of Graphics Cards
What types of graphics cards can be distinguished in principle?
- Entry-level graphics cards
- Mid-range graphics cards
- Performance graphics cards
- High-end graphics cards
Entry-Level Graphics Cards
These are the cheapest graphics cards on the market. They are not particularly powerful and not suitable for PC games. If no graphically demanding application is required when working on the computer, such a card is quite sufficient. They score points for the simple added value, as drivers and software are much better in relation to integrated chipset graphics.
The cards have fewer processing units, lower chip and memory clock rates and a slower memory connection. Games can only be played with greatly reduced resolution, less texture sharpness, and lower graphics detail. Many of these cards can get by with passive cooling. The price is usually under US$60.
Mid-Range Graphics Cards
With mid-range graphics cards, multimedia content, videos in Full HD or image editing programs can already be rendered. Games have to do without maximum detail depth and resolution, but they still run smoothly. Light and shadow effects are not displayed cleanly like in better graphics cards.
They don’t offer graphical top performance, but are well suited for various games, internet surfing or image editing. The price here ranges between US$60 and US$120. This card is intended for working with common application programs.
Performance Graphics Cards
For PC gaming, the inexpensive gaming graphics card is very suitable. The performance graphics cards are powerful. Likewise, graphic designers and architects in technology are very well catered for with this card. The higher power consumption is also accompanied by a higher power consumption. The price ranges between US$150 and US$320. You get a powerful graphics card with very good performance.
High-End Graphics Cards
These cards are suitable for games at the highest graphic level. All expectations are fully met with these cards. They offer very good 3D performance with correspondingly large power consumption. This card requires not only the standard PCIe slot, but also additional power connectors such as 6-pin at 75 watts each.
The entire computer must then be operated with at least a 450 watt power supply in order to provide all components with sufficient power. Likewise, a cooling construction with several fans is needed due to the high performance. The price of this stately equipped graphics card is usually between US$350 and US$800.
List of AMD Graphics Cards
AMD Radeon is a brand name from AMD, which is used to market graphics cards and graphics chips. The graphics processors have the identifier Rxxx. The numbering of the processors is not always chronological. All GPUs with a native AGP interface can be attached to the PCI graphics cards. Likewise, GPUs with native PCIe interface can be used on AGP graphics cards with the corresponding bridge chips.
AMD offers graphics processors for the embedded system with a long-term availability of 5 years. There are still the stream processors for calculating floating point numbers. Starting with the Radeon X1000 series, graphics processors can solve such computing tasks. The models for the desktop are listed here:
- AMD Radeon R200 Series
- AMD Radeon R300 Series
- AMD Radeon Vega Series
Additional models are available for mobile and embedded systems.
List of Nvidia Graphics Cards
The best cards from Nvidia are titled with the brand name GeForce. GeForce stands for geometry and Force for power. So-called stereo 3D drivers are added to the actual drivers of the GeForce graphics cards. This enables stereoscopic output of OpenGL or DirectX graphics. The test shows the production of anaglyph images for the creation of a three-dimensional impression. Alternatively, a monitor with a short afterglow time and shutter glasses can be used.
The latest test shows that monitors with a certain viewing angle limit already manage to display a spatial image without glasses. All GPUs with AGP interface can also be used for PCI graphics cards. GPUs with native PCIe interface can also be used for AGP graphics cards with a bridge chip. The model series include
- GeForce 256 Series
- GeForce 2 Series
- GeForce-6 Series
- GeForce-7 Series
- GeForce-8 Series
- GeForce-9 Series
- GeForce 100 Series
- GeForce 200 Series
- GeForce-500 Series
What to look for when buying a graphics card
Comparisons of graphics cards are usually based on features and performance characteristics. The clock frequencies, shader count, memory clock, memory bandwidth and graphics memory are mainly compared. The term FPS, frames per second, or also frame rate, gains in importance.
This means how often the image is recalculated and rebuilt. A frame rate of 30 fps provides a smooth picture. The combination of resolution and frame rate allow comparisons of graphics cards. There is a huge selection of graphics cards. Besides comparing the test winners, there are various points that are important to consider when buying.
- Graphics Chip
- Graphics memory (VRAM)
- Gaming PC or not?
- Signal outputs
The graphics chip depends on the graphics performance. Of course, more powerful chips are also more expensive. The price-performance ratio has to be examined closely. The important capacities of the VRAM are the bandwidth and the speed at which the data can be processed.
A card with GDDR5 memory has twice the bandwidth of a DDR3 memory.
The size of the graphics memory also plays a role, of course, especially if many games are to be played. In a gamer PC, all components have to be compatible with each other. So, the renewed graphics card has to fit into the system. The PCIe connectors must be sufficient and the power performance should not be disregarded when upgrading.
The CPU’s temperature should not rise above 60 °C. Therefore, a graphics card with its own cooling supply is appropriate. The compatibility of the signal outputs should be checked so that the monitors etc. can also be connected.
In conventional cooling, the processor is cooled via a heat sink in the form of cooling fins. A fan blows a stream of air over it to dissipate the heat. Air cooling is unlimited in everyday environments and can be supplied by means of a fan. However, water can absorb more thermal energy than air.
Thus, water cooling is often better than air cooling. These fins and the fan should be cleaned from time to time from dust that accumulates there, otherwise the cooling performance will decrease. To clean the computer from dirt, proceed as follows:
- Phillips screwdrivers of various sizes
- a large soft brush
- compressed air possibly from a can
- cloths, kitchen roll
- glass cleaner
- heat conductive paste
- spatula for application
- Vacuum cleaner with narrow nozzle
- Antistatic tape against electrostatic charges
Remove all doors, flaps, etc. of the housing. Unscrew the screws and remove the side panels. The front panel must also be removed. Now you have a view into the PC and can get an overview of the degree of dirt. For the coarse dirt, the vacuum cleaner should be used on the case parts. The rest can be cleaned with compressed air
and a soft brush.
Fine dust can be removed with glass cleaner and a cloth. The fans should be removed for cleaning and cleaned with compressed air. The fans are then cleaned with a damp cloth. After all case fans have been cleaned, it’s time for the components. The graphics card should be removed to clean it.
Before that, the power supply should of course be cut off. Compressed air and a soft brush are used here. The processor should also be cleaned of dust with air pressure and a brush. After cleaning, the CPU is placed back on the socket and thermal paste is applied and the heatsink is reattached.
Since dirt also accumulates on the bottom of the case, it must not be forgotten during cleaning. should not be forgotten during cleaning. Cables can be organized and fixed with ties on this occasion. After cleaning, all parts are reinserted and the case is closed.
Frequently Asked Questions: Graphics Cards
Why do I need a graphics card?
A graphics card converts data into image[/checklist] signals and sends them to the monitor. The graphics cards also relieve the current CPU by having its own processor that takes care of calculations. Without a graphics card, no image would appear on the monitor.
How does a PCIe graphics card differ from an AGP model?
A PCI Express graphics card has a different connector and requires a corresponding PCI Express slot on the motherboard.
Are the PCIe graphics cards faster than the AGP devices?
The PCIe graphics cards are usually faster than the AGP devices. However, it depends on the respective game, because the games also have to consider the higher transfer speed between the PCIe graphics card and the CPU. In some cases, up to four times the amount of data can be transferred per second.
Does a new graphics card also require a power supply with more power?
This is not necessarily always necessary. Modern graphics cards need a power supply with at least 350 watts, 500 or 750 watts are better. It is possible that the old power supply already has this power.
What does SLI or Crossfire mean?
SLI technology enables parallel operation of Nvidia GPUs and graphics cards. This generates even more 3D graphics performance for games. Crossfire means SLI technology from the Canadian manufacturer ATI.
Last product update on 2021-04-10 | Source: Amazon Affiliate