- Best Gaming Graphics Card
- Best Value Video Card
- Best 3D Graphics Card
- Best AMD Crossfire Graphics Card
- Best nVidia SLI Graphics Card
- Best Budget Video Card
- Best AGP Video Card
Best Graphics Cards
PC gaming has become increasingly popular in recent years, and graphics software is more available for a wide range of computer users. As a result, graphics/video cards are now more important than ever before. To keep up with such demands, manufacturers offer an array of different models to fit just about any need. Gamers looking for incredible detail and blistering frame-rates can find a wide range of gaming-oriented video cards. "Budget" video cards cater to casual users and amateur multimedia editors looking for a more affordable price point. For power users who want more performance than a single card can achieve, we even looked at the best video cards for SLI and Crossfire setups. Regardless of your needs, there's some essential product information everyone should know which is covered below in our graphics card buyer's guide.
Best Gaming Graphics Card:
If you want a video card for fast, gorgeous graphics while gaming on your PC, then you should look for the best of the best. While not every game on a PC takes advantage of high-performance graphics cards, most major releases do and future titles will have even more demanding capabilities. While you can keep price in mind due to your budget, the primary factor when choosing a gaming video card really should be performance. These are the best cards for rendering out real-time gameplay, keeping your frames per second high and your number of deaths low. These can work in Crossfire or SLI setups but they also run beautifully as standalone cards, and they also work well for viewing online media and working with computer graphics programs.
These gaming graphics cards were chosen for this list because they give you the best performance thanks to at least 4GB of fast, 384-bit or better GDDR5 memory. The dedicated video memory in these models runs at a clock speed of at least 6.0GHz or faster. You’ll find both NVIDIA and AMD graphics chips here; the NVIDIA ones have at least 2,816 CUDA cores, while the AMD models have 2,816 Stream processors or more. Since these video cards are designed for optimal performance, they all have excellent cooling designs, including rear venting and liquid-cooling options. Additionally, all of these cards support up to four displays simultaneously and have HD 4K resolution support so you get the absolute best picture quality possible.
For pure, unmitigated performance, this is the definitive gaming video card. It has 12GB of incredibly fast 768-bit memory that runs at 7.0GHz and over 5,000 CUDA cores. This is also a very expensive video card, so it might not be for every computer build, but the cooling is great and it simply cannot be beat in terms of overall performance. Read Full Review
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If you are interested in an AMD video card, rather than NVIDIA, then check out this model. It has 4GB of AMD’s High Bandwidth Memory and over 4,000 Stream processors to keep your games running beautifully. This model has built-in liquid cooling, so make sure it will work with your computer case, making it a great choice for serious PC gaming. Read Full Review
If the GeForce GTX TITAN Z is outside your budget, but you still have a lot of money for a great video card, then give this a good look. It is still pretty pricey, but you get 12GB of 384-bit RAM and it has over 3,000 CUDA cores. This model is not quite as large as the TITAN Z and requires slightly less power, so it tends to be a better fit for a wider range of computer builds. Read Full Review
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If you want a great AMD video card but something like the R9 FURY X is more card than you need, then this is a great choice. It has 8GB of very fast 512-bit GDDR5 memory and includes almost 3,000 Stream processors. Two 90mm fans keep this card running nice and cool, but a lot of that heat is going to end up in your computer case, so keep that in mind. Read Full Review
If you want a fantastic NVIDIA video card for under $1,000, then this is the best way to go. It has 6GB of 384-bit GDDR5 memory that runs incredibly fast and a GPU clock speed of 1000MHz. You get less than 3,000 CUDA cores with this model, and it still has pretty high power requirements, but the price is great and the performance is tremendous. Read Full Review
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Best Value Video Card:
When looking at "value" video cards, you'll typically want to find the sweet spot between high-end cards that serious PC gamers prefer, and those cards that are just slightly better than onboard graphics. These are the middle of the road cards that can give you some very nice gaming performance, as long as you're not trying to run next year's biggest game on Ultra settings. These cards are perfect for MMOs, RTS, and RPG titles that are not usually graphically intensive. For FPS games on the other hand, these might be a little weak or at least require some lower settings to maintain high frame rates. With that in mind, you should still look for cards with a good amount of memory and fast clock speeds so that you still get great overall performance.
We've chosen these as the best value video cards because they give you excellent frame rates and performance thanks to a minimum of 2GB of DDR5 memory. They all have a core clock speed of at least 990MHz, which keeps them running fast even under strenuous conditions. You also get a lot of options for connecting displays to these cards, which all have at least four output ports along with support for at least three monitors being connected at once. All of these cards fall somewhere between $200 and $260 which still gives you great performance for your money.
This is a really great video card that offers tremendous performance for the money. You get 4GB of GDDR5 memory and a base clock speed of 1304MHz, which can be boosted even faster. This card has five output ports and supports up to four monitors simultaneously, making it an ideal choice for a wide range of setups. Read Full Review
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If you prefer AMD to NVIDIA, then this is a great option that gives you about the same level of performance as the EVGA GeForce GTX 960. It has 4GB of GDDR5 memory and a core GPU clock speed of 990MHz. This one has four display outputs and can support up to three monitors. Read Full Review
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This model straddles the line between a budget model and a value video card, so keep that in mind if you don’t have the budget for a more powerful card. It has 2GB of GDDR5 memory and 768 CUDA cores, plus the GPU runs at 1203MHz. Despite the low price, this model has five outputs and can connect to four monitors, though it does lack in terms of some performance. Read Full Review
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Although this is a very good graphics card, the price on it just makes a less than perfect choice. It has 2GB of 128-bit GDDR5 memory that runs at 6.6GHz. The core GPU clock speed on this card is 1150MHz and it has four output connections, but the price is just a bit higher than it probably should be. Read Full Review
If you are looking for a pretty streamlined model that still offers up excellent performance, then take a good look at this option. It includes 2GB of GDDR5 memory and has six outputs that can connect to up to six displays simultaneously. Although this model sits right in the middle of the value price range, it just lacks a bit of performance to really excel. Read Full Review
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Best 3D Graphics Card:
When it comes to great 3D performance on a computer, you need to consider your 3D graphics card, monitor, and the glasses you're using. Having a 3D monitor is crucial since you need the proper refresh rate and resolution to handle 3D display, and the glasses typically come as part of a setup to make the 3D appear properly for you. Beyond that, you need a high-performance graphics card to render out the image properly for you to perceive it in 3D. While one of these cards may work on their own, you might also consider running two cards together for better performance, which can make the cost of each one more of a consideration. The two major manufacturers each have their own 3D technology, so consider both NVIDIA cards with 3D Surround or 3D Vision support, and AMD models designed for HD3D.
These 3D graphics cards provide the best performance and rendering support for 3D imagery thanks to at least 2GB of GDDR5 or better memory. All of these graphics cards run nice and fast, thanks to minimum GPU clock speeds of at least 990MHz. You also get support for multiple monitors with these graphics cards; they all can handle at least three displays simultaneously. All of these graphics cards are compatible with the 3D technology of their respective chipset manufacturer, which is very important to ensure compatibility with an appropriate 3D display.
This is a fantastic video card for any purpose, and with support for NVIDIA’s 3D Surround technology, it is an ideal choice for use with a 3D monitor. It has 6GB of GDDR5 memory, which makes it ideal for serious PC gaming or running HD media even on a 4K display. With a base GPU clock of 1102MHz and almost 3,000 CUDA cores, this is a tremendous graphics card in any setup. Read Full Review
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If you prefer AMD to NVIDIA, and still want serious performance in a 3D setup, then check out this model. It has 4GB of High-Bandwidth Memory, designed to be even faster than the latest GDDR5 video RAM, along with a GPU clock speed of 1000MHz. With over 3,500 Stream processors and support for up to six monitors, this is a great graphics card that's perfect for a 3D setup. Read Full Review
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If you are looking for an NVIDIA model, but something like the EVGA NVIDIA GeForce 980 Ti is outside your budget, then give this option a good look. It has 4GB of GDDR5 memory, which keeps it running nice and fast, plus a core GPU clock speed of 1140MHz. With support for four displays and numerous display outputs, this is a great choice for a 3D setup. Read Full Review
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Here is an excellent option for 3D display if you are on a budget but still value a high level of performance. It has 4GB of GDDR5 memory and a core GPU clock speed of 995MHz, which gives you great performance. With support for HD3D and up to three displays, this is a great choice that is inexpensive and ideal for running together with other cards in CrossFire. Read Full Review
EVGA GeForce GTX 750Ti with G-SYNC Support 2GB GDDR5 128bit, Dual-Link, DVI-I, HDMI, DP Graphics Card (02G-P4-3751-KR)
If you're looking to pick up a good NVIDIA 3D graphics card on a budget, then this is one to definitely consider. It has 2GB of memory, which isn't as much as some models out there but is still good, and a core clock speed of 1176MHz. This is not a good option if you are looking to setup an incredibly powerful system or use multiple cards together, but the price is terrific. Read Full Review
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Best AMD Crossfire Graphics Card:
Putting two or more AMD cards together in CrossFire configuration is all about performance and boosting it as much as you can. You'll want to look at the different cards available and pick those that give you the most power and highest performance for your dollar. All of these work well together in a CrossFire setup, but some just give you higher speeds or more memory than others. These cards come in a pretty wide range of prices, so you can find the right couple of cards to set up together no matter what your budget looks like. If you already have an AMD card that you want to pair with another one, then make sure your current model is compatible with a new card before making your purchase.
We've chosen these picks as the best AMD Crossfire graphics cards because they give you excellent performance thanks to at least 3GB of 256-bit GDDR5 memory. All of these cards have at least 1,024 Stream processors and base GPU clock speeds of 990MHz or faster. You also get at least four output connectors on each of these graphics cards, though different combinations of output types are available, so check each card to be sure the one you pick is compatible with your monitor. Lastly, these all support CrossFire setups, but some of them are quite large so you need to have a motherboard with enough connections and spaced out sufficiently to have room for two or more of these cards.
Here is an excellent video card just on its own, but in a CrossFire setup, it becomes really impressive. It has 8GB of 512-bit GDDR5 memory that has a clock speed of 6.0GHz for fast, powerful performance. You get five output connections on this card, including multiple DisplayPort connectors, HDMI, and DVI-D ports. Read Full Review
This is a tremendously powerful video card that works well just on its own, and combined in a CrossFire setup, it is incredible. You get 4GB of High Bandwidth Memory that offers even better performance than GDDR5. This card also has a GPU clock speed of 1000MHz, over 3,500 Stream processors, and four output ports including an HDMI port and multiple DisplayPort connections. Read Full Review
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If you are looking for a bit more of a mid-range graphics card, that still offers excellent performance, then give this one a good look. It has 4GB of 256-bit memory, along with a GPU clock speed of 995MHz and just over 1,000 Stream processors. The lower price on this one makes it a great option for buying two or more of them to set up in CrossFire. Read Full Review
This is a really good mid-range option for setting up a powerful system with a CrossFire configuration that doesn’t break the bank. It has 4GB of 256-bit memory and a core clock speed of 990MHz. You can certainly find more powerful video cards on the market, but the reasonable price on this one makes it a great choice on a moderate budget. Read Full Review
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This is a very nice video card that gives you solid performance at a more budget-friendly price point. It's not necessarily cheap, but it has 3GB of very fast memory and a core clock speed of 1000MHz for excellent overall performance. The price on this one is a bit higher than it probably should be, but this model is designed with two Crossfire connectors, making it ideal for a 4-way setup. Read Full Review
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Best nVidia SLI Graphics Card:
While putting two or more graphics cards together in SLI boosts performance, you certainly want to start with the best cards you can. Begin by looking at overall performance when picking cards, and primarily choose ones that offer the best graphics and highest quality possible. Raw performance numbers shouldn't be your only consideration, however, since the cost of setting up this type of arrangement is also important. You want to look at your full system and consider how these cards will work with your other hardware and power supply to give you the best setup you can have.
With that in mind, these are the NVIDIA SLI graphics cards that give you the best power and performance thanks to each having at least 2GB of 128-bit GDDR5 memory. They have core GPU clock speeds of 902MHz or faster and at least 768 CUDA cores, so they run beautifully no matter what type of software you prefer. All of these models support SLI setups, and they require no more than a 600 Watt power supply individually, making them ideal for running two or more together. Lastly, these cards come in at a wide range of price points as well, so you can find a pair of cards to work together in SLI no matter what your budget looks like.
Although not the most powerful NVIDIA video card on the market, this is definitely a great choice for an SLI setup. It has 6GB of very fast memory and a core clock speed or 1000MHz, which gives you terrific performance even just by itself, let alone paired with another card. The price on this one is pretty high but two of these in SLI provide absolutely fantastic performance. Read Full Review
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If you are looking for the absolute best performance possible in an SLI setup, then this is the way to go. Just one of these has 12GB of incredibly fast GDDR5 memory and a GPU clock speed of 1127MHz. the price on this card is very high, however, so it is impractical for the vast majority of computer builds, but if you have the budget for it, then this is the way to go. Read Full Review
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This is a great NVIDIA SLI graphics card if you are interested in the higher end of mid-range cards and two or more of them are pretty realistic for a wide range of computer budgets. It has 3GB of fast memory and a core GPU speed of 902MHz, plus over 2,000 CUDA cores. However, you’ll still need at least 600 Watts of power for just one of these cards so a high-end PSU will be necessary for an SLI setup. Read Full Review
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If you're looking to put together a mid-range SLI setup, then take a good look at this card. You get 4GB of fast GDDR5 memory in this card, and it has a great core clock speed of over 1000MHz. While this card might not give you the level of performance of something like a GeForce GTX 980 Ti, it still requires just as much power so keep that in mind. Read Full Review
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This is a great video card if you're on a budget but still want to pick up two of them to go together in an SLI build. It has 2GB of pretty fast memory and a core clock speed of 1140MHz, which you can boost up to 1355MHz if you want better performance. Power requirements on this model are quite low, so not only can you pick up a few of these at a low price, but you won’t need to break your budget on a PSU either. Read Full Review
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Best Budget Video Card:
When it comes to "budget" video cards, you want to look for models available for a low price that still give decent performance. Most motherboards already have onboard graphics processing for your system, but if you're looking for a dedicated video card, then you probably want something more. All of these picks can run PC games for you, especially older games. If you want to run a brand new first-person shooter with the best graphics possible, then these won't be the best choice, or you'll at least have to turn down your graphics settings. All of these video cards should be available for between $100 and $200, though sales and manufacturer rebates can bring these prices down even further.
These are the budget video cards that offer excellent performance thanks to at least 2GB of GDDR5 memory, which is very good at this price range. This memory runs at clock speeds of 5.4GHz or faster, so you get a great bandwidth and speed from the video RAM in these cards. They all have solid GPU clock speeds, running at speeds of 995MHz or faster as well as at least three output ports, including DVI and HDMI.
This offering from XFX is a very nice video card that you can find at a reasonable price and it offers tremendous performance for a budget-friendly model. It has 4GB of memory with a RAM core speed of 5.6GHz. The GPU clock speed is just 995MHz, which is a bit slow even for a budget card, but with all that video RAM and four output connections, this is an excellent choice. Read Full Review
This is a truly excellent NVIDIA video card if you're on a budget. It offers very nice performance with 2GB of 5.4GHz memory that keeps your programs running smoothly. The core GPU clock speed on this one runs at 1176MHz and it has three output connections. Read Full Review
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While the specs on this card are quite nice, the price on it is a big high and it comes in quite close to the $200 budget limit. With that in mind, it has 2GB of GDDR5 memory that runs at 7.0GHz, which gives you excellent video performance. The core GPU clock speed on this one is 1165MHz and it has four output ports. Read Full Review
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This is probably the least expensive video card you will find in this price range, and yet it does not sacrifice performance for the low cost. It has 2GB of GDDR5 memory, which runs at 6.5GHz, giving you great overall speed when rendering graphics on your screen. The GPU has a core clock speed of 1070MHz, which is quite good, and you get four output ports on this model. Read Full Review
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There is a lot to like about this budget video card and it offers excellent performance, but the price on it is just a bit high. This card has 2GB of GDDR5 memory that runs at 6.6GHz, which is nice and fast, plus it works well with the core GPU clock speed of 1165MHz. All of that is great, but the price comes in pretty close to the $200 limit, which is just a bit much for this level of performance. Read Full Review
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Best AGP Video Card:
In many ways, AGP video cards have become obsolete for a fairly large portion of computer users. PCI-E ports on motherboards have become more common and newer, more powerful video cards are almost always released with these types of connections. Still, an AGP video card can be used in a legacy system, such as an older computer which lacks a motherboard with a faster slot for a video card.
For the record, none of these cards are going to play the latest games at high resolution with all graphics settings at high or ultra. In fact, many of the newest games have minimum requirements that these cards just don't meet. That said, these best AGP video cards have a decent amount of memory for the best performance you can get with an older card, they’re all readily available, and are able to support newer displays and other types of computer hardware.
This is pretty much as good as you're going to get with an AGP card at this point. It has half a gig of DDR3 memory which is pretty rare for legacy cards and it includes one of the last really good chipsets for AGP models. If you want a card that can play some PC games and still give you decent performance, this is your best choice. Read Full Review
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Although a bit of a step down from the HIS Radeon HD 4350, this is still a solid card offering decent performance for an AGP model. It has half a gig of memory, but it's DDR2 RAM, which is good for an AGP card although not amazing either. If you're looking to play any newer games on your computer, you might want to stick with the HD 4350. Read Full Review
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There aren’t a lot of Nvidia AGP video cards from major manufacturers, but this one is pretty good. It only has half a gig of DDR2 memory which is decent but definitely not impressive. You can get some acceptable performance out of this card, but it lacks support for anything but older applications. Read Full Review
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This is definitely a barebones AGP video card and you're going to get pretty limited performance out of it. As long as you just want to run some basic applications or pretty old PC games, this card can work just fine. This is a solid choice for a simple, very inexpensive card which gives you dedicated video memory, but you won't see any recent games running on it. Read Full Review
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Axle3D Nvidia Geforce 6200 512MB DDR2 64-Bit w/ DVI + VGA + S-Video + Low Profile Bracket AGP 8x Video Card
While you won't get a ton of performance out of this video card, it's still a pretty solid AGP option. It has half a gig of DDR2 memory, which is good for an older model, but certainly can't compare to newer cards. You can find this card pretty easily, and at a reasonable price, so it's a good option for a legacy system. Read Full Review
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Graphics Card Buyer's Guide
As you're looking at different graphics cards on the market and try to find the best value for your money, it's easy to get overwhelmed given the amount of numbers and stats provided with each model. Thankfully, there are only a few major considerations you should keep in mind as you compare your options. Once you know what to look for, it becomes easy to pick the right card for your computer.
Manufacturer - Chipset vs. Card
Typically, the first place to start with when looking at a graphics card is the manufacturer. When it comes to commercial video processors there are basically two companies which are NVIDIA and AMD. NVIDIA cards are associated with "GeForce" while AMD cards typically go by "Radeon". However, there numerous companies which are the actual card manufacturers who use these processors as a base and then add on cooling systems and other hardware.
For example, if you see a card labeled "EVGA GeForce GTX 980," then what you're looking at is a card by the company EVGA with an NVIDIA GPU. A card labeled "Sapphire Radeon R9 290X," on the other hand, is a card built by Sapphire using an AMD processor.
The amount and type of memory or VRAM found on a video card is vitally important to how well it performs in a system. When looking at the amount of memory more is generally better, but you also need to consider the bandwidth of that memory. Rather than looking for a number, you can usually just look at the type of memory used with GDDR5 being the most recent and high-performing type of video memory. 2GB of GDDR5 memory is going to perform much better than 4GB of older DDR3 memory, so prioritize a decent amount of fast VRAM over a lot of older, slower memory.
Model numbers can get a little confusing, but most manufacturers use increasing numbers to indicate a new series or improvements to cards within an established series. You'll see model numbers for cards based on the GPU, so an EVGA GeForce GTX 980 uses the same chipset as a GeForce GTX 980 card from any other manufacturer, it just has different hardware around it. Higher model numbers won’t always mean better performance, but it does usually indicate a newer version which often equates better processing power and memory.
For AMD, Radeon R9 cards are typically more powerful than R7; higher numbers like the R9 290X offering better performance than a R9 270 or R7 260X. If you're looking at NVIDIA cards, then the GTX 900 series will give you better performance than the 700 or 600 series, so something like the GTX 970 is going to be much more powerful than a GTX 750 or GTX 660.
Cooling and Power Requirements
It's important to keep in mind how cooling is handled on a graphics card and how much power they’ll require. Typically called a "reference", basic cooling on a card can work fairly well but doesn't always do an amazing job. Aftermarket cooling, usually added by the card manufacturer, is designed to cool the card more efficiently and quietly. Different manufacturers have their own forms of aftermarket cooling, but for really powerful cards look for the presence of multiple fans or liquid-cooling.
You'll also want to look at how much power is required for a video card and make sure you have much more than the minimum requirement. A 600W power supply is typically considered the bare minimum, but you'll be much safer with a 750W or higher PSU. In general, NVIDIA cards usually require less power than AMD models, but you'll want to look at the specific stats of a card to be sure your system can handle it.
For in-depth information on power requirements, please check out our power supply buyer's guide.
Even if your system has the power to run a certain video card, you still want to be sure you can actually install it within your tower and motherboard. There are different types of connections for video cards, with PCI Express, or PCIe, being the most recent and best performing.
Older motherboards might only have PCI or AGP connections which will require an older video card so naturally you want to check what connections your motherboard has before choosing a card. Newer and very powerful graphics cards tend to be quite large, so ensure there’s room on your motherboard and inside the tower as well.
A full tower can usually handle a card such as the Sapphire Radeon R9 295x2 which measures more than a foot long and takes up two and a half slots on a motherboard. If you have a mid-size or smaller tower, however, then check the size of any graphics card you're interested in to be sure it can fit.
Finally, check to be sure any video card you look at is compatible with the version of DirectX you need for your programs. For example, most recent PC games require DirectX 11, but some older cards might only support DirectX 9 or 10.
You’ll want to consider the maximum resolution of your monitor before you pick up a video card. For example, if your monitor only supports up to 1280x1040 resolution, then you don't need to spend more money on a card with HD4K support unless you plan on upgrading to a higher-resolution monitor rather soon. On the other hand, if you do have a 4K monitor or want to connect your computer to a large HDTV as a display, then you'll want to look for graphics cards supporting HD4K and similar high resolutions to take full advantage of your hardware.
CUDA Cores/Stream Processors
The number of processors indicated with a graphics card can give you a sense of overall performance when running any graphics intensive program. NVIDIA refers to the processors on newer cards as "CUDA cores" while AMD uses the term "stream processors”. While you can’t directly compare these numbers between the two manufacturers, you can compare between different cards from the same company. In general, more processors give you better performance, so look for a high number. For example, 1,000-2,000 is excellent for a high-end card while upper-midrange cards usually have a range of 600-1,000.
If you're interested in a really impressive setup, then you might be considering a multi-card system. NVIDIA refers to its multi-card technology as "SLI," while AMD uses the term "CrossFire”. Both technologies let you connect two or more cards together on a single motherboard for improved performance. Keep in mind you need to use two cards from the same manufacturer and they usually will need to be either the same cards or use the same GPUs. Running two or more cards in your system requires an expensive power supply, typically generates a lot of heat, and their multiple cooling fans can generate a lot of noise.
Multi-card setups are ideal if you have a high resolution HD4K monitor, an HDTV is serving as your display, or for using three or four monitors together but keep in mind a second card will only boost performance somewhere between 25-50 percent. Adding a third or fourth card to the setup increases performance but with greater diminishing returns by greatly increasing power consumption, heat production, space required in your rig, and of course the added monetary costs.
Furthermore, multi card configurations can suffer from an issue known as micro stuttering (not to be confused with rubberbanding lag or screen tearing) which is a high frame time variance that’s simply a delay in one of the cards rendering and displaying a frame. However, newer drivers and software have helped minimize this issue in both NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire enabled cards.
Simply put, a multi-card setup is definitely not right for everyone.
If you're looking to get the best performance possible out of your graphics card, then you're probably considering overclocking it. Most modern video cards have great overclocking potential but you want to make sure you have the cooling capabilities to handle it. Aftermarket cooling is typically required for safe overclocking so look for manufacturers who add their own fans or liquid-cooling onto a card.
Some really powerful cards might already be tuned so high they run hot regardless and don't give you much room for boosting performance. For example, if you want to overclock something like a Radeon R9 290X then you'll definitely want to find a model which provides excellent cooling. Keep in mind you can always add aftermarket cooling yourself if you can't find a graphics card ideal for overclocking.