Best Graphics Card: Which Custom Graphics Card To Choose?

2016

If you have walked recently on the sites specializing in the sale of hardware for PC, you have probably noticed as me a substantial increase in the value of best graphics cards for gaming for some time.

Indeed, the price increase can reach 20% for a model like the Radeon RX 580. Ditto for those of the GTX 10 series (1060, 1070 and 1080). The question that arises then is, why such a price spike?

Recent figures tell us that nearly 3 million graphics cards have been purchased for the purpose of mining cryptocurrencies. Sales that could reach a good 10-12% of GPUs purchased in 2017. This mining race focuses mainly on high-end cards. They are more powerful and therefore better able to undermine virtual currency. That’s why they seem more affected by this price increase.

However, the volatility of these currencies (especially bitcoin and Ethereum) could quickly bring the market to a balance. Especially as manufacturers, AMD and Nvidia are working on the production of cards dedicated to mining. Anyway, AMD is the winner of this sudden attraction for best graphics cards for gaming, since the Sunnyvale firm can nibble 6.5 points of market share on its competitor Nvidia. The latter now stands at 66.3% market share against 33.7% for AMD.

Not all graphics cards look the same and builders use ingenuity to differentiate their models. What are these modified cards worth? Are they really faster and quieter than the more traditional “reference” models?

If AMD and Nvidia share the GPU market for desktop graphics cards, they do not design their cards – or very rarely. It is their partners who take care of it (brands like Asus, Gigabyte, Gainward, MSI, Zotac, Sapphire, etc.). These companies then have two choices: take the reference design or move towards a custom home design.

The changes are made to higher or lower degrees: some are content to affix a home cooling system, others develop a new circuit board. To perfect the point, some models are overclocked in the factory and therefore faster in games than conventional cards. If the manipulation can be done manually, it is above all to offer a guarantee of result.

Key points

Fan Type: There are two types of fans, axial and turbines. Axials push the air against the dissipation surface while the radials create a lateral airflow. If the first system tends to be less noisy, it does not expel the air outside the housing, unlike the second, which tends to be louder therefore.

Drivers: It is necessary to regularly update the drivers of the best graphics cards for gaming. This optimizes performance and avoids bugs in games. For some time, it is possible to automate the update via utilities provided by AMD and Nvidia: Gaming Evolved / GeForce Experience.

SLI and CrossFireX: To gain power, it is possible to use multiple cards in parallel. This is called SLI at Nvidia and CrossFireX at AMD. In both cases, it is common to observe problems in the first weeks after the release of some games. Micro-slowdowns can also be observed.

Coil-whine: A hissing phenomenon can occur under certain conditions, especially in game menus. It comes from the power stage whose components create micro-vibrations. Unfortunately, if some models are more subject than others, it is quite variable. On the same card template, one copy can be touched and not another.

Testing procedures

The performance of graphics cards are judged by submitting them to a panel of ten games. Then execute reproducible scenes after allowing the graphical chip to warm up in order to stabilize its operating frequency. All cards are tested in Full HD (1080p) but they also perform the same tests in 4K / UHD (2160p) on high end cards. Then they derive from these results a performance index reduced to a base of 100. They also measure noise levels using a sound level meter and record the power consumption of the entire test machine. All these tests are done in a closed box which contains a Core i7 3770K, 8 GB of RAM, an SSD and Windows 7.