If you are a gamer, the most important part of your PC you should know about is the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). Whether you are looking to buy a gaming computer or laptop or planning to build one on your own, you should know that the system’s GPU is the most vital component, even more than its CPU.
What does a GPU do?
In simple words, it takes care of everything that is transmitted from inside the PC to its display. As a result, regardless of what you are doing with the machine, from editing a video to playing your favorite game, it is affected by your computer’s GPU. In this simple guide, you will learn all the basic yet important information you need to know about GPU.
Integrated vs. Dedicated GPUs
As mentioned earlier, the GPU is basically responsible for the colorful display and visuals you see on your computer or laptop, and it happens to be one of the most expensive components of a system. In general, GPUs are often incorporated in a computer in the form of a separate card that can be added to the machine; however, laptop manufacturers these days are producing machines that come with GPUs directly integrated into the CPU.
What is the difference between the two?
Well, the utmost best an integrated graphics card can do is render 2D graphics; it is not powerful enough to render the highly intense graphics of your hard-core 3D games. Therefore, if you are a gamer and not on a really tight budget, the best choice available to you is a dedicated GPU.
NVIDIA or AMD?
When you take a look at the many dedicated GPUs available on the market, you will notice that almost all of them are from one of the two major players in the GPU market: NVIDIA and AMD. While the companies might be different, there isn’t much you can differentiate between the GPUs produced by them both, and it basically comes down to your personal preference. The pricing of the GPUs offered by both these brands start from as low as $30 and go all the way up to a few thousand dollars. And as with any other component, the higher the pricing of a GPU, better and smoother will be the visual output you get to enjoy from your games.
Choosing a GPU
Naturally, the GPU model you can buy starts with your budget. Of course, if you have no specific amount to stick to, you can go with some of the high-end graphics card options available out there; however, for most users, a mid-range GPU, say something with a couple of hundred dollars price tag, usually tends to be the sweet spot. This is because these mid-range GPUs carry enough power to run most modern games, have a decent lifespan, and do not take up a lot of power. So, once you determine your budget, the following are some of the other factors you should consider:
Compatibility, Connections, Power
First of all, you need to make sure that the GPU you choose will be compatible with your PC or laptop, for which you need to determine the amount of physical space available in your machine. Since most machines come clearly stated with the maximum length of GPU they can accommodate, finding this information wouldn’t be a problem.
The GPU’s connectivity options or ports is the next aspect to consider. While some monitors use DisplayPort, others use HDMI; there are also those models that use DVI. Therefore, make sure that the GPU you choose has the appropriate connectors, so you don’t have to spend money on an adapter.
The next factor that also matters is the power supply. The GPUs wattage, the number of six- or eight-pin PCIe connectors it comes with, etc. are some things you should look at. If you understand that your computer cannot handle a specific level of power, you need to look for a less powerful graphics card.
If you are a gaming enthusiast and would like to play the latest games at 1080p resolution, you need a graphics card with at least 3 to 4 GB memory. However, if you aim at playing games at their highest graphics settings, including 4K resolutions, the GPUs memory should be at least 8 GB.
Thermal Design Power (TDP)
Yet another very important specification of a graphics card is the TDP, which actually measure the dissipation of heat by the GPU. The TDP value of your graphics card gives you an indication of the amount of power required to maintain the GPU at a reasonable temperature. The point to remember here is that a GPU requiring more power will actually dissipate more heat; hence, always look for a graphics card with a smaller TDP value.
Stream Processors or CUDA Cores
While the number of stream processors or CUDA cores doesn’t really indicate a lot about the performance of a graphics card, these are quite important, as they signify the number of processing units in a graphics card. Stream Processors belong to AMD and CUDA Cores belong to NVIDIA, and both of these are basically programming techniques or languages that are designed to simplify parallel processing, enabling the GPU to perform its tasks with increased accuracy and efficiency. The more these numbers in a GPU, the better will be the card’s visual output, which is extremely important in games that involve intensive graphics.
Similar to buying a computer or laptop itself, buying a graphics card for your machine can also be a daunting task, especially with so much to consider. And if you are new to making such technical decisions, you could get intimidated by the many confusing jargons. But, not to worry, as discussed, your budget is what sets the foundation for the type of graphics card you can start looking at, followed by your performance and PC requirements. When you have all these sorted, you will already be a step closer to finding a graphics card that is ideal for your computer.