Put simply, your graphics card is like the heart of your PC, pumping pixels from your tower onto your screen, so, if your graphics card isn’t quite up to speed your whole PC and gaming experience is going to be affected. But, what should you really be looking for in a graphics card?
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) Type
Graphics cards have a dedicated video memory and a graphics processing unit (GPU) which can handle any number of different calculations like lighting surfaces and mapping textures whilst producing millions of polygons.
Most graphics cards use AMD, Intel or NVidia, all of which perform well. However, matching your GPU with your processor or chipset is ideal for maximum compatibility. So, an AMD CPU pairs perfectly with an AMD graphics card, while a NVidia chipset works best with a NVidia graphics card over AMD or Intel.
GPU Clock Speed
On average, the higher the number, the faster the GPU, which is exactly what you want when playing high-speed, first person shooter games. However, other factors will also play a factor in the speed of your Graphics Card, so it’s worth considering the specification as a whole, not in isolation.
Measured in gigabytes per second, Memory Bandwidth is the speed of your RAM. More memory bandwidth means you can draw faster and higher quality images.
Memory bandwidth is calculated by the memory clock, type and width. The most common memory type is DDR, Double Data Rate, which essentially transfers two memory values for each memory clock cycle.
Again, memory bandwidth, although important, is best combined with other features to get the best performance graphics card.
NVidia CUDA Cores and AMD Shaders
Although NVidia’s Cores and AMD’s Shader have different names, these respective technologies essentially work out how to shade 3D objects and how to show light affecting them so that images look as realistic as possible on screen.
In gaming especially, the more CUDA cores or Shaders the better, given the importance of graphics and Frames Per Second (FPS).
As graphics cards slot into the motherboard’s PCI Express (PCIe) slots, it is vital to check there are slots available on your motherboard and that they support the maximum PCIe version and card width.
It is also advisable to check your power supply connector, card dimensions and resolutions supported, number of monitors that can be plugged in and the port, either HDMI or DVI, on the card itself.