In the 1990s, it was pretty rare to find a computer with better visuals than the average television set. Today, however, many modern computers are just as capable or far exceed what modern TVs are capable of.
Streaming movies or shows on computers dominates people’s downtime nowadays so having a graphics card capable of displaying quality video is essential. In many cases, even older computers can be made to support high-definition or better videos simply by installing a newer graphics card.
That is why we have created this buyer’s guide to better help you decide what graphics card might be best for your situation.
There are two important things to consider first when buying a new graphics card (source) .
The first is very important because a mistake could see you waste a bunch of money. Desktops will typically use full size graphics cards while laptops and smaller computers will use low profile sets. Low profile sets can sometimes be adapted to fit into full size compartments, but full size sets cannot be used in low profile computers.
The other factor to think about is what you want to use your new graphics card for. Playing high-end games on even medium settings might be out of the question for graphics cards below $100, but older games are a possibility for those feeling a little nostalgic.
That being said, even cheap graphics cards can be made to stream videos or provide visual processing for complex programs. For this reason, knowing what you want your graphics card to do is important.
Otherwise, there are numerous other specs that can affect the performance of a graphics card, but these are arguably the most important: screen resolution, memory type and size, and memory speed.
Max Screen Resolution
Screen resolution is probably the most tangible effect of a new graphics card. Usually represented with two numbers (i.e. 4096×2160), screen resolution is essentially the number of total pixels a screen possesses. Generally speaking, a higher resolution number means a clearer picture.
Fine details will be easier to notice and colors will be more vivid. Most computers and graphics cards support at least near high-definition resolution (which is generally benchmarked at 1920×1080); however, less expensive models may sacrifice higher screen resolutions to either improve performance (processing speed, etc.) or save on costs.
Screen resolution is almost directly affected by the following two categories, so it is important to remember not to value a graphics card solely by its projected resolution output.
Computer Memory Type and Graphics Card Ram Size
All graphics cards have a dedicated memory, and both the size and type can affect performance.
Memory size is probably the more important of the two, provided that memory type uses a modern system. Anything with one or more gigabytes of memory should be able to handle video streaming or older games. Two gigabytes of video RAM might even be able to play smaller-scale, new games on low settings.
Alternatively, the type of memory can determine how well a graphics card processes data. In simpler terms, a newer type of memory, like DDR4 or DDR5, will be more efficient in terms of processing speeds.
Processing speed, like screen resolution, will be a noticeable factor in graphics card performance. Memory type and size will certainly affect the processing speed. Obviously, newer memory types will probably be capable of processing information at faster speeds.
The higher the memory speed, the more capable the graphics card will be. Anything over 1600Mhz should support video streaming, so long as the rest of a computer’s components are also up to par.
|Item||Best Feature||Screen Resolution||Price|
|Gigabyte GeForce GT 1030||2GB of Video Ram and supports 4k video streaming||4096×2160|
|Gigabyte GeForce GT 730||Supports 4k resolution||4096×2160|
|GIGABYTE GeForce GT 1030 Low Profile||Sacrifices minimal performance versus full sized version||4096×2160|
|Asus GT 710 Low Profile||Advanced cooling and silent operation||2560×1600|
|MSI Gaming GeForce GT 710 Low Profile||Afterburner overclocking||4096×2160|
Best Standard Size Graphics Card – Gigabyte GeForce GT 1030Gigabyte makes a strong case for offering quality graphics cards for a modest price. For one, Gigabytes’ GeForce GT 1030 comes with DDR5 memory and can play 4k video at 60Hz, which means that streaming UHD videos should not be a problem. More than that, Gigabyte’s iteration clocks in at 6008 MHz, which is pretty impressive for a graphics card under $100.
This does not mean that this graphics card can be used to play AAA video game titles on even medium settings, but it should have no problem playing older games that are not as graphics intensive. You might be able to get away with playing some new games on low settings, but this will likely depend on the game’s specific requirements. Simpler applications like web browsing on animation or visual-heavy websites should be crisp and smooth.
The last feature worth mentioning is this graphics card’s ability to overclock its speed. This may dramatically improve the card’s performance, but it can help a computer compensate during strenuous tasks.
Overall, if you need to upgrade an outdated graphics card, Gigabyte’s GeForce GT 1030 is the best option for computers using full-sizes graphics cards.
Runner Up, Standard Size Graphics Card – Gigabyte GeForce GT 730If you are looking for a new graphics card, but do not necessarily need the power of the GT 1030, Gigabyte also makes a less potent version targeted at older computers. The GeForce 730 has the same memory size as the GT 1030, but uses a much older DDR3 system instead. This means the GeForce only clocks in at a much slower 1800 MHz. However, the slower speed may still be an upgrade for older computers.
Simple applications and programs should still function well and high-definition videos should still play pretty well on this card. Gigabyte claims that the GT 730 supports 4k resolution, though it is unclear if that applies to video streaming or pictures only.
At only a few dollars cheaper than Gigabyte’s GT 1030 though, the GT 730 is probably only a better option for computers that cannot make use of the GT 1030’s power.
Best Low Profile Graphics Card – GIGABYTE GeForce GT 1030 Low ProfileSome computers, particularly laptops, cannot support full size graphic cards though. These low profile cards tend to sacrifice performance power for the smaller size. Gigabyte once again makes our list with a graphics card that sacrifices little in comparison to its full size counterpart.
The memory type uses a GDR5 system that may be less potent than the full profile card, but still has a similar memory speed at about 6000 MHz. In other words, the low profile GeForce GT 1030 packs most of the same power into a much smaller package.
Laptops or smaller computers with 4k-capable monitors should benefit well from this graphics card. Video streaming should be supported and some video games that are not graphics intensive should be playable as well.
Runner Up, Low Profile Graphics Card – Asus GT 710 Low ProfileThe runner up for low profile graphics cards comes packed with a bunch of features that most of the other options here lack. For example, the Asus GT 710 is equipped with a silent fan that ensures long-lasting function and prevents overheating. Additionally, this low profile graphics card comes with several different connectors, so it should fit most computers regardless of make or generation. Connectors tend to be pretty standard nowadays, but users who are upgrading computers could really benefit from this extra feature.
What is really impressive about the Asus GT 710 is the price. For almost half of the cost of Gigabyte’s option, you get a similar level of performance, plus the added features above.
The GT 710 clocks in at 1800 MHz, which is great for such an inexpensive graphics card. With only one gigabyte of video memory though, the Asus GT 710 will be limited just like the other models in this class. However, it should still be able to play high-definition videos or casual games.
Best on a Budget, any size – MSI Gaming GeForce GT 710 Low ProfileThe last graphics card on our list costs less than $40, yet its performance is only marginally less than some of the higher-end options on our list. MSI’s GeForce GT 710 is comparable to Asus’ version in that they can both play high definition video and casual games. Asus has an edge in memory speed as the MSI version clocks in at 1600 MHz, but both use a similar DDR3 type memory. Like the Asus, MSI also has a variety of ports and both are meant to run quietly. However, Asus backs up their silent function claim a little better with quality materials and designs.
Where MSI really excels at is the cost. It’s almost $20 cheaper than the Asus GT 710. If you are not concerned with all the extras the Asus provides, then the MSI is the better option.
Overall, the MSI GT 710 is a great upgrade for older computers, but you will need to look elsewhere if you need a graphics card that can support anything beyond basic, casual games or high-definition videos.
The graphics cards we have compiled for this list are mostly meant for casual gamers or those wanting to give a new life to their old computers. If you want to be able to play newer games like Fortnite, you will likely be able to squeeze quality play out of some of the higher-end graphics cards on this list like either of Gigabyte’s top options here. Of course, you will need to make sure that you get the proper size, whether full size or low profile.
All of the cards listed here should be able to play high definition videos with varying degrees of success, but if you want anything at or above 4k, you will want to look at Gigabyte’s GT 1030 or GT 730. Either should do the trick.
While buying a new graphics card can be intimidating for those unsure about computer components, knowing what you want your computer to do will make the process much easier.
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