Best Graphics Card Reviews 2017 – Our Take
Whether you’re a hardcore gamer, someone who spends a lot of time editing large photos or into 3D modeling, it pays to have the best graphics card in your system. Of course all manufacturers will be only too happy to say their video cards offer the best value, best for gaming, etc.
You could look into the graphics cards specs and go through reviews, but that’s going to take a lot of time given the number of graphics cards available.
However there’s no need to do that as I’ve done the work for you. Here I’ve compiled a list of the top video graphics cards available. We’re going to take an in-depth look at how the card performs so you can decide if it’s right for you.
Review of the Best Graphics Card Models
Here are ten of the best graphics card I can recommend to any gamer, with side by side comparison & in-depth analysis!
1. EVGA GeForce GTX 750Ti SC 2GB GDDR5
The GTX 750Ti is equipped with 2048MB GDDR5 memory, giving it enough muscle to run games in 1080p. The base clock is 1176 MHz and it comes with a 1255 MHz boost clock, and it provides superior performance due to the NVIDIA Maxwell next gen architecture.
Of course all of these facts and figures won’t mean if the card doesn’t perform well, but it does.
When it comes to gaming, the GTX 750Ti allows for smooth play at 1080p, and you can set games at high detail levels with minimum tweaking required. For instance I was able to play Warcraft at 100 fps in HD, and it had no problems with power hungry games like Crysis at 60 frames per second. On the average you can get most games at 1080p to run at 100 fps and even the newer ones at 35 to 60 fps.
Of course other factors come into play such as how well the game is optimized, as not all titles are as fully optimized as they could be. But I have played several games with this card at 1080 40 to 60 fps including Titanfall, Fallout 3, Assassin’s Creed 4 and Skyrim among others.
One more thing I like about this card: it doesn’t get too hot even used extensively, so that’s a plus if you’re a heavy gamer who spends a lot of time playing.
2. EVGA GeForce GTX 950 2GB SSC GAMING
The GTX 950 has a lot of things going for it, not the least being the fact that it uses the ACX 2.0 Cooling Technology to keep the unit from overheating while you’re playing games.
Moving to its other specs you get 768 CUDA cores, 2GB of memory and 1190 MHz base clock with a 1393 MHz boost clock.
The 950 is aimed at the PC gamer, and it certainly ranks as one of the best graphics card for gaming today. The architecture is set around the NVIDIA Maxwell, and if you know your gaming that’s exactly what you’re looking for in a graphics card.
Performance wise, the GTX 950 is right up there with the best, and it triples the capabilities of the previous graphic cards.
It is compatible with DirectX 12, and a look at the card reveals the low power motor, the fan blades and twin ball bearings, all of which combine to provide more airflow without using as much power as other graphics cards.
What all this translates to is a smooth gaming experience even at high levels. Even graphics intensive titles like Fallout 4 can be played at 1080p at up to 60 fps. Of course with this game – just like any other – the rest of your system needs to be up to par, but if you’ve got a good PC setup then you’ll see this card’s power really shine.
The card works fine out of the box and should meet the needs of most gamers, but it’s good to know there is support for various PSUs, and if you’re really into hardcore gaming or professional photo editing / 3D animation, the GTX 850 can be used on up to 4 monitors at a maximum of 5120 x 3300 resolution.
3. EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB SSC Gaming ACX
The GTX 970 is ready made for DirectX 12 and virtual reality, and it’s not surprising given how powerful it is.
Its boost clock is at 1342 MHz with the base at 1190 MHz, and just like the other cards here it comes with an EVGA "ACX 2.0+” to keep it cool.
The specs are impressive and it translates into a solid gaming experience.
The GTX 970 can handle GTA V at 60 fps running at 1080p, and what I really like about the card is the bios have zero RPM fan mode, meaning the fans don’t have to go to work until the temperature reaches 60 C, and this is a good indicator of the card’s design. Another noteworthy thing about the GTX 970 is it doesn’t make a lot of noise when you’re using it so you won’t get distracted while playing.
Going back to the card’s performance, I was able to get Tomb Raider running at 100 fps at up to 1440p, and you can apply pretty much the same high settings for other games like Far Cry 3, Crysis and Rome 2. A lot of these games bring weaker graphics cards to a crawl when set to high resolutions, so it’s good to see that the GTX 970 can handle them nicely.
4. ASUS STRIX GeForce GTX 970 Overclocked 4 GB DDR5
The STRIX GeForce GTX 970 comes with the DirectCU II + 0dB technology to keep the unit cool, and at the same time it has noise reduction built in so you can play your favorite games without hearing any noise from the card.
The STRIX GeForce runs fine out of the box, but hardcore gamers can tweak the settings via the utility software bundled in.
If you’re upgrading from an older graphics card, the difference in performance is just drastic. Resident Evil 5 can be set to 100 fps 3D or 130 fps and the gameplay is still smooth, and you can also play Sleeping Dogs at 110 fps, again without any lags or slowdown.
With games like Dead Rising 3, Crysis, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and others, expect solid gameplay even at a setting of 45 to 50 fps. In addition, the shadows, smoke and other effects are clear and have a realistic look to them.
You can overclock the card and get good results, but this is something you will probably want to do with only the most demanding titles. The default settings work fine for most gamers, and you will only experience a crash rarely (i.e. when you really try to push the STRIX GeForce GTX).
If you do want to overclock, I suggest around +125/+400. The bundled software also lets you update the BIOS, a very convenient feature that ensures optimum performance.
5. MSI R7 250 2GD3 OC 1.8 GHz 2GB DDR3 Video Graphics Card
If you’re in the market for the best budget graphics card, the MSI R7 is a good choice. With its 1050 MHz GPU and 2GB of memory, it is more than enough if you’re a casual gamer or just getting into it.
Unless you’re a serious gamer there is no reason to splurge on a high end graphics card, and it is not like the MSI R7 doesn’t have power because it has.
You can play games and watch YouTube videos up to 1080p, and if you’ve got a decent computer setup there should be no problems with gameplay. If you purchase the MSI R7 it’s going to come with the Catalyst software from AMD, and you’ll want to use this to update to the latest drivers.
On most games you can do 1080 at 60 fps without a hitch, though performance may slow down if resource hungry games are set at the highest settings.
The MSI R7 is a mid-range video card but outshines many of those in the field when running games. What really makes it stand out is how much it can improve the performance of an older system.
The default settings should run fine for most games, but if you want to overclock it you can. Doing so could help you get more out of it especially if you want to run Skyrim or Fable 3 at a high resolution.
6. EVGA GeForce GT 730 2GB DDR3 128bit DVI/HDMI/VGA
The EVGA GeForce GT 730 is a mid-level graphics card, and its specs – 128 bit memory width, 2048MB DDR3, 1400 MHz memory clock and 700 MHz base block - are ideal if you’re new to gaming or just want to upgrade your old system.
Based on the NIVIDIA architecture, the GT 730 isn’t just for games but will also improve other aspects of your computing such as photo and video editing.
You can play Skyrim and other games at high settings; the game should run fine at 80 fps in outdoor environments and 50 fps indoors, and you can expect solid and smooth graphics with Battlefield 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3 even at high settings.
Playing these games you aren’t going to experience any lag, and you also get a performance boost when performing memory intensive tasks in Photoshop.
The bottom line is the GT 730 can run mid-level games just fine, and it can handle some high end games if the settings are not maxed out.
There is support for dual monitors as well; some Photoshop users like to use two monitors so the option is available here. There are a lot of entry and mid-level graphics cards, but the GT 730 is a cut above the rest.
7. ASUS STRIX GeForce GTX 750TI Overclocked
The Asus GTX 750TI has a lot of features that gamers will like, and one of those is its 202 MHz clock boost designed to improve gameplay.
In addition the GTX 750TI card employs the Direct CU II technology to keep the unit cool and silent while you’re playing. The card also comes with support for G-sync.
This means gameplay will be smoother compared to other graphics cards as it syncs the GPU with the display refresh rates.
The G-sync feature along with the GPU Tweak allows hardcore gamers to change the settings and clock speeds without difficulty. I also notice there is little input lag and no stutter either.
With Battlefield 4 (FXAA high, no MSAA), it runs smoothly at up to 60 fps, while for DayZ (normal, FXAA high) you can set it up to 58 fps with no slowdown. With Garry’s Mod Ultra at 1080p, high FXAA and 8x MSAA, the Asus GTX 750TI was able to do 100 fps easy.
The card’s idle running temperature is 38 degrees C, but even when it’s loaded the card doesn’t show any signs of overheating. The card runs quietly as advertised, and a 6 pine external PCI is needed for installation.
You can use an HDMI female to DVI-D Male adaptor and hook it to a large monitor, and it works HDMI cables as well. Overall, this is a versatile graphics card.
8. MSI ATI Radeon HD6450 1 GB DDR3 VGA/DVI/HDMI
If you are on the lookout for the best AMD graphic card, the MSI ATI Radeon HD6450 should be on your watchlist.
It has a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1600 and there is support for HDMI, VGA and DVI built in too.
If you’re looking for versatility, you won’t be disappointed here as it also has support for DirectX 11, OpenGL, Blu-ray and AMD Stream Technology.
As the specs above indicate, this is an entry level graphics card. If you are not a heavy gamer and don’t play with the settings maxed out, the ATI Radeon will suffice. This does not mean you cannot play good games here.
On the contrary it can handle Kingdoms of Amulur, Team Fortress 2 and similar games provided they are at normal settings.
The card has dual monitor support and is bundled with the Catalyst Control Center where you can change the settings. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere here, it isn’t just about the graphics card as the rest of your system’s specs will affect the performance of a game.
But there’s no question that for an entry level video card the ATI Radeon HD6450 does very well. It’s not meant for power gamers, but if you aren’t one and just want a solid upgrade, this is it.
9. EVGA GeForce GT 2048MB GDDR3, DVI, VGA
The GeForce GT 610 is marketed at users who want full multimedia with their computer, and it does not disappoint.
This isn’t exclusively tor gaming as it is also suitable if you run memory heavy applications, and it works best as a replacement for the built in video card that came with your PC.
The GT 610 can handle dual monitors at 1920 x 1080 resolution, and playing Facebook games, watching videos and browsing is smooth. Coupled with a decent system you can play Spore, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and other games in normal settings without any lags.
I have also noticed significant improvements when using Photoshop CS6. Images with multiple layers can slow your system down to crawl, but the GT 610 does an admirable job keeping things smooth.
10. MSI R9 390X GAMING 8G Graphics Card
The MSI R9 lives up to its billing as a gaming graphics card. It comes with a 1080 MHz gaming mode, 8GB GDDR5 of memory and 6000 MHz base mode for memory clock and for OC it’s 6100 MHz.
Maximum resolution support is 4096 x 2160 and you can connect up to 3 monitors.
Installing the graphics card is straightforward and there aren’t any problems with drivers either
When it comes to games the MSI R9 should make power gamers very happy. Witcher 3 and Shadow of Mordor can be set to 1440p at maximum settings, and gameplay is smooth at 50 to 60 fps.
You can try this with other games and the results will be pretty much the same, meaning it can handle the power hungry ones. The fans only activate if there’s heavy load, but the temperature does not shoot up.
Going back to its performance, the MSI R9 390X lets you max out a lot of popular games like Crysis and Counter Strike at 1080p. Even if you’re gaming at max settings, the Twin/Zero configuration keeps the card cool.
I also want to point out that the MSI R9 has a good selection of ports – display port, HDMI, DVI – so you will not be lacking in options here.
11. EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition, 8GB GDDR5
The GeForce GTX 1070 has gotten a lot of hype and is being hailed as one of the best video card products, but does it live up to it? Yes, the GeForce GTX 1070 does thanks to the specs.
With 8192MB GDDR5, 1683 MHz boost clock (1506 MHz base) and support for 4K 120Hz + GSYNC gaming, it personifies power and delivers the goods.
The blower style cooler may divide opinion, but the overall design is good. There is no noticeable noise even if under heavy load. With these specs I was expecting a beast and wasn’t disappointed.
Witcher 3 runs on average 63 fps with peaks of 132 fps at max settings, while Rise of the Tomb Raider is smooth at 68 fps with highs of 124. Doom 2016 has a 212 fps peak with a 121 average, and all these are at the maximum or ultra-high settings.
Even when under this heavy load the temperature doesn’t go beyond 42 degrees Celsius. As I mentioned earlier, there is support for 4K gaming so if you’ve got a system for that or plan on getting one, the GTX 1070 is ready.
If you’re the type of gamer who won’t settle for anything less than 1080p and want the hottest titles, the GTX 1070 will get it done.
12. Gigabyte Graphics Cards GV-N75TWF2OC-4GI
The GV-N75TWF2OC-4GI has 4GB GDDR5, and couple that with a 128 bit memory interface, and it runs very well even on less than stellar systems.
The GV-N75TWF2OC-4GI is a low profile graphics card but is right up there with other mid-level GPUs.
Another advantage of the GV-N75TWF2OC-4GI is you can configure it in different ways to suit your needs.
You can for instance, set Max Payne 3, Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil at 1080p max settings and 60 fps without a lag. If you want to try newer games it’s possible too, and at medium settings at 1080p, Battlefield 4 can be played at 60 fps.
So if you’re a casual gamer and don’t tweak with a lot of a game’s configuration, this card will do nicely. You can also set games to run on a 1600 x 900 resolution at 60 fps (but not at 1080) and the results will be pretty good.
For mid-level gaming, you should have no problems when it comes to performance. If you play games like Far Cry 3, Civilization 5, WoW or Starcraft, you can set those to the maximum and not worry about performance.
Just like the other graphics cards reviewed here, the GV-N75TWF2OC-4GI runs quietly and does not get too hot. With its port options, this is also ideal if you are setting up 3 to 4 monitors.
How to Choose a Video Graphics Card
If you’re going to look for the best NVidia graphics card or AMD for that matter, you may want to spend some time getting familiar with the terminology and features that determine a graphic card’s specs. Knowing what all those numbers mean is going to help you avoid confusion and make the right decision.
1. The Model Number
The model number of a graphics card tells you about its most important elements, namely the graphics processor (GPU), the memory bandwidth and clock rates, for example the GeForce GTX 1070 or the Radeon R9 290X
The rule of thumb is the higher the model number, the more powerful the card is. Between a lower model number with lots of RAM and is overclocked and a higher model number with less memory, the newer model will perform better.
2. Video Memory and Memory Bandwidth
Video memory is important of course, and the more GB of memory a card has the better the performance. However, you also need to consider the memory bandwidth as well. RAM is important for games and when using multiple monitors, but bandwidth is just as essential.
What you need to remember is that GDDR5 memory is more efficient than DDR3 even if they have similar clock rates. If your main concern is memory bottleneck – and it is going to be an issue if you play a lot of resource hungry games – go with GDDR5. Even if DDR3 has more memory, the GDDR5 will offer superior performance.
3. Know Your System
Even the most powerful graphics card can only do so much if your system is ill equipped to handle games and powerful applications. A very old computer may no longer be compatible with the newer graphic cards available today. If you want to make the most out of a high end graphics card, it makes sense to have a decent system.
This also holds true for computer monitors. There is no point buying a graphics card that has support for 1920 x 1080 resolution on multiple displays if you have a single 1280 x 1024 display. When it comes to graphics cards, you have to make sure it pairs up with your other specs.
4. Using Multiple Graphics Cards
Nvidia and AMD come with a feature that lets you link graphics cards to boost performance. It is called SLI in Nvidia GeForce cards and CrossFire in AMD Radeon cards. But do you really need two GPUs?
There will be performance improvement, but the most you’re likely to get is 50% maximum, so don’t expect anything close to double. The more graphics cards you link up, the greater the potential for incompatibility, noise and increased power consumption.
That being said, the use of multiple graphics cards does have its place, especially with 4K configurations and with triple monitor setups. However, multiple graphics cards is too much for one monitor, and a single high end card lets you run the most powerful games at a smooth frame rate.
Open your PC’s case and check how big of a card it can hold. Look at the PCIe power connectors and how many they are. What is the amp supply and what is the watt rating? You need to compare these with those on your system to ensure compatibility.
6. Cooling Mechanism
High end graphics cards can generate a lot of heat, and without a cooler it’s going to damage the GPU. There are two types of coolers: the custom cooler and reference.
- Reference coolers are used on cheap graphics cards. A standard reference cooler pulls hot air at the rear end of the case, and it’s a good design concept because it prevents your PC’s temperature from climbing. The drawback with these systems is they can be noisy.
- Custom coolers are a bit more expensive, but they provide superior performance. The design varies per manufacturer, but those from reputable brands do an excellent job of keeping a GPU cool. If there is a drawback to these, it is that they may recycle the heat back in the case.
However, this won’t be an issue if your PC temperature doesn’t exceed 56 degrees C while playing games. Keep the temp under 50 C and there should be no problems. If the temperature goes higher than that, look for the best GPU for the money that releases the hot exhaust at the rear
Is Overclocking Safe?.
Almost all graphics cards today allow for overclocking, but there are certain things you need to consider before doing it.
- Use overclocking only on a graphics card if it was designed for it.
- Overclocking a GPU is simpler now so you can do it without trouble.
- Overclocking a GPU is going to result in a noticeable performance boost for a lot of games, particularly those that are graphics intensive.
- Blue screen, black screen and your computer crashing can and will happen. It is normal and not a sign something is wrong with your PC.
- Do not overclock your GPU unless you’re certain all other components on your computer are stable.
Will overclocking shorten the lifespan of your graphics card? In the past that may have been the case, but today’s cards have been designed knowing they will be overclocked so it’s taken into consideration.
AMD vs. NVidia
This is usually one of the first questions that a new buyer asks, and the answer is there is no single right choice. Both companies make excellent graphics cards as can be seen here. They also both have cards for casual, entry level gamers to the hardcore types.
And the fact is it really doesn’t matter much anyway; while there are differences in technology, the average gamer won’t be able to tell the difference.
If you get an AMD and NVidia card with similar specs and play the same game, the performance, the framerates etc. will be similar, so unless you’re picky with details and technology, the brand name is not as important as the specs and feedback.
When it comes to the best graphics card and performance, there are a lot of options, and I have done my best to trim the list down so you can make a quick but informed decision what to buy. Today’s graphics cards have come a long way and development isn’t standing still.
The next gen video cards are probably just around the corner, but I’m certain that with any of the cards we mentioned here, they’ll be more than sufficient for your needs. Happy gaming!