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All video cards have the same two parts that make it capable of outputting high resolutions and framerates: the graphics processing unit (GPU) and video memory (VRAM). These come pre-installed on the PCB. Essentially, your graphics card is like a mini computer in of itself, but focused solely on processing video data. There are two main manufacturers with their own different proprietary technology: AMD and Nvidia. From there, other makers will partner with these companies to produce either factory versions of the graphics cards (such as EVGA with Nvidia), or modify the factory model with their own proprietary technology (Asus with their custom cooling).
Other brands like MSI, XFX, Sapphire, Zotac, and PNY offer a variety of different cards depending on your budget and what type of gaming you want to do. The more VRAM a card has, the more likely it is able to handle multiple external displays at higher resolutions and framerates. Cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980ti and the AMD Radeon R9 390 have 6-8GB of memory, which is more than enough VRAM to run even the most graphically sophisticated games at 4k resolutions without dropping below 60 frames per second. They’re also able to easily handle the specifications of an Oculus or HTC vive virtual reality headset.
A higher end card like this means more flexibility in your use-cases, however a really expensive, high-powered graphics card is not a requirement for smooth, immersive gameplay. Cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 280 still have a decent amount of VRAM to handle current generation games. It just may not be able to keep up with higher resolutions as more and more graphics-intense games release. It’s up to the user to decide if they want to make the initial high-cost investment right off the bad with a more powerful card, or be satisfied with lower resolutions as their mid-range card ages.
Of course, the more power a card has, the more heat it generates and the more wattage it requires. In fact, the graphics card is the most power-hungry component in your system, so you’ll have to be aware of that when building your first gaming pc or when considering a much needed upgrade. It’s generally considered a good idea to have at least 60 watts of headroom after adding up the combined wattage of your system’s components. So, if your current system uses a 650 watt power supply and you only have exactly 60 watts of headroom leftover, then you may want to also consider buying a power supply with a larger capacity before you get that R9 390 or GTX 980ti. EVGA, in addition to graphics cards, also provides PSUs. You can also check out Thermaltake, Corsair, and Seasonic.
You also will probably need to upgrade your power supply if you’re adding on another video card, which is what some people do instead of just buying one powerful card. This is called SLI for Nvidia or Crossfire for AMD. Typically, it’s pretty easy to set up, as all you would need is another card of the same specifications, an SLI or Crossfire bridge (a separate component that links the two cards together, usually included in the retail box of whatever video card you’re buying), and an open PCI slot on your motherboard. This can be a more cost-effective way of upgrading your system instead of buying one brand-new, really powerful (and therefore expensive) video card.
As for the heat, there are some solutions for cooling the video card that the makers themselves have already provided out of the box. The Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury X is a self-contained liquid cooling unit that is already attached to the video card’s GPU. The all-in-one system contains the tubes, pump, and liquid pre-installed and ready to fit into your computer system, provided you have the budget and the room in your case. With a core clock of 1050 megahertz, 4 gigabytes of high-bandwidth memory (HBM), and 3 DisplayPort outputs, it can easily handle 4k gaming without turning your system into a hotbox. Liquid cooling the GPU also keeps the noise levels down, as you are lowering the amount of fans needed in your system for cooling. Some people go all out with custom liquid cooling loops, adding in custom tubing, specialized pumps and reservoirs, and metal fittings.
Whether you’ve been itching to play current generation games smoothly on your PC or just getting into PC gaming, Newegg has the brands and technology to elevate your experience to the next level. Banish stuttering, low framerates, and dismal resolutions with a video card upgrade today!