A graphics card is a hardware expansion card. It renders images and sends them to the screen for display purposes. The market for graphics cards is quite diverse, and each one is manufactured by balancing price and performance. Therefore, it’s always difficult to figure out which one has the highest cost-to-benefit ratio.
This article demonstrates:
- The factors you should consider when buying a graphics card.
- Currently available and popular graphics cards.
- Ways to pick up the best graphics card for your needs.
So, let’s get started.
Table of Contents:
- Available and Popular Graphics Cards
- Linux Graphics Cards
- Price Comparison
- Driver Support
- Performance Comparison
- Monitor Resolution
- Power Supply
Available and Popular Graphics Cards:
It’s a bit challenging to list down every decent graphics card available on the market due to the diverse nature of the graphics card market. However, as a rule of thumb, it’s better to stick to a fairly recent graphics card instead of older ones due to the implicit support cycle of the manufacturer. When a graphics card is out of this support cycle, it’s no longer supported by the manufacturer, and you won’t be getting any driver updates for the graphics card. Thus, no more performance optimizations for your graphics card in the future.
A driver is required for low-level code for the graphics card to function. Unlike CPUs, graphics cards constantly require updates to get a consistent performance. This is not really necessary for all the applications. But, for certain high-performance applications such as video games or graphics design software, regular updates are indispensable.
Another reason we mentioned drivers is Linux.
Linux Graphics Cards:
While every graphics card on the market supports Windows, Linux is another story. Not every card you stick into your Linux workstation will work smoothly. Some may not even work at all. The reason? Drivers!
NVIDIA is the most popular choice. NVIDIA graphics cards need proprietary drivers to function properly. Linux, as you know, is open-source. They don’t ship their OS with closed-source drivers out of principle. NVIDIA graphics cards are impressive hardware nevertheless, and you can make them work with your Linux OS by installing third-party graphics drivers. But you have to fiddle around with the settings to make every feature work.
That’s why Linux users prefer AMD graphics cards. AMD drivers are open-source. Besides, they’re included in the Linux OS kernel and don’t need any changes in the settings for every feature to work.
Both are excellent options. Just decide whether you want to trade off ease of installation for gaming performance. Do you really want to game on a Linux distro?
At the moment, the following graphics card list is ideal. They are the latest hardware from NVIDIA and AMD. Depending on your Linux distribution, they offer the best performance.
- GeForce RTX 3090 Ti
- GeForce RTX 3090
- GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
- GeForce RTX 3080
- GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
- GeForce RTX 3070
- GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
- GeForce RTX 3060
- GeForce RTX 3050
- GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
- GeForce RTX 2080 Super
- GeForce RTX 2080
- GeForce RTX 2070 Super
- GeForce RTX 2070
- GeForce RTX 2060 Super
- GeForce RTX 2060
- GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
- GeForce GTX 1660 Super
- GeForce GTX 1660
- GeForce GTX 1650 Super
- GeForce GTX 1650
- GeForce GTX 1630
- GeForce GTX 1060
- GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
- Radeon RX 6950 XT
- Radeon RX 6900 XT
- Radeon RX 6800 XT
- Radeon RX 6800
- Radeon RX 6750 XT
- Radeon RX 6700 XT
- Radeon RX 6650 XT
- Radeon RX 6600 XT
- Radeon RX 6600
- Radeon Pro WX8200
- Radeon RX 570
- Radeon RX 570X
- Radeon RX 580
- Radeon RX 580X
- Radeon RX 590
Usually, a graphics card is the most expensive component of a computer system. That’s because it costs a lot of money to research and manufacture a GPU (graphics processing unit), which is the brain of any graphics card. Plus, external factors like high demand also contribute to this price surge. So, the manufacturer tends to cover the cost by giving it an expensive price tag. This is quite obvious as the price of any graphics card is quite expensive when it’s just come out of the factory. Therefore, it’s better to skip the latest generation of graphics cards and focus on the previous generation ones get the best cost-to-benefit ratio.
Price also depends on the board manufacturer, the region, and the variety. In the United States, graphics cards are relatively cheaper than in Latin America and Asia. Similarly, Asus and EVGA tend to manufacture expensive boards, whereas Palit is known to manufacture cheaper boards. Therefore, Asian users should consider going with Palit if the price is their primary concern.
Even though the GPU manufacturer (either NVIDIA or AMD) releases one or more GPU(s) per model, the board manufacturers often tweak their specifications and produce more varieties. So, there could be literally a dozen of them with different price tags but with the same GPU chip. For instance, NVIDIA only released GeForce 1080 and its Ti version, but EVGA has 31 varieties of these two GPUs with different specifications and subtle feature differences. Looking at the prices of some of the graphics cards on Amazon, prices range anywhere from $100 to $3,000. So, you can see it’s quite a wide range.
As we’ve already discussed, both NVIDIA and AMD support Linux. You can download the required driver for your graphics card from the official website of the manufacturer of that graphics card. At times, you might also be able to download the required graphics driver from the official package repository of the Linux distribution you’re using.
To find out the currently installed graphics adapter on your computer, run the following command:
From the output of the command above, you can find the model number and other useful information about the installed graphics card.
The performance not only depends on the GPU (graphics processing unit) but also on the version of the same GPU. As explained previously, certain GPUs have multiple versions depending on the board manufacturer. For instance, EVGA has 13 varieties of the NVIDIA 1070 GPU with different frequencies and extra features like a water-cooling unit, RGB LED, different port selections, etc.
If price is the main concern, then it’s better to ignore all the secondary features and target the lowest end of any model. For example, the EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 has two main versions – 3GB and 6GB. Both offer similar performance, but different video memory, which is necessary for applications like video rendering, 3D graphics rendering, and high-resolution video gaming. While 3GB is enough for some of the applications out there under 1080p resolution, 8GB will suit professionals.
Nowadays, a high-end video game requires at least 8GB of video memory, depending on the monitor resolution. If the monitor resolution is anything under 1080p, then 4 GB is sufficient, but if it’s 1080p or above, then at least 8GB of video memory is required for the game to run smoothly. Likewise, if you love 4K gaming, then you need at least 12GB of video memory. However, as there are not many high-end games for Linux, this should be the least of your worries.
For general usage like watching movies and playing casual games, even an onboard/built-in graphics card (i.e., Intel HD graphics or AMD Vega iGPU) is more than enough. So, if you’re running a fairly new Intel processor or an AMD APU (i.e. ,5600G, 5700G) in your system, a separate graphics card is not really necessary.
For resource-hogging software like Autodesk Maya, it’s much better to have a high-end graphics card like GeForce RTX 3090 or 2070 or Radeon RX 6900XT or Radeon RX 590, but professional artists tend to use NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 or Radeon Pro WX8200 due to their incredible ability to handle creative workloads. However, they are quite expensive for an average home user.
Monitor resolution increases the need for a high-performance graphics card. This is because the increased number of pixels proportionally increases the need for more processing power and video memory. A video game that runs fairly well on a 720p monitor may not run at the same frame rate on a 1080p monitor if the video card isn’t powerful enough to process all the increased pixels displayed on the screen. So, always check the system requirements of the application before purchasing a graphics card. Usually, an application states two system requirements–minimum and recommended. For getting optimal performance in your desired application, the specification of your graphics card should be the same or better than the recommended one.
A power supply is one of the most important parts to take into consideration when buying a graphics card. A power supply, also known as a PSU, supplies power to the entire computer system. A power supply is measured in Watts (W). Usually, a graphics card draws more power from it than any other device. Hence, a power supply should have a high wattage value.
The PSU wattage value requirement depends on the graphics card that you want to install on your computer. It also depends on the number of graphics cards you want to install on your computer. Powerful yet older graphics cards like the GeForce Titan usually demand at least 600W, but contemporary cards require at least 750W. If you have more than one card installed, it increases the wattage value even further. However, cheap graphics cards like the GeForce 1060 only need 450W, which is the wattage value of a standard power supply unit.
If you have bought a power supply already, it’s recommended to try a lower-end graphics card (i.e. GTX 1050Ti, GTX 1650) as they tend to offer the best wattage value to performance ratio. For instance, the GeForce 1060 just requires a 450-watt PSU, whereas its counterpart, the Radeon RX 580, requires at least 450W to 500W depending on the board manufacturer.
If you haven’t bought a power supply yet, then it’s recommended to buy at least a 600W to 700W PSU, as that’s the recommended value for mid-range to high-end graphics cards. You may also need more wattage values if more peripheral devices are connected to the computer. In such cases, the value can be calculated with the help of a power consumption calculator or a watt meter.
A good graphics card will help with high-end visualizations, gaming, and animation rendering. But it’s not worth spending too much if you can’t utilize the power of the graphics card on your Linux system. That’s why you should always keep your requirements in mind while purchashing a graphics card. Just because a GPU is best for Linux doesn’t mean you need it, right? Moreover, always wait a few months after a card’s initial release date for the prices to fall a bit before making your decision.