Although all of the listed graphics cards are awesome bits of tech, you’ll need to consider a few key factors before you know which is best for you and your system.
AMD vs Nvidia
As you must be aware by now, AMD and Nvidia have been duking it out in the GPU arena for more than a decade now, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to see a resolution any time soon.
Generally speaking, Nvidia is thought to produce the higher-performing GPUs of the two companies, especially as they cracked real-time ray tracing first, but AMD has a lot going for them too. Known as more of a consumer-friendly brand, AMD GPUs always arrive at a lower price point than their Nvidia equivalents.
Each new generation of GPU is based on a different architecture. Architecture refers to the general blueprint of construction. Each architectural advancement is given a codename and exhibits increased performance across the board while simultaneously reducing equivalent power consumption.
As well as general performative upgrades, new architecture may bring completely fresh features to the table such as Nvidia’s variable-rate shading as found in their RTX GPUs. Nvidia’s latest microarchitecture is known as Ampere, while AMD’s is known as RDNA 2. To stay within the $200 budget, we’ll mostly be focusing on cards based on Nvidia’s Turing and Pascal architecture and AMD’s RDNA architecture.
The cooling abilities of your GPU are essential. The hotter GPUs get, the lower their performance potential becomes.
There are two main types of GPU cooling, axial and blower. Axial or open-air cards feature two or more fans that blow air into the enclosure. The air is exhausted out both sides of the card into your case. Axial cards tend to run cooler but place more of a burden on your other hardware.
Blower-type cards have a singular fan that blows air over the heat sinks, down the length of the card. Blowers tend to run hotter, but vent hot air directly out of your case.
Dimensions are arguably the most important thing to consider when shopping around for a new GPU. If it doesn’t fit in your case, it’s not going to be all that much use to you. Graphics cards come in a range of sizes, but pretty much all modern designs have a 2-slot width, by which we mean it takes up two expansion slots on your motherboard.
You’ll need a minimum of roughly 10.5 inches of clearance to accommodate a quality graphics card, so micro towers may not be up to the task. Mid towers, on the other hand, are normally capable of accommodating large graphics cards.
Resolution and Frames Per Second
This is the exciting part…gaming performance. When choosing a graphics card, you should focus on what would suit your gaming habits. The higher the resolution you like to use for gaming, the more powerful Your GPU will need to be.
The desired goal in any resolution is 60fps or above, enough to facilitate some smooth and immersive gameplay. The minimum is around 30fps. Anything lower than that isn’t really considered playable.
VRAM is your GPU’s dedicated fast access memory cache. It holds all the information your graphics card needs to smooth out on-screen transitions. It stands as a buffer between your processor and GPU. Expressed in the GDDR format, the baseline for gaming is generally seen as GDDR4. If you play in 1440p resolutions or above, a large VRAM capacity and efficient configuration can really help boost your frame rates.