If your Windows 10 display is constantly flickering, it’s likely because you have a troublesome application installed or an unsuitable display driver. It’s time for you to resolve that annoying screen flash. The problem often begins when upgrading to Windows 10 from a previous version of the operating system, but it can occur at any time. We’re going to show you various methods to fix a Windows 10 flashing screen. Try This Screen Flickering Fix First First, you need to establish what might be causing the flickering screen. To do this, open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift +…
If your Windows 10 display is constantly flickering, it’s likely because you have a troublesome application installed or an unsuitable display driver. It’s time for you to resolve that annoying screen flash.
The problem often begins when upgrading to Windows 10 from a previous version of the operating system, but it can occur at any time. We’re going to show you various methods to fix a Windows 10 flashing screen.
Try This Screen Flickering Fix First
First, you need to establish what might be causing the flickering screen. To do this, open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc simultaneously.
Alternatively, right-click your taskbar and select Task Manager. You don’t actually need to use Task Manager, but you do need it open.
Now, watch your screen to see if Task Manager flickers. If it does, along with everything else on the screen, it’s probably a display driver that’s causing the problem. On the other hand, if everything except Task Manager flickers, the issue is likely due to an application.
With that in mind, skip to the relevant section that you need below. However, if the advice there doesn’t work, check the advice in the other sections too, just in case it solves the problem.
1. Flashing Caused by an Application
Three applications have been identified by Microsoft to cause screen flashing: Norton AntiVirus, iCloud, and IDT Audio. Also, think about whether you installed any new software before the screen flickering began.
In the case of Norton AntiVirus, the problem is acknowledged by Symantec and they’ve released a specific fix for it. If you’re running Norton, head to their official support page and follow the steps (which involves downloading an executable) to resolve the issue. It should work, but keep reading if not.
Across all three applications, make sure you’re running the latest versions. Either update within the app itself or head to the respective official websites and download the most up-to-date release. You may find that this issue has now been officially patched within the app.
If this doesn’t work, uninstall the program. To do so, press Windows Key + I to open Settings. From here, click Apps to be presented with a list of all the apps on your system. Find the offending app, left-click it and then click Uninstall. You may need to restart your system for the changes to fully take effect.
2. Flashing Caused by a Display Driver
The screen flashing could be caused by your display driver. Let’s make sure you are running the right version.
Remove the Driver
First, boot into Safe Mode. To do so, press Windows Key + I to open Settings. Select Update & Security >Recovery. Underneath Advanced start-up, click Restart now.
When your system restarts, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup settings > Restart. Again, once restarted, select option 5 to launch your PC into Safe Mode with Networking.
Next, press Win Key + X and click Device Manager. Click the arrow next to Display drivers to expand the category. Right-click your graphics card, click Uninstall device, check Delete the driver for this device and then click OK. Restart your system again.
Alternatively, you can use a third-party software called Display Driver Uninstaller, which will completely wipe any traces of the driver from your system. I use this and think it’s great, but feel free to use the built-in Windows method if you’re more comfortable with that.
Install a New Driver
You now want to install the latest driver for your system. Windows Update will provide the latest driver it thinks is compatible with your system. To do this, press Windows Key + I and go to Update & Security > Windows Update > Check for updates.
Download the driver, install it, and see if the problem has ceased.
Roll Back to an Older Driver
If the problem continues, it might be that the newest driver hasn’t patched the problem. If the screen flickering occurred after a driver update, try rolling back to an older version. Follow the steps above to uninstall the driver, then head to the old driver page for either AMD, NVIDIA, or Intel. This might be a bit of trial and error, but try selecting one that released when your screen wasn’t flickering.
Disable Automatic Windows 10 Driver Update
Because Windows 10 has mandatory updates, you now need to head to Microsoft’s support page to download a tool to stop the system automatically updating your driver—you can disable this when you know that the newest driver has patched the screen flicker problem.
Create a New Windows User Profile
Many Windows 10 problems can often be solved by creating a new user profile. This is one of them.
To do so, press Windows Key + I and go to Accounts > Family & other people > Add someone else to this PC and follow the wizard.
Eventually, all the software and driver developers should offer in-built fixes to this flickering screen problem. Until then, hopefully, the advice above will sort it out so that you can actually use your system with ease.
Is your PC fast enough for the things you want to do? Does it take forever to boot, or grind to a halt when you try to use Photoshop? If so, it’s probably time to upgrade your hardware. But what is the best way to upgrade your computer? What will give you the best bang for your buck, and which upgrades are a waste of time? Here’s our guide to the best PC upgrades you can make. 1. Why You Should Upgrade RAM Adding more memory is the easiest and most accessible PC upgrade you can make. It’s affordable, you…
Is your PC fast enough for the things you want to do? Does it take forever to boot, or grind to a halt when you try to use Photoshop? If so, it’s probably time to upgrade your hardware.
But what is the best way to upgrade your computer? What will give you the best bang for your buck, and which upgrades are a waste of time? Here’s our guide to the best PC upgrades you can make.
1. Why You Should Upgrade RAM
Adding more memory is the easiest and most accessible PC upgrade you can make. It’s affordable, you can do it on almost any machine (including many laptops), and it doesn’t require much tech know-how.
If you’ve never cracked open your PC case before, this is the place to start.
A RAM upgrade delivers an instant performance boost to almost all PCs that are running slow. For resource hungry tasks—like video editing or gaming—the more RAM you’ve got, the better.
Even for casual use, extra RAM will enable you to have more apps running in the background or keep a greater number of tabs open in your browser.
So how much RAM do you need?
4GB is the baseline amount. It’s good for general use, with up to around 10 browser tabs, a little photo editing, and video streaming.
You’ll notice a significant improvement if you upgrade to 8GB. This is good for serious multi-tasking, browsing with up to 30 tabs open, editing RAW photos, and even some mid-range gaming.
For heavier tasks, you should look to 16GB for best results. Serious gaming, media editing, or any pro-level tasks will be best with this much memory.
2. Consider Upgrading the Graphics Card
We’ve got this second on the list, but if you’re a serious gamer then it should probably be the first thing you upgrade. If you aren’t a serious gamer, 3D modeler, or 3D animator, then you might not ever need to upgrade it at all.
Skimping out on graphics is an easy way to save on costs, so PC manufacturers tend to go with integrated graphics cards rather than dedicated graphics cards.
And on modern systems integrated graphics is good enough for most users. It’ll let you do some Photoshop work, or watch 4K video. And more than 10 percent of users on Steam are even gaming with integrated graphics.
But if you do need superior graphics performance, for gaming or VR work, then upgrading to something like a Radeon RX580 will give you a big boost. You can compare the performance of dedicated cards against your current option at gpu.userbenchmark.com.
There are two reasons to upgrade your hard drive: you’re running out of space or you want faster performance.
If you’ve done everything you can to free up your hard disk storage and still regularly run out of space, then you will need to swap it out for a larger one. Not only does a full hard drive make it impossible to save new data, but it can also impact performance. At the very least, try to keep 10GB of free space for the operating system to use.
For hard disk drives, consider upgrading the physical speed. If your PC currently has a 5400RPM drive, then upgrading to a 7200RPM model will give you a nice speed boost.
But the fastest option is to switch to a solid state drive. These use flash memory instead of a spinning disk and are many times faster than a typical hard disk drive. (Not to mention more reliable, too.)
On average, a 5400RPM drive might achieve write speeds up to 100Mbps, a 7200RPM drive up to 150Mbps, and a solid state drive over 500Mbps. Higher end SSDs like the Samsung 970 EVO have incredibly high write speeds of 1500Mbps and more.
Ultimately, a faster data drive impacts your entire system. It means faster boot times, faster program loading times, faster speeds for launching games, and more responsiveness in programs that use large files (like video editing or RAW photo editing).
The downsides to solid state drives are that they have much smaller capacities and are more expensive than hard disk drives.
If you don’t want to compromise on size, a hybrid drive combines the best of both worlds. These have a small amount of flash memory—where your most commonly used files are cached for instant retrieval—and a traditional hard disk that provides large capacity for storing long-term data.
4. Upgrading the Processor
Upgrading your PC’s processor is a far more advanced task than the other upgrades we’ve covered so far. Not only is it physically trickier to install, it’s one of the more expensive upgrades and there are compatibility issues to worry about, too.
More importantly, a processor upgrade isn’t always a good thing and may not bring you the performance improvement you’re looking for.
The benchmark tests at cpubenchmark.net can help you compare the relative performances of different processors. In general, these tests show that modest updates don’t deliver big improvements.
A processor is only worth upgrading if the upgrade is significant, like moving from an i3 to an i5, or from an older generation to a newer one. Don’t go for something just because it has a faster clock speed.
Processors are expensive and may require you to upgrade your motherboard (and that might require you to buy new RAM). Even if your motherboard is compatible with a new processor on paper, it may need a BIOS update to work. It can be a pain, so check before you buy.
Ultimately, if your processor is the speed bottleneck in your system, you might want to consider buying a whole new system altogether.
5. How Upgrading Software Can Improve Performance
Chances are that the programs on your PC are set to update automatically. If not, you probably click the Update button as soon as you’re alerted to the release of new program versions.
In most cases this is the right thing to do. But not always. For a lot of software, the version number is depicted in the form of Major.Minor.Revision. So, if an update is 0.0.1, then it’s likely to be bug fixes. If it’s 0.1.0, then it likely includes optimizations and small new features. Minor and Revision updates should be installed right away.
But Major updates—a change in the full version number—are a different matter. It’s almost a given that new versions of programs will use more resources than old versions, so if your PC’s hardware is already being stretched to the max, you should deal with that first.
The same goes for operating system updates. The regular incremental updates are essential for performance and security reasons, but whole new versions aren’t. They will almost certainly have bugs and may run slow on your system.
If your PC is running fine, it’s worth holding off on operating system upgrades until you’re absolutely sure they won’t turn out to be downgrades.
What Else Should You Upgrade?
The motherboard is the most difficult of all upgrades since all of the other PC parts attach to it. It’s only worth considering if you’re dead set on a new processor that’s not compatible with your current setup. It won’t give you much of a speed boost on its own.
There are other components to consider, too.
A keen photographer, for instance, would surely benefit more from having a better monitor than from making Lightroom run a little quicker. Equally, a writer could become more productive with a mechanical keyboard.
Instead of focusing purely on performance, think about how you can upgrade your PC experience. Speed is important, but it’s not the only thing that matters.
The Best PC Upgrades for You
So, RAM, SSDs, and graphics cards are the most important PC upgrades. You should see real, instant improvements whenever you upgrade any combination of them.
Ideally, you should always tailor your upgrades to your precise needs. If you need better graphics, get a new graphics card; if you want greater responsiveness, get an SSD. And if you aren’t sure where your computer’s bottlenecks are, check out our guide to the Windows diagnostics tests you can use to help you pinpoint them.
Seeing errors related to dedicated video RAM on your Windows PC? Struggling to run graphic-intensive programs like video editors and new video games? You may need more video RAM.
But what even is that, and how can you increase video RAM? Read on for everything you need to know about video RAM.
What Is Dedicated Video RAM?
Video RAM (or VRAM, pronounced “VEE-ram”) is a special type of RAM that works with your computer’s graphics processing unit, or GPU.
The GPU is a chip on your computer’s graphics card (or video card) that’s responsible for displaying images on your screen. Though technically incorrect, the terms GPU and graphics card are often used interchangeably.
Your video RAM holds information that the GPU needs, including game textures and lighting effects. This allows the GPU to quickly access the info and output video to your monitor.
Using video RAM for this task is much faster than using your system RAM, because video RAM is right next to the GPU in the graphics card. VRAM is built for this high-intensity purpose and it’s thus “dedicated.”
How to Check Your VRAM
You can easily view the amount of video RAM you have in Windows 10 by following these steps:
Open the Settings menu by pressing Windows Key + I.
Select the System entry, then click Display on the left sidebar.
Scroll down and click the Advanced display settings text.
On the resulting menu, select the monitor you’d like to view settings for (if necessary). Then click the Display adapter properties text at the bottom.
In a new window, you’ll see your current video RAM listed next to Dedicated Video Memory.
Under Adapter Type, you’ll see the name of your Nvidia or AMD graphics card, depending on what device you have. If you see AMD Accelerated Processing Unit or Intel HD Graphics (more likely), you’re using integrated graphics.
How to Increase VRAM
The best way to increase your video RAM is to purchase a graphics card. If you’re using integrated graphics and suffer from poor performance, upgrading to a dedicated card (even a solid budget graphics card) will do wonders for your video output.
However, if this isn’t an option for you (like on laptops), you may be able to increase your dedicated VRAM in two ways.
Increase VRAM in the BIOS
The first is adjusting the VRAM allocation in your computer’s BIOS. Enter your BIOS and look for an option in the menu named Advanced Features, Advanced Chipset Features, or similar. Inside that, look for a secondary category called something close to Graphics Settings, Video Settings, or VGA Share Memory Size.
These should contain an option to adjust how much memory you allocate to the GPU. The default is usually 128MB; try upping this to 256MB or 512MB if you have enough to spare.
Not every CPU or BIOS has this option, though. If you can’t change it, there’s a workaround that might help you.
Faking a VRAM Increase
Because most integrated graphics solutions automatically adjust to use the amount of system RAM they need, the details reported in the Adapter Properties window don’t really matter. In fact, for integrated graphics, the Dedicated Video Memory value is completely fictitious. The system reports that dummy value simply so games see something when they check how much VRAM you have.
Thus, you can modify a Registry value to change the amount VRAM your system reports to games. This doesn’t actually increase your VRAM; it just modifies that dummy value. If a game refuses to start because you “don’t have enough VRAM,” upping this value might fix that.
Right-click the Intel folder on the left sidebar and choose New > Key. Name this key GMM. Once you’ve made it, select the new GMM folder on the left and right-click inside the right side.
Select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name this DedicatedSegmentSize and give it a value, making sure to select the Decimal option. In megabytes, the minimum value is 0 (disabling the entry) and the maximum is 512. Set this value, restart your computer, and see if it helps a game run.
These methods aren’t guaranteed to work, but they’re still worth a try if you run into issues. If you don’t have a lot of system RAM and are having trouble running games with integrated graphics, try adding some additional RAM for the integrated graphics to use. Like most tasks, this is usually next to impossible to upgrade on a laptop and simple on a desktop.
What Kinds of Tasks Need Video RAM?
Before we talk specific numbers, we should mention what aspects of games and other graphics-intensive apps use the most VRAM.
A big factor in VRAM consumption is your monitor’s resolution. Video RAM stores the frame buffer, which holds an image before and during the time that your GPU displays it on the screen. Better displays (such as 4K gaming) use more VRAM because higher-resolution images take more pixels to display.
Aside from your display, textures in a game can drastically affect how much VRAM you need. Most modern PC games let you fine-tune graphical settings for performance or visual quality. You may be able to play a game from a few years ago at Low or Medium settings with a cheaper card (or even integrated graphics). But High or Ultra quality, or custom mods that make in-game textures look even better than they normally do, will need lots of RAM.
Beautification features like anti-aliasing (the smoothing of jagged edges) also uses more VRAM due to the extra pixels. If you play on two monitors at once, that’s even more intensive.
Specific games can also require different amounts of VRAM. A game like Overwatch isn’t too graphically demanding, but a title with lots of advanced lighting effects and detailed textures like Shadow of the Tomb Raider needs more resources.
Conversely, a cheap card with just 2GB of VRAM (or integrated graphics) is sufficient for playing old PC shooters. Games back then had nowhere near 2GB of VRAM at their disposal.
PS2 emulation speed seems to be really GPU dependent. If you have onboard graphics, might want to pick up a cheapish graphics card.
Even if you’re not interested in gaming, some popular software requires a fair amount of VRAM too. 3D design software like AutoCAD, particularly intense edits in Photoshop, and editing high-quality video will all suffer if you don’t have enough video RAM.
How Much VRAM Do I Need?
It’s clear that there’s no perfect amount of VRAM for everyone. However, we can provide some basic guidelines about how much VRAM you should aim for in a graphics card.
1-2GB of VRAM: These cards are usually under $100. They offer better performance than integrated graphics, but can’t handle most modern games at above-average settings. Only purchase a card with this amount of VRAM if you want to play older games that won’t work with integrated graphics. Not recommended for video editing or 3D work.
3-6GB of VRAM: These mid-range cards are good for moderate gaming or somewhat intensive video editing. You won’t be able to use ultra-insane texture packs, but you can expect to play modern games at 1080p with few issues. Get a 4GB card if you’re short on cash, but 6GB is a more future-proof option if you can spare it.
8GB of VRAM and above: High-end video cards with this much RAM are for serious gamers. If you want to play the latest games at 4K resolution, you need a card with plenty of VRAM.
However, you should take the above generalizations with a grain of salt. Graphics card manufacturers add the appropriate amount of VRAM to a card depending on how powerful the GPU is.
Thus, a cheap $75 graphics card will have a small amount of VRAM, while a $500 graphics card will pack a lot more. If a weak GPU isn’t powerful enough to render video that takes 8GB of VRAM to store, it’s a waste to have that much VRAM in the card.
Extremes aren’t the concern with VRAM. You don’t need an $800, top-of-the-line card with 12GB of VRAM to play 2D indie platformers. Really, you only need to worry about how much VRAM to get when a card you want to buy is available in multiple VRAM options.
Common Video RAM Concerns
Remember that just like normal RAM, more VRAM doesn’t always mean better performance. If your card has 4GB of VRAM and you’re playing a game that only uses 2GB, upgrading to an 8GB card isn’t going to do anything noticeable.
Conversely, not having enough VRAM is a huge problem. If VRAM fills up, the system has to rely on standard RAM and performance will suffer. You’ll suffer from a lower frame rate, texture pop-ins, and other adverse effects. In extreme cases, the game could slow to a crawl and become unplayable (anything under 30 FPS).
Remember that VRAM is only one factor in performance. If you don’t have a powerful enough CPU, rendering HD video will take forever. A lack of system RAM prevents you from running many programs at once, and using a mechanical hard drive will severely limit your system performance too. And some cheaper graphics cards could use slow DDR3 VRAM, which is inferior to DDR5.
The best way to find out which graphics card and amount of video RAM is right for you is to talk to someone knowledgeable. Ask a friend who knows about the latest graphics cards, or post on a forum like Reddit or Tom’s Hardware asking if a specific card would work for your needs.
What’s Different With Integrated Graphics?
So far, our discussion has assumed that you have a dedicated graphics card in your PC. Most people who build their own computer or buy a pre-built gaming PC have a desktop with a video card. Some beefier laptops even include a graphics card.
But on budget desktop or off-the-shelf laptops don’t include video cards—they use integrated graphics instead.
An integrated graphics solution means that the GPU is on the same die as the CPU, and shares your normal system RAM instead of using its own dedicated VRAM. This is a budget-friendly solution and allows laptops to output basic graphics without the need for a space and energy-hogging video card. But integrated graphics are poor for gaming and graphic-intensive tasks.
How powerful your integrated graphics are depends on your CPU. Newer Intel CPUs with Intel Iris Plus Graphics are more powerful than their cheaper and older counterparts, but still pale in comparison to dedicated graphics.
As long as your computer is within a few years old, you should have no problems watching videos, playing low-intensity games, and working in basic photo and video editing apps with integrated graphics. However, playing the latest graphically impressive games with integrated graphics is basically impossible.
Now You Understand Video RAM
Now you know what video RAM is, how much you need, and how to increase it. In the end, though, remember that video RAM is a small aspect of your computer’s overall performance. A weak GPU won’t perform well even with a lot of VRAM.
So if you’re looking to increase gaming and graphical performance, you’ll likely need to upgrade your graphics card, processor, and/or RAM first—the VRAM will sort itself out.
PC games are demanding. Every year, new games hit the market that stretch hardware capabilities. There are ground-breaking games whose graphics alter the course of gaming forever. Myst, Doom 3, Crysis, World of Warcraft, BioShock, Half-Life 2, The Witcher 3, and many more spring to mind. That’s not even close to an exhaustive list, either. They share a common theme though. At the time of their release, the game could push your system hardware to its limits. So, what games should you reach for to stress test your new graphics card right now? 1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)…
PC games are demanding. Every year, new games hit the market that stretch hardware capabilities. There are ground-breaking games whose graphics alter the course of gaming forever. Myst, Doom 3, Crysis, World of Warcraft, BioShock, Half-Life 2, The Witcher 3, and many more spring to mind. That’s not even close to an exhaustive list, either.
They share a common theme though. At the time of their release, the game could push your system hardware to its limits.
So, what games should you reach for to stress test your new graphics card right now?
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released in 2015 to plaudits across the board. Years later, and people are still blown away by the beauty of its extensive RPG world. Even now, The Witcher 3 is still one of the best ways to max out your system.
In fairness, The Witcher 3 is impressively resourceful regarding GPUs. To achieve maximum beauty, you do need a powerful modern card. However, even older cards like the Nvidia GTX 770 or an AMD Radeon R9 290 can still bring the world to your monitor. The recommended system specification for The Witcher 3 is:
Processor: Intel Core i5-3770 or AMD FX-8350
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics Card (NVIDIA): NVIDIA GTX 770
Graphics Card (AMD): AMD R9 290
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will definitely max out those GPUs, even on Medium settings. Those with Nvidia graphics cards such as the 1070, 1070 Ti, 1080, or 1080 Ti (or the AMD equivalents) can take their settings all the way to Ultra, depending on the rest of your system hardware.
Far Cry 5 takes the state of Montana and pops it into your computer. You can wander around the vast open world exploring every mountain, creek, glade, and river. I spent more time looking at the scenery than playing through the storyline. (In fact, that’s true of several games on this list.)
Far Cry 5 is a slight misnomer on this list. You can still experience Montana, and its religious cults using similar hardware to series predecessors Far Cry 4 and Far Cry Primal. However, if you want constant 60+ FPS at 1080p on Ultra settings, you definitely need a top-tier GPU. Moreover, the only way to hit a constant 60+ FPS at 1440k on Ultra is using two GPUs in CrossFire or SLI configuration.
3. Final Fantasy XV (2018)
Final Fantasy XV is the latest entry in one of the most popular gaming series of all time. Square Enix is known for creating detailed, expansive environments, and the world of Eos delivers in multitudes.
Final Fantasy XV does require a high-performance GPU to see it at its best. The drop off in graphical fidelity between its Low, Medium, High, and Highest settings are notable, especially between Low and Medium. Furthermore, the world truly bursts with life at Ultra, especially if you can support Ultra settings at 1440p.
4. Kingdom Come: Deliverance (2018)
Crytek’s CryEngine has long carried a reputation as a system hardware destroyer. The original Crysis (2008) was used as a system benchmarking tool for years. (Some free Windows benchmarking tools for you to try.) Crysis 3 (2013) was much the same, and at the time of its release, only the most up to date hardware could run it on its highest settings.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance licenses a heavily modified version of CryEngine 5, named Dunia Engine. The Dunia Engine first came to prominence in Far Cry 2 but was still powering Far Cry 5 and its amazing visuals. So, Kingdom Come: Deliverance has similar graphics and hardware requirements to Far Cry 5, as well as a similarly spectacular game world.
In fact, Eurogamer tested Kingdom Come: Deliverance using an i5-8600K CPU with a Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti on Ultra, and struggled to hit a solid 60 FPS. Dropping draw distance, shadows, and lighting to High brought Deliverance to a steady 60+ FPS. But you can see the level of hardware you need to experience Kingdom Come: Deliverance at its absolute finest.
5. Arma III (2014)
You’re thinking, “How can a four-year-old game still push modern hardware to its very limits?” Well, Arma III has such extensive graphics customization that you can still use it in an attempt to melt your computer.
As one of the best tactical shooters Arma III has a few features that push your hardware to its limits. Notably, the game environments are colossal. The largest Arma III map, Altis, covers 270 square kilometers. Obviously, you’re not looking at or rendering the entire map at one time. However, you can set your view distance to 25 kilometers, take a helicopter into the skies, and marvel at the sheer scale of the world. And that takes some serious processing power.
Processing the number of units on a map throughout a large multiplayer game is also resource intensive, especially once the bullets start flying overhead. However, this is an older game, so there are some allowances. Those with extremely new hardware could use Arma III mods to add more graphical fidelity to the game to maximize their experience.
6. Fallout 4 VR (2017)
The world of VR gaming is growing from strength to strength. The first iterations of VR headsets were clunky, running at relatively low resolutions, and many users suffered from motion sickness due to inconsistent frame rates.
The Nvidia GTX 10xx series (particularly the GTX 1070, 1080, and their respective Ti models, which make our list of the best graphics cards to buy) make VR gaming a pleasure rather than a nauseating sad time. If your system hardware can handle it, Fallout 4 VR is one of the most entertaining and expansive virtual reality experiences available at the time of writing.
7. Destiny 2 (2017)
Destiny 2 is another game where you will stop to stare at the majestic world around you. The sheer scale of Destiny 2 is phenomenal, regularly fusing soaring intergalactic vistas with intricate detailing. Detailing that you might miss unless you take time to enjoy it. Another thing Destiny 2 does extremely well is lighting. Each location feels unique and has its own color schemes, while developer, Bungie, has worked hard to make transitions between zones both simple and dramatic.
Destiny 2 is actually optimized really well. Those with older hardware can certainly still enjoy battling the brutal Red Legion. Those with new hardware can crank the dial up to 11 to experience a visually stunning space story (the actual narrative is so-so) that maximizes everything your system can give.
Go and Test Your System’s Hardware!
I haven’t included Deus Ex: Mankind Divided or Quantum Break because, while requiring some serious hardware to run, that’s also down to them being poorly optimized games. Which, in turn, gives them a false position in the hardware requirements list. Also, while Forza Motorsport 7 really pushes the boundaries of system hardware, Forza Horizon 4 runs with similar specs.
CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 and CryTek’s Hunt: Showdown are set to push everyone’s hardware to its absolute limits. Other gamers are keeping tabs on Red Dead Redemption 2. A PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2 would offer another beautiful open world game that would see more than a few gamers’ scrambling for PC hardware upgrades.
Earlier this year, Nvidia unveiled its new line of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), under the new name: RTX. This is an upgrade from the earlier GTX series of GPUs, but the branding isn’t the only change. Nvidia has now equipped these GPUs with the capability to carry out real time ray tracing. But what is ray tracing and why is it so important? What Came Before Ray Tracing? The word “rendering” is used quite a lot when discussing graphics cards or gaming. The process of rendering involves converting a three-dimensional object into a two dimensional image that will appear realistic…
Earlier this year, Nvidia unveiled its new line of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), under the new name: RTX. This is an upgrade from the earlier GTX series of GPUs, but the branding isn’t the only change.
Nvidia has now equipped these GPUs with the capability to carry out real time ray tracing. But what is ray tracing and why is it so important?
What Came Before Ray Tracing?
The word “rendering” is used quite a lot when discussing graphics cards or gaming. The process of rendering involves converting a three-dimensional object into a two dimensional image that will appear realistic on your screen. Games are interactive, and they render objects as a player’s movement changes the perspective on the screen.
This means it’s necessary to have a way to ensure the graphics look realistic. Developers have achieved this using real time rendering, but for decades, it has used the same technology: rasterization.
Rasterization is a technology that, at the core, relies on triangles. It sees 3D objects as a large collection of polygons made out of triangles. It gathers various kinds of data, like position, color, texture, and such, from the three points AKA vertices of the triangles.
Not all of this data is needed, so it then refines the data. It sets the screen as the frame of reference, and it then determines how to display the pixels. Once this is done, there’s a bit of processing and the image shows up on your screen. It’s a lot of work, but the GPUs (how to tell a GPU, CPU, and APU apart) have enough power to get it done within a fraction of a second, and refresh it multiple times within a second to make the motion appear very smooth.
Ray Tracing vs. Rasterization
In the real world, you’re able to see things as a result of light hitting them. Real world lighting is very complex, with each ray of light reflecting and refracting multiple times before it reaches our eyes, making us see the high amount of detail. Replicating this is a very hard job, but with ray tracing, the technology is now closer than ever.
As the name itself suggests, ray tracing relies on tracing every single ray of light hitting objects in a virtual three-dimensional scene. Ray tracing will follow the path of light rays from the light source, to the objects, and every reflection and refraction they go through, before finally reaching the screen.
If there are multiple light sources, ray tracing will account for all of them. Instead of treating every pixel as a point on a mesh of polygons, like rasterization does, ray tracing treats every pixel as a ray of light, which is comparable to how the human eye actually sees things.
Why Is Ray Tracing Suddenly Relevant Now?
The film and animation industry already uses ray tracing technology for rendering scenes to make them look as realistic as possible. Note that this does not require real-time ray tracing; your current GPU could probably handle ray tracing, too.
However, depending upon how heavy the scene you are trying to render is, it could take several days to render just a few seconds of three-dimensional imagery. In gaming, GPUs have to render the scenes on the go. The primary requirement for this is hardware capable of doing that in real time.
Of course, ray tracing requires much more processing than rasterization needs, and thus is a GPU-intensive task. Using ray tracing for every part of a virtual scene is the ideal way to get the most realistic-looking picture. However, it’s often only used for selected parts of a scene. The GPU processes the rest of the scene through rasterization.
This brings us to Nvidia’s approach with its the latest series of GPUs, and specifically what they do with RTX.
How Does Nvidia’s RTX GPU Work?
Nvidia’s latest generation of GPUs, also called Turing, is an obvious improvement on paper. Nvidia manufactures these with a new, smaller 12 nano-meter process. They also claim to be 50% more powerful, and 10 times as fast as the previous generation. However these numbers don’t mean much.
What is important is how Nvidia has changed the basic structure of the GPU.
These new GPUs carry the usual CUDA cores that Nvidia has been using for the previous generations. In addition, they also come with dedicated “Tensor” cores, for machine learning, and “RT” cores for, well, you guessed it, ray tracing. To sum it up, Nvidia has based these GPUs on a new architecture that is smarter, and has hardware specifically dedicated to ray tracing, which is a first.
All this is used in combination to speed up ray tracing and get it to work in real time.
To make use of this new hardware efficiently, Nvidia has a bunch of software to go along with it. Nvidia OptiX is one that helps make the best of the hardware’s ray tracing capabilities. It also has an “AI-accelerated denoiser”. Now, as you know, ray tracing relies on using light to determine how a virtual image looks.
Because of this, there is bound to be some noise in areas that have little to no light. The denoiser helps get rid of that. Nvidia is also working on adding support to ray tracing to the Vulkan API.
Nvidia isn’t alone in this, either. You might know about Microsoft’s DirectX, a prerequisite to run many a games on Windows (how to install and upgrade DirectX). Microsoft has announced an extension to the latest version of it now, called DirectX Ray Tracing (DXR). This aims to help bring in software support for developers to adapt their game to take the fullest advantage of Nvidia’s RTX.
RTX will use the new hardware power and ray tracing capabilities along with the old reliable rasterization and other related processes, to deliver a gaming experience that will look more realistic than ever.
Is Ray Tracing the Answer to Next-Gen Graphics?
Well, not quite. Ray tracing hasn’t been used in a day-to-day consumer scenario before. That’s why it will take some time for the consumer industry to adapt this technology. Developers have already begun integrating this technology into their games. However, only a handful of games support it at the time of writing.
So in case you’ve been thinking of upgrading your GPU, waiting for a while to see how the technology progresses might be the better option. In any case, ray tracing is likely to be the future of gaming. It may end up being through RTX, or through some other equivalent technology released sometime in the future.
Are you worried about your computer’s temperature? Excessive heat can affect your device’s performance and your hard drive’s lifespan. But how can you tell if it’s overheating or just hot? What is a good temperature for your Central Processing Unit (CPU)? And what are the signs you should look out for? How Is Heat Generated by Your PC? The simple fact is, heat is a natural by-product of electricity. Anything that uses energy to set in motion an activity—whether that’s a computer, a car engine or our own bodies—results in heat transference. Of course, the amount of electricity needed is…
Are you worried about your computer’s temperature? Excessive heat can affect your device’s performance and your hard drive’s lifespan.
But how can you tell if it’s overheating or just hot? What is a good temperature for your Central Processing Unit (CPU)? And what are the signs you should look out for?
How Is Heat Generated by Your PC?
The simple fact is, heat is a natural by-product of electricity. Anything that uses energy to set in motion an activity—whether that’s a computer, a car engine or our own bodies—results in heat transference. Of course, the amount of electricity needed is dependent on the task being performed.
Overclocking generates excessive heat, for instance. This is when you operate your CPU at a higher clock speed than intended by its manufacturers. You can typically find out ideal clocking rates by visiting the site of your processor’s maker, but unless you’re well-versed in speeds, these won’t mean much to you.
The main benefit of overclocking is a more efficient and faster operating system, but it also requires a higher voltage to perform tasks. This greater need for electricity results in your CPU exuding more heat.
Playing games, watching Blu-ray and DVDs, ripping, burning and sharing files can all put a strain on your CPU, as does normal system maintenance, editing, and encoding. As you can imagine, with several tasks being carried out at once, overheating can be a very real concern.
Some users try to counteract this using a process called underclocking; this lowers heat transference by replacing the oscillator crystal inside the component. But this naturally decreases the system’s efficacy too.
How to Spot an Overheating PC
Even though heat affects performance, your PC temperature rarely gets high enough to disrupt everyday use. However, if your computer is sluggish or regularly freezes, that’s a major indicator that you’re exceeding the maximum recommended CPU operating temperature.
The internal fans may also be noisier than usual, meaning they’re working faster in an effort to lower the motherboard and processor temperature. It does this by venting hotter air away from important components via the heatsink (a naturally heat conductive component typically made of aluminium) and out of the case.
Computers have a fail-safe which shuts down overheating parts to prevent permanent damage. In some instances, the whole system will shut down and refuse to fully restart until it has sufficiently cooled. Even then, if there is malfunctioning hardware, it might allow you access to files briefly before shutting down again.
If you have access to the computer’s interior, unplug the computer from the main electric, then gently touch the components. Expect them to be quite warm, but none should be too hot to touch. Take care when doing this, in case you hurt yourself or damage anything inside your machine.
Is It Overheating or Just Hot?
Don’t panic if you hear your PC’s fans working. That’s perfectly normal. Any strenuous tasks performed by the CPU, GPU, hard disk drive (HDD), and to a less extent the optical drive (DVD or Blu-ray) will raise your PC temperature. Computers typically generate heat without a detrimental effect.
Of course, if your fans constantly run at considerable, noisy speeds, that’s a sign of overheating. However, if you don’t hear the fan, that could also be the problem.
A broken fan can be the reason your system is too hot, but how else can you tell if the machine is too hot? Your main indicator is your PC’s performance.
You might have noticed it runs slower than normal, even when attempting to complete basic tasks like opening numerous tabs in your browser or running two programs at the same time. Your PC might keep shutting itself down or restarting without any prior warning. And of course, if it freezes completely and shows you the Blue Screen Of Death, something’s definitely wrong!
Naturally, performance issues don’t necessarily mean the ideal CPU temperature is being exceeded. Malicious software could also be affecting your computer, so decrease this risk by employing solid security measures.
On Windows, you can check which applications are most CPU-intensive through the Resource Monitor. Just search for the app on your desktop and you’ll see which programs are running in the background (and probably a few that have recently been terminated). Don’t worry: this list will be extensive, and that’s perfectly normal.
Aside from a broken fan, poor airflow caused by badly-positioned components or blockage of the vents might also be the cause of overheating. Where is your PC? An enclosed space can trap heat in; dusty surroundings can clog up the vents. Find out more about how heat affects your computer.
What Temperature Should Your CPU Be?
Your computer is designed to operate at its maximum capacity at room temperature—that is, a comfortable room which feels neither too hot nor too cold. It’s simple to say, but everyone prefers a different temperature!
So what is a normal computer temperature? Scientifically speaking, ambient room temperature is between 20°C/68°F and 26°C/79°F, averaging at about 23°C/73°F. Anything exceeding 27°C /80°F is potentially damaging to your computer. Obviously, this is especially something to watch out for in the summer.
The cold is certainly not as hazardous as excessive heat. Temperatures slightly below 20°C/68°F aren’t something to be fearful of.
A simple mercury thermometer can give you an accurate gauge of your worktop.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your CPU, accessible through your Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). This is basically the system that instructs the hardware to load the operating system, just after the computer powers up. By necessity, this means you have a narrow window in which to access your BIOS.
Your CPU will run at a higher temperature than the room, so don’t panic when you initially see it. What is too hot for a CPU to operate at? You should consult your system’s documentation as it is dependent on what conditions your hardware is expected to function under normally.
So how hot can a CPU get? Generally, your processor shouldn’t run at anything greater than 75°C/167°F.
How to Maintain a Safe CPU Temperature
Keeping your computer’s environment cool is key. That can be as simple as opening a nearby window or placing an oscillating fan in the vicinity.
Potentially simple solutions include changing its surroundings (moving your computer or laptop to a cooler room in the summer, for instance), and using a can of compressed air to unblock vents.
If you’re concerned your CPU is overheating, you do have options, including installing your own fan—but this is not advisable for anyone unfamiliar with internal workings.
Should your fail-safe kick in, reducing the risk of damaging components, your device will crash. It’s likely you’ll need a new fan for the heatsink. It may be another fan that’s not working sufficiently, but unless you know this, it’s not advised to switch on your computer as this may permanently damage your CPU.
You can replace an internal fan relatively simply, but on some models, taking off the casing can void your warranty. Laptop and Windows tablet fans can’t be easily replaced. And if you’re not experienced enough, there’s no point in jeopardising your data. Take it to your local specialists.
You can choose from two types of graphics cards for PCs: dedicated and integrated. The first uses its own hardware and is regarded as the serious choice. The second borrows resources from the rest of the PC and has a reputation for being the compromise solution. But is that fair? Each system has its pros and cons, and it’s important to know them before you can decide which is right for you. Let’s take a look. 1. What Is Integrated Graphics? Integrated graphics refers to a computer where the graphics processing unit (GPU) is built onto the same die as…
You can choose from two types of graphics cards for PCs: dedicated and integrated.
The first uses its own hardware and is regarded as the serious choice. The second borrows resources from the rest of the PC and has a reputation for being the compromise solution.
But is that fair? Each system has its pros and cons, and it’s important to know them before you can decide which is right for you. Let’s take a look.
1. What Is Integrated Graphics?
Integrated graphics refers to a computer where the graphics processing unit (GPU) is built onto the same die as the CPU.
This comes with several benefits. It’s small, energy efficient, and is less expensive than a dedicated graphics card.
Integrated graphics used to have a bad reputation, but this has improved a lot in recent years.
It’s now more than good enough for general computing, including some casual gaming and 4K video watching, but it still struggles in some areas. It isn’t suitable for playing the latest high-end games or for working with graphic-intensive programs.
Another important note is that integrated graphics shares memory with the main system memory. You’ll sometimes see it described as shared graphics for this reason. If your computer has 4GB of RAM and 1GB of shared graphics memory, you’d only have 3GB of memory available for general computing tasks.
Most modern processors have an integrated GPU. In computers that also have a dedicated graphics card, software will switch between the two automatically. It tries to balance performance and efficiency.
Shared graphics are most often used as the sole option on devices where a compact size is the priority, like laptops, tablets, and smartphones. You also get it on budget desktop computers.
2. What Is a Dedicated Graphics Card?
A dedicated graphics card is a piece of hardware used to manage the graphics performance of a computer. They’re sometimes also called video cards or discrete graphics.
There are lots of different types of graphics cards, but they all feature a GPU, some RAM, and a fan to keep it cool.
The benefits to graphics cards is that you can find one powerful enough for any task. They don’t share system memory, and—in most systems—are easy to upgrade. On the negative side, they’re expensive, larger, and generate a lot of heat.
You’ll usually see dedicated graphics cards in mid-range or better desktop computers. Some higher-end laptops also have them.
3. Dedicated Graphics Means Better Graphics
Most recent dedicated graphics cards will deliver better graphics performance than an integrated system. But that’s only part of the story. Which you should go for depends on what your priorities are.
It’s no surprise that dedicated hardware is better than an integrated system, but by how much?
The 8th generation Intel Core i7 processors have the best dedicated graphics performance. These feature Radeon RX Vega M graphics from AMD.
A check on the benchmarking site videobenchmark.net shows that the Vega M offers similar performance to the dedicated RX 570, a mid-range graphics card that sells for around $199.
Other i7, i5, and lower processors offer integrated Intel graphics under the mid-range Iris Pro and entry-level Intel HD brands. The best Iris Pro graphics system benchmarks at less than a third of the level of the Vega M.
By contrast, the best dedicated graphics cards, like the Nvidia Titan Xp range, provide more than double the performance. They cost more than a thousand dollars, too.
4. Dedicated Graphics Also Use More Power
There’s a reason why dedicated graphics cards have built-in fans: they get very hot.
Tests show that under a heavy load, the Titan Xp can hit 185 degrees Fahrenheit or more. That’s in addition to the similar levels of heat generated by the CPU and other components inside the computer. It’s essential to stop your PC from overheating.
By comparison, an Intel Core M processor with integrated graphics might top out at around 160 degrees in total while gaming. There’s no fan at all and it uses a lot less energy.
Benchmarks show that the graphics performance on this setup compares to a dedicated card several years old. But if you aren’t a gamer and value energy efficiency, then it’s likely a better choice.
5. Dedicated Graphics Laptops Exist
You can get laptops with dedicated graphics cards, but your options are more limited. The trade-offs are a larger size and a higher price.
Integrated graphics laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or Acer Swift 7 are less than half an inch thick. A comparable Dell model adds around a quarter of an inch to the depth. At 0.55 inches, the Asus ZenBook 13 makes a claim as the thinnest laptop with dedicated graphics.
Most laptops with discrete graphics are either gaming laptops or high-end machines aimed at pro users. The larger footprint also tends to mean that 13-inch models are rare, with 15 inches or above more common.
Don’t want to compromise on size but want the best performance possible? There is a third, lesser-known choice: an external GPU.
6. Integrated Graphics Is Cheaper
Computers with integrated graphics are cheaper than comparably specced machines with dedicated graphics cards. That doesn’t mean they’re the cheap option, though. Apple uses integrated graphics in all but the 15″ versions of the MacBook Pro. These are the most expensive laptops in their range.
The iMac range of desktops also has integrated graphics in what you might describe as the “entry-level” model. It’s still over a thousand dollars.
In desktop computers from other manufacturers, where you have much more freedom to configure and upgrade the machine, shared graphics is definitely the budget option. Adding a solid mid-range card like the Radeon RX 580 will add an extra few hundred dollars to the price.
But this isn’t to say that discrete graphics is expensive. There are some excellent budget graphics cards worth buying.
7. Dedicated Graphics Is Better for Gaming
If shared graphics is less powerful, does that mean you can’t use it for gaming? Not necessarily.
The online gaming platform Steam releases a monthly survey showing the hardware used by its 125 million customers. Dedicated graphics cards dominate the August 2018 list. But more than 10 percent of users are gaming with Intel’s integrated graphics.
If you choose to go this route, you will need to make some compromises. Not every game will be available to you, and you’ll have to tone down the detail settings. 4K gaming is off-limits in most cases.
In a straight integrated vs. dedicated graphics card comparison, it’s easy to see which solution is right for you.
You need a dedicated graphics card for serious gaming and VR. You also need one for professional work with graphics software, including animation, CAD, and video editing. Programs like Photoshop and Lightroom have support for modern graphics cards. These are essential for tasks like 3D work, and will help speed up RAW photo editing.
For everyone else, integrated graphics is just fine. It can work for casual gaming. It’s more than good enough for most Adobe programs. And as long as you’ve got a fairly modern processor, it will be able to handle 4K video.
In fact, unless you have specific needs, the benefits of integrated graphics—like device size and better battery life—are likely to outweigh the benefits of discrete graphics.
External graphics processing units (eGPUs) sound great. You can get desktop-quality graphics on a laptop, which means you only need one computer for portability and high-level gaming. But do they stand up against internal GPUs? Is it worth dropping a few hundred bucks on a dock? How much performance can you really expect? Unfortunately, expectations and realities may differ with external GPUs. But they can still be useful. Let’s take a look. 1. How Do External GPUs Work? In most cases, you’ll see an external GPU hooked up to a dock. An external GPU dock has a PCIe port for…
External graphics processing units (eGPUs) sound great. You can get desktop-quality graphics on a laptop, which means you only need one computer for portability and high-level gaming.
But do they stand up against internal GPUs? Is it worth dropping a few hundred bucks on a dock? How much performance can you really expect? Unfortunately, expectations and realities may differ with external GPUs.
But they can still be useful. Let’s take a look.
1. How Do External GPUs Work?
In most cases, you’ll see an external GPU hooked up to a dock. An external GPU dock has a PCIe port for the graphics card and usually either a Thunderbolt or USB-C cable to connect to your computer.
Using a dock is as a simple as installing the card, installing the drivers, rebooting, and installing any custom software. (Of course, your experience will vary depending on your hardware.)
Once you have it set up, your computer routes graphics requests to the external GPU instead of the default one supplied with your computer. In theory, this process will get you better graphics performance as, by and large, laptops don’t have much graphical processing power. (Bear in mind that you can use an external GPU for your desktop, but they are much more common for laptops.)
By using the bigger, more powerful card, you get better graphical performance. Maybe even enough to play some graphically intense games. Sounds great, right?
2. External Performance Doesn’t Stack Up
Unfortunately, using an external GPU doesn’t give you the same performance as it would if you had the same GPU mounted internally. How much performance do you lose, then? Estimates put the loss at around 10 to 15 percent. That isn’t a big deal, especially considering the monstrous capacity of the latest high-end graphics cards you can buy today.
However, the loss is something worth knowing about. If you’re hoping to play the latest AAA titles on ultra-high settings, an external laptop GPU setup might not do it for you. That’s not to say the external GPU won’t improve the graphical performance of your laptop; it definitely will. But the gains might not be as game-changing as you think.
Why not? Mostly because laptops just aren’t set up to handle that much power. And if they are, there’s a strong chance the laptop has an integrated GPU already, negating the need for an external GPU. Furthermore, while a PCIe port can transfer a lot of data very quickly, even the latest Thunderbolt and USB-C ports cannot match that data rate.
Your laptop CPU probably wasn’t designed to handle a powerful external GPU, either. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, but you might notice the effects. This is especially true for older and slower CPUs.
3. External GPU Docks Are Expensive
Though an external GPU dock is basically just a small piece of motherboard with a PCIe port and a connector cord, you can end up shelling out a surprising amount. You’re looking at a couple hundred bucks or more. And that’s on top of the already expensive GPU to go in the dock. (Not forgetting the existing cost of your laptop, of course.)
Some docks are also only compatible with certain brands of laptops, which means you won’t be able to transfer them if you get a new one. That’s another cost to consider. On the flipside, many laptops that aren’t officially certified to work with a specific external GPU dock will, in fact, work just fine. You might have to do a little bit of tinkering to get them working.
4. Research Is Important
External GPU docks have a wide variety of compatibilities and features. For example:
The OWC Mercury Helios 3 will only take cards up to 75″.
The Akitio Node takes “half-length” cards.
Alienware’s Graphics Amplifier doesn’t have any USB or Thunderbolt ports; it uses a proprietary connector instead.
The HP Accelerator Omen has a SATA port for connecting an additional HDD or SSD.
In addition, each of the listed external GPUs comes with specific compatibility requirements that you may or may not need to consider. As previously mentioned, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier has a proprietary connector and will only work with Alienware laptops. The Razer Core external GPU dock only works with Thunderbolt 3. The ASUS ROG XG Station 2 is unclear about which non-ASUS products it will work with.
In short, if you want an external GPU, you need to spend some time researching to make sure it’s going to work. Fortunately, there are a huge number of people interested in external GPUs, and they’ve already tested many combinations.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out Reddit’s /r/eGPU. It’s an active subreddit with a lot of people who might be able to help.
5. You Will Get Better Graphics Performance
Despite the drawbacks, external graphics cards do work. You will get better graphics performance out of your laptop and they’ll enable you to play games or run apps that wouldn’t have worked before. (Which upgrades improve your PC performance the most overall?) There are plenty of benchmarks showing that external GPUs provide a huge boost in graphics power, especially in MacBooks.
It’s difficult to say exactly how much of a boost your external GPU will give, or even how easy it’ll be to get everything up and running. However, if your laptop cannot run a particular game and you really want it to, an external graphics card is a viable solution.
6. External GPUs Will Only Get Better
The Thunderbolt/USB-C bandwidth issue isn’t going to alleviate magically. External GPU hardware and software will continue to improve and it’s more than likely that external GPUs will continue to improve.
Many people are interested in external GPUs. Additionally, hardware manufacturers want to get their GPUs into more people’s hands. As such, there’s plenty of incentive for them to keep improving the technology.
7. What Are the Best External Graphics Cards?
Finally, there are several excellent external GPU options available, depending on your budget and requirements. Here are three for you to consider:
Gigabyte is a long-established name in GPU manufacturing, and its AORUS Gaming Box packs a massive punch into a reasonably stylish external GPU dock. The AORUS Gaming Box comes with an 8GB GTX 1070 Mini ITX, which is smaller than its full-size desktop counterpart but still offers similar stock performance.
Gigabyte’s Gaming Box connects to your laptop using Thunderbolt 3. The GTX 1070 Mini ITX features one HDMI port, one DisplayPort, and two DVI ports, as well as four USB 3.0 slots. Another plus for the Gaming Box is its weight. It only weighs about 4.4 pounds, making it relatively easy to travel around with. Furthermore, the AORUS Gaming Box comes as a single package, so there’s no fiddly installation process, either.
The Akitio Node Pro comes from a less-than-familiar name, but still comes with many advantages. Number one is the additional 500W power supply unit for the external GPU. For moments when you need maximum power from your external GPU, you can plug it in for optimal graphical output.
Furthermore, while this is an excellent choice for an AMD external GPU solution, you can easily swap your AMD GPU for an Nvidia card in the future.
You’ll find the Node Pro is a significant upgrade on its predecessor, the standard Akitio Node. The Node Pro weighs 10.2 pounds, which while not exactly lightweight, you could feasibly take it with you on public transportation. However, one definite downside is the Node Pro’s overall size. It is definitely better suited to living on your desk at home.
The Akitio Node Pro external GPU dock also features a single integrated DisplayPort, as well as two integrated Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Is an External GPU Right for You?
All this information should give you a good idea of what you’re getting if you want to invest in an external GPU. In the end, putting that couple hundred bucks toward building your own gaming PC might be a better investment.
The latest and greatest games are demanding on both your pocket and your system. As specifications rise, it is difficult for gamers on a budget to keep up-to-date. However, budget gaming GPUs don’t force you into a low-resolution, blurry-pixel past. Far from it, in fact. A budget graphics card is no longer a barrier to enjoying some of the best games on offer. Without further ado, here are six of the best budget graphics cards for your system. The Best Budget Graphics Cards The best budget graphics cards come from a range of GPU manufacturing generations, including Nvidia. Some of…
The latest and greatest games are demanding on both your pocket and your system. As specifications rise, it is difficult for gamers on a budget to keep up-to-date. However, budget gaming GPUs don’t force you into a low-resolution, blurry-pixel past. Far from it, in fact.
A budget graphics card is no longer a barrier to enjoying some of the best games on offer. Without further ado, here are six of the best budget graphics cards for your system.
The Best Budget Graphics Cards
The best budget graphics cards come from a range of GPU manufacturing generations, including Nvidia. Some of the best bang for your buck comes from the slightly older but still super powerful cards. Of course, your definition of a budget GPU depends on—wait for it—your budget.
Furthermore, it depends on what you want to play and how you want to play it. Some of the best graphics cards will still max out the settings on some of the latest games, while others are better suited to slightly older games. Though you won’t have to reach in your ancient back catalog of games, that’s for sure. (Though I highly encourage such activity.)
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the six best budget graphics cards for cheap gaming.
The Nvidia GTX 1060-3GB is an excellent budget graphics card, featuring a similar architecture to its bulkier 6GB counterpart (listed below). The GTX 1060-3GB performs well across the board. In some places, it even matches the performance of the Nvidia GTX 980 (one of the top GPUs from the previous generation).
The fantastic users over at UserBenchmark provide expedient insight into the estimated number of frames per second (fps) the GTX 1060-3GB achieves in several popular games on maximum graphics settings at 1080p:
Fortnite: 91 FPS
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG): 65 FPS
Overwatch: 93 FPS
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: 50 FPS
GTA V: 61 FPS
Battlefield 1: 56 FPS
Of course, your FPS ties into the rest of your system hardware, so don’t take these (user estimated) figures as gospel. Rather, they’re a guideline as to what the GTX 1060-3GB might achieve.
Another plus point for the 1060-3GB is its size. The single fan design means the GTX 1060-3GB fits into almost every system layout and case size. Furthermore, its overall power-use is low, saving you a few extra pennies.
The AMD RX 580-4GB is sandwiched between a few other budget GPUs. The RX 580-4GB isn’t quite as powerful as the GTX 1060-6GB but has a fair amount more under the hood than the 1060-3GB version. In that, it is well placed for budget gamers looking for power and performance on a budget.
Unlike the other budget gaming GPUs on this list, the following FPS estimates don’t come from UserBenchmark. The site doesn’t appear to differentiate between the 4GB and 8GB version. Rather, Eurogamer provides some excellent benchmarks for the RX 580-4GB (and its larger 8GB counterpart, too) running several games on maximum settings:
Assassins Creed Unity: 40 FPS
Battlefield 1: 96 FPS
Crysis 3: 69 FPS
Ghost Recon Wildlands: 33 FPS
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: 61 FPS
Given that even my GTX 1070-8GB struggles with certain sections of Ghost Recon Wildlands, the low FPS score for a 4GB GPU isn’t a surprise. Otherwise, the RX 580-4GB makes good use of its 2304 GPU cores, as well as packing a decent 2MB L2 cache.
The successor to the GTX 1050 fits into a nice price point for budget gaming. The Nvidia GTX 1050ti-4GB offers a significant boost on its predecessor and competes directly with the similarly specced AMD RX 580-4GB. But despite the GTX 1050ti hitting the market six months after the RX 580-4GB, the latter retains the edge with faster overall memory and memory bandwidth.
Here are the UserBenchmark FPS estimates for the GTX 1050-ti:
Fortnite: 70 FPS
PUBG: 43 FPS
Overwatch: 74 FPS
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: 38 FPS
GTA V: 44 FPS
Battlefield 1: 45 FPS
Like the GTX 1060-3GB, the linked GTX 1050ti-4GB is a single fan GPU to fit into any design and in any case. And while the 1050ti may lose out to the RX 580-4GB GPU in many ways, it has one massive advantage: it only uses half of the power (75W vs. 150W). This means you’ll save money on your power supply unit purchase, too.
The Nvidia GeForce GT 1030-2GB is the cheapest budget gaming GPU on our list. Never heard of it? It is regularly outshined by other slightly more powerful—but more expensive—graphics cards. However, the single-fan 2GB GT 1030 can still power its way through some excellent games. You won’t max out The Witcher 3, but with the right hardware, you can certainly play your way through it.
The GT 1030-2GB has a small profile. But that’s for a good reason. The GT 1030 only draws around 30W, making it extremely efficient for low-power gaming rigs.
Unfortunately, UserBenchmark doesn’t even feature the GT 1030 but, word to the wise: don’t accidentally buy the Low Profile GT 1030. It comes with even less power than the full-size version and instead of GDDR memory uses regular DDR4 RAM. This means that the Low Profile version will struggle to run your favorite games.
There are other, cheaper cards up above that still offer excellent budget gaming performance. But if you can stretch your budget, the Nvidia GTX 1060-6GB packs some serious bang for your buck. The UserBenchmark FPS estimates for the GTX 1060-6GB version are:
Fortnite: 101 FPS
PUBG: 68 FPS
Overwatch: 100 FPS
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: 58 FPS
GTA V: 61 FPS
Battlefield 1: 73 FPS
The 1060 is definitely towards the top of the “budget” category, but this ensures it will keep powering the latest games for some time to come.
Better still than the 6GB GTX 1060 is the AMD RX 570-8GB. This card retails at a similar price point to the GTX 1060, but you get an extra 2GB VRAM to play with and bring those top-end games to life.
Here are the UserBenchmark FPS estimates for the RX 570-8GB. You will note that several games appear to have much lower FPS than the presumably lower-power GTX 1060-6GB. The discrepancy is largely down to a much smaller sample size and therefore less variety in system hardware.
Fortnite: 87.5 FPS
PUBG: 55.9 FPS
Overwatch: 94 FPS
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: 54.4 FPS
GTA V: 46.1 FPS
Battlefield 1: 61.3 FPS
Overall, the AMD RX 570-8GB graphics card will keep you at the pinnacle of gaming for some years to come. Don’t pay much attention to the FPS estimates; depending on your system hardware, an 8GB GPU will let you enjoy maximum settings for most games, as well as game at 1440p.
Should You Buy a Second-Hand Graphics Card?
The other option for gamers on a budget is buying a top-end card from a previous GPU generation. The Nvidia GTX 980 and the AMD R9 Fury X are still powerful gaming GPUs that will play most games on maximum settings. In fact, the AMD R9 Fury X scores higher than some of the modern GPUs in testing.
For instance, the GTX 980 has comparable performance to the GTX 1060 and is slightly better in several areas. But a brand new GTX 1060 has newer architecture, comes under warranty, has more overall VRAM (the 6GB version), and lower power consumption. Always be sure to weigh up your options before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Cryptocurrency Mining GPUs
The cryptocurrency boom saw GPU prices skyrocket. Cryptocurrency miners rushed to buy the best graphics cards for the Bitcoin era, creating a graphics card price bubble. Then, the cryptocurrency bubble burst. The GPU market was suddenly awash with second-hand GPUs that had been in use at full speed, 24/7, for months on end. The constant demand on the internal parts, the heat this generates, plus the heat and often poor ventilation of a crypto-mining rig can severely damage the GPU.
Luckily, the demand for crypto-mining has decreased, and GPUs prices are now stable (albeit higher than before the cryptocurrency bubble). But second-hand crypto-mining GPUs still permeate the market as miners look to recoup costs.
Find the GPU That’s Right for You
There is always a budget gaming graphics card out there for you. You just have to figure out what makes sense for your budget. Furthermore, it depends on the games you want to play. I didn’t buy a dedicated GPU until I was 20 years old, and I spent tens of thousands of hours playing lower resolution games (OpenTTD, anyone?).
There’s an amazing number of fun PC games that don’t require a top-of-the-range GPU, such as these indie city base builders. So, if you’re really strapped for cash, just play older titles.