The FMS buying guide to graphics cards in 2017
In 2017 there is a massive array of options when it comes to buying a new graphics card. You have variations of a base card design from each vendor along with multiple versions of base card and varying specifications.
So to make things easier, we have rounded our top 10 pick of graphics cards in 2017 ranging from a budget card that will run most games through to the ultra high-end that will run the latest AAA games in 4K and provide a smooth VR experience.
As minimum you want to look at spending around £100 for a budget gaming card, but this can quickly go up to over £500 and more than you might look to be spending on an entire build.
AMD’s latest range of cards is the RX 500 series, which is an update to the RX 480, 470 and 460 from last year (2016). On average the new RX 500 series is better value than last years’ cards offering faster processing and lower power consumption.
However, that’s not to say that last years’ cards in the RX 400 series are bad. They can be fast, or if you manage to snag a high-end card at a discount possibly faster, and will now be discounted with the new range out. See our price search on discounted RX 400 series cards.
AMD have also released an entry-level RX 550 which costs under £80 for the base specification and while it won’t play the latest AAA games a high resolution, it will play CS:GO and League of Legends without a problem.
Because of the recent rally in the values of Ethereum and that the AMD RX 500 series of cards (in particular the RX 570 and 580) are very efficient at mining Ethereum the cost of these cards have shot up due to a shortage in supply with any available cards being snapped up for mining rigs. Also watch out for second-hand cards on eBay which may have been used for mining, these will have likely been overclocked and run 24x7x365 so more likely to have issues than a card that has been used for regularly gaming.
The list price for a RX 580 should be around £300, but lately they have been over £400 due to the shortage in the supply of these models of cards.
1080p and 4K resolutions
If you want to play at 1080p or 4k with all game details turn up to ‘Ultra’ then you’ll need a powerful card. Some good cards for this are the NVidia GTX 1070 or 1080, but AMD also has the Radeon RX Vega range which competes nicely with the NVidia cards.
In the mid-range, around £300, is the Nvidia GTX 1060 and AMD RX 580. They may not break many speed records, but they’re optimised for virtual reality, and will appeal if you’re building (or upgrading) a PC to use with a VR headset.
If you really want to push the boat out, then the GTX 1080 Ti is the current leading graphics card available. Prices start around £699 (although you can find the excellent NVidia GeForce GTX 1080 Windforce with 8GB at the discounted price of £529.99 – However, the offer of the Destiny game download has now ended).
Many gamers won’t need a card with this level of performance, but high-quality gaming at 4K resolution, 3D, Virtual Reality, high refresh-rate displays and multi-monitor setups can all demand a huge amount of processing power, and in those situations such high-end cards are there to provide the grunt. Don’t worry, there are plenty of excuses you can use to justify your expensive purchase.
Most graphics cards can be overclocked, and this can be pushed quite far with the use of upgraded components and a custom cooling system for the card (removing heat becomes one of the main problems when overclocking a graphics card).
Well designed overclocked cards will come from the factory in a pre-overclocked state. This takes advantage of improved hardware above the reference design, and means you can see some dramatic differences between cards based on the same GPU.
Factory overclocked cards can often therefore deliver excellent value for money.
Most graphics card vendors have at least one model for each GPU with an enhanced and more efficient cooler which allows the underlying components to run faster without overheating, giving you increased frame rates. But it’s also important to consider the noise output from the fans.
AMD or NVidia
It can be difficult to decide between an AMD or an NVidia card, especially if you’re looking in the £200-300 range where both AMD and NVidia have very similar cards with similar performance. One thing that may sway your decision are the games that you want to play, you’ll notice some games are optimised for AMD or NVidia GPUs so that might be enough to pick one over the other.
- Simultaneous Multi-Projection / VR Ready / NVIDIA Ansel / NVIDIA SLI w/ HB Bridge Support
- NVIDIA G-SYNC / NVIDIA GameStream / NVIDIA GPU Boost 3.0 / Microsoft DirectX 12
- Built for EVGA Precision XOC / iCX Cooling / New vented heatsink fin design and pin fins for optimized airflow / Redesigned cooling
- DirectCU III GPU Cooling Tech
- Triple Wing-Blade GPU Cooling
- GPU Controlled Fan Headers
- PCIE 3.0 / 8 GB GDDR5X 256bit 10.00GHz /
- 1936MHz / 2560 cuda cores /
- Powered by AMD Radeon RX VEGA 64 GPU
- Close-Loop liquid cooling system
- 8GB 2048-bit High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2)
- Radeon VR Ready Premium
- 3rd Gen FinFET 14
- GAMING Look and Feel.Card Dimension(mm) 279 x 140 x 42 mm
- Double Ball Bearings / Dispersion Fan Blade / TORX 2.0 FAN
- Airflow Control Technology / Close Quarters Cooling / Enhanced PWM design
- Backplate with RGB LED
- 768 NVIDIA CUDA Cores
- 1392MHz Base/1506MHz Boost Clock
- 4GB GDDR5 7000MHz Memory
- 128-Bit Memory Interface
- DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b & DL-DVI
- Perfectly Matched for Asus X99-A II Motherboards
- GPU Tweek 2 with Xsplit Gamecaster
- Auto Extreme Technology
- Adaptive V-Sync / PhysX Ready / 3d Vision Surround
- VR Friendly HDMI ports
- MaxContact Technology that is 2X more contact with GPU for improved thermal transfer.
- Patented Wing-Blade IP5X-Certified Fans for maximum airflow and longer fan lifespan.
- ASUS FanConnect II equips with hybrid controlled fan headers for optimal system cooling.
- HDR Ready
- 3rd Gen FinFET 14
- Radeon FreeSync 2 Technology.
- Supports HDMI 4K at 60Hz and DP 8K at 60Hz
- 90mm Unique Blade Fan Design
- Powered by Radeon RX 560
- Integrated with 4GB GDDR5 128bit memory
- WINDFORCE 2X with Blade Fan Design
- One-click Super Overclocking
- Supports HDMI 4K@60Hz and DP 8K@60Hz