The Fastest & Most Powerful Graphics Cards | November 2015

The graphics card is the part of your computer that controls and enhances how graphics (pictures, videos, programs, animation, 3D) are displayed on your computer screen. All graphics cards, from cheap consumer-oriented cards to professional cards costing thousands of dollars, enhance a computer’s graphics processing by offloading that task from the CPU. By devoting the power of a video card to the task, the computer can complete it faster and without using up other system resources. In addition to speed, graphics cards offer a number of customizable options through their drivers, which enhance the appearance of 3D graphics.

So far, 2015 has given us a bounty of high-end graphics cards. If you want to spend somewhere north of three hundred bucks on a graphics card—and heck, maybe three times that—then you have plenty of shiny new options from which to choose.

When you’re trying to figure out the next PC upgrade you should buy, there are at least two ways to go about it. Some people like going through lots of pages of benchmarks, analysis, galleries of the component in various states of disassembly, forum debate, and pictures of fluffy kittens. And that’s great, when you have the time. But not everyone does. For people who want a quicker breakdown of choices like which is the most powerful graphics card to buy, we can condense that into just a couple of pages. We’ll give you a quick tour through the various choices that you have at different price points to make it easier for you to gauge your needs from a graphics card according to your budget.

The Graphics Cards We Recommend

Most Powerful GPUHere, in this section, we list the top performance graphics cards on today’s markets, so don’t wonder if you are told that they are the most expensive graphics card as of today.

Our main factor on selecting these cards is the model number, as we believe that the latest graphics card models of a particular brand is supposed to be the best of all. You may read about the importance of considering model number when looking for the best graphics card by clicking here.

We also highly consider the verdicts of the experts who tested these particular graphics cards and published their reviews on their websites to make sure that we only include the latest and best graphics cards ever on the market. You may read some of their statements on a particular GPU in the “more details” section below each item in the list.

Summary of Listed Items

Here we present a summary of the recommended graphics cards laid out below to make it easier for you find your exact match without having to read all the details below each item.

Most Powerful Graphics Cards
Card Name GPU Model Memory Size Price
EVGA GTX TITAN X HYBRID nVidia GForce Titan x 12GB $1,237.53
ASUS Radeon R9 295X2 AMD Radeon R9 295X2 8GB $933.58
ASUS STRIX GTX 980 Ti OC nVidia GForce 980 Ti 6GB $669.99
Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury X AMD Radeon R9 Fury X 4GB $679.98
ASUS Radeon R9 NANO AMD Radeon R9 NANO 4GB $669.99

Our Highest Performance Video Card List



EVGA GeForce GTX TITAN X 128gb HYBRID GAMING Is the Fastest Graphics Card

Nvidia has unleashed the full power of the Maxwell GPU architecture in this latest Titan and this is the result: the Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X. The most powerful consumer GPU we’ve ever seen. Rocking a brand new GPU, the GM 200, the GTX Titan X is the pinnacle of their latest graphics tech. But Nvidia is also heralding the GTX Titan X as the ultimate PC gamer’s graphics card—one that will blaze through today’s games at top 4K settings and still be capable of doing so a couple of years down the line. The GeForce GTX Titan X is based on GM200, composed of eight billion transistors. Eight. Billion. That’s almost three billion more than the GeForce GTX 980’s GM204 and one billion more than GK110, the original GeForce GTX Titan’s cornerstone.

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Reference Version’s Specs
Graphics Processing Clusters 6
Streaming Multiprocessors 24
CUDA Cores (single precision) 3072
Texture Units 192
ROP Units 96
Base Clock 1000 MHz
Boost Clock 1075 MHz
Memory Clock 3505 MHz
Memory Data Rate 7 Gbps
L2 Cache Size 3072K
Total Video Memory 12288MB GDDR5
Memory Interface 384-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth 336.5 GB/s
Texture Rate (Bilinear) 192 GigaTexels/sec
Fabriocation Process 28 nm
Transistor Count 8 Billion
Connectors 3 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x Dual-Link DVI
Form Factor Dual Slot
Power Connectors One 8-pin and one 6-pin
Recommended Power Supply 600 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 250 Watts
Thermal Threshold 21° C
Custom Card’s Features
Base Clock 1152 MHZ
Boost Clock 1241 MHz
Memory Clock 7010 MHz Effective
Pros & Cons
  • Fastest single-GPU ever made
  • Significant performance improvement over the GTX 980
  • Beautiful cooler design
  • Great efficiency
  • HDMI 2.0
  • 12 GB VRAM
  • New software features (MFAA and DSR)
  • Quad SLI support
  • Very high price
  • Runs into the 84°C temperature limit very quickly
  • Should be quieter in gaming, custom GTX 980 cards do much better here
  • Overclocking limited and complicated
  • Fans do not turn off in idle
  • Slight coil noise
  • No backplate
  • 12 GB VRAM is overkill
  • Not fully double-precision enabled
Experts’ Statements (Mar 17th, 2015):

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX Titan X is hands-down the fastest single-GPU graphics card in the world, and the first capable of gaming at 4K without having to resort to a multiple-card setup. (Mar 17th, 2015):

This is the fastest single GPU card around, offering performance only before seen in monstrously power hungry dual-GPU cards, but now in an elegant, efficient package. (Mar 17th, 2015):

By all measures this is a niche product, ideal for only certain PC gamers. But if you’re in its target demographic, GeForce GTX Titan X has no equal. Though the appeal is narrow, such high-end hardware earns our Tom’s Hardware Recommended award. (April 14th, 2015):

The TITAN X is expensive and not easy to find in stock, but it is easily the fastest single-GPU video card on the planet for gaming right now with VRAM to spare, and simply best video card for high IQ large resolution gaming.



ASUS AMD Radeon R9 295X2

AMD Sapphire Radeon R9 295X2 PCI-Express Graphics Card

The R9 295X2 is likely the final throw of the dice for AMD’s current spin of Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. It takes a pair of the fastest Radeon graphics chips available and squeezes them into one behemoth of a graphics card. That’s a familiar refrain, with both AMD and Nvidia traditionally filling out their top-end lineups with dual-GPU cards based on their finest single-GPUs. This time around AMD have done things slightly differently.

The inspiration for the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 appears to have come from ASUS’ Ares II graphics card which made use of a hybrid cooling solution on a similar dual GPU solution. AMD clearly knew of the weaknesses of the Hawaii core and they have shaped the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 to correct those weaknesses. Thus AMD’s first ever water cooled reference graphics card has been born and what a performance monster it looks set to be. With two fully enabled Hawaii GPUs the Radeon R9 295X2 boasts an impressive 12.4 billion transistors, 5632 Stream processors ( 2 x 2816) and 11.5 TFLOPS of compute power.

The R9 295X2 only makes sense if you’re looking for a seriously high-end, 4K-capable miniature gaming machine. That’s the only place you need such efficient cooling and use of space. In a desktop rig, with a chassis capable of holding a pair of graphics cards, you can get the same level of performance from a pair of R9 290X cards. With third-party air-cooling solutions from the likes of Sapphire, you can get decent thermals and still hit the same 4K speeds.

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Reference Version’s Specs
Process 28nm
Stream Processors 5,632
Engine Clock Up to 1018 MHz
Compute Performance 11.5 TFLOPs
Texture Units 352
Texture Fill-Rate Up to 358.3 GT/s
ROPs 128
Pixel Fill-Rate Up to 130.3 GP/s
Z/Stencil 512
Memory Configuration 8GB GDDR5
Memory Interface Dual 512-bit
Memory Speed 5.0 Gbps
Power Connectors 2×8-pin
Typical Board Power 500W
PCI-E Standard PCI-E 3.0
DirectX Support DirectX 11.2
Mantle Support Yes
Custom Card’s Features
  • Gigantic 8GB GDDR5 memory for the best gaming experience & the best resolution
  • AMD Power Tune technology provides intelligent power monitoring in the AMD Radeon graphics to enable higher clock speeds and better performance in your favorite games
  • ASUS exclusive GPU Tweak helps you modify clock speeds, voltages, fan performance and more, all via an intuitive interface
  • GPU Tweak Streaming tool allows you to share on-screen action in real-time. Add scrolling text, pictures, and webcam images to the streaming window easily
  • PCI Express 3.0 Delivers double bandwidth per lane of PCIe Gen 2 for faster GPU – CPU communication
Pros & Cons
  • Fastest graphics card that money can buy as of Year 2014
  • Excellent scaling and performance at Eyefinity and 4K
  • Low temperatures thanks to watercooling
  • Dual-slot cooler
  • CrossFire scaling works in almost all games
  • Dual BIOS
  • Backplate included
  • Nice packaging, comes in a suitcase
  • Can get quite loud under load when the water heats up
  • smallish cooling system has to work hard
  • 240mm radiator and dual fans would have performed better
  • Needs a beefy, high quality power supply
Experts’ Statements (April 8th, 2014):

AMD crafted the AMD R9 295X2 specifically for Ultra HD 4K gaming, and based on our findings there is no doubt they have released the world’s fastest graphics card. (May 23rd, 2014):

The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 is an incredible high-end, multi-core GPU that will really come into its own when 4K gaming becomes more commonplace. It’s a simple, fairly quiet, and easy-to-install solution with high performance and undeniable style. All that earns the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 our Editors’ Choice for high-end, multi-core graphics cards. (April 8th, 2014):

Ultimately while this outcome does put the 295X2 in something of a “winner by default” position, it does not change the fact that AMD has put together a very solid card, and what’s by far their best dual-GPU card yet. Between the price tag and the unconventional cooler it’s certainly a departure from the norm, but for those buyers who can afford and fit this beastly card, it sets a new and very high standard for just what a dual-GPU should do. (April 8th, 2014):

We think AMD has put together an excellent extremely high performing product and manages to keep noise and heat levels under control. In return you get to play your games at butter-smooth framerates with merely the very best image quality settings. Pricing discussion aside, we have to give the Radeon R9 295×2 our Top pick award.




ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX High Performance Graphics Card

The GeForce GTX 980 Ti is a high-end graphics card by NVIDIA, launched in June 2015. It features a factory overclock, extreme cooling capabilities and state of the art voltage regulation. This card’s Ti suffix suggests it shares DNA with the cheaper GTX 980, but this isn’t the case – the GTX 980 Ti is built with the same GM200 Maxwell core found inside the mighty Titan X. That means the new card’s specification is far closer to Nvidia’s top GPU than the cheaper, standard GTX 980. It has 2,816 stream processors – which is only 256 behind the Titan – and six graphics processing clusters and 24 streaming multiprocessors. That latter figure is only two short of the Titan X but six more than the GTX 980.

The NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti graphics cards in general are top notch performers, power efficient, and bring a gaming experience never before seen. With the ASUS STRIX GTX 980 Ti, you get the added bonus of a stout factory applied overclock, the DirectCU III cooler, a pre-installed backplate, and a good supporting software package. Now days, aesthetics play a big role when choosing a PC component, and the STRIX GTX 980 Ti does a nice job with that as well. From the pulsating STRIX emblem to the backplate and red GPU support bracket, it has just the right amount of bling without being over done.

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Reference Version’s Specs
Graphics Processing Clusters 6
Streaming Multiprocessors 22
CUDA Cores (single precision) 2816
Texture Units 176
ROP Units 96
Base Clock 1000 MHz
Boost Clock 1075 MHz
Memory Clock 3505 MHz
Memory Data Rate 7 Gbps
L2 Cache Size 3072K
Total Video Memory 6144MB GDDR5
Memory Interface 384-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth 336.5 GB/s
Texture Rate (Bilinear) 176 GigaTexels/sec
Fabriocation Process 28 nm
Transistor Count 8 Billion
Connectors 3 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x Dual-Link DVI
Form Factor Dual Slot
Power Connectors One 8-pin and one 6-pin
Recommended Power Supply 600 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 250 Watts
Thermal Threshold 92° C
Custom Card’s Features
Base Clock 1291MHz
Boost Clock 1317MHz
Memory Clock 7200MHz Effective
  • Strix drives Direct CU III with Triple Patented Wing-Blade 0dB Fan Design that lets you enjoy games like League of Legends and StarCraft in absolute silence! And during heavy loading, Strix performs 30% cooler and 3X quieter than reference
  • ASUS uses 12+2 phase AUTO-EXTREME Technology with Super Alloy Power II which is premium aerospace-grade quality and reliability.
  • UTO-EXTREME technology is an industry-first 100% automated production process.
  • GPU Tweak II with Game caster provides intuitive performance tweaking and lets you stream your gameplay instantly
Pros & Cons
  • Large overclock out of the box makes it 12% faster than the Titan X
  • Better price/performance than the GTX 980 / 980 Ti
  • Fans turn off in idle and light gaming—no noise!
  • Great efficiency
  • Memory overclocked, too
  • HDMI 2.0
  • Backplate included
  • Quad-SLI support
  • New software features (MFAA and DSR)
  • Could be quieter during gaming
  • Physically large card
Experts’ Statements (July 21st, 2015):

Looking to performance and that’s where this card excels. On paper it is the fastest GTX 980 Ti that we have tested and running through the results compared to the others we looked at recently, the Strix was always the fastest card. (July 7th, 2015):

We adore the ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX for what it really is, a super fast performing product with nice aesthetics, excellent noise levels and OK cooling performance. A product like this comes highly recommended to those who do not like overclocking themselves, but want the fastest out of the box performance. The ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX will be very hard to beat. It’s not just an owl, it is a beast! (July 7th, 2015):

The ASUS STRIX Gaming GTX 980 Ti DirectCU 3 is a showcase of engineering prowess and why ASUS have earned such a reputation in the high end market. It is also the fastest single GPU graphics card we have tested. (Jul 23rd, 2015):

Today, we reviewed the ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX, one of the most anticipated cards this season. It comes with a base clock of 1190 MHz, which is already good, but ASUS has also increased the Boost clock range of their card, which makes it the fastest GTX 980 Ti we have tested so far. Compared to the GTX 980 Ti reference, we see an impressive 16% performance improvement at 4K, which makes it 12% faster than the Titan X and 16% faster than AMD’s Radeon Fury X. ASUS has also overclocked their memory to 1800 MHz, which nets the card some extra performance. (August 4th, 2015):

The Strix is the fastest card we tested, both at its stock speeds and when overclocked… At the end of the day, the Strix is the best all-around contender in this bunch, and I’m making it my pick for a rare, coveted TR Editor’s Choice award. (July 10th, 2015):

Right now, the GeForce GTX 980 Ti is the fastest single graphics card around.

Titan X vs GTX 980 Ti

The 980 Ti is essentially a scaled-down GeForce Titan X, although there’s hardly a massive gulf between the two cards. Both use the same GM200 GPU, which is based on Nvidia’s energy-efficient Maxwell architecture and manufactured on a 28nm process. Both run at a 1GHz base clock and boost to 1,075MHz. Both have the same 250W TDP, and with effective cooling should prove to be monstrous overclockers.

There are differences, though. Nvidia has reduced the number of CUDA cores from 3,072 to 2,816, lowered the texture units from 192 to 176 and removed a pair of streaming multiprocessors (SMMs), leaving 22 rather than the 24 found in the Titan X. The GTX 980 Ti has 6GB of GDDR5 memory, compared to the Titan X’s 12GB, although because both cards use a 384-bit memory bus and clock the RAM chips at an effective 7GHz, they have the same 336GB/sec peak memory bandwidth.

As it stands GTX Titan X does have one remaining advantage that precludes it from being rendered redundant: its 12GB of VRAM, versus GTX 980 Ti’s 6GB. However without any current games requiring more than 6GB of VRAM – and any realistic workload running out of GPU throughput before running out of VRAM – the GTX Titan X’s place in this world now hinges on an uncertain degree of future-proofness. More importantly, perhaps, the Titan X is limited to Nvidia’s reference design, while the GTX 980 Ti comes in a bunch of different flavors, with slick aftermarket coolers, custom board designs, and tweaked clock speeds. For these two reasons GTX Titan X isn’t going anywhere, it will still be around for buyers who need the very best, or even compute users after a cheap 12GB card, but for everyone else the GTX 980 Ti is now going to be the card all other high-end video cards are measured against. So if you’re looking for the finest, most extreme single-GPU video card on the market, look no further than a card like GTX 980 Ti.



Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 Fury X

Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 Fury X High-End Graphics Card

To some people, AMD has fallen behind Nvidia because of its lack of response to cards like the GTX 980 Ti and GTX Titan X, but that stops now, with the red team unleashing its newest flagship GPU: the Radeon R9 Fury X. The R9 Fury X is AMD’s latest attempt to take the crown from NVIDIA in the top end consumer GPU market. In some ways, AMD has succeeded, thanks to the introduction of a new GPU architecture and the innovative High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). HBM is an exciting new memory technology that will allow AMD to develop some truly innovative GPUs, and the Fury X should be only the beginning. With the use of HBM, it has been proven that the quantity of VRAM isn’t the issue, it is the quality of the connection and bandwidth allowance for the VRAM to do its work; although more VRAM certainly couldn’t hurt.

The AMD Radeon Fury X takes its place as AMD’s fastest single-GPU video card and is the flagship showing the best AMD has released for the gaming experience at this time. AMD has marketed the Radeon R9 Fury X as a video card intended for the 4K resolution gaming experience, this despite the video card only having 4GB of VRAM capacity. However, the VRAM in use is AMD’s new HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) on-die memory that significantly boosts the memory bandwidth to a high 512GB/sec with lower power.

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AMD Radeon R9 Fury X’s Official Overview

Reference Version’s Specs
Process 28nm
Stream Processors 4096
Core Clock 1050
Compute Performance 8.6 TFLOPs
Texture Units 256
Texture Fill-Rate 268.8 GT/s
ROPs 64
Pixel Fill-Rate 67.2 GP/s
Z/Stencil 256
Memory Configuration 4GB HBM
Memory Interface 4096-bit
Memory Speed / Data Rate 500MHz / 1.0Gpbs
Memory Bandwidth 512GB/s
Power Connectors 2 x 8-pin
Typical Board Power 275 watt
PCIe Standard PCIe 3.0
API Support DirectX 12, Vulkan,
FreeSync Support Yes
Virtual Super Resolutions Yes
Frame Rate Targeting
Pros & Cons
  • Great performance at 4K
  • Low gaming noise
  • Compact form factor
  • Low temperatures
  • Power efficient gaming
  • HBM memory, tons of bandwidth
  • Multi-monitor power consumption greatly improved
  • Backplate included
  • ZeroCore power
  • Dual-BIOS
  • Support for AMD FreeSync
  • Supports AMD Virtual Super Resolution and Framerate Target Control
  • Slower than expected in sub-4K resolutions
  • Pump emits permanent high-pitched whine
  • Some coil noise
  • Could be much quieter in idle
  • 4 GB of VRAM
  • Lack of HDMI 2.0
  • No memory overclocking
  • Radiator takes up extra space
  • No DVI / analog VGA outputs
Experts’ Statements (June 24th, 2015):
In the end, AMD has plenty to be proud of. By combining a more resource-rich GPU and our first taste of HBM, it successfully leapfrogs the GeForce GTX 780 Ti, which first cast a shadow over Radeon R9 290X, and the GeForce GTX 980 that sat in a class of its own for several months, landing right next to GeForce GTX 980 Ti.

There, sitting alongside Nvidia’s gaming champion, Radeon R9 Fury X now shares the throne. It’s not faster, it’s not cheaper and it’s certainly not any more elegant. The card is just enough to yield a bit of parity. (July 13th, 2015):
If you want a graphics card that is a technical feat along the same lines of the (still amazing) Radeon R9 295 X2 — a watercooled monster, a high-resolution frame-spitter that handles the latest games and delivers beautiful graphics smoothly and surely — then the Radeon R9 Fury X is an excellent choice.

It delivers excellent graphics, much improved with a recent driver update, and I can only imagine things will remain on an upward trajectory as AMD spends more time and effort optimising its newest chips and ensuring that modern titles are similarly tweaked for best performance. (June 24th, 2015):
Being one of the most powerful graphics cards ever created is nothing to sneeze at, especially when AMD wrapped it all up in such a lovingly designed package.

AMD’s Radeon R9 Fury X kicks ass… even if it doesn’t make Nvidia’s high-end offerings obsolete. (June 24th, 2015):
The Radeon R9 Fury X is a little beast with a lot of variables in the right places. Great performance, good frametime results, fairly silent, nice design combined with a solid cooling solution. That said, we do hope to see some driver tweaks that will lift up game performance in the Full HD to WHQD domain a bit more, as being as close to the reference GTX 980 Ti is what this release is all about. If you plan to go for an Ultra HD build, then the Radeon R9 Fury X could be a feisty match alright.

If AMD can bring performance up with a few tweaks in the lower resolutions, they will have an extremely competitive card on their hands. It might not be perfect or a competition slaughtering product at release – but it is close enough. We like it very much.




ASUS AMD Radeon R9 NANO High-End Graphics Card

There’s no other graphics card quite like the AMD R9 Nano, which packs full-size performance into its six-inch frame—but it’s not for everyone. The Radeon R9 Nano is the fruition of AMD’s gamble of integrating stacked high-bandwidth memory (HBM) and a 4,096 SP pixel-grinder into a compact multi-chip module that eliminates the need for external memory chips, freeing up large swathes of PCB area. This, in addition to HBM being more energy-efficient than GDDR5, enabled AMD to design the impossibly compact Radeon R9 Nano that can run anything at 1440p and doesn’t shy away from 4K Ultra HD. The card draws power from just a single 8-pin PCIe power connector and has a typical board power rated at just 175W, making for a cracker of a proposition.

AMD is placing this card as a “co-flagship” entry into its product-stack, right up with the Radeon R9 Fury X. The two products share the $649 price-tag. Think of this as AMD’s attempt at a halo product akin to NVIDIA’s GTX TITAN family because NVIDIA has absolutely no answer to this product.

“For anyone who wants to build a small form factor chassis capable of playing 4K, the Nano is really interesting and that’s exactly where we targeted it,” AMD’s Victor Camardo said at a Nano press briefing last month. “For those people who want power efficiency, who want high-performance, who want a good overall gaming solution that’s optimized to take advantage of all aspects of the product, and not just push one curve or the other to the max.”
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Reference Version’s Specs
Stream Processors 4096
Texture Units 256
ROPs 64
Boost Clock 1000MHz
Memory Clock 1Gbps HBM
Memory Bus Width 4096-bit
FP64 1/16
TrueAudio Y
Transistor Count 8.9B
Typical Board Power 175W
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm
Architecture GCN 1.2
GPU Fiji
Pros & Cons
  • Extremely compact
  • Power efficient
  • Dual BIOS
  • Support for AMD FreeSync
  • Supports AMD Virtual Super Resolution and Framerate Target Control
  • Very expensive
  • No HDMI 2.0 support
  • Coil noise
  • Average clock speed well below advertised 1000 MHz
  • Fan doesn't turn off in idle
  • Complicated overclocking
  • No backplate
Experts’ Statements (September 17th, 2015):
The card delivers excellent performance that no other compact card can compete with. I see the R9 Nano as the optimum choice for 2560x1440p gaming, with most titles being well playable at 4K if you turn off AA and are willing to reduce settings a little bit. For 1080p, the card seems to be overkill, especially due to its high price. (September 10th, 2015):
Truly mini-ITX in stature, enabling shoebox-sized builds, the Nano is, far and away, the fastest graphics card of its ilk. (September 10th, 2015):
To sum up my thoughts, the R9 Nano delivers exceptional efficiency and passable 4K performance in an amazingly compact card that nonetheless seems overpriced. (September 10th, 2015):
The Radeon R9 Nano is a high-performing and efficient graphics card, packed into a miniscule form factor … The Radeon R9 Nano is a hero-type product that demonstrates the kind of efficiency and diminutive form factor possible with Fiji and HBM.



Why Go for a High-End Graphics Card?

High-End Video CardA graphics card’s job is complex, but its principles and components are easy to understand. Think of a computer as a company with its own art department. When people in the company want a piece of artwork, they send a request to the art department. The art department decides how to create the image and then puts it on paper. The end result is that someone’s idea becomes an actual, viewable picture. A graphics card works along the same principles.

Producing accurate graphical images is a mathematically intensive task; each frame in a three-dimensional image simulation takes millions of calculations. A computer’s microprocessor is usually busy with other work, so the graphics card handles this. The card has a chip called a Graphics Processor Unit (GPU), a microprocessor specialized for video calculations. The GPU lets the computer’s main processor do its job, allowing the computer to run at full speed. Therefore, the CPU, working in conjunction with software applications, sends information about the image to the graphics card. The graphics card decides how to use the pixels on the screen to create the image. It then sends that information to the monitor through a cable.

Now after you grasp the general concept of how a graphics card works, you are supposed to realize the importance of a powerful GPU for the whole card’s performance.

The Advantages of a High-End Video Card

Most graphics cards sold on store shelves are primarily marketed for playing video games. Despite this focus, however, these cards also enhance most tasks in office computers, including video rendering and 3D modeling. Both major manufacturers also market cards specifically for workstations: the FirePro series from AMD and the Quadro series from NVIDIA. These cards offer specific benefits for computer-aided drafting and design, such as focus on accuracy and line clarity over raw speed.

The question that should be asked here then is, what validates spending more than $300 on a high performance video card? There are three immediate reasons we can think of. First, if you want your games to look as good as possible they can at any screen resolution, a higher-end card will let you crank the detail settings up high. Second, if you have a 4k monitor and plan on playing your games on it, which is effectively the same as running a game across four 1080p screens, you’ll need a very powerful graphics card to keep your frame rates smooth. And last, if you want to grant your system the ability to handle virtual-reality (VR) titles with the upcoming Oculus Rift headset, we now know, per Oculus, that you’ll need a fairly powerful graphics card and CPU to make it happen.

Cutting-Edge Graphics Cards For 4k Gaming

For 4K or high-end VR gaming, you may even want to spend extra on more than one identical graphics card and run them in SLI (Nvidia) or CrossFireX (AMD) modes for maximum gaming performance. Just make sure your motherboard has two or more graphics-card expansion slots, and that it supports that same kind of AMD or Nvidia multi-card technology you are considering, before buying those multiple cards.

In our most powerful graphics card list we have a few recommendations for 4k gaming. You can move directly to our list by clicking here.

Finding the Most Powerful Graphics Card

most powerful graphics cardThe ultimate performance indicator of any graphics card is its model number, which represents a combination of graphics processor (GPU), clock rates, and memory bandwidth. The format is brand name + model number.

The cards that fall into the high-end class are, from nVidia, the GeForce GTX 970 and upward, including the GeForce GTX Titans. On the AMD side of the aisle, these cards will be the R9 cards in its Radeon 200 and 300 series, as well as the R9 cards prefaced by “Fury,” such as the Radeon R9 Fury X.

The point is that a flashy factory-overclocked product with more RAM might look impressive, but you can bet it’s grossly outperformed by a plain-Jane specimen of the next higher model. Therefore, when your primary concern is how well your games will perform, you should buy the highest-tier video card you can afford. That’s within reason of course. Even if your budget is unlimited you shouldn’t need to spend over $400 to get a really fast specimen, and investing more than that provides diminishing returns. Other components of your system can also be a limiting factor.

Figuring out the relationship between performance and graphics card models will require research for the fact that model numbers aren’t intuitive and don’t compare well across different generations or brands, but the knowledge really pays off.

For the reasons stated above, we have made the model number our main and most important factor for picking what we consider “the most powerful graphics/video card“, for what has been explained above, and other factors come after that in priority. We try also to regard what IT professionals said about a particular video card included in our list as well as the users’ reviews published on Amazon website.

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