Adding a new graphics card to your PC is easy, and takes just a few minutes, but checking that the graphics card is compatible with your computer is a much longer process that takes a bit of research.
Graphics cards are not universal. If you are replacing your current card or adding a new one, you need to be sure that the card is compatible with your computer’s motherboard.
Read on to learn more about what types of graphics cards there are on the market and how they work. We will look at the characteristics of modern gaming graphics cards and how to see if they are compatible with your computer.
How Do I Tell If A Graphics Card is Compatible?
To check for the compatibility of a graphics card to your computer you will need to look at the size of the existing graphics card and how power is connected to it. Most graphics cards will have specifications on their packaging that will give you an idea of their compatibility. Most computer sellers and resellers will be able to tell you the requirements for compatible graphics cards. Here are some variables to look for when choosing a new or replacement graphics card.
Check Your Case for Sizing Requirements
There are specific slots in your computer’s motherboard for the addition of components. Most modern computers use PCI Express x16 slots for video cards or graphics cards. If your computer has an older version of this slot, most newer gaming graphics cards are backward compatible.
Many of the most modern gaming graphics cards come with built-in fans to keep their components cool. These fans can make them much thicker than a normal card. If your gaming graphics card comes with a fan, you’ll need to measure the amount of free space above and below the PCI Express x16 slot. If there are two slots, you may have room for a thicker graphics card.
You will also need to measure the length of your graphics card and compare it to the length of the space from the backplate to the front components of your case. For graphics cards that have the power input at the back of the card rather than the side, you will need to add additional space for the power supply. Computers and manufacturers should have this dimension information on hand if you are not able to properly measure it.
Check the Graphics Card For Power Requirements
Graphics cards also need to be connected to power via a 6-pin or 8-pin connector. Sophisticated gaming graphics cards normally require two power connections rather than just one. You should be able to see what type of power connector your graphics card has.
Check for room around the PCI Express x16 slot on your motherboard to ensure there is enough room for an additional power supply for your gaming graphics card. If there is no existing power supply or one that is not compatible with your new graphics card, there are adaptors on the market that connect to a standard four-pin power supply.
Check the Basic Input/Output Features On Your PC
The motherboard of every computer has a built-in Basic Input/Output chip that can be locked by some PC manufacturers, preventing you from changing its settings to accept your new graphics card. These chips control how your computer’s operating system accesses the hardware on your PC. The basic input/output chip should automatically detect any new hardware like a graphics card, but in some cases, you will have to manually change its settings.
General Video Card Compatibility Rules
There are basic ways to check for the compatibility of a new graphics card. Computer manufacturers should be able to tell you what cards are compatible with your particular computer. This information can typically be found online on the manufacturer’s website, or by calling a representative. To safeguard yourself, check the return policy specific to graphics cards in case your new card ends up not being compatible.
How Do Graphics Cards Work?
Graphics cards control everything displayed on your PC’s monitor. They take the millions of pixels of your computer’s resolution and turn them into the pictures displayed on your monitor. Some computers come with a motherboard that has built-in graphics capability, eliminating the need for a separate graphics card.
Your computer’s CPU and software applications send information to the graphics card, and it decides how to arrange the pixels on the screen to display the information received. The graphics card then transfers the image to your computer’s monitor. Graphics cards are responsible for 2-D images and more complex 3-D images.
Gaming requires your graphics card to go through the process of receiving and sending information hundreds of times per second. Graphics cards complete all of these processes with the aid of four different components:
- The motherboard
- A processor
- The computer’s memory
- A monitor
Your computer’s processor helps transmit data to and from the graphics card while the motherboard provides data and a power supply. Your computer’s memory stores the individual pixels and finished images that the graphics card translates. Finally, the monitor displays all of the finished images translated from the data.
Integrated GPUs Cannot Be Replaced or Upgraded
Integrated GPUs are built into the motherboard and cannot be removed or replaced. Many laptops and less expensive desktop computers operate with integrated GPUs. Integrated GPUs are not ideal for gaming but are perfectly suitable for your computer’s basic functions.
A computer manufacturer or seller should be able to tell you if a particular model has an integrated GPU that cannot be replaced or if there is room for a graphics card to be added. Check the specifications of each model if you are planning to add or replace an existing graphics card.
Discrete GPUs Are Upgradable and Replaceable
A discrete GPU or graphics card inserts into a computer’s motherboard either replacing or adding to the existing graphics card present. These graphics cards can be replaced and upgraded as newer cards become available.
GPUs are devices that contain a group of hardware capabilities that may use various 3D engines to execute the codes that are written in games. GPUs contain geometry and texture mapping and execution to arrange the pixels on your display into what you see in a game. GPUs are responsible for the memory and display of 3D graphics, so the more powerful your GPU, or graphics card is, the more smooth and detailed your gaming experience will be.
Benefits of Upgrading Your Graphics Card
There are many reasons to upgrade your computer’s graphics card, especially if you are an avid gamer, but there are some other advantages to the performance of your computer that you may notice even when you are not gaming.
Better Gaming Experience
If you are just a casual gamer, then upgrading your graphics card may not be completely necessary, especially since sophisticated graphics cards can be on the expensive side. If you are an experienced gamer, then a sophisticated graphics card will give your game higher-quality graphics and faster performance. The faster the processing is, the smoother the frame rates will be. Your gaming display will also be enhanced.
Graphics Cards Take the Load Off Of The CPU
The CPU or Central Processing Unit of your computer will be responsible for the graphics calculations and display if a graphics card is not present or is not powerful enough. Replacing your existing graphics card with a more powerful option will take the load off your computer’s CPU. Graphics cards or GPUs have their own processing units that take over the responsibility for graphics calculating once installed.
Graphics Cards Free Up Your Systems Memory (RAM)
Your system’s existing graphics solutions will take up your system’s memory space by storing all of the pieces of information related to the display data and processing. Graphics cards contain their own smaller memory banks for all the related information to the data they process.
Benefits When Using 3-D Applications and Software
The freedom of spaces and capabilities of your CPU benefit from the use of graphics cards but these are only some of the benefits you can see with a graphics card. If you are a graphic designer or illustrator that regularly uses applications like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrate, the addition of a graphics card may make your life (and job!) easier. Graphic cards will speed up the process when using these applications and give you clearer, more accurate results.
Better Video Output and HD Experience
Gaming is not the only avenue that will see a huge benefit when using a graphics card. If you use your computer for playing DVDs or Blu-Rays, you will see a huge difference in picture clarity with a sophisticated graphics card. You may also see a decrease in buffering and smoothness of playing.
Which Graphics Card is Right for Me?
If you are a gaming and graphics enthusiast looking for the perfect gaming graphics card, Amazon.com has a wide selection of graphics cards with different sizes and capabilities. Let’s look at a few of the options offered on Amazon and their specifics. Compare and contrast these cards and their price points to choose the appropriate card for your needs.
The Sapphire Radeon Pulse is ranked as the graphic card best for gaming on Amazon.com The Sapphire Pulse sells for $749.99 and offers various advantages at a higher price than some other graphics cards on the market. The Sapphire Radeon offers:
- Dual HDMI, DVI, and DP ports
- 256-bit memory
- Dual fan cooling
- Reliable polymer and aluminum capacitors
The Sapphire Pulse takes the top spot for the best gaming graphics card on Amazon. Made with reliable, quality materials and additional components, the Sapphire Pulse is a graphics card worth the price tag.
ZOTAC Gaming GeForce
The ZOTAC Gaming GeForce graphics card is sold on Amazon.com for $559.67. The Zotac Gaming GeForce offers more advantages than many other graphics cards on the market at a median price. The ZOTAC Gaming GeForce offers:
- A guarantee to fit 99% of systems with its ultra-compact design
- Dual slot HDR and VR ready
- Powered by NVIDIA Turing architecture
The ZOTAC is a sophisticated gaming graphics card that guarantees smooth gameplay with optimal performance and VR capability. The ZOTAC Gaming GeForce is one of the most compatible graphics cards on the market.
Maxsun NVIDIA GeForce
The Maxsun NVIDIA GeForce graphics card from Amazon.com is sold at a lower price while offering many advantages. The Maxsun NVIDIA GeForce sells for $176.99, one of the lowest prices on the market, and still comes with some advanced processing features. The Maxsun NVIDIA GeForce offers:
- Silver-plated PCB and capacitors to promote lower temperature for all components
- 1- 9cm fan that minimizes noise and maximizes airflow
- Dual monitor support
- NVIDIA graphics processor
Asus Phoenix NVIDIA
The Asus Phoenix NVIDIA graphics card from Amazon is sold at $434.99. The Asus Phoenix is a sophisticated graphics card with increased memory and is sold on the lower spectrum of the market’s prices. The Asus Phoenix offers:
- Ultra-fast with 50% more memory bandwidth
- Smaller fan with longer blades, optimizing temperature control
- Reliable stainless steel brackets
The Asus Phoenix NVIDIA is an ideal gaming graphics card with optimal design, made with quality materials. This graphics card is one of the more ideal options for powerful gaming cards with increased performance capabilities.
These four graphics cards are some of the best gaming graphics cards sold on Amazon. They offer vastly different price points, and all come with specific advantages and disadvantages when compared.
Do Graphics Cards Come with Any Disadvantages?
Graphics cards, especially sophisticated ones, come with many advantages as we have discussed. Increased performance during gaming or movie playback as well as easing the load on your CPU are just a few of the advantages you may find with an upgraded graphics card, but here are some disadvantages that come with the addition or upgrade of a graphics card.
The Increased Cost of Sophisticated Cards
Typical PCs and Laptops come with integrated graphics that are acceptable for normal functions. Some laptops and specific PCs come with gaming graphics cards and they can be significantly more expensive than standard computers. Here is an example of a highly priced gaming laptop with a graphics card included.
- The Acer Predator Gaming Laptop sold on Amazon.com for $1,345.99 is a much more costly option than a laptop without the added graphics card.
- The Acer Predator comes with a NVIDIA Graphics card, similar to those that we discussed as an aftermarket addition.
- The Acer Predator comes with increased memory and a 15.6” monitor.
Here is a comparable laptop from Acer that does not come with a gaming graphics card.
- The Acer Aspire Slim Laptop is also sold on Amazon.com, but for a price of $489.99
- The Acer Aspire comes with a 15.6” monitor and the same backlit keyboard options
- The Acer Aspire offers similar memory and a dual-core processor
These examples detail the added expense of a gaming graphics card to a standard laptop. Cost is one of the major disadvantages that come with these additions, either standard or aftermarket.
Increased Power Consumption
Graphics cards perform more sophisticated processing and consume more power than any other component of the computer when in use. The more processes that a graphics card completes, the more power the PC consumes. This increased power consumption can reflect a higher cost on your monthly electricity bill over time.
Graphics Cards Can Lead to Possible Overheating
Because graphics cards consume more power, they produce more heat. Most graphics cards are built with between one and three fans used specifically for cooling the graphics card during use. Though these fans come standard to prevent overheating, if they are in use for long periods of time performing highly sophisticated processes, the graphics card can begin to overheat.
Gaming and video rendering can happen with extremely varying temperatures, and the amount of time your GPU spends performing these functions, the more likely overheating can become. If your GPU starts to overheat, chances are it will perform fine for the first few seconds or minutes. The card’s performance will decrease drastically as temperatures increase. Overheating can damage the graphics card, and potentially other hardware on your computer, depending on its proximity to the graphics card.
Graphics cards are either integrated into your computer’s motherboard or purchased separately. Not all graphics cards are universally compatible with different computers. You must check with your manufacturer or seller for compatibility. Check your PC and graphics card for differences in size and power requirements.
Graphics cards come with the advantages of increased gaming and video playback as well as clearer displays for some software and applications used by graphic designers and illustrators. For all the advantages of graphics cards, there are still a few important disadvantages like the possibility of overheating during times of increased use. The cost of graphics cards sold aftermarket and included on specific gaming laptops can far outweigh some of the advantages that come with them.