Last updated: August 10, 2021

Our method

4Products analysed

45Hours spent

13Evaluated articles

215User reviews

If you are looking for a graphics card, you will notice that there are currently more than 2000 products on the market. In addition, there are always new, modernised models and confusing designations. For normal consumers, it is very difficult to keep track and to recognise what corresponds to their own needs.

With our graphics card test 2021 we want to help you find the best graphics card for your needs. We have compared different types of graphics cards and listed their advantages and disadvantages. This should make your purchase decision easier and as simple as possible.




Summary

  • When choosing the right graphics card, it is important that you know what you want to use your PC for. Will you use it to play graphically demanding games or just to work?
  • The most powerful and expensive graphics card is not always necessary for you. If you use standard office functions, surf the Internet and use standard multimedia applications, an entry-level graphics card is perfectly adequate. Current computers usually have an adequate graphics card built in or integrated into the graphics processor.
  • If you want to use your PC for graphics or video processing, high-resolution games or CAD programmes, you should not skimp on the graphics card. In this case, it is the most important PC component.

The Best Graphics Card: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for graphics cards

In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible graphics cards. In the following paragraphs we will explain what is important in the individual criteria.

The criteria you can use to compare graphics cards with each other include:

Graphics memory

Many people make the mistake of focusing only on the size of the graphics card memory, but it is not always necessary to have a huge memory. If you're not playing games on multiple high-resolution monitors, a smaller memory will do, because most games are optimised for that.

The best thing to do is to orient yourself to the current average memory sizes. If you use the graphics card for gaming, you should choose at least 4 GB to 16 GB. Less is sufficient for normal computer work.

Graphics memory plays a very important role. In addition to the size of the memory, the bandwidth and clock speed are also important.

Clock speed:

A graphics card with a higher clock speed and less memory size may be the better choice.

However, even more important than the size of your memory is the clock speed. The higher the GPU clock speed and the higher the effective RAM clock speed, the faster the graphics card can process information and deliver the highest quality images faster. The graphics card with a lower memory clock often ends up being less powerful, even if it has significantly more memory.

Bandwidth and memory type: Memory bandwidth is crucial if you want to get the full performance out of your graphics card. Most current graphics cards are equipped with DDR3 memory. For beginners, DDR2 modules are often sufficient. In gaming, you should definitely go for a DDR5 type memory to gain higher performance and speed.

You can clearly see here that you should pay attention to all components in combination, especially when it comes to memory, because this has a significant effect on the performance of your graphics card.

Compatibility with other devices

Size: Depending on whether you want to buy an internally installed graphics card or an external one, you should check the dimensions. Not every computer case has the same amount of space for your graphics card.

It would be annoying if your new graphics card does not fit in the end. With external graphics cards, you are somewhat freer in your decision, as you are not dependent on the housing of your computer.

Connections and interfaces: Since you also need to connect your graphics card to the power supply and monitor, you should find out which connections make this possible before you buy.

There are so-called 6-pin or 8-pin power connections, for ISA, PCI, AGP and PCI Express interfaces. The best thing to do is to check how your old graphics card was connected to the mainboard and the screen. PCI Express (PCI-e) is already the norm for current computers.

Especially if you want to connect the graphics card to several screens, it should have an HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 connection to take full advantage of its performance.

Resolution: For optimal viewing, your graphics card must also match the other components of your system. Above all, the screen resolution of your monitor must harmonise with that of the graphics card.

To ensure the best transmission, you should choose a graphics card that has a DVI connection. For full HD, your graphics card needs at least 1920 x 1080 pixels. This is ideal if you want to watch films, for example.

If you want to play high-resolution games, you'll be looking at resolutions beyond 1920 x 1080 pixels, and you'll also need a dual-link connector on your graphics card to connect it to the monitor.

Heat generation and cooling

The way your graphics card is cooled has a significant impact on its performance. If it gets too hot, performance will suffer. To prevent the graphics card from overheating, the heat must be constantly dissipated. There are two ways to do this: Passive and active cooling systems.

The minimum requirement is passive cooling through waste heat.

If your graphics card is heavily used, you should opt for active cooling. Here we distinguish between two variants. One is cooling with a simple fan, which is also the most common form and is installed on the card. Depending on the graphics card, up to three fans are available.

On the other hand, there is water cooling. This variant is much quieter, but also more expensive.

In contrast to air coolers, the heat on the graphics card is primarily dissipated with the help of water from the cooler, which is pumped in a closed circuit to a radiator where the heat is released into the air.

Water cooling systems are the most efficient cooling systems for normal users.

Passive cooling does not require a fan. The waste heat is transported away from the graphics card via heat-conducting materials. This happens completely silently, unlike cooling by fans, but it cannot dissipate nearly as much heat as is necessary when the graphics card is working under heavy load.

Power consumption

All components on your computer consume power, but the graphics card is usually responsible for the greatest consumption, along with the processor.

High-quality graphics cards in high-end devices can consume between 200 and 300 watts. When surfing and working normally, however, the consumption is usually between 10 and 30 watts.

Nevertheless, make sure that your power supply has sufficient reserves to absorb the high consumption. For high-end gaming graphics cards, high-quality power supplies with 450 watts or more can be useful and necessary.

Decision: What types of graphics cards are there and which is the right one for you?

Graphics cards are available from many companies, but the built-in graphics chips are mainly from one of the two major manufacturers: AMD or Nvidia.

Manufacturer Advantages Disadvantages
AMD cheaper than Nvidia, with similar performance, games can be sharpened with filters higher power consumption, increased need for ventilation, increased noise, can only handle FreeSync
Nvidia quiet, low power consumption, games can be sharpened with filters, can handle G-Sync and Adaptive Sync higher price

In the following sections, we will compare the two manufacturers again in detail for you.

AMD

If a good price-performance ratio is important to you, you can safely go for the AMD graphics card. You get optimal performance, but have to make small concessions in factors such as volume, power consumption and ventilation. AMD sells the Radeon line.

AMD uses FreeSync technology. This synchronises the graphics card with the screen, reducing input lag and preventing tearing. If you only want to use a FreeSync display, AMD's graphics card is enough for you.

Nvidia

If price is only of secondary importance, Nvidia graphics cards have the edge. The graphics chips offer hardly any negative accompanying factors with optimal performance.

Due to their low power consumption, they do not generate enormous heat even under maximum load. This means that it does not have to cool as much, which in turn leads to hardly any air noise.

Nvidia sells models under the GeForce name. In addition to its own G-Sync technology, Nvidia also supports the open standard Adaptive Sync. This enables Nvidia chips to use multiple display types.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about graphics cards answered in detail

If you want to equip your computer with a new graphics card, you will certainly have a few questions that you would like to have clarified beforehand. In our large graphics card guide, we have selected the most important and most frequently asked questions from customers and answered them clearly.

Our guide should help you find the perfect graphics card for you on the market.

What is a graphics card and why do you need one?

The graphics card is responsible for the computer's performance in graphics applications. It is also called a GPU, which stands for Graphics Processing Unit. It receives data from the computer and calculates the image for the monitor.

Grafikkarte-1

If the interior of your computer allows it, you can install your new graphics card. If there is not enough space, you will have to use an external solution.
(Image source: Rafael Pol /Unsplash)

With the onboard solution, the graphics card is integrated directly on the mainboard of the main processor. Here, part of the main memory is used as graphics memory.

This makes the card not as powerful as an external graphics card, which has its own memory.

External graphics cards are more powerful than onboard solutions.

If you want to have a picture on your computer, you need a graphics card, otherwise it stays black. It controls the image display and takes the load off the processor when you want to play games or watch movies.

How can I overclock my graphics card?

If your games don't run smoothly or your computer stutters during graphics applications, your graphics card has probably reached its limits. For better performance, you can optimise your graphics card a little, this is called overclocking.

The higher you overclock your GPU, the more computing power it gets.

Overclocking itself is safe nowadays. The graphics cards are equipped with various safety mechanisms so that they don't burst into flames if you overclock them. However, if you notice that the computer hangs or crashes, you should reduce the clock frequency a little.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a higher clock speed can theoretically shorten the life of your graphics card. It will run at much higher performance than it was designed for. Also, you might have problems with warranty claims, if that's ever necessary.

The following video shows you how to safely overclock your graphics card:

Can I use several monitors at the same time with my graphics card?

By using a solution with 2 DVI connections, you can operate several monitors at the same time with your graphics card.

If you want to connect more than two monitors, you can connect two or more graphics cards together to form a graphics card network. However, both your mainboard and your graphics card must support this option.

If you are working on several programmes at the same time, performing demanding video editing or playing elaborate games, multiple monitors can significantly improve the workflow or gaming experience.

Where can I see which graphics card is connected?

If you want to see which graphics card is currently installed in your computer, you can easily do this in the Device Manager. You can see the steps in the following section:

  1. Press the shortcut

[Windows] + [X] simultaneously. In the menu that opens, select "Device Manager".

  • Search for "Graphics Card" and open the tab.
  • By double-clicking on the graphics card that appeared earlier, you can call up all the information about your graphics card.
  • Are there alternatives to a graphics card?

    If you want to do any work on your computer that requires the reproduction of images, i.e. actually everything you can do on a computer, you need a graphics card. So there are no alternatives. You can't run your applications without a graphics card.

    Grafikkarte-2

    The graphics card is an important component of the computer. With two active fans, it is designed for higher performance.
    (Image source: Christian Wiediger /Unsplash)

    If you have bought a new computer and are not satisfied with the graphics card already installed, you can of course replace it with a suitable model that offers you more performance. The sky's the limit.

    How do I clean a graphics card?

    If you use your computer for normal work purposes, you do not necessarily need to clean the graphics card. Since there is always a risk of damaging the sensitive chips and connections, you should avoid any unnecessary intervention.

    If the graphics card is only in normal use, it does not need to be cleaned.

    However, if cleaning is unavoidable, it is recommended to first remove the coarse dirt with a hairdryer in cold air mode.

    If the graphics card is very dirty, for example after many years of use, it must be cleaned more intensively. The dustier it is, the hotter it gets and the fans can no longer remove the heat.

    In this case, a few basics must be observed:

    1. Disconnect the computer from the power supply.
    2. Disconnect the monitor and other devices from the PC.
    3. Now remove the graphics card.
    4. Remove coarse dirt with a hairdryer on cold air.
    5. You can wipe large areas with an antistatic cloth.
    6. You can clean hard-to-reach areas with an antistatic brush or cotton swab.

    If you want to be very thorough, you can also unscrew the individual components of the graphics card, but you should already have some experience for this.

    How do I install and remove a graphics card?

    In this video you will learn how to install your graphics card in your computer and what you should bear in mind.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1WlP0JtafY

    What are the signs that the graphics card is defective?

    If your graphics card is no longer working properly, it can show up in several ways.

    • Flickering streaks appear on the screen in various places. You should shut down the computer immediately after closing all applications.
    • Your computer keeps crashing when you play games or use graphic-intensive applications.
    • Your screen stays black. If you hear eight short beeps or one long beep and two short beeps, this usually means that the graphics card cannot be found or is defective.

    These signs can have various causes and you should definitely check yourself or have an expert check whether the problem is with the graphics card.

    Image source: Klemenchenko/ 123rf.com

    Reviews