Feb 22, 2011

The Hardwareguide (part 3 of 11)

The GPU (graphics processing unit)

Brands: Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte and MSI are very good. Sapphire, XFX and Zotac are good. HIS is ok. Look for the better heatsink/fan and warranty.

Tiers: A general guide: Sub $100 is low tier, $100-$200 is mid tier, $200-$300 is high tiee, and above $300 is very-high/flagship tier.
Low tier: Play old (pre 2006) games easily, and modern games on low or not at all. Mid tier: Play Modern games, at medium settings. High tier: Play modern games on medium or high.

EVGA GeForce GTX 580

Resolution: Your res has the biggest effect on your GPU's performance. 1920x1080 is very popular at the moment, but a mid-tier/low-tier GPU can still play modern games on reduced res.

Warning: Recommendations are valid at the shown prices. If a recommendation is only available at a higher price, or an alternative is cheaper than usual, then these recommendations is no loner apply.

Alternatives: Consider switching to these "great, but" cards if you can find them with good discounts/combos: 240, 250, 4850, 4870, 5850, 470

HSF: Most graphic cards with the reference designs have similar or identical performance/noise/temps, since the internals and HSF are similar, Only the sticker outside is different.
Cards with custom HSFs may be slightly more expensive, but may have superior cooling, better OC-ability and lower noise. Examples: MSI's Twin Frozr II design, Gigabyte's Windforce design.

ASUS HD 5970

Tips: When comparing GPU benchmark, pay more attention to game performance at your preferred resolutions. Place less emphasis on GPU performance in synthetic benchmarks.
SLI/CF setups may trump single cards in performance, but may have microstutter/temp/noise/power draw/future upgrade issues. A 580 is a great card but its price is ridiculously high.

The best performance for your $$$ is usually in the mid-tier cards. The higher the card, the larger the price increment goes. The priciest cards usually have terrible performance/price.
A general rule: Mid-tier cards scale better than high-tier. nVidia also has (generally) better driver support under Linux.

Remember to make sure your PSU can power your cards (and has enough cables if SLI/Crossfire), and that your case can fit them and provide adequate cooling.


  1. Hmm, what would you consider the best Nvidia mid-tear card?

  2. cant beat AMD for value currently. :] I have a gigabyte 6870, runs great but it is quite noisy. :[

  3. im still using what was meant to be a temporary 250... was planning to get the 460 but maybe i should just wait it out and jump to the 5xx series.

  4. running 2 sapphire toxic 4870's in crossfire now (nice)

  5. yeah mid tier is definately the way to go unless you win the lottery and can afford something outrageous

  6. I'm learning a little programming right now and it wouldn't hurt to learn about all the hardware of a computer. Interesting blog. New follower!

    Follow me at

  7. Thanks for the review, I need to replace my old 8600gt, but maybe I'll need a new pc.

  8. Good comparison / review. I'm itching to build a new one myself.

  9. my old rig is 4 years old now. It has 2 GeForce 9600GT in it. I can still play every game on max, even crysis, can´t explain why but it seems my rig doesn´t want to be upgraded XD

  10. Good information here. I need a new GPU, still running a 3870 :\

  11. I'm happy with my "mid-to-low tier" GPU... Does everything I need it to just fine.

    Great write up!

    Following and supporting

    Garage Zoku

  12. my card is going on 6 years now. I think i'm gunna take it out back and shoot it

  13. Very glad you include noise/cooling advice. My 2 hd4870s are some loud asses. Really need new fans.