It’s important to think carefully before changing your graphics card, as it’s a complex task that requires research. To make it easier, here are five tips that everyone should read before attempting a graphics card upgrade.
You’ve thought about it a lot and it’s already clear to you, you’re going to change your graphics card. If you are about to take this important step you probably already have a particular model in mind that you would like to buy, and frankly I think that’s great, but before you take the plunge I would like to share with you five tips that, in the end, will help you make the right decision.
Buying a graphics card is complicated because we have so many options to choose from, and because prices not only vary a lot, but also remain inflated. When we talk about changing graphics card it gets even more complicated for three reasons that we must be clear about from the outset:
- We have a PC with a base configuration in terms of power supply, chassis space, CPU and RAM, and this can significantly limit the ranges and models that would be recommended for our configuration.
- We already have a graphics card that we want to change.and with a certain monitor, so we have to choose models that are above it and that are able to compensate our investment and adapt to the resolution we use.
- The standards supported by our motherboard can also limit us considerably. So, for example, if you have a motherboard limited to PCIe Gen3 it would not be a good idea to buy a graphics card that works in PCIe Gen4 x4 mode.
That starting point greatly influences the decision we will have to make, and introduces. a number of variables that we will have to take into account before changing the graphics card. Based on what we have just seen we can give shape to those five tips that I indicated at the beginning of the article, and that we are going to see without further delay.
Keep in mind that, to really get it right when changing graphics card, it is important that you apply all five tips simultaneously.otherwise you will probably end up making a mistake. If you have any questions you can leave them in the comments and we will help you to solve them.
1.-Think if you really need to change your graphics card.
Because it is likely that you don’t. I have experienced many cases in which I have been asked for advice to change graphics card by people who, in the end, did not need to do it, or in case they took the step they were going to notice such a minimal improvement with such a big investment that they would actually it was not worth the expense.
Determine if you really need to replace your graphics card is not as difficult as it seems. You have to assess the components your computer has, the screen resolution you play at, your own aspirations, the performance your current graphics card offers, and your aspirations. Don’t get overwhelmed, it’s easier than it looks, and I’ll give you a couple of examples to help you understand.
Imagine you have an 8GB GeForce GTX 1070 and you’re gaming at 1080p. Your computer has an Intel Core i7-4770 processor and you have a modest monitor with a refresh rate of 60 Hz. You are not changing monitors and your budget is 150 euros.
In this case you do not need to change graphics card because. your GeForce GTX 1070 is still capable of running games with full 1080p guarantees.and because with 150 euros you will not find anything better, and in the second hand market you will not get anything that exceeds it considerably. To the above we must add that the processor will make a significant bottleneck in 1080p with any graphics card of greater power.
Let’s go with a case opposite to the previous one. Think of a user who has a GeForce GTX 1080, a Core i7-8700 and a monitor with 4K resolution and 60 Hz. He wants to change graphics card and has a budget of 350 euros. In this case it would make sense to buy a new graphics card.because the one you have falls short in 4K, and because you have a processor that is still very competent. In this case the ideal would be to buy a 10 GB Radeon RX 6700.
2.-Choose a superior model to make the change worthwhile.
This is a very important issue. We must be clear that changing graphics card involves a considerable investment, and that it must compensate us in an adequate way. Determining what is adequate and what is not may seem subjective and difficult to determine, but it is actually simpler than it seems.
Broadly speaking the minimum level of improvement that we must achieve when changing graphics card, in order to make the investment worthwhile, is 30% more performance, that is to say, the new model must perform 30% better than the previous one working with the same resolution and the same level of graphic quality.. It would not make sense to change a graphics card for another one that performs 35% better but with a lower resolution or lower graphics quality, that is obvious.
Again, I give you a couple of examples to better understand this point. If you upgrade from a GeForce RTX 2060 to a GeForce RTX 3060 you will have made a bad decision, because the latter only performs 16% better on average than the former one.. In this case the ideal would have been to make the jump to a GeForce RTX 2080 Super, GeForce RTX 3060 Ti or Radeon RX 6700.
By cons, if you go from an 8 GB Radeon RX 580 to a Radeon RX 6800. the level of improvement will have been fully optimalsince it is, on average, 66% more powerful than the previous one. It would also have been an appropriate leap to move to a Radeon RX 6600 XTwhich performs almost 50% better on average than the Radeon RX 580.
It is clear that this point will depend to a large extent on your budgetand that if you can’t afford to buy a much more powerful graphics card than the one you already have it won’t be a good idea to change it. In that case the best thing to do would be to waitotherwise you will end up spending quite a lot of money to get a minimal upgrade. So, for example, going from a GeForce RTX 2060 to a Radeon RX 6600 would not make any sense.
For your reference, when it comes to changing a graphics card lhe ideal is to follow these two guidelines:
- If we are going to exchange it for a within the same generation we should go for a model that exceeds it by at least two levels. For example, if we have a GeForce RTX 2060 we should go for a GeForce RXT 2080 as a minimum, and if we have a Radeon RX 6600 we would have to go for a Radeon RX 6700 as a minimum.
- In case we are going to change it for a model within a higher generation we should at least go for a model that exceeds it by one level. For example, if we have a GeForce RTX 2060 we should change it at least for a GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, and if we have a Radeon RX 5600 XT the recommended minimum would be a Radeon RX 6700.
3.-Make sure you have space on your PC.
This is one of the most frequent problems when changing graphics cards. The size of this component has been increasing over time.and this has meant that they take up more and more expansion slots, and they are getting longer and longer. In the case of the GeForce RTX 30 and GeForce RTX 40 the increase in size in the more powerful models has been especially large, and so we must be very careful.
Before changing graphics card be clear about two measures, the maximum length of your PC case and the expansion slots you have available.. This is very important if you use other PCIe cards, such as a sound card for example, because a very large graphics card may run out of space to continue using the sound card if it occupies several expansion slots.
To find out these measurements you only have to consult your chassis manual. If you don’t have it, you can go to the manufacturer’s website and check their specifications. In most cases standard semi-tower PC chassis support graphics cards larger than 30 centimeters, but be careful also with the space on your motherboard, especially if you are using a relatively old model, because in some cases the graphics card may be too large. could end up covering all the PCIe expansion slots.
If you don’t have room for that graphics card you wanted to buy don’t worry, in most cases you will be able to. opt for models with more modest designs and a smaller size. Still, remember that size influences cooling system capacity, and buying graphics cards with high power consumptions and very compact sizes will almost always mean that they will reach higher operating temperatures.
4.-Evaluate the problems of a possible bottleneck.
Changing a graphics card is one way to give a PC a second life, but only if it has sufficient power to move that new component, and I’m not just talking about the processor, I’m also talking about the motherboard and the power supply. Those are, without a doubt, the three components that can give you the most problems with your new graphics card.
The power supply is the one that is responsible for supplying the components with the power you need. If your current model is not able to optimally meet the requirements of your new graphics card, you are likely to encounter performance and stability issues, and that ultimately the source will die. If that happens, there is some risk that it will take the graphics card, and other components, with it.
The processor also can cause a large bottleneckespecially when playing at resolutions below 4K. The graphics card needs the processor to supply it with data and instructions to work with, and if the processor is not able to keep up with it, it will have to wait for the processor, with the consequent loss of performance that this entails. This issue is complicated, but also very important, and therefore I invite you to read the guide we recently published where we explain what processor we need for each graphics card.
Finally we have the motherboard, which can also exert an important bottleneck if you decide to change graphics card. Current motherboards can be compatible with three different types of PCIe standards: PCIe Gen3, PCIe Gen4 and PCIe Gen5.. Each standard doubles the bandwidth per lane of the previous one, so a graphics card running PCIe Gen3 x8 (eight lanes) will use the same bandwidth as one running PCIe Gen4 x4.
If we have a PCIe Gen3 limited motherboard and we buy a graphics card like the Radeon RX 6500 XT, which works in PCIe Gen4 x4 mode, we will be creating a bottleneck because. it will work in PCIe Gen3 x4 mode.and will have a bandwidth of only 4 GB/s. If we were to use it on a PCIe Gen4 compliant motherboard it would have access to a bandwidth of. 8 GB/s.
Before changing your graphics card check what PCIe standard it supports and how many lanes it can work with, and then assess whether it will be able to perform optimally with your motherboard or whether it will be limited because your motherboard does not support that graphics card’s standard. Generally speaking, from PCIe Gen3 x16 or PCIe Gen4 x8 onwards there is no bottleneck anymore.
5.-Buy the model that best suits your needs.
I know it may sound similar to point two, but it is actually very different. Here we are not talking about changing the graphics card by choosing a model that compensates your investment, but also that this must fit your real needs adequately. Let’s look at it again with a couple of examples, as this is the easiest way to understand it.
Imagine that you want to enjoy your favorite ray tracing gamesand that this technology is very important to you. In this case it should be clear to you that NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics cards perform better with ray tracing than AMD ones, and that’s why they should become your main choice. As this is a complicated topic I invite you to review the equivalence guide of GeForce RTX 20 and 30 and Radeon RX 6000 ray tracing performance. we published some time ago. We have yet to update it, but it is still perfectly valid in general terms.
In the above case, buy a GeForce RTX 3070 would be a better option. than buying a Radeon RX 6800, even though the latter is more powerful in rasterization, since it performs better with ray tracing enabled. It would also be a better choice to buy a GeForce RTX 4070 Ti than to buy a Radeon RX 7900 XTX because the former is much more powerful in ray tracing.
Let’s go with the second example. Imagine you want to change your graphics card for one that allows you to work with rendering and content creation programs and applications, and that also gives you good gaming performance. In this case, NVIDIA is ahead of the game thanks to the Studio drivers, which offer excellent support for the industry’s most popular applications and tools, and its graphics cards also offer access to unique features that can significantly improve performance, such as DLSS and hardware-accelerated AI and ray tracing computing with full integration.
Don’t just switch graphics cards based on raw performance, evaluate what you really need, which features of AMD’s Radeon and NVDIA’s GeForce RTX are best suited to you. and choose accordingly. Doing this will ensure that you’ve made the right choice.