Things that a good gaming graphics card should have

What characteristics define a good graphics card for gaming? It’s a difficult question to answer, especially because there are nowadays a multitude of models, ranges and generations, and because the idea of “good” is not only a question that is difficult to answer, but it is also a question that has to be answered can be based on different definitions. Thus, for example, we can consider as good a graphics card that can run games in 1080p, or give only that rating to those models that are more powerful and are prepared to work with higher resolutions.

I know that it is not easy to refine neither the concept nor the answer, but doing so would be of great help to all those who are thinking about buying a new graphics card, and therefore I have decided to accept the challenge and offer you a summary with five things that define, in my opinion, a good graphics card, meaning one that incorporates the latest technologies in the industry, and that can handle any current game optimally, including the most demanding ones.

Keep in mind that in order to select these five features i have started from the situation in which the sector finds itself todayi have also taken into account what is to come, i.e. the changes we can expect in a few years’ time.

As always, if you have any questions after reading the article I invite you to leave them in the comments, and I will be happy to help you solve them. Without further ado, letâ¤?s get started with this guide Make yourselves comfortable, let’s get started.

1.-A good graphics card for gaming must accelerate ray tracing

Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing

Let’s face it, ray tracing was a technology that was in its infancy when the GeForce RTX 20 arrived in late 2018. At the time, and for the next couple of years, you could justify buying a graphics card without hardware ray tracing acceleration because the implementation of such technology in gaming was so low, but today it no longer makes any sense.

Ray tracing has been democratized by extending to almost all ranges and price ranges of graphics cards, and this technology is present in more and more developmentsboth triple A and smaller budget indie games. It must also be recognized that it makes a very important difference in terms of image quality when used correctly, and that thanks to continuous optimization and the introduction of advanced rescaling technologies ray tracing is no longer the future but the present.

It is true that most games do not need a graphics card with ray tracing acceleration to work, but by activating this technology we will enjoy an important qualitative leap and a new generation experience that, in the end, will get better and better. Be clear that ray tracing is here to stay, and that a graphics card without dedicated hardware cannot work optimally with such technology.

Key: NVIDIA leads the way in ray tracing performance with the GeForce RTX 30, thanks to its second-generation RT cores that completely free shaders from the workload associated with ray tracing, and can work asynchronously.

2.-Must have a minimum of 8 GB of graphics memory

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A good gaming graphics card should not go below that number. Graphics memory consumption has increased significantly in recent years. I distinctly remember that in the first stage of PS4 and Xbox One most games ran very well with only 2GB of graphics memoryand it was perfectly viable to play with 1 GB of graphic memory.

With the arrival of PS4 Pro and Xbox One X there was a major change in this regard, and new games coming to market made 2 GB the new minimum, and 4GB became the new optimal level. In the final stretch of both consoles those 4 GB started to fall short in some games, and the 6 GB became the new optimal minimum if we are going to play in 1080p, even if we are going to play in 1080p 8 GB is ideal to have more margin.

Graphic memory can limit the graphic configuration options to which we will have access in certain games, and can also drastically reduce performance. I could give you many examples, but DOOM Eternal is one of the best known, because if the game detects that we do not have enough graphic memory, it does not allow us to increase the graphic quality or the memory reserve for textures. Other titles such as Wolfenstein Youngblood allow us to exceed the maximum memory, but the performance loss that occurs is very large.

Key:Â graphics memory stores items that the GPU needs to work optimally and to avoid redundant workloads. If we have too little memory, it will have to be repeatedly filled and emptied, which will significantly reduce performance and can cause micro-stutters and stalls.

3.-Your memory bus must be at least 192 bits

graphic card bus

The memory bus determines the bandwidth that a given graphics card will be able to offer. The higher the memory bus, the higher the bandwidthbut here we must introduce another component into the equation, the speed of the memory. Current graphics cards use GDDR6 memory operating at frequencies ranging from 12 GHz to 18 GHz. There are also graphics solutions that use GDDR6X memory, which is capable of up to 21 GHz.

Both elements, memory bus and graphics memory speed, determine bandwidth, the former being more important than the latter. To illustrate this nothing better than an example, the GeForce RTX 3060 has a 192-bit bus and 12 GB of graphics memory at 15 GHz, and the GeForce RTX 3070 has a 256-bit memory bus and 8 GB of graphics memory at 14 GHz. Although the former has faster memory, its memory bandwidth is 360 GB/swhile the second one reaches 448 GB/s.

Bandwidth is important because it determines the speed at which the GPU can communicate with the graphics memory. A very powerful graphics card can suffer a major bottleneck if it does not have bandwidth to match, that is, if it cannot communicate fast enough with the graphics memory.

Key:Â usually graphics cards that have 192-bit buses tend to be at the top of the mid-range, and offer good gaming performance. There are exceptions where a 128-bit bus may be sufficient, such as AMD’s Radeon RX 6600 XT, which has a 128-bit bus but compensates with infinite cache, which generates bandwidth spikes and improves performance. We could also make an exception for the GeForce RTX 3050, which despite having a 128-bit bus has high bandwidth and delivers good performance even at 1440p.

4.-Must have advanced rescaling technologies


PS4 Pro and Xbox One X already proved how important rescaling was for achieve resolutions that were impossible for both consoles natively under certain graphic qualities. I distinctly remember that PS4 Pro used to rescale from 1440p to 2160p, although it also worked with lower resolutions, while Xbox One X could afford to start from 1800p to reach 2160p.

The quality of the rescaling depends on the base technology you use, the way it is executed and also on the base resolution from which we start. So, for example, a basic rescaling that merely stretches pixels to fill gaps during rescaling will show a mediocre result, even if it is accompanied by a temporal smoothing filter. We will see artifacts and graphical glitches, and there will be a significant loss of detail and even disappearance of graphical elements over long distances.

Over time rescaling techniques have undergone significant improvements, and have proven to be an excellent choice not only for improving PC performance, but also for counteract the performance loss that ray tracing represents. Rescaling with certain technologies, starting from certain resolutions, can even improve image quality over native resolution.

Key:Â nVIDIA is currently leading the way with its second-generation DLSS, which reconstructs and rescales the image based on temporal and spatial elements and applies artificial intelligence This rescaling is hardware accelerated. AMD, on the other hand, has surprised with FSR 2.0, a technology that improves significantly over FSR 1.0 and does not require hardware acceleration, but does not achieve as good a result as DLSS.

5.-Should be able to maintain a stable 60 FPS even in demanding games

Cyberpunk 2077

This topic is very important, since in the end the fluidity is one of the key elements to be able to enjoy optimally any game, but has to be linked to two other key elements, resolution and graphics settings. So, a graphics card capable of maintaining 60 FPS below the native resolution of your monitor would be useless, and it would be no good if it could only achieve that goal by reducing the quality to low levels.

Therefore, a good graphics card must be capable of running current games, including the most demanding onesthe graphics card is capable of maintaining 60 FPS at a resolution of at least 1080p, and at a very high quality level. It is not necessary to be able to play games at maximum quality, since in many occasions this configuration barely improves the graphic aspect and consumes a huge amount of resources, which reduces the performance in a surprising way, making it not worth it.

It is not necessary for that level to be achieved only in native resolution, we can accept the use of rescaling technologies such as DLSS and FSR in current games, but as long as we do not have to go below quality or ultra quality mode if we move in 1080p resolution. Keep this in mind, because when rescaling from 1080p resolution the loss of image quality starts to be noticeable much earlier.

Key:Â there are games that are very demanding even in 1080p when set to very high quality, not maximum, such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Cyberpunk 2077 or Control. That is why I wanted to make this point and emphasize that a good graphics card should be able to maintain a stable 60 FPS also in such games, even with the help of advanced rescaling, as long as this does not force us to sacrifice graphics quality.

Final recommendations: What graphics cards would be good for 1080p, 1440p and 4K?

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If you have any doubts I invite you to take a look at our graphics card buying guide, published just a few months ago and still in full forcethe prices of all the models we list have been reduced and this makes them even more interesting. In it we also tell you which resolutions are suitable for each model and explain why it is worth it, so you can resolve any doubts.

However, and so that you have a small script also in this article, I leave you a simple summary with the optimal recommended levels for each resolution based on the five keys we have seen in this article. Keep in mind that we speak of “optimal levels”and not minimums, and that is why we have included models that could even offer good performance at higher resolutions.

  • 1080p: ideally a GeForce RTX 3050 or a Radeon RX 6600 graphics card.
  • 1080p with ray tracing: a GeForce RTX 3060 or a Radeon RX 6700 XT is recommended.
  • 1440p: the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti or the Radeon RX 6700 XT offer an optimal experience.
  • 1440p with ray tracing:Â a GeForce RTX 3070 or a Radeon RX 6800 XT is recommended.
  • 2160p: the GeForce RTX 3080 and Radeon RX 6800 XT offer excellent performance.
  • 2160p with ray tracing:Â the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti would be the optimal minimum at this level.

If you have doubts about the ray-tracing performance equivalencies of different graphics cards take a look at this guide.

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