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Gaming is a part of real-life simulations. The more developed the technologies are, the more people want games to be realistic. That’s why it is trending now that 4K gaming and 8K gaming should be the future of gaming. The market is offering users a wide variety of graphics cards to improve their gaming experience, ranging from the affordable to the expensive but powerful GPUs.
In this article, we will outline some of the specifications of the graphics cards, and recommend some of the best graphics card under $300.
1. The processors of a graphics card
What is GPU? GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit, which is needed for intense gaming. So, why do we need a graphics card while a CPU can perfectly process the images? This is why.
As you all know, the CPU or Central Processing Unit, is the heart or sometimes the brain of the computer. It handles all sorts of computing tasks, ranging from controlling the flow of computer programs, allocating and distributing resources, and handling users’ input. However, CPU works its way in something called sequential processing, which represents the most important principle of computers, that is, every command be executed in order.
That’s not the way GPU works. The image processing tasks are one of the most intense tasks a computer has to deal with. Instead of sequential processing, GPU processes images parallelly, which means multiple images, 10 or 100, can be constructed at the same time. That helps significantly in reducing the latency in display images, which stands in the way as a disadvantage of sequential processing.
A GPU can contain in its pack hundreds of smaller versions of CPUs, and sometimes thousands of them. These small CPUs are obviously not as powerful as a standard CPU; however, the power comes from the parallelization, not the power of a single core.
2. The resolution of the screen
Every image has a resolution. Resolutions represent the number of pixels or tiny dots that contribute as a part of the image. The higher the resolution is, the more pixels that the processors have to process, thus, the more power needed.
1080p and 720p
This is usually the standard of laptops and PC’s screens nowadays. Normal games in this resolution can sometimes be handled well by only one CPU; however, a low-budget GPU should be a guarantee to the smooth gaming experience.
4K features 4 times as many pixels as FHD does, and thus, requires 4 times as much power. Graphics cards made for 4K gaming are currently in their rise, because most people building PCs would want theirs to be able to play the latest games made for 4K.
8K is new and better than 4K. However, 8K gaming is still rare. Some Youtubers have already tried to run gaming at 8K with the latest graphics cards, but the result doesn’t always look promising. While waiting, we should just assume that 8K has not arrived in our time yet, so we have to wait for another 5 or 10 years.
3. The frame rate
Another unit we need to measure is the frame rate. The frame rate represents how many times the screen changes its image in a second. Therefore, the more changes needed in a second, the more power needed to generate. Here is the list:
24 Hz (or 24 frames per second): 24 Hz is required to trick our eyes into believing something is actually moving, instead of image by image. Average CPUs should be way more powerful to handle games at HD and 24fps, but it’s not what we’re trying to do here.
60 fps: The standard of industrial screens on the market. This resolution can sometimes be run by the CPU; however, for heavy games, that would require a graphics card.
120Hz and 144Hz: 144Hz is the new standard of phone screens, but it’s already on PC for several years now. 144Hz is not meant to be on low or middle budget graphics cards, and the graphics cards that can handle this type of frame rate should be expensive. Besides, you need a good monitor that has the natural refresh rate at or above 144Hz to play.
4. The RAM
Every processing task needs a memory. It is called RAM in a normal computer, and it’s called RAM as well in graphics cards. Some built-in and very-low-budget graphics cards share the RAM with the CPU, which would be a limitation for both the CPU and the GPU.
Another problem with RAM sharing is the speed. The time needed for data to transfer from the commonplace RAM made by nobody-knows brand at nobody-knows bus speed being used by nobody-knows how many processes is obviously longer than to transfer from its own nearby internal memory.
That’s the reason for most GPU brands to include a specific capacity of internal memory with the graphics cards. Some low-budget brands include a 2GB capacity, while the flagships include 16GB or 32GB of RAM.
Most graphics cards support at least an HDMI port, a VGA port, or a DisplayPort port. However, if you want to plug in more than one display, be sure to check the graphics cards you’re about to buy for the number and types of interfaces. These are the most popular types of ports:
HDMI: HDMI in its latest version 2.1 is able to support all the resolutions and frame rates you can think of. However, HDMI 1.0 or 1.1 might not be as powerful. That’s why for the highest demanded quality, you need to check for the HDMI revision.
VGA: this should be deprecated in the future, because a VGA is knobby, easy to break, and weak. VGA is perfect for HD or even 1080p resolutions, but certainly not for 4K.
DisplayPort: DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort can be as powerful as HDMI, but lose the game to HDMI in popularity. A card with DisplayPort interfaces can be easily connected to some HDMI external monitor with a simple adapter.
As important as CPU and motherboard cooling, GPU cooling maintains a stable state of the graphics cards for them to work perfectly, consistently, and a long life. There has been lots of efforts made to cope with the heat problem by GPU, and the brands are being super creative:
Traditional air cooling: This consists of a fan as the heat distributor by air flow. The only job of the fan is to create a cool air flow around the processors to carry the heat out.
Thermal pad: This solution attempts to lose the heat by moving it far away outside of the processors. The rest of the works should be done by the traditional air cooling solution.
Water Cooling: It is hard to make in real life; however, it’s possible that the CPU and GPU use the same water cooling solution for the best heat distributing efficiency.
A graphics card needs to be connected to the motherboard somehow. RAM uses DIMM to transfer data to the CPU while graphics cards vary. The traditional graphics cards used the PCI to communicate with the CPU.
Throughout the evolution of motherboards and graphics cards, it has evolved from PCI to PCIe to PCIe 3.0 and now PCIe 4.0. The latter, the more speed it provides, thus, the faster the graphics card communicates with the rest of the computer.
1. MSI GTX 1050 TI 4GT OC
Manufactured by the gaming brand MSI, MSI GTX 1050 TI 4GT OC is the best graphics card we can find on amazon.com that is priced under $300. The graphics card was built with the chipset from NVIDIA called GTX 1050TI, with 4 gigabytes of GDDR5 memory. The memory interface is 128-bit, which means that at a time, or along one cycle, the graphics card can transfer 128 bits to the CPU.
The processors have 1455 MHz as the base clock, which is fairly good. The graphics card takes up 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0 to communicate with your motherboard, and what is great about PCIe is, it brings back lots of bandwidth at a lightning fast speed. Finally, the GPU is cooled down by the dual-fan system to effectively distribute the heat away from the cores.
1455/1341 MHz base frequency
128-bit PCIe 3.0 x 16 interface
4 GBs of GDDR5 RAM
2. PNY NVIDIA NVS 510 2GB GDDR3
As the name suggested, PNY NVIDIA NVS 510 2GB GDDR3 is powered by the NVS 510 chipset made by NVIDIA, which is not very new. The card is made with 2GBs of GDDR3 memory, compared to the 4GBs GDDR5 from the MSI. One advantage about this graphics card is that it still manages itself to use the PCIe 3.0 x 16 as the connector for the best speed possible.
With this graphics card, you can play with the maximum resolution of 4K, at 3840x2160 pixels for each measure. PNY NVIDIA NVS 510 2GB GDDR3 is made in the form of a low profile, a form factor for small but well-designed graphics cards. Four mini DisplayPort ports are offered out of the box; however, if you need to connect to an HDMI-based monitor, you are going to need an adapter.
NVIDIA NVS 510
2GBs of GDDR3 RAM
PCIe 3.0 x 16
4K max. Resolution
4 x DisplayPort
3. MSI GAMING GeForce GTX 1060 3GB GDDR5 192-bit
Another good graphics card under $300 comes from the factories of MSI. The MSI GAMING GeForce GTX 1060 3GB GDRR5 192-bit features the chipset defined by NVIDIA called GeForce GTX 1060. This chipset is preceded by the GTX 1050 we have introduced, which means better performance. However, it comes with only 3GBs of GDDR5 memory.
The graphics card connects to the motherboard using a PCIe 3.0 connectors, and transfers data at 192-bit pack at a time. The card claims to be VR ready out of the box, 4K gaming ready out of the box, and Military Class 4 designed. Besides, the card comes with the Afterburner overclocking software to maximize the speed and the workload carrying capacity. Finally, the last great thing about the card is that we see a VGA/DVI port for connecting with older monitors.
192-bit PCIe 3.0
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
3GBs of GDDR5
VR Ready / 4K gaming ready
1. What is HDR gaming?
HDR was introduced back in 1993 when computers were not as popular as they are now. HDR represents colors using a 10-bit unit instead of the RGB color system currently used. That’s why we get much richer, and more contrast with the HDR screen, and it improves your viewing experience. HDR gaming experience does not only require a GPU fast enough to generate images but also a monitor capable of showing out to the world.
2. Is my graphics card capable of 4K?
Mostly yes. 4K resolution is not something that needs processing power but the game. For casual low-graphics games, old graphics cards can handle well at 4K on 60fps; however, for modern real-life simulators, first person shooting games, you need much more than that.
3. How do I use a graphics card?
Before buying a graphics card, you need to check with your mainboard specifications whether it supports the interface of your graphics card or not. If not, unfortunately, you have to choose something else, because there’s no possible way, no possible adapter that can connect a motherboard and a graphics card with two different interfaces.
After receiving your graphics card, you tear the box down, and plug your graphics card into your mainboard. Be noted that you should turn off your computer and unplug the power cord before plugging the card to avoid any possible damage, and you might need to clean the pins on the motherboard and the card’s interfaces if one of them are dirty.
4. Do I need anything on the software side?
Yes. NVIDIA and AMD graphics chipsets both require users to install the proper drivers so that the GPUs can operate at the best performance. The drivers are responsible for controlling the data flow, fan speed, power consumption, performance monitoring, and even overclocking.
If you’re using one of the Linux distributions, you might need a little hard work to correctly install NVIDIA or AMD’s drivers for graphics cards.
5. What is the noise that’s coming off my computer after installing the GPU?
That’s the fan. As we have suggested, graphics cards use a lot of power to compute and generate graphics objects, scenes, … It produces tons of heat during the computation. That’s why all the GPUs come with a fan to well distribute the heat, and that’s where the noise came from.
Graphics cards are essential to gamers. However, modern graphics cards are expensive, made for flagship mainboards, and consume a lot of power. We have recommended the best graphics cards priced under $300, and this is the final list:
The best graphics card under 300 dollar: MSI GTX 1050 TI 4GT OC
The runner-up: MSI GAMING GeForce GTX 1060 3GB GDRR5 192-bit
The affordable solution: PNY NVIDIA NVS 510 2GB GDDR3
The old but gold: NVIDIA GeForce 710 1GB GDDR3
The best with Radeon chipset: VisionTek Radeon 7750 2GB GDDR5 6 4k Monitor Graphics Card
We have written about the best graphics cards under $300 above. I hope that this guide is helpful to you when choosing the GPU for your computer. See you in the next recommendations and be sure to check out other reviews as well.