Graphics Card Buying Guide Spring 2015

by - 6 years ago



wl4uf4-800x278Graphic outputs are the most important output of the computer no matter what someone tells you about how an Intel i7-5960x is the best CPU there is, you still require a graphical output to see the magic. When purchasing your computers, it is most likely that the graphics options are the most scrutinised part of all the components; however, choosing the right graphics card for you can be daunting with so many to choose from. Graphics cards come from two major manufacturers, AMD and NVIDIA; both are extremely good at what they do and can offer the consumer amazing graphical performance. From there, each manufacturer then has vendors; some cover both parties such as Gigabyte, others only cover one such as Sapphire for AMD and Zotac for NVIDIA. When considering graphics cards to choose from, you have to consider the following hardware factors:

  • System case size
    • It’s all well and good buying a Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 970 because you have the money, but when you find it won’t fit in your Shuttle PC case; jokes on you for not measuring
  • Processor
    • This factor only really comes into play when considering high power graphics cards and pairing with older generations of processors. The likes of an AMD Phenom X3 710 won’t give you the full benefit of an AMD R9 295×2 graphics card like an Intel i7 processor could.
  • Screen sizes, quantity and resolutions
    • You tend to find a lot of people will buy the highest powered graphics card and pair it with a standard 23″ 1080p monitor. That’s OK for achieving constantly high FPS, but pointless considering the cards power. The same goes for users who buy a low-powered graphics card and wonders why they can’t play Crisis on 3 screens.
  • Power Supply
    • This is where things get confusing for a lot of people. Imagine you just went into a local computer shop and bought a 600w power supply for £15, 9/10 times that 600w is only a burst value; meaning it cannot sustain 600w for more than a few seconds. This is one area of your computer that you should never do on the budget end, a general rule of thumb is £10 per 100w, but with components becoming cheaper; prices are falling.

OverclockersUK is one of the largest specialised computer component resellers in the UK, they are highly regarded in the computer enthusiast world and can offer some of the best deals in the UK, EU and sometimes the world. This buying guide will use the pricing and product range displayed on the OCUK website without offers and shipping. For the purpose of this buying guide, I will be concentrating on the consumer-grade discrete desktop single graphics cards; the offerings from integrated processor graphics will not be covered in great detail.

So let us do all of the legwork for you and show you what is best to buy at what budget.

This guide is updated quarterly/immediately after major releases. Last updated: 06/05/2015


What does AMD and NVIDIA offer that’s different?


AMD vs NVIDIA is an age old argument, with die hard fans on each side of the fence proclaiming why AMD is better or NVIDIA is better. In truth, both are as good as each other in the mid-range market, AMD has a higher presence below £300 where NVIDIA have their presence above £300. So what about the features, let’s take a look.Untitled

As you can see, both parties offer primarily the same features, things get more interesting when looking at what each offers specifically.

AMD has Mantle, which is extremely good when playing games like BattleField 4; this technology allows console ported games based on AMD architecture to have a massive performance boost, LiquidVR gives unprecedented VR support, AMP technology gives control of AMP enabled memory modules and utilises the performance to the graphics cards advantage and TrueAudio offers crystal clear audio to the user.

NVIDIA on the other hand, concentrates more on the visual appeal of games; TXAA, MFAA and PhysX all work together to give the user the best visual experience with as little performance penalty as possible. NVLink allows the GPU’s to communicate better with each other (when used in SLI) and with the CPU; giving faster feedback and performance. DSR is an odd one, this scales the image up to 4k, renders at that level and then condenses back to your resolution; offering ultra high detail at lower resolutions.


I only want to do basic graphical tasks such as office programs and browse the internet


If you are one of those users who only use the machine for work and internet browsing, then the graphic output offered by the processor will be more than enough for your needs. The integrated graphics unit (IGPU) in current processors can handle video playback of 1080p with ease, some can even offer higher resolutions, but this puts more of a strain on the processor and could make the viewing experience less than satisfactory.

Here you have two options to choose from: Intel integrated HD graphics and AMD Kaveri APU range. Both of these will comfortably carry out all basic tasks with high-quality video playback. If you are only going to be browsing the internet and carrying out basic office tasks, here are the two I would recommend.

AMD A6-5400k @ £34.99. This is the cheapest of the AMD APU Black Edition range, but don’t let that put you off. This little dual core CPU has enough integrated graphics power to provide a seamless video quality experience for little money.

Intel Pentium G3420 @ £44.99. Even though this is one of the cheapest process in the current Haswell line up, it has enough processing and graphical power to carry out all of the day-to-day tasks you could wish, even playing Facebook games.


I want to play 1080p, high-definition videos


Playing full high-definition videos might seem like an easy task and it is; the fore-mentioned graphic options presented by the processors would be up to the task of delivering high-quality picture detail. However, what if you already have an existing computer with poor integrated graphics? You then move onto the most basic of discrete graphics cards. The models at this end of the spectrum will happily play 1080p videos all day long and will use very little power in doing so.

AMD HD 5450 @ £19.99.

  • Core clock: 650MHz
  • Processing cores: 80
  • Memory: 1GB GDDR3
  • Memory clock: 1066MHz (Effective)

This is a tried and tested graphics card. Even though the technology behind it is a few years old; the passive cooling, very little heat production and offer 1080p playback in a package that fits into the smallest of computers is something that has kept buyers coming back. This isn’t a graphics card you want to start playing games on, but for watching high-quality videos; it does the job perfectly.

NVIDIA offers a slightly wider range of options for below £30 that can match the AMD offering. Both of these graphics cards will display high-quality videos all day long and will do it passively.

NVIDIA GT 210 @ £19.99

  • Core clock: 589MHz
  • Processing/ CUDA cores: 16
  • Memory: 1GB GDDR3
  • Memory clock: 1200MHz (Effective)

NVIDIA GT 610 @ £25.99

  • Core clock: 550MHz
  • Processing/ CUDA cores: 48
  • Memory: 1GB GDDR3
  • Memory clock: 1000MHz (Effective)

Pitting AMD against NVIDIA at this level is pointless, the designed purpose of these graphics cards is to offer low power, low noise, low heat options that will play 1080p video. The only reason for buying these particular graphics cards is to upgrade an old tower unit that does not have the video processing power or to use in overclocking events for processors such as the Intel i7 Extreme range.


I want to game on a budget


Gaming on a budget is something that is starting to interest console gamers. The technology used within the latest generation of consoles is around as powerful as a budget gaming computer. This section of the market is completely dominated by AMD, they offer some exceptional gaming graphics cards for very good prices. If you are gaming on a budget, it is generally safe to assume that the monitor being used is of 1920 x 1080p resolution, you play at medium settings and aim to spend under £100.

AMD R7 260x @ £94.99.

  • Core Clock: 1050MHz
  • Processing Core: 896
  • Memory: 2GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 6000MHz (Effective)

The R7 260x is the lowest AMD graphics card I would recommend if you want to start gaming. At High quality pre-sets, this graphics card can churn out an average of 50FPS; so tweaking some of the settings could quite easily yield over 60FPS in many games.

NVIDIA GTX 750 @ £85.99.

  • Core Clock: 1059MHz
  • Core Boost Clock: 1137MHz
  • Processing/ CUDA Cores: 512
  • Memory: 1GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 5000MHz (Effective)

Again, the GTX 750 is the lowest NVIDIA graphics card I would recommend for gaming. During our testing, it was able to produce an average of 50FPS; so with some graphical settings lowered, you could see 60FPS in most games.

What components would these work well with?

These graphics cards a relatively low power, so would work with most of the components you could readily buy today.


I don’t want to spend more than £200


Pricing is a big issue today; everyone wants the shiny new hardware, but the bank account says otherwise. The sub £200 bracket is a fierce place to be and is generally where graphics card manufacturers aim the mid-range products.

AMD R9 280x @ £199.99.

  • Core Clock: 950MHz
  • Core Boost Clock: 1000MHz
  • Processing Core: 2048
  • Memory: 3GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 6000MHz (Effective)

This is hitting the upper edge of the boundary, the R9 280x is a very powerful card and can beat the new GTX 960 hands down in a straight up power brawl. To find a match at the same price point, I’ve had to look back a generation into the NVIDIA catalogue.

NVIDIA GTX 770 @ £199.99.

  • Core Clock: 1046MHz
  • Core Boost Clock: 1085MHz
  • Processing/ CUDA Cores: 1536
  • Memory: 4GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 7010MHz (Effective)

The GTX 700 range sort of slipped under the radar, with the only big hitters being the GTX 780 and GTX 780Ti. Now that the newest Maxwell GTX 900 series has been released, it has significantly dropped this generations price. The GTX 770 is still a great graphics card in its own right, but slightly falls short of the R9 280x performance offering at this price point.


I never want to see under 60FPS at 1440p


1440p is the new ‘standard’ gaming resolution, with most gaming monitors offering this resolution at a peak. The issue with 1440p is not that it is more pixels to render, but most monitors have an increased refresh rate from 100hz to an incredible 144hz; meaning that not only do you have more pixels to render, but you have to render them quicker as well. If you are looking to play at 60FPS, then a refresh rate of 60 or 120hz would be best. The gap starts to close at this resolution between both companies, so lets see what’s best to buy.

AMD R9 290x 4GB @ £229.99.

  • Core Clock: 1000MHz
  • Processing Core: 2816
  • Memory: 4GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 5000MHz (Effective)

The R9 290x is currently the flagship single unit graphics card offered by AMD. Out of the box it has very strong performance, but the technology is ageing. Luckily we should start to see new AMD graphics cards enter the market from the R9 300 series. Performance offered from the R9 290x is very good, it can run 1440p resolution games at high pre-sets without a sweat.

NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB @ £254.99.

  • Core Clock: 1051MHz
  • Core Boost Clock: 1178MHz
  • Processing/ CUDA Cores: 1664
  • Memory: 4GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 7010MHz (Effective)

This is NVIDIA’s Achilles heel. It is an amazing graphics card, but in the early days of production it was found that the new memory architecture used was slightly flawed. This meant that 3.5GB of the VRAM was incredibly fast, but the last 512mb was incredibly slow; if you were gaming below the 3.5GB threshold, the performance offered would only be slightly less than the GTX 980. This is a highly recommended graphics card and probably the best bang for buck graphics card on sale today.


I want the best of the best

12_bigSo now we’ve come to what can only be described as the best. This is for those who want the best gaming experience money can buy from a single card. AMD tend to be weaker at this end of the market, whereas NVIDIA thrive at these performance levels. AMD can only offer one card here, the R9 295×2. This dual-GPU behemoth is two R9 290x GPU cores stuck together on a single PCB, giving almost double the performance power. NVIDIA have the Titan range of graphics cards, the most recent being the Titan X. The Titan X, despite only being a single GPU card, is around 75% as fast as the R9 295×2.

AMD R9 295×2 @ £599.99.

  • Core Clock: 1018MHz
  • Processing Cores: 5632
  • Memory: 8GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 5000MHz (Effective)

This is all AMD have to offer. It is a spectacular card which we highly recommend, the performance is great and the water cooling keeps the card very cool. The only drawbacks being the size and power consumption, it is a very long card and wide with the water pipes sticking out of the top. As it uses dual R9 290x cores, you are looking at a high power demand; we recommend a 700w power supply to safely power this.

NVIDIA Titan X @ £899.99.

  • Core Clock: 1000MHz
  • Core Boost Clock: 1075MHz
  • Processing/ CUDA Cores: 3072
  • Memory: 12GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 7010MHz (Effective)

The newest Titan to be let out of the NVIDIA offices, this is a serious card. When you consider the performance difference between it and the R9 295×2 and then realise that it is only a single GPU, it will amaze. Yes, the performance is less and the cost is more; but I’m OK with that and you should be too.

NVIDIA Titan Z @ £1559.99.

  • Core Clock: 705MHz
  • Core Boost Clock: 876MHz
  • Processing/ CUDA Cores: 5760
  • Memory: 12GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock: 7000MHz (Effective)

This is it, the ultimate dual GPU monster that takes no prisoners. The price is still high, but the performance inside this is enough to play any game at 4k resolution at over 60FPS. Despite being the top dog, I wouldn’t recommend this; I would still recommend the Titan X. Due to the cooling solution on the Titan Z being less than adequate, it cannot fully cool two full-powered GPU cores. This meant having to cut down on the power requirement to keep temperatures in check; why pay all this money for two underpowered cores?

Article Index

  1. Introduction
  2. What does AMD and NVIDIA offer that's different?
  3. I only want to do basic graphical tasks such as office programs and browse the internet
  4. I want to play 1080p, high-definition videos
  5. I want to game on a budget
  6. I don't want to spend more than £200
  7. I never want to see under 60FPS at 1440p
  8. I want the best of the best
  9. View All

Author Bio

2 Comments on Graphics Card Buying Guide Spring 2015

  • Avatar LJLG says:

    You forgot about AMD Virtual Super Resolution. It’s Basically the same as NVIDIA DSR.

  • Avatar sob3k says:

    I want to play 1080p, high-definition videos
    What about APUS? 🙂 I mean A8 7600 for example, or some dualcores may do the work better than HD5450 🙂

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