For playing games at medium or high settings, you don’t need a >$200 graphics card. There are some decent graphics cards both from Nvidia and AMD that will make you able to play the latest games at 768p or even at 1080p on at least medium settings.
If you own a computer where you have a low end or a mid-end CPU like Pentium G4560 or AMD x4 860k, these graphics cards will give you the best performance for your money and these cards are best suited for a budget gaming PC that costs from around $300 to $400.
Gigabyte GeForce GT 730 2GB
Nvidia Geforce GT 730 despite being an old card is still a good replacement for most of the Integrated graphics in CPUs and features 2GB of DDR3 memory that is a little slower than the DDR3 memory but as the edition with GDDR5 memory is not available right now, you can use this one instead. This might not be the best graphics card for playing games at 1080p but surely it can provide you playable frame rates at 720p.
Most of the older cards feature 1GB of DDR3 Ram but this one will do a better job as 2GB VRAM can let you increase the graphics settings a little bit without compromising the fps. For under $60, there is no card right now available which can provide you with equivalent performance as this card. Use it to play eSports and casual games but don’t think that you can play AAA games on high settings with this GPU.
As the card is a low profile GPU, you don’t need any external GPU power cable for this and the PCI-Ex 16 slot on the motherboard will be enough to power it fully. Also, make sure that your monitor has an HDMI or a DVI port because monitors with only VGA port can’t be powered with this card due to the absence of VGA port on it.
XFX RX 550 2GB DDR5
RX 550 is the starting point of the RX series of AMD. It’s based on the latest Polaris architecture and is made for the gamers who are really on a very tight budget. People who want to invest $300 in a gaming PC that can run games at 1080p can now have their dreams come true. For around $100, this card is what a $250-$300 gaming build needs.
It has two versions: one is 2gb and the other is 4gb which is a little expensive. I don’t recommend going with a 4gb version because at that price you can buy a better graphics card which is RX 460. But the 2gb version of this card is ideal for people who just want to start gaming at 1080p. If you don’t mind medium settings and some aliasing in the games, then this one is the best thing to go with.
It doesn’t have a PCI connector, so it will draw the power from the motherboard PCI-Ex16 slot and will make your PC much power efficient also making your expense lower by not needing a hefty power supply. You can run it on a cheap power supply easily but I still recommend going at least with a 400 Watts power supply from EVGA or Cooler Master.
This card runs on 128-bit memory interface, has core clock above 1100Mhz and can be overclocked more than 1200Mhz. It can run all the latest games on medium settings at 1080p with 40+fps but it can run some games on high settings with 50+ fps like GTA V, Bioshock Infinite and Battlefield 4. This card is not meant for too much graphical intensive games like The Witcher 3 or Mass effect but you can surely run those at 1080p medium settings with constant 30+fps or even more. For me at a budget of $300 for a gaming PC, I would not mind playing at 40fps on medium settings. It will still be smoother than a lot of games on PS4.
Gigabyte GT 1030 OC 2GB
Nvidia GT 1030 is a low profile card and replaces the previous generation 700 series graphics cards that used to come in this category. As the older cards were no better than the Intel HD graphics, they were just a waste of money. Although, the price of this card is just around $70 but the performance is somewhat equal or near to GTX 750 Ti which was the most popular budget graphics card in previous years.
This card has 2GB of VRAM and most of its versions are low profile. They either have a very basic heatsink and fan or some of them don’t even have a fan because it consumes very less power and generates very less heat. Although, Gigabyte OC edition is a little step up in terms of design so you will get somewhat better temperatures.
This card can play any game at 1080p medium settings. But don’t think that it can give you 60fps. It can give you an average of 40fps in most of the games according to the settings you use and that’s totally playable if you are on a tight budget.
GPU LIST (Prices as on 13th Jan 2019)
|EVGA GT 730 2GB||$58.99|
|XFX RX 550 2GB||$89.99|
|Gigabyte GT 1030 OC 2GB||$89.99|
Important things to know before you buy a Graphics card
1. Price and Requirements
Make sure before you buy a graphics card, you know your budget. You can have $100 or even $500 for buying a GPU but if you are going to build a completely new PC then defining and distributing the expenditure between different components is a little difficult. If you are buying a new PC, then make sure you don’t buy an overkill graphics card for your CPU. A Pentium processor can’t handle RTX 2080 or GTX 1080 Ti. Similarly, a GT 1030 is too slow for an i7 9700K.
Another important thing is to define your requirements. Without knowing what you want, you can either overspend or underspend on your graphics card. If you are just starting out and want to enjoy some eSports or Casual games then a budget graphics card will be enough for the job. But in case you want to enjoy the games on ultra textures at 1080p or higher resolution then you will need to buy higher end graphics cards like GTX 1070 or RTX 2080 etc.
VRAM is the memory that is different from the main system RAM and is only dedicated towards providing the horsepower your graphics need. Every dedicated Graphics card has some dedicated VRAM which now in modern GPUs can vary from 1GB up to 16GB. To play games on higher settings at 1080p at least, you need to have around 3-4GB VRAM on your Graphics card. If you go lower than that, then you may have to lower down some of the settings in your games for getting good frames per second.
If you want to max out textures, anti-aliasing, foliage, shadows etc. in a AAA game, then you will need at least 6GB of VRAM that is present in GTX 1060 and higher-end Graphics cards. Right now, I don’t know of any game that utilizes more than that except in the case of higher resolution like 4K.
Low Profile graphics cards have smaller heatsinks and therefore aren’t efficient in maintaining good temperatures if you overclock them but graphics card with bigger aluminium heatsinks with copper heat pipes with 2 or more fans are extremely useful for maintaining good temperature even while overclocking to the full potential. If you are not doing any type of overclocking, you should still make sure that your PC chassis has enough ventilation for proper air intake and exhaust.
4. Power Supply
Different graphics cards have different TDP and their power consumption vary. So, you need to check the graphics card’s TDP before buying it. Make sure your power supply is having enough wattage capacity to run your whole system without any bottleneck.
A system that uses low end or budget components will have no problem in running on a 400 watts reliable power supply but when it comes to running a GTX 2080 Ti, i7 9700K, Multiple Fans, AIO coolers, and several storage devices, then you will need higher wattage power supply. Make sure you check the TDP of all of your components and see if your PSU still has enough wattage capacity to power your Graphics card.
Another important thing to note is the graphics card power ports. Make sure your Power supply has those power connectors that your graphics card requires. A GPU with 6-pin port will use a 6-pin power connector from the power supply. Generally, almost all the budget power supplies in modern day have a 6-pin power connector at the minimum. If your graphics card has 2x 8-pin power ports, your PSU must have those in order to run the graphics card with stability.
5. I/O Connectors
Sometimes a particular graphics card from a different manufacturer will not have the I/O ports for connectivity as your monitor requires to show the display. Check the I/O ports at the back of your monitor and also the I/O ports of the graphics card you are buying.
If your monitor is a 144Hz gaming monitor, then you must have a DVI port or a DP port on your monitor/GPU to get those 144Hz refresh rate smoothness. Make sure both your graphics card and monitor have these ports to avoid the mishappening.