Prepping for PC Gaming: Finding the Best GPU

2013 has been a huge year for PC gaming. With critically acclaimed releases “Crysis 3,” “Dead Space 3,” “SimCity” and “Bioshock Infinite,” PC gamers received many enjoyable titles within 2013’s Q1 release window. To experience the best performance, these video games require an advanced graphics processing unit — or “graphics card” — to ensure that PC gamers have the best visual effects.

Luckily, a graphics card upgrade is a relatively easy installation. With the right supplies, players can easily install a quality graphics card into their old computers. However, purchasing new hardware can be rather expensive. A new graphics card alone may cost more than $150, and many GPUs do not necessarily guarantee increased performance. Therefore, gamers need to understand the market’s complexities before they lay their money on the counter.

There are three cards on the market support high-quality graphics for their prices:

Radeon HD 7770 1GB ($109.99 on Newegg): The ATI Radeon x770 line has received critical praise for years due to the line’s balance between an affordable price and respectable graphics. For players in dire need of an upgrade, or particularly looking for a low-budget graphics card, the Radeon HD 7770 is a perfect choice. It is good for introductory upgrades, sporting an average of 35 frames per second on “Skyrim’s” 1080p maxed visuals. While not a prime choice for hardcore gamers, the Radeon HD 7770 1GB grants casual players the proper support they need for current graphically intensive releases.

Radeon HD 7870 2GB ($249.99 on Newegg): ATI’s Radeon HD 7870 is considered one of the top GPUs on the market and represents a particularly solid investment for gamers. While it is significantly more expensive than the 7770, the 7870’s greater memory bandwidth and higher pixel rate allows superior texture quality at high definition screen resolutions. This allows hardcore gamers to enjoy high definition, DirectX 11 visual features at significantly greater framerates than the 7770 and other “budget” graphics cards. For gamers willing to shell out past the $200 mark, the Radeon HD 7870 allows a future-proof graphics card, which establishes the perfect balance between high performance and low price.

GeForce GTX 680 2GB ($479.99 on Newegg): Of course, not every gamer is satisfied with a $249.99 purchase. For desktop gamers focusing on stunning visuals, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 680 2GB is the most promising card on the market. Using a GPU boost system that changes internal clock speeds based on graphics output, the GTX 680 can handle practically any graphically intensive game on the market. High screen resolutions combined with heavy graphics settings prove easy for the GTX; Nvidia’s card, for example, rests at an average of 63 frames for a 1080p playthrough of “Metro 2033” on full settings. Although gamers will require a $480 payment on the card, hardcore players looking for additional screen setups or phenomenal graphics investments should look no further than the GTX 680.

As the video game industry constantly upgrades their graphics, PC gamers must constantly research the GPU market to assure their desktop builds properly encompass the latest games. However, proper graphics card installations often require additional upgrades — such as a new power supply unit, an advanced processor, or even additional RAM. Therefore, to properly upgrade their computers, gamers need to both observe the graphics card market and understand their machines’ internal functions. Once both are understood, gamers can properly enjoy the latest releases with full graphical settings — the way developers intended their products to be played.

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