Graphics card, GPU, video card. so many terms designate one of the most important elements when looking at the performance of a computer. This card is of particular importance in the game, but also in certain very demanding applications such as video editing software for example. In this article, we will see the best graphics cards in 2021.
As we will see a little later, the graphics card is not essential, especially if you have a pure office automation use of your computer.
- 1 BUT WHERE ARE THE GPUS?
- 2 THE MOST POWERFUL GRAPHICS CARD (FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC)
- 3 HIGH-END GRAPHICS CARDS TO PLAY IN 4K
- 4 GRAPHICS CARDS TO PLAY IN 2K, AT 144 OR 60 FPS
- 5 MIDRANGE GRAPHICS CARDS FOR STABLE FULL HD GRAPHICS
- 6 ENTRY LEVEL GRAPHICS CARDS FOR SMALL BUDGETS IN 2021
- 7 FAQ
- 7.1 HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT GRAPHICS CARD
- 7.2 WHAT IS A GRAPHICS CARD USED FOR?
- 7.3 DO I REALLY NEED A GRAPHICS CARD?
- 7.4 SHORTAGE OF GRAPHICS CARDS, WHERE TO FIND AVAILABLE STOCK?
- 7.5 HOW TO INSTALL A GRAPHICS CARD?
- 7.6 NVIDIA AND AMD, WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
- 7.7 HOW TO NAVIGATE AMONG THE BRANDS AND MODELS OF GRAPHICS CARDS? CUSTOM DESIGN OR FOUNDERS EDITION?
- 7.8 WHAT IS RAY TRACING?
- 7.9 WHICH GAMING DISPLAY TO CHOOSE IN 2021?
- 7.10 G-SYNC, FREESYNC, WHAT IS IT FOR?
- 7.11 WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HZ AND FPS (IPS)?
- 7.12 THE GRAPHICS CARD LEXICON TO KNOW
BUT WHERE ARE THE GPUS?
Let’s be clear: the graphics card market is currently being rocked by an unprecedented shortage. Thus LDLC currently only has six references in stock, of which 5 were released in 2014.
Result: the few models that arrive on the shelves are sold at stratospheric prices. Thus a GeForce RTX 3060 is trading at more than 700 euros while it was announced at 335 euros. The same goes for more high-end models like the RTX 3080 which are sold for more than 1,100 euros. Getting a gaming PC is therefore a very complicated task at the moment.
The guilty? Partly the supply tensions linked to the Covid, but also the cryptocurrency mining farms which are buying GPUs in masses. Nvidia did try to limit the damage by restraining its new chips and releasing a dedicated mining line, but this blocking proved ineffective in cooling the miners.
In short, things did not start to normalize in the short term. We advise you to take your trouble patiently if you can. If you are in a hurry, however, you may have to pay a high price.
If you are in the process of building a new PC, do not hesitate to consult our dedicated guides:
THE MOST POWERFUL GRAPHICS CARD (FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC)
NVIDIA GEFORCE RTX 3090
- 4K gaming without compromise
- The most powerful
- 24 GB of GDDR6X memory
If your budget is unlimited, then the RTX 3090 is for you. Right now, it’s quite simply the most powerful consumer graphics card and the one that will give you the best performance in gaming with a 4K monitor.
Keep in mind that the most “accessible” models from third-party manufacturers are currently trading around 1700 euros. Compared to the gain of around 10-15% performance over an RTX 3080, the 3090 clearly doesn’t offer good value for money, but it retains its place as the card most likely to give you the perfect experience. in 4K. Cyberpunk 2077 will not scare him and you will be able to enjoy it at 4K 60 frames per second (by activating the DLSS which we are talking about below and without Ray Tracing, of course).
HIGH-END GRAPHICS CARDS TO PLAY IN 4K
NVIDIA GEFORCE RTX 3080
- The Reasonable Choice for 4K 60 FPS Gaming
- Cheaper and more powerful than the RTX 2080 Ti
- 10 GB GDDR6X memory
With a starting price of around 800 euros at the exit, the RTX 3080 is the reference card for playing in 4K under excellent conditions on the latest titles of the moment. It is perhaps one of the most impressive models in the new NVIDIA line with truly exemplary performance.
We will thus be able to take advantage of Ray Tracing, in 4K and at more than correct frequencies. Compared to the RTX 2080 it replaces, the 3080 is impressive with performance gains of up to 80%! So this is the choice of the reason for gamers looking to play at 4K 60 IPS without making any concessions. The joys of open-world games are available to you with honorable 4K performances on Assassin’s Creed or Red Dead Redemption 2.
AMD RADEON RX 6800 XT
- High performance in 4K
- Ray Tracing recessed
- 16 GB of GDDR6 memory
Freshly announced by AMD, the RX 6800 XT brings a breath of fresh air to the manufacturer’s range, which until then was confined to entry and mid-range models. This new model finally manages to go the distance compared to the green ogre and offers performance similar to the NVIDIA 3080, for a little less now.
Unfortunately, AMD is still behind in Ray Tracing. NVIDIA cards do much better on titles where this technology is used and also benefit from DLSS, which further increases their efficiency. The RX 6800 XT, offered for around 800 euros, remains a very interesting card for gaming in 4K, but unfortunately will not be enough if you want to take advantage of Ray Tracing.
GRAPHICS CARDS TO PLAY IN 2K, AT 144 OR 60 FPS
NVIDIA GEFORCE RTX 3060 TI
- Full HD without concessions and 2K 60 IPS
- A less generous RTX 3070
- 8 GB of GDDR6 memory
If you want to play the latest trending games on a 2K (1440p) 60Hz display, the all-new RTX 3060 Ti can meet your need perfectly. Less efficient than the RTX 3070 of which we speak later, it still offers a more interesting performance/price ratio.
During our test, it convinced us with its performance, its silence, and the usual software suite offered by NVIDIA. For around $500, it’s arguably the most interesting card out there right now and it overshadows AMD’s RX 6800.
NVIDIA GEFORCE RTX 3070
Take the performance of an RTX 2080 Ti then divide its price by two, you will then get the RTX 3070, a small bomb available for 600 euros currently. This card will be very comfortable to play in 2K (1440p) without making any concessions on the graphics options and taking advantage of Ray Tracing.
If you have a 4K screen, you can even enjoy it, while remaining reasonable on the graphic details of course. The RTX 3070 is a particularly interesting model for demanding gamers who don’t necessarily have a huge budget. In particular, it will make it possible to take advantage of the latest fashionable titles such as Call Of Duty Warzone and Black Ops in 1440p with a good refresh rate.
MIDRANGE GRAPHICS CARDS FOR STABLE FULL HD GRAPHICS
NVIDIA GEFORCE RTX 3060
- Good performance in Full HD and WQHD
- Contained consumption
- An interesting price in theory
On paper, the RTX 3060 was the RTX 2060 replacement we’ve all been waiting for. Its improved performance allows it to run all games in WQHD in good conditions and in Full HD at high refresh rates.
If it is at the level of an RTX 2070 in terms of images/second, it nevertheless manages to do so by consuming significantly less: 170 W against 230 W for its big sister. Among the interesting novelties, we will note the support of HDMI 2.1 which will interest those who intend to connect their PC to a television set.
Nothing revolutionary in this card then, but a good evolution which would have made it a good update for all those who have a GTX 1060, in particular given the recommended price of 335 euros. Hopes unfortunately crushed by the shortage of cards which means that the RTX 3060 sells for around 700 euros when it is in stock.
NVIDIA RTX 2060
If your goal is to be able to play in Ultra Full HD on a screen with a high refresh rate, then the RTX 2060 is still a safe bet. If it is unfortunately difficult to find now, it is the model that we recommend without hesitation in this price bracket.
With the arrival of the new RTX 3060 Ti, we, therefore, prefer to recommend 2060 rather than its Super version, which is less interesting. So, if you can get your hands on an RTX 2060 for a reasonable price of around $ 350, you’ll get a great price/performance ratio. With this reference, you can enjoy a high refresh rate on current FPS like Fortnite for example.
The card is currently very difficult to find on the market, but do not hesitate to consult the merchants regularly or even to look for a used model.
In a few points:
- Perfect for Full HD 144 Hz
- 6 GB of GDDR6 memory
- End of life, but still available at a good price
AMD RX 5600 XT
The RX 5600 XT is positioned as a fairly convincing alternative to the RTX 2060. It offers fairly similar performance and is therefore just as interesting for Full HD gaming. You will not benefit from Ray Tracing, but its competitor does not obtain very interesting results with this technology either.
On the other hand, it will be necessary to take into account that all the RX 5600 XT are not equal and that there are some big differences in performance to be noted between the different models. So do not hesitate to turn to a reference that is well overclocked and offers a bandwidth of 14 Gbps.
Among the few references currently in stock, you can look to the MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT, offered for around 375 euros as of this writing. As an alternative, the PowerColor Radeon RX 5600 XT is offered for 340 euros, but will only be available in a few weeks.
In a few points:
- A serious competitor of the RTX 2060
- 6 GB of GDDR6 memory
- Always interesting at the end of the year
ENTRY LEVEL GRAPHICS CARDS FOR SMALL BUDGETS IN 2021
AMD RX 570
A map from 2017, in a buying guide from 2021? This is indeed what we offer you with the AMD RX 570, a small card that does wonders for Full HD gaming. Offered between 150 and 200 euros, it is quite effective, even on greedy titles.
This is the ideal choice if you want to play in good conditions, on a 1080p screen, while not being too demanding on the graphics options. Combined with a decent entry-level processor, you can build a complete machine for around 500 euros that will allow you to enjoy Fortnite or Counter-Strike without a hitch.
Some references are still available, especially at Amazon with the MSI RX 570 Armor 8G OC, available for around 200 euros.
In a few points:
- Perfectly cut to play in Full HD
- 8 GB of GDDR5 memory
- An ideal choice for an inexpensive machine
NVIDIA GTX 1660
The entry-level graphics card market has not been very good in recent months. If the RX 570 remains an interesting card, it is unfortunately very difficult to find nowadays. As an alternative, you can turn to NVIDIA’s GTX 1660 and its Super versions.
It offers much better performance than the RX 570, but it is also much more expensive with a starting price of around 250 euros. If your budget allows it, this is a good alternative to properly play your games in Full HD. Also at MSI, the GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G is offered for around 280 euros.
In a few points:
- More efficient than the RX570
- 6 GB of GDDR6 memory
- A solid card if your budget allows it
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT GRAPHICS CARD
WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS FOR A GRAPHICS CARD?
On the performance side, we will generally focus on the integrated chip (graphics processor) on the card as well as its memory. For example, if you want to treat yourself to an RTX 3070, no matter which manufacturer you choose, you will still have the same chip and the same amount of memory and, by extension, similar performance.
A graphics processor is generally characterized by its frequency, but this is in no way a reliable indicator of its performance. At equivalent frequency, two GPUs can have different performances due to their architecture, the number of computing units, some of which can also be dedicated to specific uses such as Ray Tracing which we will discuss later. This frequency, defined by the designer (NVIDIA or AMD), can also be modified at the factory by the manufacturer (MSI, ASUS, PNY, etc.) and thus offer the card supposedly better performance than certain other models. Likewise, the end-user can modify this frequency in order to obtain better performance.
Memory is also defined by its frequency, but also by its quantity and type. In general, and very simplified, the more high-end a card, the greater the amount of integrated memory. Currently, GDDR6 memory is the most widespread and offers performance in line with gaming uses.
Beyond these data, cooling is also an important variable to consider. All third-party manufacturers offer cards with specific designs that often focus on ventilation performance. In addition, these design efforts are often accompanied by RGB lighting that you may or may not like.
Like any component of your computer, the graphics card will heat up when it is used a lot. A good cooling system is therefore essential, both in terms of the card and the case. You can have the best-ventilated card on the market, if your case is completely airtight, it will only circulate hot air.
Finally, do not neglect the dimensions of the graphics card that you choose so that it fits in your case. Indeed, the latest generations of NVIDIA cards are particularly impressive and are not necessarily compatible with all boxes.
Finally, do not neglect the connection either, which has changed significantly in recent years. While DVI was often looked to a few years ago, it has now been mainly replaced by DisplayPort which supports, in version 1.4, the highest definitions. Most cards are therefore equipped with it, usually with a few additional HDMI ports.
WHAT IS A GRAPHICS CARD USED FOR?
The graphics card takes care, as its name suggests, of the graphics part of your computer. It is she who will be in charge of displaying the elements of your operating system, your games, or your favorite series on Netflix. It is, therefore, by definition, just as important as the processor or the motherboard and should therefore not be neglected when building a computer.
From its performance, therefore, will result in the ability of your machine to display games optimally, but also the overall performance of the computer on video processing tasks for example. Just like the processor, the choice of a graphics card should be made according to your budget and the use that you will have of your computer.
This buying guide is there for that: to guide you in the purchase of your graphics card, according to your needs.
DO I REALLY NEED A GRAPHICS CARD?
The graphics card is essential for the operation of a desktop computer. Your monitor must be plugged into it and without it, you simply cannot use your machine. It is therefore a component not to be overlooked when purchasing your computer.
Note all the same that it is possible to mount and use a computer “without” graphics card. Indeed, and as seen in our buying guide, some processors are equipped with an integrated graphics chip. The latter offer logically lower performance, but will do the job perfectly for a computer dedicated to office use or to low-consumption gaming. Not to mention computers set up for server use which will generally not need a display.
SHORTAGE OF GRAPHICS CARDS, WHERE TO FIND AVAILABLE STOCK?
Indeed, since the arrival of the new GeForce and Radeon… there is a very significant shortage in the graphics card market. In addition to selecting a model to buy, you must ensure that it is available. This shortage is expected to last at least until halfway through 2021.
Our advice is to carefully look at online sales sites (Amazon, etc.). There are often replenishments and you have to be quick. There are many sites and Discord that allow you to be alerted of the arrival of stock. Be careful, stocks disappear within minutes.
HOW TO INSTALL A GRAPHICS CARD?
When building your computer, the graphics card is usually the last component to install. Its installation could not be simpler since it suffices to slide it into the PCI Express slot present under your processor. We explain it to you.
Before you get started, first push the locking tab at the right end of the connector outwards. You will also need to remove the grids on the back of your case depending on the thickness of your card. Depending on the boxes, these must be “broken” or unscrewed. Finally, it is necessary to remove the screw located on the upper part of the chassis since we will use the latter to firmly fix our card.
When all this has been done, you can insert the card into its slot, taking care to insert the connector correctly. Gently and firmly push the card, until the locking tab fully engages. All you have to do is tighten the screw mentioned above and close your case to take advantage of your new GPU.
NVIDIA AND AMD, WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
NVIDIA and AMD are the only two brands to offer consumer graphics chips (Intel is expected to arrive soon). Despite this, the two brands weren’t quite on an equal footing until then since NVIDIA has clearly dominated the market for many years.
In fact, even if the architectures are different, the objective remains more or less similar: to allow users to benefit from high-performance graphics cards suitable for all areas. On this point, NVIDIA has dominated for a long time by offering the most powerful models and therefore particularly popular with gamers. So, if your budget has no limits, you will definitely turn to an NVIDIA card.
NVIDIA offers some interesting features on its cards, notably Ray Tracing, which we will discuss a little further on, but also DLSS. This anti-aliasing technology provides good image quality while limiting the impact on card performance by using machine learning. We, therefore, benefit from more images per second which give a little more freedom for heavier processing such as Ray Tracing. Be careful, however, this technology is not available on all games.
AMD has been successful in the entry and mid-range card market. The brand offers several interesting references which directly compete with the less expensive models of its competitor. Unfortunately, the brand has been dragging itself for many years a bad reputation, in particular, because of its less functional drivers and less easy to use than their competitors.
If the latest NVIDIA announcements made a big splash this year with the arrival of RTX 3000 cards, AMD is not left out and announced some interesting references that seem to be able to compete with their direct competitors, especially on certain high-end models. In addition, the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft use AMD GPUs similar to those recently announced on PC. It is therefore conceivable that some PC titles will benefit from it in the future.
HOW TO NAVIGATE AMONG THE BRANDS AND MODELS OF GRAPHICS CARDS? CUSTOM DESIGN OR FOUNDERS EDITION?
While NVIDIA and AMD design and distribute graphics chips themselves, other manufacturers sell these same chips in custom cards. So you can find on the market, RTX 2070 manufactured by Asus or RX 5600 XT by MSI. The majority of cards sold are also sold by these third-party manufacturers.
Despite a base defined by AMD or NVIDIA, third-party manufacturers generally offer higher frequencies on their cards, a more efficient cooling system, or a different and bright design (if that is important to you).
Thus, even if the chip is the same between the two references of RTX 3070, there are differences in performance and cooling. These differences are sometimes large enough that the generally higher price of higher-end models is justified. However, keep in mind that an RTX 3070 is still an RTX 3070 and that these performance differences will generally be quite small.
We, therefore, recommend that you pay attention to sound and ventilation performance, which will have a much greater impact on the operation of your machine on a daily basis. Finally, let us note all the same that beyond the performance aspect, all manufacturers do not necessarily use components of equivalent quality, so it is a final point to take into account in order to be able to enjoy your card for many years.
WHAT IS RAY TRACING?
Ray Tracing is a new way of processing light on a computer-generated image. This technique, far from being recent, because used in the cinema, in particular, is gradually starting to make people talk about it both on PC and on the console. Its only objective is to bring more realism to our favorite games by carrying out a treatment closer to reality as regards the light and its reflections and above all, in real-time.
Thus, it is counterproductive to offer you a GeForce RTX 3090 if you plan to use your computer with a Full HD screen. This is because a less expensive card will do just as well and you will save money as a result. Likewise, choosing a 4K 144Hz display with an RX 570 to play the latest Assassin’s Creed isn’t a good idea.
In general, there are 4 points to take into account when choosing a screen, especially for gaming use :
- Its definition and size
- The technology of its panel
- Its response time
- Its refresh rate
First of all, you need to define the definition that suits you on a screen. More pixels mean more “precision” in the display, but also more power needed to bring your favorite games to life. We will often talk about 1080p, 1440p or 4K, which are the definitions most used today. For correct visual comfort, and in general, we recommend that you do not exceed 24 inches for 1080p, 27 inches for 1440p, and keep 4K for large screens or specific needs.
The screen market mainly exploits 3 types of panels: TN, IPS, and VA. To put it simply, TNs are the most responsive, IPS the most faithful, and VAs the most contrasting. Each has its faults, but the market is mainly split between IPS and VA panels. IPS panels will benefit from more accurate colors, but the contrast and light leaks will be disappointing. Conversely, VA panels will benefit from better contrast but generally suffer from smearing in dark scenes and generally struggle with black/white transitions. Your choice will therefore depend on your use, but the IPS seems to be popular with gamers at the moment.
Response time is an important consideration. Have you ever tried hooking up your computer to a TV? It is this latency that we want to avoid in the game and which is expressed in milliseconds by the manufacturers. The standard is now 1 ms for demanding games.
Finally, the refresh rate characterizes the number of images that your monitor will be able to display per second. Most conventional screens offer a 60 Hz frequency, but there are now screens that can reach more than 300 Hz. Beyond the fluidity of the display, a better frequency also brings better responsiveness. Obviously, your computer must be able to provide the screen with that many frames per second. It depends on the type of game you are playing. If you mainly play multiplayer FPS, we recommend at least a 144Hz screen.
In short, choose a screen that meets your needs (game, graphics, office automation) and that is consistent with the configuration choices you have made. If your card allows it, then do not hesitate to choose a monitor with a high frequency. If that high frequency isn’t your thing, then maybe you can go for a display with more options or even a cheaper graphics card?
G-SYNC, FREESYNC, WHAT IS IT FOR?
In addition to your graphics card, you are certainly looking to equip yourself with a screen to make the most of your favorite games. During your research, you have certainly come across the terms G-Sync or FreeSync several times, without really knowing what it means. We explain everything just below.
Behind these two trade names are in fact hidden two similar technologies that can be included under the name VRR for Variable Refresh Rate. The idea is to synchronize the refresh rate of the monitor with the number of images per second sent by the graphics card. The objective is thus to avoid phenomena that are well known to players, such as image tearing or the sudden drop in frames per second which mar the experience.
These technologies, therefore, tend to replace what was often called “Vertical Synchronization” which performed exactly the same work, but at a fixed frequency. So the display frequency of the screen always remained the same no matter how many frames your graphics card could send.
Originally, NVIDIA offered its G-Sync technology only on screens equipped with a dedicated chip which substantially increased the price of the latter. With the arrival of AMD’s FreeSync, based on the AdaptiveSync standard and requiring no specific component, NVIDIA has revised its copy and now offers “G-SYNC Compatible” certification for certain FreeSync / Adaptive Sync displays. Thus, most of the gaming screens currently sold are compatible with one or the other of the technologies.
However, there are several levels of certification for these two technologies. The level of certification of your screen will depend in particular on its ability to use its entire frequency range or the accuracy of its colors, even if this ultimately has little to do with the original technology.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HZ AND FPS (IPS)?
Frame rate (FPS or IPS) and refresh rate (Hz) are often confused and interchanged. Frame rate (FPS) refers to how often your system and more specifically your GPU generates the images. While the refresh rate (Hz) refers to how often your screen displays the final images.
THE GRAPHICS CARD LEXICON TO KNOW
There are many nomenclatures and a lot of vocabulary to know in the world of graphics cards. Here are the main definitions that will help you better understand the datasheets for these products:
- Ray Tracing: the full definition can be found above
- DLSS: this is an Nvidia super-sampling technology to improve the rendering of graphics, it consists of upscaling to display more important definitions with better performance
- Definition vs Resolution: above all, do not confuse the two terms
- Riser: this is a bundle that allows you to deport the PCIe x16 connector from a motherboard, if you want, for example, to install your graphics card vertically in the PC case
- Flops: a Teraflop is equivalent to a million operations per second, it is a unit to measure the computing performance of a graphics card
- TDP: this is a design thermal power, TDP stands for Thermal Design Power (in French “Envelope Thermique”) and is a value expressed in Watt
- Clock Speed: The number of instructions a processor can execute per clock cycle, but you cannot compare the clock speed of a processor and RAM
- PCIe: This is the high-speed connector on a motherboard used by a graphics card
- GDDR / HBM: it is a type of RAM used by graphics cards, GDDR is the most common memory (GDDR5 GDDR5X, GDDR6 and now GDDR6X)