PC gaming 101: Part 3: Be a Smart Buyer

PC gaming is quite big in India. As games become more intense and compelling, gamers find themselves wanting the latest and greatest hardware to run these games smoothly. That being said, the majority of gamers wanting to build or upgrade their machines don’t have much of a clue, and are often at the mercy of vendors and salesmen, due to which, more often than not, they end up making the wrong decisions. This is an attempt to address this lack of information, and help all PC gamers make the best of their resources. This is PC GAMING 101.

 

 

The “More RAM equals better Graphics card” Myth

An age-old trick of most Indian video card vendors is the whole “it’s got more video memory” trick. Most people don't really understand the specifics of video cards, and end up getting duped by vendors who convince them that a card with more video memory (or video RAM) is better or “superior” to a card with less RAM.

ramNO

First of all, just because a GPU has more video RAM doesn’t make it a better or a faster GPU.

Simply speaking, GPU video memory these days is either DDR2 or DDR3, just like RAM. DDR2 memory is the cheaper of the two. DDR3 is newer and faster.  Vendors usually just mention the amount of video memory on the card, and not what type of memory it is. So, a card with 1.5 GB of DDR3 memory may actually perform better than a card with 2GB of DDR2 memory, despite the latter having “more RAM”.  Knowing the type of memory is thus equally important.

 

 

“Most people are uninformed and salesmen easily dupe them. A salesman once tried convincing me that a card with 2GB of RAM was superior to a card that cost thrice as much but had lesser, but DDR3 RAM! These people are unscrupulous, and take advantage of the average buyer’s ignorance.”

says Kartik Iyer, a PC gamer. Don’t get fooled by vendors who try to sell you cards by telling you that it’s got more RAM.

That being said, if you’re assembling a PC and you want to future-proof it, the rate at which the system requirements of PC games are going higher, cards with 1GB of video RAM or less won't cut it for much longer.  So, for a future-proof PC that'll last you for two or three more years, try getting a card that’s got a video memory of 1GB or more, but be sure to check the type of memory present in it.

It’s not just Nvidia and AMD Radeon

When it comes to graphics card brands, most of us know the two major brands- Nvidia, and AMD Radeon. So it’s just a matter of which one of these to choose, right?

It’s not that simple.

Nvidia and AMD Radeon do manufacture cards themselves, but there are also many other manufacturers who simply use the card designs, slap their own names on them and sell them. Thus there are two main categories of cards- Reference and Non Reference.

A reference style GPU usually means that the card is presented as the GPU maker had intended (Nvidia and AMD). this includes everything from the PCB, layout of the components and the heatsink/fan.

A non-reference card is when the card manufacturers (like Gigabyte, Asus, MSI, Sapphire and Zotac, to name a few)  make changes that deviate from the original design. These changes can be something like a better heatsink/fan design, overclocking, changes to the PCB or any other changes that they see fit to make.

Reference versus Non-Reference cards

Reference cards are always in-line with the specifications provided by the main companies, and have a certain level of quality about them. However, manufacturers often prefer to tweak the stock settings like the processor speeds, cooling systems etc. to differentiate themselves from the market. Hence for a particular model number you might find various different "editions", like "gaming edition" or "extreme edition" and so on, which offer some level of customizability in terms of things like Overclocking and Cooling. However, although these non reference models offer some improvement over the basic reference design, some companies often use cheap components and manufacturing methods to keep costs low. Rishi Alwani, PC gamer and occasional game reviewer says:

“Don’t buy Zotac! The prices are low but there’s no real guarantee that your card will run for long. I’ve used Zotac cards in PC builds before and I ended up replacing them due to faults and malfunctions, so be careful while getting low-cost cards!”

All in all, you'll need to do quite a bit of research and comparison to get the best card, and the best deal.

Research- make an informed choice

Research is essential before buying graphics cards, as y’all already know. The problem lies in the fact that there are so many sites on the internet that offer conflicting, confusing and even sometimes misleading information. Here’s a list of websites you should go to for your researching needs:

1. Anandtech: A website dedicated to tech reviews, both hardware and software. Great for reading reviews.

2. GPUreview: Dedicated to graphics cards. Offers a neat comparison tool that allows you to compare two cards side by side, and look at each individual specification.

3. HardOCP: Great website that offers reviews and news about the latest computer hardware.

 

Think of the System as a whole

When buying a card, make sure that the card you buy is right for your system.  A low powered GPU might act as a bottleneck for a system with a powerful CPU, and a high-powered GPU on a lower end system might be a waste of money. Jayesh M, a PC enthusiast says:

“Make sure your system is correct. If you buy a GTX 660 but got a powerful i7 processor, you are wasting your system potential, or vice versa.”

While buying a card, it’s also prudent to know the resolution of your display. If you have a display that’s 1920X1080 aka an HD display, spending more than 20k on graphics equipment is a waste of money, says Rishi.

Now that we’ve gone through what’s needed to buy smart, we will go into the details of some often ignored but important things- starting with Display technology. Stay tuned folks!

Follow Rishi on twitter: https://twitter.com/slackerninja

Rishi's blog: http://slackerninja.com/

Follow Jayesh on twitter: https://twitter.com/jayesh

(Logo credits: Jui Pandya)

Prev>> Part 2: Knowing What You Want

Next>> Part 4: Display Technology Explained

 

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