From 8 to 60 fps
I got a PC (HPE h8-1234),a few months back, with what I thought was excellent spec for someone who's switching over from console to PC gaming.. The machine had a 6 core AMD processor, 10GB RAM, 1TB HDD and an AMD HD 7450 graphics card with 1GB of VRAM.. The specs looked good on paper and I bought the PC from store not knowing what a horrible graphics card it had. I don't have to say that at the time of buying the PC I knew nothing about what to look for in a graphics card other than the RAM on it.
I tried playing COD Black Ops 2 with medium settings at 1080p and I got a framerate of 8... Just 8 fps!Here's what I found out about stuff to look for before buying a graphics card. (I'm sure there is more that you need to check but I'm hoping to cover some basic specs for absolute noobs like me.)
Number of processorsThe more processors the better. Obviously, the cards will more processors will cost more. You need to decide what the performance vs price trade off is going to be. The processors are called by different names by different brands. Processor names from the two popular brands are ... 'CUDA cores' on NVIDIA cards 'Stream processors' on AMD Radeon cards
1 CUDA core = 1 Stream Processor ? NO
Processor speedThe clock speed of the processor also is very important when trying to figure out how powerful a card is. A CUDA core on an NVIDIA card might have a different clock speed than a Stream processor on an AMD card. This is one of the reasons that makes comparing the number of CUDA cores vs Stream processors like comparing apples to oranges. There are other more technical details like difference in architecture and I'm not going into details about that here. (...mainly because I don't know anything about it)
VRAMThe amount of memory on the card is very important when it comes to choosing your card. Depending upon the games that you'd like to play, find out the amount of RAM used by them at a specific graphics setting. This will help you identify what card you need to get. In my case, I love games like Battlefield 3 and I found that it needs 1.7GB of RAM to run at 1920X1080 with ultra high graphics setting. So a card with 2GB of VRAM would work.
There are other things like the speed of RAM which matters too but I don't know enough to comment about that. May be someone who knows can chime in.
Motherboard Card slot typeThere's a variety of card slot types and it important to identify what you mother board supports first. In my case, I had only a PCI Express(PCIE) 2.0 slot on the motherboard of my PC.
The good news was that, PCIE 3.0 cards are backward compatible and so I could get either a PCIE 2.0 card or PCIE 3.0 card. I chose a PCIE 3.0 card because I felt it was better bang for the buck.(Price vs Number of processors)
Power supply unit (PSU)This is something when can be easily overlooked while replacing/adding a graphics card. You need to make sure that the power supply can handle the extra load of the graphics card that you're adding. To do this, Find out what the peak power usage of the graphics card is under high loads. (..or for a specific game that you want to play). Compare that against the rating of the PSU on your PC keeping in mind that PC already uses some part of the load.
For example, if the card uses 270W at peak load and your PC power supply rating is 300W, then that is not enough because the PC might draw more than just 30W. If you PSU is not sufficient, get another one which can handle more load. Also, make sure that it fits in your existing PC case.
I ended up getting a Gigabyte HD 7870 to replace my HD 7450 and a 600W power supply to replace my 300W power supply.
I'm now able to play COD Black ops 2 at a steady 60 fps.
Happy Holidays everyone! :)
(Images courtesy NewEgg.com, AnandTech.com, videocardbenchmark.net)