REVIEWS / Graphics Card Reviews

Régis Jehl
A graphics card is essential for smooth 3D gaming, but choosing the right model isn’t always easy, with 3D performances, power use heat and noise output to consider.

To evaluate the performance of each graphics card, we put them to the test with eight games, each tested in two resolutions and with two different levels of graphics detail. We take two readings for power use in two different games, and we measure noise and heat output with the GPU working intensely.

All our test results are available to view and compare in the graphics card Face-Off.

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There are two main GPU-makers in the market these days: AMD and Nvidia. They’re battling it out on several fronts, but they first and foremost compete on pure gaming performance. From one product generation to the next, both manufacturers are boosting clock speeds, increasing the number processing units and developing new GPU architectures to push up speeds.
 
But while graphics cards are getting more powerful, they’re not necessarily using more power to run. In fact, the trade-off between processing power and power consumption is another key field for competition between brands. And that’s good news for users, as less power used means less electricity on your bill, but it also generally means that the new power-efficient GPUs don’t get as hot or make as much noise.
 
So why buy a souped-up new GPU when most previous-generation cards work perfectly well with the majority of games? Well, a new-gen card will let you activate all the graphics options available in the most recent games developed specifically for PC, especially if you’re using a high-def screen. Note that many games-makers seem to overlook the possibilities on offer in PCs, instead concentrating on developing titles for games consoles, which are starting to show their limits when it comes to graphics detail. This will no doubt change with the arrival of next-gen consoles.
 
Finally, latest graphics cards are geared up for stereoscopic 3D gaming or for gaming over several screens. Although these may not exactly be mainstream activities, they require the kind of extra processing power you get with a good latest-gen graphics card.
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