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Benefits and Disadvantages of Dual Graphics Cards - Is It Worth It?

In many instances, two is better than one, and that’s no different for PCs. Some techies believe that having dual graphics cards is just as essential as several core processors. While reputable brands like NVIDIA and AMD provide options for running multiple cards, is it something you should factor into your gaming experience? Can a single card get the job done? Read on to find the answer to these valid questions, and more.

What Are the Requirements?

To use dual graphics cards, your PC requires NVIDIA or AMD technology that ties the cards to generate a single output. The graphics solution for NVIDIA is SLI, whereas that of AMD is CrossFire. For each, your PC must have a compatible motherboard with the required PCI Express graphics slots.

As a tip to discover whether or not a given motherboard supports more than one card, head over to its official product page and keenly go through the specs. Alternatively, you can keep an eye out for the SLI or crossfire symbol that the motherboard was packaged in.

These graphics cards also need a PC case that’s big enough to accommodate the additional hardware and a power supply. Moreover, they must be connected via a bridge connector that may be included with the motherboard or GPU. Lastly, the Crossfire or SLI feature must be activated in the GPU driver control panel.

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What Are the Benefits?

We’ve rounded up some of the perks that stem from using dual graphics cards.

  • Increased gaming performance: When at least two cards render the same 3D visuals, computer games run at higher resolutions with extra filters and greater frame rates. It’s this superior capacity that boosts the graphics quality in most games.
  • Higher resolutions: It’s no secret that single graphics cards of excellent quality can effortlessly handle games with up to 1080p resolutions. But, what you’re getting with more than one card is a higher resolution, thereby ushering in the possibility of utilizing newer technology. For instance, 4K displays that offer four times the resolution.
  • Facilitates upgrades: Using a CrossFire or SLI-compatible motherboard ushers in PC upgrades down the line without replacing the existing graphics card. You have free rein to throw a second card in the mix for enhanced performance without getting rid of the first one. Given that manufacturers typically upgrade these cards every 18 months, finding a compatible card after a two-year window can be an uphill battle.
  • Multiple monitor support: Dual graphics cards allow you to connect to multiple monitors concurrently. While this is not a necessity, it can enhance the gaming experience for some players.

What Is the Flipside?

While dual graphics cards have their perks, it’s a double-edged sword because there’s a flipside to them, as discussed below.

  • High running cost: Top of the range graphics dual cards cost at least $500. But, reputable brands like NVIDIA offer lower-priced options with dual capability. So, techies can spend the same amount of cash for a single card with superior performance to the lower-priced GPUs.
  • Compatibility issues: Not all games are compatible with more than one card. And, some graphics engines don’t mesh well with dual cards. Consequently, some games may exhibit decreased performance. In other instances, shuttering occurs, which makes the game look choppy.
  • Significant power consumption: Dual graphics cards are power-hungry to the point that they can double the amount of energy needed to run them in tandem. For instance, one high-end card may need a 600-watt power supply for proper functioning, whereas two of these cards may need 1000 watts. Furthermore, most PCs for home use aren’t equipped to deal with high-wattage. So, it’s essential to check your system’s power supply wattage to determine whether or not it’s compatible with multiple cards.
  • Performance: The efficacy of a dual-card environment varies based on a computer’s other components. Even with two of the most powerful cards, a low-end processor can throttle the amount of data that a PC supplies to the graphics cards. Therefore, they’re only suitable for top of the range computers.

So What are the Best Graphics Cards to Buy?

You can take your pick from any of the reviewed products below.

1. ASUS GeForce RTX 2070

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It’s powered by NVIDIA Turing that packs 1845 MHz Boost Clock, 8GB GDDR6 memory, and 2560 CUDA Cores. Supporting up to four monitors with one 2.0 HDMI port and three display outputs, the GeForce RTX 2070 is a killer card for the money. It offers IP5X dust-resistance and boosts airflow through the heat-sink courtesy of the three Axial-Tech fans. The backplate designed from sturdy aluminum keeps trace damage and PCB flex at bay.

2. EVGA GeForce GTX 1060

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Packed with innovative technologies, the GTX 1060 is the perfect option for the latest high-end games. Courtesy of NVIDIA Pascal, this product provides unmatched performance that paves the way for virtual reality (VR) and more. It also features the state-of-the-art ACX cooling technology that constitutes double ball bearings, swept fan blades, and a low power motor. Collectively, they provide increased airflow with reduced power, thus channeling more power to the GPU.

The GTX 1060 is compatible with systems that have a minimum power supply of 400 watts and operate on Windows 7, 8, and 10 (64/32-bit). Armed with a three-year warranty, Real Base Clock of 1607 MHz, and GDDR5 6144 MB memory, users get value for their money.

3. Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660

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With an array of cool features, the GTX 1660 stands out from the rest. For instance, it has a powerful photo mode feature that allows users to capture top-grade photos (HDR, Stereo, and 360-degree) of their games and share their excellent gaming experiences.

Courtesy of the dedicated hardware encoder, you’re assured of 15% better efficiency over older graphics card models. The GTX 1660 also optimized for Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), which ushers in topnotch live streaming on various platforms such as YouTube.

Armed with multiple outputs, the silent and efficient Wind-force 2X cooling system, 6GB memory, and an AORUS engine, you’ll be blown away by the overall performance. While the GTX 1660 shoots up to 144 FPS on games such as Destiny 2, it may not be compatible with games that need a stronger card.

To Wrap Up

For average computer users, dual graphics cards are not necessary. They only come in handy for those that stand to gain from an optimized 3D performance. But, if you decide to go down this route, then you must also be ready to shell out extra bucks for the appropriate motherboard. Ultimately, the ball is in your court. So, weigh the pros and cons and check out our reviewed products to permit an informed decision.


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Upgrading Graphics Card – The Idiot's Guide to Buying a Graphics Card

There’s always a newer version of powerful apps and software, as well as exciting games, coming out almost yearly. But if your PC’s frame rate is slow, you'll have a less-than-pleasant experience using these high-resolution apps and games. If your screen stutters or if you experience screen lag and sometimes switch to using medium or low graphic settings to keep your PC running, then it is time to upgrade your graphics card.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy a smooth screen experience. And if your PC is giving you a “slideshow” instead of a smooth experience, you don’t have to be a tech wiz to upgrade your graphics card. This guide is written for you if you need to buy or upgrade a graphics card for your PC, but you don’t know a thing about graphic cards.

By the way, many people don’t know a great deal about graphic cards, so you are not alone. By the end of this guide, you will be able to determine precisely what graphics card is best for your PC and also learn the process of actually upgrading graphics card all in three simple steps. Spoiler alert: the process of upgrading a graphics card is not as daunting as it seems!

First things first; let’s go over the very basics of your PC. Don’t worry; we’re not delving into any details that are unnecessary for upgrading graphic cards. When you are familiar with the basic structure of your PC, you’ll discover that you can easily upgrade many components yourself.

Step 1: PC Basics

  • PC Case: This is the aluminum or steel frame that houses the various hardware components of your computer. Depending on the design of your PC case, you can open the case from one or both sides and slide off the side panel or even remove the entire case. You need to open the case to access the different hardware components inside. But before doing so, make sure to shut down your computer and disconnect every cable attached to it.

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  • Components: The components of your computer may not be exactly like the ones you've seen elsewhere, but certain essential components are common to all computers. These are:
      1. Motherboard
      2. RAM modules – Random Access Memory modules
      3. CPU – Central Processing Unit
      4. Graphics Card
      5. Storage Devices – SSD (Solid State Drives) or HDD (Hard Disk Drives)
      6. Cables
      7. Power Supply Unit

Compatibility

Now that you are familiar with the inside of your PC, it is time to know what graphics card is compatible with your system.

Every component inside the PC case is directly or indirectly connected to the motherboard. In most cases, graphics cards are plugged into the motherboard through a PCI-Express slot (you’ll see this mostly written as PCI-e). You should look out for the longest PCI-e slot on the motherboard with connectors popping out at the rear of the PC case. It is an x16 slot. In many cases, that’s where the graphics card goes.

Now go ahead and take a look inside your PC case. Remember to power off before opening the case. Can you locate the PCI-e slot? Check to see if it is a smaller slot meant for an x4 or lesser card. Unless you have a very old PC, it should come with a motherboard equipped with at least one PCI-e slot. Anything less might not give you the smooth gaming experience or higher performance you are looking for.

If you have determined that your motherboard has a compatible slot for a modern graphics card, then go ahead to the next step.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Graphics Card

Choosing a good card now means that you don’t have to upgrade your graphics card for a couple more years to come. But what is the right graphics card for your PC? There’s a bunch of graphics cards out there, and getting into the argument of which is better will do you no good.

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To save you the stress of debating which product is best, simply go through some online reviews of the primary graphics card (AMD and Nvidia). Doing this should help you decide which card to buy. The most important thing to keep in mind is to make sure that the card you are choosing can run your games or programs smoothly. You can also test a card’s performance (benchmark) on many tech websites before making a purchase.

Budget Considerations

Perhaps one of the most important deciding factors in upgrading graphics card is your budget. How much you are willing to spend will determine the type of card you can buy and install. Generally, the higher the cost of the card, the more powerful it is. However, before buying a high-end graphics card, make sure that your processor can handle it. You shouldn’t buy a graphics card simply because you can afford it. For example, if you are looking to buy a graphics card in the range of $500 and above, your PC should have at least an overclocked Core i5 processor or a Core i7 processor.

Keep in mind also that it doesn’t make economic sense for the cost of upgrading your graphics card to be more than the worth of your entire PC. If you run a really old PC, perhaps a full system upgrade would be a better option.

Best Time to Buy

You don’t want to buy a card just before a new GPU launches. That’s about the worst time to purchase a new graphic card. Your best bet would be to make your purchase a short while (usually a few months) after a new GPU launches. This gives enough time for relative stability in stock and availability of the product.

Step 3: Installing

The most challenging part of upgrading your graphics card is deciding which card to buy and how much to spend on it. Now that you've gone past that, here comes the easiest part – the physical installation of the card. But before you plug your new graphics card into the PCI-e slot, get the following handy.

Tools

  • A set of screwdrivers. You’re going to need them for screwing and unscrewing – nothing complex, though. A Philips screwdriver is a great choice, but there’s no reason to split hairs if you don’t have it. Just use any good screwdriver.
  • A brush or vacuum cleaner. You will need them to get rid of dust from inside your PC. Of course, this is optional, but you might as well clean inside your PC since it is likely that you have been using it for several months or years now without cleaning inside.

Dust will certainly accumulate inside your PC after a long time, and not cleaning it can lead to performance issues and other problems. However, be careful not to hit or cause any damage to the components while cleaning and don’t clean it just yet. Simply get a brush or vacuum cleaner handy.

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Uninstall Drivers

It is now time to uninstall the programs (drivers) for your old graphics card. I would recommend using the free version of the Display Driver Uninstaller. Regardless of whether your old card was AMD or Nvidia, the Display Driver Uninstaller will remove the drivers completely. In some cases, using the AMD or Nvidia driver can leave behind some registry settings and files after uninstalling the drivers. But you can go ahead and use any uninstaller of your choice.

Once you are done uninstalling the drivers, shut down your computer and unplug the power cord. If your PC has a manual power switch (usually located at the back of the case), flip that off too. Now place your PC on a large-enough table and remove the case using a screwdriver if necessary. If there’s dust in there, it is time to clean it up.

Old Card Out… New Card In

Besides being plugged into the motherboard, in most cases, your graphics card is also secured with screws at the back of your PC case. Locate and unscrew the screws holding the card in place. Now disconnect the power connectors from the old graphics card.

Can you guess where your new card should go? In the slot where you just removed the old card, of course! Slide the new card into the empty PCI-e slot friendly and easy. Gently press it into the slot until it you hear it click into place. Now secure it with the screw from the old graphics card and then reconnect the 6-pin or 8-pin power connector from the power unit.

Always remember that when you are physically upgrading graphics card (or any other hardware component for that matter), excessive force is not necessary. The components are designed to fit in only one way, so there is no reason to force a piece of computer hardware into place. If it doesn't fit in easily, even when you apply slight pressure, you are probably plugging it the wrong way.

Booting Up

Piece back your PC so you can test your new card. Remember to reconnect all the cables you disconnected earlier and connect your monitor to the new graphics card. It is okay to hold off replacing the side panel of your PC case the first time you piece everything back together. This will save you the stress of having to start all over again to take apart your PC in case something doesn’t go right.

It will also let you see whether or not the fans of the graphics card spin as you power up your PC. Plug in all the peripherals and start your PC. It should start normally and load your operating system. If it doesn't start as it normally would, turn off your PC and make sure all connections are correctly in place.

Install Drivers

Finally, you need to download the latest drivers for your new graphics card. This is not a hard thing to do. Simply visit the website of your card's manufacturer, and you will find a download link for the latest drivers. Usually, the correct drivers for your card will be detected automatically. All you need to do is click install and wait for a few minutes while the drivers do their thing.

There you have it. Upgrading a graphics card is as simple as following these three steps. Now go ahead and load your favorite programs or games and enjoy a smooth experience!


Best Graphics Cards for 2020. Plus How Long Do Graphic Cards Last?

Best Graphics Cards for 2020. Plus How Long Do Graphic Cards Last?

With the cryptocurrency mining rig shortage of 2017 fading into rearview, it’s no longer a blood-letting to purchase a graphics card. The downside of this boom in availability is now you have to make a real decision on what card to slot into your rig.

Adding to this difficulty is the question, “how long do graphics cards last?” Should you ride how a sub-par card for a price drop or upgrade now. Buyers remorse and the grass is always greener hit hard with every decrease you push in quality settings.

Graphic card choice also suffers from what is good enough to what is worth it for the near future. Especially as AMD and Nvidia fight to achieve that coveted real-time ray tracing power.

This guide offers some nuts and bolts advice on how to choose a card and what to look for in performance and longevity. If you want the TLDR, our overall choice for perfomance is the RTX 2080TI.

Jump to Graphics Card Recommendations →

Jump to Graphics Card Life Expectancy →

Breaking Down GPU by Features

One of the easiest mistakes in buying a graphics card is to just grab something because it’s expensive. The idea that high price means high performance has its roots, but it misses the point of every other thing component you put in a gaming rig.

You want components that provide the performance you need, and that work well together. Rig building is every bit as much about nuance and knowledge as souping-up a car. Balance and knowledge are key.

Know what you want in each of these areas to pick up a GPU that will deliver without breaking the rest of your build.

Ray Tracing

Many cards claim to have the ability to perform real-time ray tracing. Outside of the newer RTX cards and the AMD Navi, what you get is upscaled rasterization. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with rasterization for another couple of years as long as the specs let you hit your target quality.

Video Memory Type

The first place to think about longevity, in particular, is with the VRAM. Your GTX 1000 line uses DDR5, the pinch point for that aforementioned mining snafu. The newer RTX cards are looking at GDDR6 or going into the HBM2 realm with Navi and 7nm Vega 2.

The thing to be concerned about is the speed of your processor and how it handles RAM. Running a GTX 2080 through an i5th gen or lower chip will bottleneck your performance severely.

Display Ports

The next most common error in purchasing a top of the line card is not accounting for the display ports. Most new GPU support display input or HDMI. It’s getting harder to find a card with DVI-D and almost nothing covers VGA.

An adapter will at least let you use an older monitor, but you lose a lot of quality in doing so.

Size

The card needs to fit in your case, not break the slot off your board, and not ram into your fans. Measure your case and pay attention to the height and length of any new card to avoid this embarrassing error.

Heat and Noise

Water cooling GPUs is still a newer thing, it saves you some noise but tests are iffy on if it saves you much in the way of centigrade. Blower-style cards have some great temp control but are not the option for an on top of the desk rig.

Remember that coil whine, while annoying, isn’t detrimental to your card and can happen to any card of any manufacture.

Best in Power

 

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

To get the best in 4k ready, UWHD performance for the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 or next evolution in CoD you need a serious card.

This means you are looking to pick up an Nvidia 2080 Super or the RTX 2080 Ti. If you are an AMD fan or are interested to see how well the Radeon RX 5700 XT stacks up, the answer is a bit murky. The next line of AMD CPUs will play nicer with the Radeon cards and are outpacing their Intel counterparts.

If you are pushing for extra power for streaming, consider swapping to a second PC setup with a better capture card to bridge performance gaps.

Best in Price

 

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

For the budget-minded shopper, the GTX 1660 Super ($300 range) and the Radeon RX 590 ($200) will get you to a 1080p experience fast.

For a bit more you can look for the RX 5500 early in 2020 which also upgrades to DDR6 VRAM.

Best for Space

 

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

If you have a micro ATX build that needs a GPU to fit in a small form case, the GTX 1650 comes in a variety of smaller units. Though if you are going really small, the RX 570 has a few manufacturers that come in under 11 by 8.

For a budget card for a small case, the GTX 1050 Ti has a few low-profile options that make for a solid travel machine.

How Long Do Graphics Cards Last?

Obviously, in asking this question you are asking about a full-load and at 8+ hours a day. If you game once a week on Sunday to get to and from church, then you have no business buying your own components, j/k.

The thing is, a card will last you longer than you care for it to last. Even at full load, a GPU has a five-year lifecycle. That’s before the heat starts to get to it and it starts to suffer from decreases in performance. Fans or other cooling may give out sooner, depending on friction and vibrations.

A five-year-old card still functions perfectly well. And you might have fun pulling some old GT750s out of some rig somewhere bought used, but that card isn’t going to run a 3D FPS in 2020.

Sadly, three years is the most you can expect to get out of a card to maintain enough power to run a newer game at even medium settings.

Build Yours

That should do you on an upload of information for selecting your next best GPU for an upgrade or new build. Since the GPU still costs almost half of a solid gaming build budget, asking how long do graphics cards last remains an important question.

For more reviews or information on the builds used by your favorite streamers, check out our knowledge base on the PC specs of top Mixer and top Twitch streamers.