++++ALERT: You are reading an out-of-date version of the guide and wasting your time. Read the PDF for the most accurate up-to-date info.It's best to download the PDF and use a proper PDF reader. Google's formatting of PDFs breaks all of the links. Link to directly download the PDF. I have stopped updating the text in the thread because the forum's limited code makes it far too time-consuming to change images and add text.
Above all else, texture quality should be as high as possible, and with a properly configured gaming PC using the budgets defined in our sample builds, your video card should have no problems contending with high or ultra texture quality in most games. ====Shadows====
This allows you to set the smoothness of the shadows cast by objects in the game. Higher = smoother, and can even be disabled completely for low-end systems. Shadows are notorious for being performance hogs, but this isn’t the case in every game. There’s generally not much of a loss in quality by turning this down a notch, especially in high-resolution displays (or smaller 1080p monitors).
We’ll stop there, but there are quite a few more settings you might find in games. For more details about these settings, I recommend reading the Game Settings Guide over at Reddit (r/buildapc): LINK
Not every game allows you to change these settings individually. In fact, most games don’t, and some will roll all of these settings into a few auto presets from which to choose, such as Low, Medium, High, and Ultra. Ultra setting generally enables mild-to-high anti-aliasing and most other things maxed out. ====///====Choices, Choices====\\\====
As I said earlier, the two big players in the GPU market are AMD and NVIDIA. Here’s a brief rundown of the companies and their current lineup. ====AMD====
Building upon the ATI brand (which AMD bought in 2006 and retired in 2010), AMD has traditionally offered the Radeon series of gaming video cards—specifically, the “Radeon HD” product line. These AMD cards were released with a 4-digit model number. The first digit indicates the generation/chipset used by the card. For example, AMD released its 7000-series cards in late 2011, with the “Southern Islands” chipset. The other digits indicate performance level. For example, the 7900 series outperforms the 7800 series. The 7870 outperforms the 7850. The 7970 outperforms the 7950. And then there’s the 7990, which features dual GPUs. Performing equivalently to two 7970s in crossfire, it’s currently AMD’s fastest video card, and well beyond the sample budget we’re working with. However, a 7990 (or two) would be something to consider for a high-resolution/high frame rate gaming experience.
In September 2013, AMD released its newest line of video cards, and with them came a new naming convention. Instead of a 4-digit model number as described above, the model will start with the letter R, followed by a number. This newest release includes the R7 and R9 series cards. The R7 represent mainstream, lower performing video cards, while the R9 series include the high-end video cards. The R# naming scheme is followed by three more numbers, which indicate performance similarly—higher is better. In order of performance (worst to best), the new cards are the R7-240, R7-250, R7-260X, R9-270X, R9-280X, and R9-290X.
Honestly, we should only be interested in the R9 cards if we’re building a PC whose primary goal is gaming performance. It should also be noted that the only truly “new” card of this list is the R9-290X, which is based on the “Volcanic Islands” architecture. The rest of the cards are updated, optimized versions of existing architecture found on the 7000 series cards. Given that, the 7000 series cards are quickly disappearing from the market as vendors sell out their stock. However, it’s not out of the question to find a good deal on a used 7970, which will perform about the same as its beefed-up twin brother, the R9-280X. ====NVIDIA====
Competing directly with AMD’s Radeon HD is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX series. NVIDIA’s model numbers define GPU performance in a manner similar to AMD, but use three digits instead of four. The first digit indicates the generation/chipset. In late spring 2013, NVIDIA released its 700 series, with a refresh of the “Kepler” architecture. The cards include a 760, 770, and 780. As I’m sure you guessed, the 780 is the most powerful of the three. In addition to the 700 series, NVIDIA offers another single-GPU card known as the GTX Titan, a $1,000 card that currently outperforms all single-GPU cards on the market, except for the $550 AMD R9-290X, which actually trades blows with the Titan pretty well. ====How to Make the Decision====
There are several ways to choose between NVIDIA and AMD: >
You can ask some people on a forum, and start a debate. One side will grow tired of the argument, the other will claim victory, and you’ll have your decision. >
You can look at benchmarks all over the Internet and see which one comes out ahead most often between two cards at similar price points. >
You can see which company is offering the best free game bundle. >
You can make a list of all the games you play and Google “AMD vs. NVIDIA [insert game title]” for all of them. >
You can look at the marketing jargon that each brand uses for their product features and decide which ones have better names. >
You can pick whatever brand you’ve heard about the most.
A lot of those above options sound silly, but people make decisions based on those criteria every day without regret. As long as you buy a video card capable of achieving acceptable performance on your display of choice with reasonable settings, there are very few scenarios where you’ll truly regret your purchase. Regardless of the brand you choose, there will be someone to say, “You should’ve gone with [brand].”
The chart below aligns NVIDIA 700 series cards with equivalent performing AMD cards and describes the general performance level to expect. This chart is based on gaming performance only, and does not take into account power consumption, heat, or noise, which vary widely across models. I’ve stuck to the basic card model numbers, but it should be noted that it’s always advisable to look for factory overclocked versions of any of the below mentioned cards, especially if they have good coolers, but only if the price is close enough to stock-clocked models (e.g., only 20% more, $30 more, etc. Use your best judgment). For the moment, this chart will include both the AMD 7000 series models and the newest R9 series models, until the 7000 series cards become obsolete or too difficult to find. Image: http://img607.imageshack.us/img607/4214/xv6a.jpg width=600
This post was edited on 3/20 at 3:34 pm