If you’ve ever shopped for a graphics card, and I’m presuming most of you have, you’ve probably ran into the wall of choices. And I’m just talking about whether to go GeForce or Radeon, or whether to pick up at an RX 460 or RX 470. No, I’m talking about the dozens upon dozens of variants of each and every individual graphics card, each with minute changes from one to another. Suddenly your bombarded by talk of TwinFrozr, copper heat pipes, chassis, and boost clocks. It’s confusing enough for us, but imagine what it’s like for complete newcomers to PC gaming.
Now, the end result of which graphics card you buy might not actually be all that important in the grand scheme of things. One might be a few percentage points faster than another. Or another may run totally silent. At the end of the day though, you’re getting a very slight variant of a single graphics card.
Let’s just pull out an example of how ridiculous it can get though. Take AMD’s Radeon RX 480. A great, popular card, sure. AMD add-in board partner XFX makes its own versions of the Radeon RX 480, including both the 8GB and 4GB models. The total number of RX 480 graphics available from XFX? 11. Seven 8GB variants and four 4GB versions. That’s a lot to take in and then to understand and know which is the best buy for you. As far as I can tell some models just come with slightly different coloured fans. Others have got some decent factory overclocks. At the end of the day though, they’re all just Radeon RX 480s.
So with all these minor changes between the graphics cards, you’d think it would be a simple case of picking the best one. But it’s not, as it turns out. Some promise markedly better performance, for a pretty hefty markup in price. Let’s take a look at MSI. To my knowledge they have four different GTX 1070’s. The cheapest is the Aero, which carries an MSRP of $419, while the most expensive is the Sea Hawk X, which will set you back $549. That’s over $130 more for what is the same core graphics card. By the time you get to the top end you’re really not far off a $600 GTX 1080. How is the average consumer expected to know which is the better buy.
So my question to you is - are there just too many variations of graphics cards to choose from? Or is a cause of the more choice the better? What do you look out for when buying yours?