Up For Debate - Are High-End AIB Graphics Cards a Rip-Off?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Mar 31, 2019 3:54 PM

I’ve been adding a lot of AIB graphics cards to GD lately. Hundreds, in fact. And through the foggy haze of data entry, one thing stuck out to me - who the heck is buying the premium tier graphics cards in each GPU family?

First things first, there’s the issue with just how many variants of any given graphics card there is. MSI is a particularly egregious offender in this regard, with no fewer than 13 different GeForce RTX 2070 graphics cards, for example, and a dozen each of the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080. In total, MSI has 45 RTX 20 graphics cards split across a range of just four distinct GPUs. That’s a lot for any customer to wrap their head around, but for MSI the motivations are pretty clear.

Shelf space is everything, even in the digital world. The more distinct graphics cards MSI pumps out, the more slots it occupies in Newegg and Amazon searches; the more reviews it can earn, and the more choice it can offer potential customers. What we end up with is 13 different MSI RTX 2070’s, each a little different from the last. Some you’ll have to squint to see the differences, while others will be bolting on water blocks and enough RGB lighting to make Santa’s grotto look like a dingy basement.

Crucially, however, it means MSI can cover each and every price point. Not to pick on MSI specifically here but, as an example, the cheapest MSI RTX 2080 according to Newegg is $699 for the MSI RTX 2080 Ventus, rising to $1799 for the MSI RTX 2080 Sea Hawk EK X. Even discounting this outlier, the second most expensive is the MSI RTX 2080 Sea Hawk X at $945. That's $250 more expensive than another model of the same GPU.

MSI can cover the entire spread of RTX 2080 price points with this tactic, tempting you ever higher, and higher, right on up to the heavens. The smaller the pricing gap between each tier, the more inclined people will be to take the next jump up. It’s a proven trick that absolutely works; we all want the best we can get.

What this boils down to then, is that across pretty much every range of graphics card you can name, whether that’s AMD Radeon or Nvidia GeForce, there are AIB partner variants that spill over the next tier of pricing as they seek to fill all pricing gaps.

You'll find custom Radeon RX 470's, for example, that costs more than a Radeon RX 480. These can’t just be manufactured to sit on store shelves and gather dust, their only purpose to make the other variants appear better value. Or can they?

Coming back to Nvidia RTX for a moment, let’s break down roughly what it all means in terms of performance and pricing when you decide to opt for an enhanced version of a graphics card.

Here we’ve got a couple of charts. The first chart compares the cheapest and most expensive prices for each of the four GeForce RTX 20 GPUs.

As you can see, there’s plenty of overlap between the most expensive graphics card in a series and cheapest graphics card in the next series up.

In this next chart, we see the performance of the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, and RTX 2070, relative to the RTX 2060 Founders Edition. There are a lot of variables at play here so this obviously isn’t an exact science, but this provides some indication of the actual real-world performance difference.

What this tells us is that users buying high-end third-party graphics cards are spending exponentially more and yet getting comparatively little performance gain in return. In the case of the RTX 2080 Ti, the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Triple Fan 11GB actually ships with slower clock speeds than Nvidia’s Founders Edition, with a $365 surcharge.

Of course, this is all taking into account the two extremes - cheapest and dearest. There are plenty that sit somewhere in the middle and so can better stake a claim to value for money.

What all of this fails to take into account are the numerous other benefits and goodies that AIB partners can bolt onto graphics cards. This includes liquid cooling systems, additional fans, RGB lighting, overclocking facilities, monitoring tools, snazzy shrouds, better grade heat pipes, etc, etc. These are all things that can contribute to a faster graphics card, and can also potentially enable better overclocking. But, at what stage is all this overclocking pointless when you could just buy a graphics card from the next tier up, and run it at stock clocks with zero fuss?

I'm interested to know what your thoughts on this are though, and whether you think it's absolutely worth it pay up the extra cash for premium models, or if you think a standard graphics card will do the job just fine.

Get voting in the polls and let us know why below!

Would you rather buy a top-end x60 or a low-end x70 GPU?

Do you normally buy the premium factory overclock AIB GPU models?

Login or Register to join the debate

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20:08 Apr-02-2019

With my current mobo i have to go for 2 slot cards, but that is a mistake by me. Cause when i ordered it i didnt realise it was micro atx, but decided to stick with it nevertheless.
So as for 2 slot wide only (cause of dedicated sound card need a pci-e x1) i go for the best bang for the buck, which was in this case my current gpu. &#60&#60&#60

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20:09 Apr-02-2019



wouldve gone for an evga variant, but they required a longer delivery time, so gone for this gigabyte instead.
This is infact the second of this 2070 i ahve installed, cause the first one was a faulty batch, so had it replaced. This one is working flawlessly atm :)




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02:11 Apr-02-2019

I am a bit of a ASUS strix fanboy when it comes to GPU's so that's what I usually go for.

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07:37 Apr-02-2019

Best cooling solution, silent, very good overclocking potential, rgb, nice protective backplate... That's the way fam

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13:27 Apr-02-2019

Just bought my first ASUS strix...can't wait to receive it :D

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01:35 Apr-02-2019

Well i guess im a sucker i just bought an ASUS ROG 1070ti STRIX advanced edition. Don't know what it all means but she's purdy

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14:43 Apr-02-2019

Yeah I mean tbf the price varies a lot, some aren't particularly expensive compared to the standard models so it's not too bad but some of the extreme models are right up there with the next series up

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23:09 Apr-01-2019

I just go for the best bang for buck and a 2 slot card. Also just a heads up you still need to add all the Vega 56 AIB cards as all you have is the reference models.

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09:39 Apr-01-2019

The funniest thing is the MSI Duke vs Gaming X Trio. I have the Trio, but the 2 cards are essentially the same, but the Trio has RGB where the Duke has not. On paper the Trio has a bit more OC than the Duke, but reviews already showed it's a cointoss for each individual card which is better.

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07:23 Apr-01-2019

I go for the mid range. I go for 3 fan cooling solutions and look at the boost speeds. Frankly, I don't know where else to look aside those two.

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12:34 Apr-01-2019

You'd better be looking at cooling and vrms. If you can get a card with an extra 6 pin slot and efficient cooling it means you can get high clocks by just turning on the maximum power draw and raising clock speed, you will be getting way faster boost speeds than a factory overclocked one with standard coolers (for example asus dual)

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12:45 Apr-01-2019

Fair enough, but I don't overclock the GPU, or CPU, or anything.

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06:06 Apr-01-2019

I would usually get the best tier I can afford.


Noise is also a factor and heat, the lower end versions, typically, are warmer and louder.


So it's: Price vs Performance vs Emissions

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03:45 Apr-01-2019

LOL I SAID I BUY THE CHEAPEST BUT MY GTX 1080 IS IN A LAPTOP AND ALMOST DOUBLE THE PRICE OF A DESKTOP GPU

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02:58 Apr-01-2019

II would say to an extent. The premium usually does go towards better cooler, meaning lower temperatures and lower noise on stock. It can also go towards binning better chip. Though not all of that is guaranteed... Generally speaking, more expensive cards are usually targeted towards overclocking and maxing the limit.

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03:00 Apr-01-2019

But in terms of general use, low end of higher model will always outperform higher end of lower model, despite all the overclocking potential. So if you are between expensive 2060 and cheap 2070, of course go for latter, there is no point in 2060, 2070 will perform better.

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03:01 Apr-01-2019

However, do your research, sometimes cheapest models are very crappy. I had RX480 Red Dragon from PowerColor, very cheap RX480 8GB. And it rand hot, cooler was loud. Only thing it improved from reference was throttling, since it didn't throttle. But I didn't like it and I sold it to miner to get 1070.

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03:03 Apr-01-2019

But as mentioned, overspending is not worth it, that is why I say do your research. Like with 2060, one of most expensive is Asus three fan version. Great card, silent,... But you could also buy Gigabyte 3 fan model, it gets you like 80% there for a lot less premium. At least it used to, if it didn't change.

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03:05 Apr-01-2019

But personally, I avoid one fan version, unless it is low end, those tend to get noisy due to higher RPM. Two fan is sufficient for midrange. I am ok with spending bit more, as long as it is not a lot and as long as I am not getting close to next model. Then I might as well get more powerful model.

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03:06 Apr-01-2019

Like with 1660Ti, at 280USD MSRP it makes sense. Up to 300USD it is fine. But if you go to like 320USD, you might be better off just adding another 30USD and getting 2060. It might overclock or boost worse, but overall it will just perform better.

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03:08 Apr-01-2019

So in short, do your research, don't bother overpaying much over MSRP, if you won't overclock and just want to use it. If you will, then you probably already know what you want/need. Which will likely be card with better VRM, cooler, binning and potentially higher limit for that extra premium.

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22:37 Mar-31-2019

That's why you should launch a bunch of brand new websites. Here are some suggestions:


1) Game Debate 2GB-mini
2) GD-RGB
3) GD-Dual Fun
4) GD 4.9GHz
5) GD-DR6

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06:11 Apr-01-2019

GD-SeaHawk-OC

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21:24 Apr-07-2019

GD-DR6 = Creativity over 9000

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21:23 Mar-31-2019

I think pretty much all component prices are a rip-off at the moment. So much so that upgrading for me is cost prohibitive. Eg. Looking back to last gen NVIDIA GPUs the prices have almost doubled. CPUs are pretty much the same.

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21:27 Mar-31-2019

The high prices of the rtx 2000 series is due to them having huge dies.
On the other hand the gtx 1660ti is a more expensive to Nvidia GPU than the gtx 1080 ever was(outside the mining craze), while the gtx 1660ti has an MSRP 0f 289$ and the gtx 1080 in 2016 had a MSRP of 700$(743$ in 2019), so GPUs have gotten cheaper and keep in mind that Turing just tweaked Pascal, and that "12nm" is just improved "16nm" and none of them are either 12 nor 16 nm, so yeah...


Current gen Nvidia GPUs are sold at much lower profit margins than last gen Nvidia GPUs, thus they are far less overpriced.

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03:01 Apr-01-2019

Expense to produce doesn't represent value to the end user though....... Nvidia hasn't really offered value since the Maxwell series, which compared with either Pascal or Turing was just an insanely good value, it offered a great performance boost over Kepler, and instead of jacking the price up, the prices were actually LOWERED..... why can't we get some more of that from both Nvidia and AMD..... Why do we have to rely on the hope that Intel shakes things up in the GPU market?

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06:31 Apr-01-2019

when I say expensive to Nvidia that includes R&D(R&D includes salaries, costs of running their labs, bills, taxes, etc, etc, basically every cost that is not production) and production costs.


And Maxwell was cheaper than Kepler, because the die sizes went down due to them having smaller bus widths, reducing the FP16 to Fp32 core ratio and Fp64 to Fp32 core ratio even further. Along with optimizing the pipeline and getting better delta color compression all of which resulted in even smaller die sizes. On top of that, they used 3rd generation 28nm which was more efficient and faster(higher clock speeds) than previous generations, but a bit more expensive(that was before they started adding "+" or calling it a smaller node just because it's faster, example "16nm" -> "12nm").

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06:35 Apr-01-2019

Gtx 980 -- 398mm^2 die size -- 550$ MSRP at launch, gtx 780 -- 561mm^2 die size -- 650$ at launch. And die size costs don't scale linearly. There are wafer simulators online if you want to see for yourself, TSMC uses 300mm diameter wafers and has for years.


So even if we look at it linearly, which would be wrong, but would put the gtx 980 in the best case scenario, the gtx 980 is 40% smaller than the gtx 780, while costing 18% less than the gtx 780, thus Maxwell is 22% more overpriced than Kepler.

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06:37 Apr-01-2019

And you wonder why they make more expensive and more overpriced GPUs? Because people buy them... if people boycotted them the moment the gtx 680 costed 500$ MSRP instead of 200-250$ MSRP and not bought their products they wouldn't be in their current position. Same with the gtx 980 and especially gtx 1080... that freaking crap was sold at over twice it's costs to Nvidia per volume... thus their profit margins were in the triple digits percentage-wise...

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08:43 Apr-01-2019

Uggggg.... see, that's why we'll never agree on this...... you look at it from an expense to manufacturer perspective, and I look at it from a price/performance perspective....... A carpenter can go out and gather the most expensive wood and build a chair with it, and it can be complete crap, another carpenter can build a chair from cheaper wood and have it turn out to be a masterpiece, both chairs are priced the same..... which is the better value to the customer?

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08:47 Apr-01-2019

I submit that the cheaper to produce chair is the better value to the customer, because for the same price as the crappy chair made from the fancy wood, the customer gets a chair he can actually sit in, and actually likes.

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08:52 Apr-01-2019

And I still argue that Maxwell is by far the best thing Nvidia have done in a long long time, and that pascal and turing don't even come close, because even if Maxwell was cheaper for them to produce, when it came to performance to dollar, it was unmatched..... and this is especially true of the GTX 970 on down.... the 980 and 980 TI seemed like far less of a great deal.... but still better than previous

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08:58 Apr-01-2019

Their value was umatchee, because miners had bought all AMD gpus in 2014, but still. When the r9 300 series came out(refreshed and binned r9 200 series) they beat them in value on every tier level except the top-end.


And value to the user should always take into account the value to the manufacturer otherwise we end up with Pascal and touring and Kepler gen1 prices...

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09:22 Apr-01-2019

I mean relative to Nvidia, and yes you could argue in some respects the AMD cards were a better value, but their pricing was more reactionary to the bar Nvidia had already set...... but that's a whole other can of worms.
It's like this.
The GTX 970 gave you the performance of a $699 780 TI for $329
Fast forward to today where the RTX 2070 gives you the performance of a $499 GTX 1080 for...... THE SAME PRICE!
And tell me again how Turing is so great because it's on a bigger die?

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13:29 Apr-01-2019

As I've said countless wait for 7nm GPUs, this is NOT new technology, nor a new architecture, Turing is Pascal with support for GDDR6 and support for RT and Tensor cores. "12nm" is no smaller than "16nm", just 8-12% faster per watt. You can't expect much better value from the same things, but slightly improved.


Now Nvidia has stated that turing has higher IPC, which is probably in some specific tasks, but there are no details what exactly they've improved and yet to be seen in which tasks.


Also comparing RTX cards to GTX cards is pointless, RTX cards have features that the GTX GPUs don't, even though they are currently not very useful at all, but still.


So the bottom line is, neither RTX 2000 series no GTX 1600 series are next gen, they are just rebranded, re-Speced semi-refreshes

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13:31 Apr-01-2019

Now let's take the gtx 1660ti which has a 289mm^2 die and 289$ MSRP, the gtx 1070 was 440$ MSRP at a cut 314mm^2 die size in 2016(470$ adjusted to inflation for 2019) and is only 0-5% slower, so you do get better value, but the thing is, the gtx 1070 was just overpriced to oblivion, nothing else.
The gtx 1070 in 2016 should have costed as much as a gtx 1660 does now(220$).

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20:49 Mar-31-2019

Both Nvidia and AMD tend to bin the best chips for their founders/reference cards, so there really isn't much a point in buying high-end AIB..... if you're interested in the best clocks, just get the reference card and custom cool it.

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09:04 Apr-01-2019

Not true at all, the best binned cards go in the more expensive models, best example is EVGA and all their models. The most expensive EVGA models of gpus have a binning asic score of 93% and above and they have selectively chosen them for those models

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20:27 Mar-31-2019

Often times, if you are hardcore, overclocking they are worth it, sometimes they are more expensive just for them to make more money, but when they actually have a custom PCB with amazing VRMs and components and you are overclocking on water for sure. I personally don't care for them, so I'd go with a normal higher tier GPU of the same price than with an expensive lower tier high quality or just more expensive one.

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20:19 Mar-31-2019

I always go for at least dual fan open shroud style, with more power draw than a reference one, cause you can squeeze out a good 10/15% more performance out of them keeping temps low and without excessive loudness. Also they last longer in my experience, and a backplate is always welcome for i mount and unmount them often an possibly damage the circuits. Also they got rgb

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18:57 Mar-31-2019

We can always nitpick what other people like to waste money on. Just be happy that the more other people like to spend, the bigger your potential income in this world is.


I'm a simple and frugal person. If everyone was like me, world gdp would only be 10% what it currently is and more than half its industry wouldnt exist :)

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18:35 Mar-31-2019

I just go for the highest clockspeeds for a reasonable price. My 960 was the best at 218 euro, the 3x windforce was 250 euro. I also check for reviews on overclocks, see what others gained more from them, although, my custom bios beats all of them.

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16:50 Mar-31-2019

High end models are useless imo compared to their prices, you only buy it if you want to waste your money.

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16:36 Mar-31-2019

Here the rog strix 1060 models still cost around the same as the cheapest rtx2060
Or most highend fancylogo rgb bs 1060s are still being sold at 1660Ti costs...

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16:39 Mar-31-2019

some evga gtx1070 models are still more expensive than a lower end rtx2070

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16:46 Mar-31-2019

eg.: 14 shops sell the EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 FTW2 GAMING iCX 8GB GDDR5 for an avarge 694$ price, which is more expensive than most of the rtx2070 models...

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16:48 Mar-31-2019

I wonder what is it exatly that this EVGA model does to justify the around 40% price premium over the other gtx1070 models?

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21:51 Mar-31-2019

Mine did overclock very well, I got it to 2114 if I remember right, and temps never went over 65, but I only paid $400 for it.

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16:20 Mar-31-2019

Just dont buy a blower style cooler gpu and overclock the gpu and get the same performance. Why should i pay a premium for a fancy cooler and a factory overclock. They are all the same gpu as long as the cooler isnt complete garbage its all down to the silicon lottery.

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16:19 Mar-31-2019

I couldn't image paying for a high-end model that is more expensive than the next level up card.

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18:36 Mar-31-2019

Yeah, back when I bought mine, the most expensive 960 was a 250 euro windforce. The 970 still retailed at 350+

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Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Athlon II X2 245 GeForce GTS 250 4GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
| 60FPS, High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
| High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 720p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 10GB
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i3-8100 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1060 3GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 32GB
100% Yes [5 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i5-10400F 6-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti MSI Ventus 2X 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [6 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i7-10700F 8-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 970 Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB Edition 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-11400F 6-Core 2.6GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Xeon E3-1230 GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-3470 3.2GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB 12GB
66.6667% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Core i3-10100E 4-Core 3.20GHz GeForce GTX 750 Ti Asus OC 2GB Edition 16GB