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Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You?

Dann Albright 30-01-2017

If you’re thinking about buying a graphics card 5 Things You Have to Know Before Buying a Graphics Card Here are five key points to keep in mind before you buy your next graphics card, otherwise you may regret your purchase. Read More , there’s a good chance you’ll buy from Nvidia. These cards have a strong hold on the market because of their phenomenal performance and excellent prices. But which one should you buy? What’s the difference between GeForce and Quadro? How much of a performance boost will you see going from a GTX 1070 to a 1080? What’s Pascal?


When you’re done reading this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of the different Nvidia graphics cards. And if you’re looking to build or upgrade your PC you’ll know which one to buy.

GeForce vs. Quadro vs. Tesla

Unless you work professionally with graphics or rendering, you might not even know that Nvidia has multiple sets of cards. The GeForce cards are classified as gaming graphics cards, while the Quadros and Teslas form the lesser known “workstation” line. What’s the difference between these lines of cards? Both price and gaming performance. The workstation graphics cards are very expensive because they’re optimized for professional-level graphics. The GeForce line comes optimized for gaming.

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia quadro graphics cards

If you want to get into the different technical specifications, there are a few differences. For example, the Quadro P5000, the second-highest in the lineup, packs 16 GB of memory and a bandwidth of up to 288 Gb/s What Is High Bandwidth Memory, and Do You Really Need It? What is High Bandwidth Memory? What problems will it fix, and do we really need it? Read More . The GeForce GTX 1080, also the second-highest in its lineup, has 8 GB of memory and a bandwidth of 10 Gb/s. Reading that, you might expect the Quadro to dominate in gaming. But you’d be wrong: benchmarks show that the GeForce outperforms it. Why? It likely comes down to driver optimizations. The GTX 1080 focuses on gaming so it can do a lot more with lower specs.

Of course, you can game on a Quadro or a Tesla. But you’re likely to get slightly lower performance at a significantly higher cost. The Quadro P5000 costs $2,500 on Newegg, whereas you can probably get a GTX 1080 for around 600 bucks. The situation with Tesla is similar.


The short version: Unless you’re a video producer How to Learn Video Production for Free Online Want to learn how to edit and produce videos? The Internet has a wealth of free information and here are some of the better resources to get you started! Read More , medical imager, 3D renderer, or high-level virtual reality designer, you want GeForce. But which one?

The majority of GeForce cards that Nvidia offers are in the GTX series, but there are also GT cards and some with no prefixes before their model numbers:

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia geforce lineup

There’s also the Nvidia Titan X card, which isn’t branded as GeForce at all. The lineup is simple. From top to bottom, it goes Titan, GTX, GT, and no-prefix cards. The Titan can run up to over $2,000 with non-reference hardware. On the other hand, you can grab a lower-level GTX card for just over $200.


The short version: If you’re gaming on a desktop, you want a Titan or GTX card.

Nvidia’s Proprietary Technologies

When looking at different Nvidia graphics cards, you’re going to come across a lot of different terms. Some of them are standard for graphics cards, but some of them are unique to Nvidia. Here are a few key terms that you’ll probably want to know when you’re shopping around.

Pascal Architecture

The microarchitecture of a GPU determines how the different components work together to process information. It includes things like buses, caches, buffers, instruction queues, decoders, and all of their connections. Nvidia’s latest architecture, named Pascal, has been touted as the most advanced in gaming. This is, of course, marketing speak.

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia pascal architecture


However, when Nvidia comes out with a new architecture, it consistently shows increased performance with a lower power cost. Pascal, they say, packs up to three times more performance than previous-generation cards. That means your games look better without your card generating as much heat or drawing as much power.

PhysX, ShadowWorks, and HairWorks

All three of these technologies use Nvidia’s hardware to improve upon a particular area of gaming graphics. PhysX adds some very impressive lifelike physics animation to games. In the video below, you can see how Call of Duty gains interactive smoke and more realistic fur animations:

ShadowWorks and HairWorks, as you might expect, improve the graphical representation of shadows and hair/fur. Here’s a comparison of some Far Cry 4 animals with and without HairWorks:

Some games include support for these technologies, so if you’re looking at playing a particular title, you may want to make sure the card you’re thinking about buying supports this tech.



Much like PhysX, ShadowWorks, and HairWorks function with specific games, G-SYNC works with specific monitors. Put simply, G-SYNC makes sure your graphics card and monitor are working well together. It smooths out gameplay and reduces the likelihood of screen tearing 5 Common PC Gaming Problems (And How to Fix Them) Here are the most common PC gaming problems you'll encounter, what causes them, and how to fix them. Read More at refresh rates What Is Refresh Rate? Read More of up to 240 Hz. In short, if you have a G-SYNC-compatible monitor, it’ll improve the visuals of your gaming.


The Scalable Link Interface (SLI) is a propriety Nvidia technology. It lets you use up to four different GPUs in tandem. SLI with two beefy graphics cards can play the newest games on the highest settings. You’ll need an SLI-compatible motherboard to make this work, and it’s not cheap to buy two cards. However, knowing that you can upgrade instead of purchasing a new card is something to keep in mind.

GeForce Experience

This piece of software helps optimize your graphics card’s performance. New drivers are released to ensure that your card is ready to play the latest games as soon as they come out. Your system is analyzed, and game settings Video Game Graphics and Settings Explained What do video game graphics settings like texture quality and anti-aliasing mean? Here's everything explained and how they affect you. Read More are customized to make sure you get the best performance. You can share clips and highlights directly to social media. And you can stream your PC games to your Nvidia Shield portable console.

Which Nvidia Graphics Card Should You Buy?

It’s obvious that if you want the absolute best in gaming, and can pay for it, you should buy the Titan X. It beats everything on the market (at least until AMD’s Vega arrives). But what if you can’t drop $1,500 on a graphics card and you’re looking to make the most of your money? Here’s how the GeForce GTX 10-series cards break down.

A couple notes: prices will vary depending on the manufacturer (we’ll discuss that in a moment), but we’ve tried to give you an average price. You could pay up to $100 more or less than the price listed here for an expensive card. The benchmarks reported are from and are derived from thousands of users using their service to benchmark their own hardware, so keep those things in mind.

GeForce GTX 1080

ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix Graphics Card (STRIX-GTX1080-A8G-GAMING) ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix Graphics Card (STRIX-GTX1080-A8G-GAMING) Buy Now On Amazon $710.00

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia geforce gtx 1080

The flagship model of the GTX series packs crazy-fast GDDR5X RAM and blazing memory speed. That results in a phenomenal performance benchmark for less than half the price tag of the Titan X, giving you a fantastic option for no-compromise gaming.

  • 8 GB GDDR5X RAM.
  • 10 Gb/s memory speed.
  • 1733 MHz boost clock.
  • Benchmark performance: 92% of Titan X.

GeForce GTX 1070

Gigabyte GV-N1070G1 GAMING-8GD REV2.0 GeForce GTX 1070 G1 Computer Graphics Card Gigabyte GV-N1070G1 GAMING-8GD REV2.0 GeForce GTX 1070 G1 Computer Graphics Card Buy Now On Amazon $473.00

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia geforce gtx 1070

The GTX 1070 is a big step down in price from the 1080, but the difference in performance is likely to be negligible for all but the most intensive gaming. GDDR5 RAM is still super fast, and the memory speed is remarkably high. But the price tag is much more manageable.

  • 8 GB GDDR5 RAM.
  • 8 Gb/s memory speed.
  • 1683 MHz clock speed.
  • Benchmark performance: 92% of GTX 1080, 85% of Titan X.

GeForce GTX 1060

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 WINDFORCE OC 6G (GV-N1060WF2OC-6GD) Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 WINDFORCE OC 6G (GV-N1060WF2OC-6GD) Buy Now On Amazon $244.99

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia geforce gtx 1060

This is the card that brings Nvidia’s GeForce line into the more reasonable price range. With very respectable specs and a non-wallet-busting price tag, this is going to appeal to a very wide range of people. Even though it’s more affordable, it’ll still run today’s newest games.

  • 6 GB GDDR5 RAM.
  • 8 Gb/s memory speed.
  • 1708 MHz boost clock.
  • Benchmark performance: 80% of GTX 1070, 68% of Titan X.

GeForce GTX 1050Ti

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini, 4GB GDDR5 DisplayPort 128-bit Gaming Graphic Card (ZT-P10510A-10L) ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini, 4GB GDDR5 DisplayPort 128-bit Gaming Graphic Card (ZT-P10510A-10L) Buy Now On Amazon $499.77

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia evga geforce 1050ti

Note that the image above is the GTX 1050Ti produced by EVGA as Nvidia didn’t make an own-brand version.

If you’re building a gaming rig on a tight budget, the GTX 1050Ti should be near the top of your list. It’s a jump down from the 1060 in RAM and speed, but for the price, it’s a solid card. There’s just not much else you’re going to get for this much money that will come close. In fact, it has one of the highest performance-to-price ratios on

  • 4 GB GDDR5 RAM.
  • 7 Gb/s memory speed.
  • 1392 MHz boost clock.
  • Benchmark performance: 67% of GTX 1060, 46% of Titan X.

GeForce GTX 1050

EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 SC Gaming, 2GB GDDR5, DX12 OSD Support (PXOC) Graphics Card 02G-P4-6152-KR EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 SC Gaming, 2GB GDDR5, DX12 OSD Support (PXOC) Graphics Card 02G-P4-6152-KR Buy Now On Amazon

Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? nvidia evga geforce gtx 1050

Note that because there’s no Nvidia-branded version, the image above is EVGA’s card.

To save a bit more cash, you can go with the non-Ti version of the GTX 1050.The performance-to-price ratio is higher than the Ti version. You even get a slightly higher boost clock speed. Even though it only has 2 GB of RAM, it’s GDDR5, and will likely support some moderate weight lifting.

  • 2 GB GDDR5 RAM.
  • 7 Gb/s memory speed.
  • 1455 MHz boost clock.
  • Benchmark performance: 88% of GTX 1050Ti, 40% of Titan X.

Making the Right Choice

If you’ve already started budgeting out your gaming build or graphic card upgrade, you’ll probably already know which card is in your range. If you’re not sure how much to spend, though, check out the recommended system requirements of the games you want to play.

That’ll give you an idea of how much you should spend to get the best performance out of your system. If you’re looking for the most performance for the least money, the GTX 1050 is your card: it has the highest performance-to-price ratio of any 10-series card. And if you can spend a bit more than that, the GTX 1060 is a solid bet for all-around performance.

Non-Reference Nvidia Graphics Cards

While Nvidia does produce a few stock version of its cards, other companies handle most of its production. You’re likely to get a better price and even more improved performance from one of these third parties. EVGA, MSI, Zotac, ASUS, Gigabyte, PNY, and other companies modify the cards and sell them with different fan configurations, built-in overclocking How to Safely Overclock Your GPU to Gain FPS Overclocking can make your PC perform at clock speeds one generation above its release. If done right, it's safe and easy. We'll show you how to get a GPU performance boost for free. Read More , various clock speeds, and other minor changes. For the most part, they aren’t going to make a huge difference. Find the card you want, then find a vendor that provides a reliable cooling system for a good price, and go with that one.

You can compare specific clock speeds and cooling systems, but beware: you can go down an endless black hole of people arguing over which non-reference cards are better. Unless you need absolutely world-beating performance, it’s not worth your time.

Everything You Need to Choose

Now that you understand why you should stick with GeForce cards, the particular technologies they come with, and the difference between the various options, you should be able to pick the right Nvidia graphics card for your needs. Whether you’re building up a new PC or upgrading an old one, you can’t go wrong with Nvidia. So look at some options, make a purchase, and get to it!

Which factors are important to you in selecting a graphics card? Where do you think Nvidia excels or lags behind AMD? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image Credit: Hadrian via

Related topics: Buying Tips, Graphics Card, PC.

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  1. Chris
    January 30, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    For people who will go to the comment section to see other opinions. Nvidia is not the only way to go. No the prices are not great, in fact they are very high. No they don't out perform in every segment. On the very high end which a small fraction of people will buy yes there is nothing better. But in the low to mid range AMD cards have actually all overtaken the Nvidia cards they we're up against. Rx 470 vs 1050ti. Rx580 vs 1060. Rx 590 vs 1060 6GB. Even up to Vega 56 and 64 beating out 1080 and 1070. The 2000 series of Nvidia has put out has astronomical prices and only should be considered if you want a single feature that is in literally 2 games and a few tech demos. We haven't even talked about Radeon prefessional series graphics which are cheaper and just as good if not better in some cases. Most times I don't comment and I'm sure the author will say he wasn't trying to do a comparison article because he thinks Nvidia is what everyone has already decided on. If you keep down this road and don't even consider other options the crazy price hikes that Nvidia is doing will only continue. Never look at one brand and mistrust anyone who won't at least tell you the other options.

  2. Nick C
    January 31, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    This article seems very vague on the merits of Nvidia vs AMD. I feel mentioning performance per watt and VR advantage (and, conversely, DX 12/Vulkan and compute disadvantage) would make your dismissal of AMD a little more understandable.

    Mentioning the RX 470 and pointing out the difference between the 1060 variants would help, as would a summary of power requirements/PSU information since that can play a big part in these choices.

    • Dann Albright
      February 6, 2017 at 6:16 pm

      Well, as you can probably tell by the title, it's not about Nvidia vs. AMD. It's about which Nvidia card is best, so it's mostly for people who have already decided on Nvidia. And because Nvidia cards are significantly more common than AMD, I thought it made sense to stick with a single brand.

      • Nick C
        February 6, 2017 at 10:48 pm

        The title is pretty clear. My apologies.

        The part that prompted the AMD part of my response was in the last section, "Now that you understand why you should stick with GeForce cards[...]" I'm assuming this is reference to nVidia GeForce vs AMD Radeon, though my apologies if it is nVidia GeForce vs nVidia non-GeForce [read: Titan], although that would probably warrant a little more explanation.

        This is an informative read, but with this level of detail, not mentioning the 1060 variants seems potentially buyers' remorse inducing. Again, some mention of PSU requirements would convolute the article a little, but people considering this range of graphics cards will need to brave those waters.

        • Dann Albright
          February 11, 2017 at 2:40 pm

          Ah, I see what you mean. To be honest, I was thinking more about the AMD cards when I wrote that last sentence. GeForce cards tend to outperform AMD at the same price point for their mid- and high-end cards, which are the ones that most gamers are going to be looking at.

          And I did think about discussing different 1060 variants, but there are so many out there that I didn't want to start wading into those waters. That could be an entire article in itself! For the average gamer, I don't see most of the variants making a huge amount of difference. If you need to squeeze every bit of power out of every watt, optimizing your 1060 choice is a good way to go. But most people, I think, won't notice a whole lot of difference between them. Do you think that certain variants are notably better than others?

          You bring up a good point about the PSU. I left most of the discussion of those considerations for my article about choosing all of the components of your gaming PC. Maybe I'll write a new article on considerations for upgrading. That seems worth writing about, too. There's just so much to talk about around this topic!

  3. likefunbutnot
    January 30, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    In the current generation, I think nVidia is a big winner because its low end and midrange cards are a lot more power efficient. This means that they need less drastic cooling solutions and make less noise than price-comparable AMD products, and they'll probably have longer lifespans as well.

    I have a 4k monitor and a pair of GTX1070s. Mostly, my opinion on performance in that hardware configuration is that I'm pretty off switching my screen to 1440p than throwing more money at trying to get perfect (minimum 60fps, all detail settings max) quality at 4k.

    I'm a particular fan of the $100-ish GTX1050, which can be fully powered from a PCIe slot and allows for respectable gaming performance at 1920x1080 or nearly ideal 720p gaming. For a $100 upgrade on almost any desktop, that's a solid bet.

    I do think AMD OpenCL is a better overall computing platform for a lot of GPU Computation tasks, but I found it easier to find functioning software for HEVC encoding with contemporary nVidia hardware, and that's my biggest GPU compute need, so it's really hard to say anything nice about AMD video hardware at the moment.

    • likefunbutnot
      February 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      I'd just like to add that obvious typos are the result of swipey text entry on a mobile device rather than a proper keyboard and also that the specific tool I use for HEVC encoding is MediaCoder, which I could not recall at the time I made that post. MediaCoder on NVenc is around 12x the speed of a Handbrake encoding session, even on a 4GHz Haswell-E Xeon rig.

      While I'm at it, for gamers looking for a good 1080p experience, a single GTX1070 is probably future proof for the life of the current console generation; PC games right now are constrained more by developers targeting Xbox and Playstation capabilities, so as long as there's enough GPU RAM for whatever extra texture packs you're running, even a modded console port (e.g. Fallout 4) isn't going to tax your system all that much, even if you're playing the game across two screens. The only folks who really need the GTX Titans and 1080s are the ones who are trying to play at 4k or have some kind of non-gaming computational need, like my aforementioned interest in converting terabytes of video to space-saving h.265 or running Folding@Home clients or the like.

      • Dann Albright
        February 6, 2017 at 6:18 pm

        Yes, the 1070 is really solid choice. It's still quite expensive, but if you want to put off buying another card for a long time, it could be worth it. The 1050 is a phenomenal deal, and the 1060 sort of splits the difference.

      • Kannon Yamada
        February 14, 2017 at 9:53 am

        The biggest win for the 1060 seems to be in size and wattage. IIRC, the 1060 comes in single slot variants with low profile models on the way or already out. For small form factor builders, Nvidia seems to be the only real choice if you want performance and have a specific wattage target that often comes with SFX PSUs.

        • likefunbutnot
          February 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

          If I were seriously concerned about power utilization, I'd probably look at the GTX1050, since it doesn't need an extra PCI-e power connector and will run on a very modest SFF power supply or PogoPlug-style laptop transformer. Sure, they're constrained by texture memory, but I'm guessing someone who is building an SFF/low-power gaming system (seemingly your area of principle interest) is probably going to be OK with smooth 720p performance, which is exactly what those cards will deliver. It's not like you're planning to put two of them in your ITX PC anyway.

        • Dann Albright
          February 19, 2017 at 2:16 am

          Yeah, the 1050 is a great option if you need good stats on power utilization or price. If you don't need super high performance, it's really tough to beat!

      • Kannon Yamada
        February 15, 2017 at 3:04 pm

        Thanks for the reply. It looks like I mixed up the 1060 and the 1050. It's the 1050 (and TI) that comes in low-profile and single slot versions. As you say, the 1050TI is a powerhouse for its size, price, and wattage consumption.