When You Should Upgrade Your Graphics Card

When your computer stops being able to play the latest games, it's tempting to buy a new video card or processor. However, it always isn't as simple as just throwing a new, expensive component into your PC. In fact, doing so might be a waste of money. Here's why.

We've talked about bottlenecking once or twice before, but the above video from NCIX Tech Tips does a good job of showing it in action. They take a relatively old system, throw a high-end graphics card into it, and test the performance. The game runs better, but not nearly as well as it should given the card's cost, because the rest of the system is a bottleneck.

As you probably know, while your graphics card is the biggest determinant of gaming performance, it isn't the only thing that matters. If you throw an expensive new GPU into your system that's still running an old processor or doesn't have enough RAM, you're not going to get as much of a performance increase as you would if you put some of that money toward upgrading the rest of the system instead.

Of course, if you're looking to upgrade your entire system piece-by-piece, it may be worth buying that video card to keep things futureproof. However, if you're just looking to make that latest game playable, you'll get the most for your money by upgrading the entire system (or spending less money and going for a slightly lower-end video card). Of course, you could try overclocking your bottlenecks too if you want to eke out a bit more performance. Check out the video above to see more.

Worth upgrading your old graphics card? [NCIX Tech Tips]


Comments

    But should I upgrade my 6950 to a 8979 next gen while still using my 2500k CPU?

      Definitely. That's still a pretty decent CPU and you should be fine. But having 8GB of memory in a decent mobo will seal the deal.

      Do you OC your CPU? You're mad if you don't. Even a conservative OC should net you an easy 15-20% of extra performance for free.

      With a coolermaster $50 cooler I OC'd my 2500K to 4.5Ghz. That's $200 worth of performance (at time of purchase) for $50. Do it.

      6950s are still decent cards, and unless you are playing games at higher than 1080p resolutions, it will be fine. You don't mention if you have a 1GB or 2GB card, the 2GB card can be easily flashed to essentially be the same as the 6970 ($200 more expensive card), the 1GB can be flashed as well, just not as easy.

      I wouldn't go upgrading just because it's 2 yrs old! Only upgrade if you need it. If you want multi monitor gaming, then yes def. But if you just want to play most games at high settings, stay with your current card.

    I don't think buying a graphics card to "keep things future proof" is really a good idea.
    At the rate that the graphics in games are improving these days you can hardly call any graphics card "future proof".

      Future proofing is more about picking the right motherboard/power supply/case/etc to ensure that upgrading is as easy as possible later on.

        Spanner, I agree with you. It's also these components you mentioned, unfortunately, that people are also most likely to go cheap on in order to have enough cash for a better graphics card.

          Yeah, cheap PSUs are the worst. Actually scratch that, PSUs included with cheap cases are the worst :)

        I don't know about the case, most cases can fit pretty much any parts, but yeah, mobo and PSU are crucial components that can last anything from 2-5years (for a gamer) so they need to be decent.

        If you're not a gaming they can last even longer. My gym PC is 12 years old, but still does win XP, office, media player and the internet with no worries.

          Some cases will have trouble fitting longer graphics cards, depending on how the manufacturer arranged the drive cage etc. Even if the card fits, a lack of space makes it that much more difficult to install the card, route the cabling, clean around it, get access to SATA ports and so forth.

          My current PC has a P55A-UD4P motherboard, which has the x16 PCI-E slots 3 spaces apart rather than two, because I anticipated that putting my 5850 in Crossfire would be my most plausible upgrade path (I actually ended up getting a 7950!), and a 3 space gap would offer more effective cooling. It's that sort of thing that I think is important when choosing a motherboard.

            Yeah good point. I've never had trouble fitting a gfx card in my case, but i've come close.

            I look at chipset performance when buying a mobo as well. I always want to get the fastest solution that I can afford.

      I bought a $600 graphics card 3 years ago and it's playing all the latest and greatest on ultra. I built my pc bit by bit, so it worked out well. It is the GTX480. Wasn't exactly my idea of "cheap", but at least I haven't had to replace it & it's still got plenty of life in it.

      Future Proof is marketing spin salespeople made up to upsell to premium products.

      At least its not as bad as the 90's and early 00's, those were some expensive times to be a gamer

    On the subject, thoughts on whether I should get another AMD 5700 and crossfire it? Or go switch over to a newer card like one of those spanking new NVIDIA's or the AMD 7900?

    I'm still running a 4870x2 in my computer, now at the 4.5yr mark. 12months ago upgraded M/B and to an i7 with a ssd. Graphics are still fine for all games, and running high to ultra depending on the game.
    Graphics haven't really been pushed in the last 4-5 yrs cause most games are ports nowadays anyway.
    Just actually had to bake the 4870x2 cause it started getting artifacts, been flawless since though..and its just a temp fix usually, but waiting on the 8xxx series to come out.

    Should I upgrade from the Nvidia Geforce on my 2009 white unibody macbook to the Intel HD 4000 on the new Macbook pros?

      The Intel HD 4000 is a built in GPU in the CPU. You can't upgrade to it unless you're replacing the CPU

      Dude, Intel HD 4000 is integrated graphics (built into the CPU). The only way to upgrade is to buy a new Macbook.

      As far as I know the only things you can really upgrade on a macbook pro is the hard drive and the ram. Laptops in general are not that up gradable.

    The GPU is the worst part to try and future proof, every generation they get noticeably faster. If you want to future proof you should spend money on a good case, a good PSU, and a good hard drive, because these are the parts that can be kept between many different systems and aren't improving at any noticeable rate.

    My 5 year old graphics card developed a memory fault over the weekend. Seemed like a good time to upgrade it to me!

    Whenever there's a game that comes out that I really want to play in max quality and I can't, I upgrade my graphics card.

    Sometimes it's a year between. Sometimes it's 2 or more.

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