How We Test Graphics Cards In 2023

All of our impartial judgments with regards to the Best GPUs in 2023 undergo thoroughly immense research here at Tech4Gamers, after which we take into cogitation our dexterous analytics, amalgamated with in-house reviewing and testing (if feasible). We also juxtapose real-world graphical performance benchmarks under idle, typical, and productivity/intensive/gaming/overclocking workflows.

Nevertheless, we also crossmatch relative GPU performance to extrapolate the Best GPUs for a multitude of unique workloads, e.g., gaming or productivity workloads, as well as for numerous form factors, such as E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX, to name a few. 

Our Graphics Cards
Our Graphics Cards – Image By Tech4Gamers

As such, we have spotlighted a handful of vital factors you’ll want to keep an eye out for while you attempt to settle on a personally desired option from our several declarations of the Best GPUs in 2023. Make sure to also read our Editorial Guidelines on generally how Tech4Gamers operates. 

Key Takeaways

  • Budget: Graphics cards don’t come cheap. Hence, when testing various GPUs, we always judge them based on how much value they provide for the money. A good bang for the buck GPU always becomes gamers’ favorite.
  • Real-World Performance and Stress Testing: We don’t just test GPUs based on their specs on paper, but we also test their real-world performance via various gaming benchmarks and stress tests.
  • Thermal Efficiency and Power Consumption: We never skip the thermal efficiency and power consumption of graphics cards during our tests. The better the thermal efficiency, the less likely the GPU is to thermal throttle, which ultimately leads to better performance under long gaming sessions. 
  • PCB Layers and Overclocking Potential: The number of PCB layers directly affects the GPU’s ability to withstand high temperatures, so we always judge a GPU based on its PCB layers. Furthermore, if a GPU can withstand high temperatures and comes with a durable VRM, then it also has good overclocking potential, all of which must be considered.
  • Acoustic Output and Sound Profile: Nobody likes a GPU that makes more noise than necessary, so the noise output is also tested in our reviews.
  • Build Quality and Visual Appeal: One of the most important factors is the build quality of the graphics card. It can make or break any GPU. Hence, we always test a GPU based on its build quality. Additionally, visual aesthetics also play an important role in the success of a graphics card. RGB lighting, aggressive shroud, vents, and visible heat pipes all play a role in enhancing the visual appeal of the GPU. 
  • Form Factor and Compatibility: It is necessary to test a GPU based on its form factor and compatibility to determine which chassis and other components can fit well with the GPU.
  • Manufacturer Support and Brand Reputation: Whichever GPU we are testing, we also factor in the manufacturer and its reputation. The manufacturer must be known for producing high-quality, successful graphics cards. Furthermore, it should also have a strong after-sales customer service. 

Primary Budget and Relative Affordability 

The GPU scarcity/pandemic has now begun to die down, thankfully, after almost three years of steeply hiked prices, courtesy of a massive surge in GPU-based Mining activities, as well as monetary scalping and hoarding of the latest-and-greatest (as of yet) Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000 Series and AMD Radeon RX 7000 Series Graphics Cards, both of which were plagued with a variety of unit shortage issues, thanks to a vast mismatch between global supply and demand chains, in addition to the silicon/semiconductor shortage which severely impacted Nvidia and AMD’s ability to produce higher quantities of their newest GPUs. 

That being said, regardless of prices witnessing a vertiginous decline in COVID-19’s aftermath, gamers around the world still have a limited budget to work with, thanks to Intel’s 13th Generation Alder Lake CPUs and the similarly competitive AMD lineup of Ryzen 7000 Series Processors introducing a precipitous dive in terms of price points, accompanied by expensive compatible components and peripherals, such as DDR5 RAM, Intel (H610, B660, H670, and Z690) and AMD (B650, X670, and X670E) 600-Series Chipsets, and PCIe 5.0 SSDs/GPUs (yet to be released), to name a few essential PC parts.

As a result, we at Tech4Gamers routinely strive to disseminate information concerning the Best Cheap GPUs in 2023 for our loveable entry-level/budget-oriented gamers. Enthusiasts should also be wary of Tier-A GPU brands, which may offer the Best Overall Gaming Performance (with fancy extras e.g., RGB Lighting, Triple Fans, and Aluminium PCB Backplates) but compromisingly charge an exorbitant premium. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to break out your wallet, feel free to scour our articles referring to the RTX 3090 Ti GPUs and the Radeon 6900 XT GPUs in an effort to cater to both the Nvidia and AMD portions of our esteemed audience. 

Real-World Performance and Stress Testing

Gigabyte RTX 4090 Gaming OC on ASRock B650E PG-ITX WIFI
Gigabyte RTX 4090 Gaming OC on ASRock B650E PG-ITX WIFI – Image By Tech4Gamers

Typically speaking, manufacturers love to quote theoretical GPU performance in terms of floating points operations per second (commonly known as FLOPS or Teraflops), as well as Pixel and Texture Rates, for pure marketing purposes. While these benchmarks may be used as a rough performance indicator, they should never be wholly relied upon. 

Subsequently, potential buyers should be wary of their desired GPU’s Base and Turbo Frequencies with regards to the Core/Shader and Memory Clocks, i.e., the speeds at which the GPU itself and its built-in VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) operate. The total number of transistors, as well as the lithography (Node) and GPU architecture (such as Nvidia Kepler, Pascal, Turing, and Ampere or AMD RDNA 2), are also vital performance indicators. 

Usually, a higher transistor count, paired with smaller lithography (a tinier node size), will always result in improved GPU performance. The amount of VRAM, its type (such as GDDR5/GDDR5X and GDDR6/GDDR6X), and the GPU’s Memory Bus (measured in bits) and, subsequently, Memory Bandwidth (the higher, the better) will also play a significant role in determining a GPU’s real-world performance.

Notwithstanding, experienced veterans will rightfully examine a GPU’s Stress-Testing performance prior to purchase, using software utilities such as Unigine, 3DMark (Time Spy, to be specific), and the relatively older MSI Kombustor, to name a few. FurMark, arguably the most popular (and notorious) GPU Stress Test, is infamous for a good reason, as it’s known to negatively impact even a brand-new GPU, let alone older/used GPUs, including, but not limited to, stability issues, system crashes, and VRAM overheating. 

That being said, using any stress test/benchmarking utility can prove fatal for your GPU. Thus, users should continuously closely monitor current GPU temperatures and clock speeds as well as artifacts (if present) to prevent overheating damage and potentially long-lasting stability issues.

Thermal Efficiency and Power Consumption 

Increased clock speeds, higher and faster VRAM, combined with a larger Memory Bus, and boosted Memory Bandwidth will ultimately improve performance, but all that comes at the cost of power consumption. Normally, a newer architecture, paired with refined lithography (smaller node sizes), will reduce TDPs (Thermal Design Process), i.e., the GPU’s power requirements. On the contrary, a bigger Memory Bus will be beneficial as far as pure performance is concerned but will also negatively affect your GPU’s electricity intake. 

Nevertheless, the newest Nvidia GeForce RTX and AMD Radeon RX GPUs come with up to a staggering 24 GB of GDDR6X VRAM with more than 1000 GB/s of bandwidth, which leaves little room for optimizing power uptake. Buyers should generally be cautious and remain on the lookout for GPUs with a lower TDP rating if they’d like to save on their electric bill.

Higher TDPs promote excess heat production, which, in turn, necessitates the need for expensive High-Performance Coolers and even Custom Water Cooling Kits in extreme cases. Vendors tend to manufacture the latest power-hungry GPUs in dual-fan or triple-fan variants, with some brands going as far as to incorporate Water Cooling within/around the GPU enclosure. 

Of course, said GPUs are also much more expensive than other variants of the same silicon, i.e., a water-cooled RTX 3080 will definitely be costlier than a dual-fan or even triple-fan RTX 3080, even though the GPU architecture is the same, primarily speaking. 

As such, gamers should try their best to purchase a thermally efficient GPU since buying even an RTX 3090 or RX 6900XT will be no use if your Graphics Card has to bottleneck/throttle performance at all times to sustain optimal heat dissipation and satisfactory temperatures.

PCB Layers, I/O Selection, and Overclocking Potential 

Advanced modern GPUs feature strict instructions from Nvidia regarding vendors manufacturing these high-performance, power-hungry Graphic Cards with a 12-layered PCB at the very least. Generally speaking, the higher the number of PCB Layers, the faster the GPU is, overall, thanks to a smaller and lighter physical footprint, while increasing componential density and available space, promoting superior thermal efficiency, which, in turn, reduces thermal throttling, and also enhances overclocking potential by offering a bettered thermal envelope. 

Let’s not forget that every GPU comes with a crucial variety of I/O Ports, ranging from HDMI, DisplayPort, USB Type-C, Thunderbolt (3 & 4), VGA, and DVI ports, to name a few of the most popular ones. 

However, recent GPUs have witnessed the elimination of the aforementioned VGA and DVI ports since these utilize comparatively ancient graphical transmission technologies, with Nvidia and AMD, as well as numerous vendors making an entire shift to HDMI and DisplayPort only, with a few variants showcasing USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3/4 ports as well, designed to deliver ultra-fast transmission speeds at high resolutions, up to 4K+ at higher refresh rates.

Consequently, prospective buyers should crossmatch their gaming monitor’s I/O ports to ensure their desired GPU will offer full compatibility. 

Acoustic Output and Sound Profile

GPU Fans
Fans on a Graphics Card – Image from Our Review of Radeon RX 5600 XT.

The more fans, the better the cooling, and thus, the better your overall GPU performance. That said, a higher number of fans, or smaller fan units (with higher speeds), in particular, can pave the way for irritatingly noisy operation. Enthusiasts would be well-advised to scope out their chosen GPU’s Acoustic Profile beforehand, keeping in mind their GPU’s fans’ noise output at 100% RPMs (Revolution Per Minute). 

Additionally, MSI’s Afterburner is also helpful for gamers looking to set custom fan curves to maintain a specified range of GPU temperatures in order to produce a virtually inaudible Sound Profile.

Build Quality and Visual Appeal

GPU Vendors these days are coming up with a mixture of marketing-driven aesthetic features, such as integrated Custom OLED Displays, which showcase vital statistics such as GPU temperatures, clock speeds, and current-voltage/power consumption. Other brands rely on onboard RGB Lighting to entice customers.

Gone are the days of GPUs with barebone PCBs on the back. Nowadays, almost all GPUs, regardless of their orientation (Budget or Premium), come with enclosed PCBs, with the expensive models exhibiting Aluminium PCB Backplates and an exotic design language, collectively speaking.

A Typical Backplate on a GPU – Image from Our RTX 2070 Review.

In contrast, budget-segmented GPUs will have a tendency to proclaim no-nonsense/no-frill design aesthetics, with darker aesthetics (typically) while using cheaper elements such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) or Polycarbonate Plastic to keep the prices down.

Nevertheless, in our humble opinion, gamers would always be well-advised to practically approach a potential GPU selection, prioritizing functionality over form. 

Form Factor and Compatibility 

GPUs come in various form factors, with vendors manufacturing up to four different variants of the same GPU for an optimal installation experience, regardless of whether you’re currently using an E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, or Mini-ITX PC Casing. From a dimensional aspect, GPUs are measured in terms of Length, Width, and Height, so it’s essential to crossmatch your motherboard and case’s dimensions to ensure a paradigmatic fitting. 

You’ll also come across GPUs being mentioned as single-slot, double-slot, or in extreme cases (referring to top-of-the-line GPUs with massive heatsinks/water cooling setups), triple-slot GPUs. Simply put, this is an alternative way of describing the GPU’s width, where a double-slot GPU, for example, takes up/blocks the useable space of 2x PCIe slots (while actually only connecting to the motherboard via one slot). 

Also, potential buyers should be wary of their desired GPU’s wattage since power consumption/TDPs differ within every GPU. Suppose you pair an inadequate/lower-wattage PSU with your new GPU. In that case, you may permanently damage the GPU’s silicon and VRAM, alongside potentially damaging the remaining components of your gaming PC, such as the motherboard, CPU, and RAM, amongst several others.

Speaking of power, all GPUs, again, use different power connectors, with the latest GPUs using up to 1x 16-pin or 2x 8-pin connectors to meet their power requirements. Older mid-range GPUs typically utilize a 1x 6-pin power connector. However, it’s best to crosscheck beforehand with your PSU’s expandability in terms of external connectivity options to avoid a connector discrepancy. 

Manufacturer Support and Track Record 

We boast a traditional convention in terms of closely scrutinizing each of the Best GPUs spotlighted as far as the after-sales customer service care provided by each manufacturer is concerned, keeping in mind past personal experiences, track records, and general brand reputation while also inspecting the MTTF (Mean Time To Failure) of individual components such as the GPUs’ fans and their bearings. Of course, we don’t turn a blind eye to proprietary warranty periods, with Tech4Gamers actively encouraging companies to reinforce faith in their GPUs for an extended period of time, often up to 3 years. 

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