HOW CAN YOU PLAY BETTER?

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…without breaking the bank?

Here’s our Fountain of Knowledge’s best insights on which GPU you should choose for your game.

 

Keep that idea in mind: not everything is about the biggest GPU, but about your very own favorite title.


Gamers have never had it so good. The market is full of stunning top-tier titles and inventive indie games, and the competitive scene is booming, from CS:GO to League of Legends.

That’s brilliant – but the broad PC gaming scene isn’t as inviting if your PC’s going to start steaming or keel over when you try to run a new game.

We see a lot of PCs that could do with a little help, that’s why PNY is here. We’ve got a full range of Nvidia-powered graphics cards that are perfect for every kind of game, and we’ve tested every single one in seven different games, loads of quality levels and three different resolutions. We know exactly which card you need to play your favourite games – whether they’re demanding triple-A titles or less strenuous online games.

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GF710

DOTA 2 @ 768p High (31 FPS)
LOL @ 1440 p Very High AA (35 FPS)

CS:GO @ 768p High (30 FPS)
Starcraft 2 @ 900p High (34 FPS)

GF730

DOTA 2 @ 900p High (38 FPS)
LOL @ 1440 p Very High AA (57 FPS)

CS:GO @ 900p High (30 FPS)
Starcraft 2 @ 900p High (40 FPS)

If you’ve got a system with an older card or weak integrated graphics then it’s certainly worth upgrading – and there are several tempting options even if you’re on a strict budget or only want to play less demanding games.

Two of PNY’s most affordable cards are perfect for single-screen gaming without breaking the bank: the GT 710 and GT 730.

The GT 710 is the cheapest PNY card you can buy. Despite a low price it’s still got more than a billion transistors, and it still runs at 954MHz. And that’s not its only talent: because it’s an affordable, modest card, that means it comes on a tiny, half-height board. That makes it ideal for small systems or media machines – ideal for sitting by the TV.

The GT 730 is just as small, which means it’s just as versatile. It’s a little more powerful – it’s got twice as many stream processors as the GT 710.

The GT 710 is only ideal for playing less intensive games at low resolutions. It only managed at 30fps average framerate in CS:Go when we dropped the resolution to 1,366 x 768, and it returned similar scores in DOTA 2 at the same resolution. It comfortably played Hearthstone and League of Legends at 1080p, but don’t expect this card to play tougher titles at higher resolutions.

It’s a similar story with the GT 730. It ran most of our test games at 1,366 x 768 and 1,600 x 900, but it’s not the power to play much at 1080p or beyond.

As a conclusion, let’s say that the GT 710 and GT 730 are ideal for low-ending and casual gaming.

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GFX950

CS:GO @ 4k Very High (47 FPS)
Starcraft 2 @ 4k Max (59 FPS)

GTA V @ 1440p Ultra (41 FPS)
Shadows of Mordor @ 1440p Very High (35 FPS)

GFX960

CS:GO @ 4k Very High (57 FPS)
Starcraft 2 @ 4k Max (69 FPS)

GTA V @ 1440p Ultra (46 FPS)
Shadows of Mordor @ 1440p Very High (43 FPS)

This is where PNY’s graphics cards start to flex their muscles. The GTX 950 and GTX 960 are significantly more powerful than the 700-series GPUs, which means they’re better for single-screen gaming.

They’re more expensive, though, and physically larger – so they might not fit into tiny cases for mini-ITX machines.

The GTX 950 boasts almost 3 billion transistors alongside 768 stream processors, a 1,024MHz core with OC available on some cards and plenty of memory, with dedicated 2GB GDDR5.

The specification allows the GTX 950 to excel in 1080p benchmarks. It played Hearthstone and League of Legends at incredible speed – more than 200fps – and played CS: GO and DOTA 2 at more than 100fps. It’s got the power to handle tougher titles, too: at GTA V’s Ultra settings the GTX 950 averaged 55fps, and then ran through Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor at 39fps.

The GTX 950 is a great 1080p card, and the GTX 960 is even better. It swatted aside all of our online competitive games – it managed nearly 200fps in CS:GO – and rattled through GTA V at 64fps.

It’s got the power to handle top-end games at higher resolutions, too. We loaded GTA V’s Ultra settings and the GTX 960 still returned an average of 44fps, and in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor it averaged 41fps with that game’s Very High settings chosen.

These, then, are two excellent cards. The cheaper GTX 950 is a great option for 1080p gaming, and the GTX 960 is even better at that resolution – and it’s got the power to play at 1440p, too.

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GFX970

CS:GO @ 4k Very High (92 FPS)
Starcraft 2 @ 4k Max (102 FPS)

GTA V @ 4k Ultra (32 FPS)
Shadows of Mordor @ 4k Ultra (31 FPS)

GFX980

CS:GO @ 4k Very High (115 FPS)
Starcraft 2 @ 4k Max (105 FPS)

GTA V @ 4k Ultra (38 FPS)
Shadows of Mordor @ 4k Ultra (38 FPS)

Our next category explores some of the most powerful graphics cards around – cards that’ll play absolutely anything at 1080p and 1440p.

The GTX 970 costs a little extra and that significant chunk of cash nets you a powerful chip: five billion transistors, 4GB of memory, 1,664 stream processors and loads of overclocking ability. The GTX 980 is even more expensive but it justifies the price with 2,048 stream processors, a faster clock and better memory. In short, they’re both beasts.

Neither card had issues with today’s top eSports titles. A couple of benchmarks demonstrates the sheer amount of power from these cards: the GTX 970 played Starcraft 2 at its Extreme settings and 4K resolution at 102fps – and the GTX 980 blitzed CS: GO’s 4K benchmark at 115fps.

Neither card had any issues with tougher games at high resolutions, either. The GTX 970 played GTA V at the game’s 4K Ultra settings at 33fps – and if you’d like a bit more smoothness, it’ll play the game’s Very High settings at 40fps. The GTX 980 nailed those Ultra settings at 39fps.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is our toughest tests but, unsurprisingly, these cards excelled. The GTX 970 handled the game’s 4K Very High settings at 36fps, while the GTX 980 ran the Ultra settings at 38fps.

These cards are both monsters that’ll play any game at 1080p and 1440p, and they’ll also play most titles at 4K too – especially the more expensive GTX 980. You’ll only run into performance issues if you load high levels of anti-aliasing or try to play the high-end games coming out in a year or two – but if that happens, these cards are also excellent performers in SLI.

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GFX980i

CS:GO @ 4k Very High (157 FPS)
Starcraft 2 @ 4k Max (107 FPS)

GTA V @ 4k Ultra (45 FPS)
Shadows of Mordor @ 4k Ultra (52 FPS)

 

There’s one monster graphics card that goes beyond even what the GTX 970 and GTX 980 can do in any game: the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. It’s a beast of a GPU, with eight billion transistors, nearly 3,000 stream processors and 6GB of its own memory – two gigabytes more than any other card in the PNY range.

This card is built for demanding quality levels and high resolutions, and it delivered in every test. Grand Theft Auto V’s Ultra settings at 4K saw the GTX 980 Ti zip through at an average of 45fps – and in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor toughest settings this card still averaged 53fps.

As for eSports titles that are less graphically intensive? Don’t worry about ‘em. The GTX 980 Ti ran Starcraft 2 at 107fps, DOTA 2 at 117fps, and CS: GO at 158fps. It returned ridiculous scores in Hearthstone and League of Legends: 412fps and 366fps.

This is, undoubtedly, one of the world’s best graphics cards – easily worth its high price. It’ll handle any game at 4K, it’s got enough power for VR, and it’ll keep performing for years, no matter which games get released.


Mike Jennings, aka Fountain of Knowledge
Word warrior: TrustedReviews, TechRadar, IT Pro, Custom PC and more.

Mike Jennings is a freelance technology journalist who has covered components, PCs, laptops and hardware for almost a decade – and he’s been a PC gamer for twenty years.

@mikejennings

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