If you’re building a gaming rig and are focused solely on esports titles, you’re probably wondering: how good of a graphics card do I really need? On the one hand, you’ve probably heard that these games aren’t all that hardware-intensive. On the other, with so many graphics cards out there on the market, finding the right one might seem like a daunting challenge.
Fortunately, things aren’t nearly as complicated as they might seem on first glance. First of all, esports titles thrive because of their optimization. You can run, say, League of Legends on nearly any kind of hardware. This includes ancient laptops with subpar processors and shoddy integrated graphics cards. Of course, League won’t run amazingly well, but it’ll still be playable. That’s the first step a game developer needs to take in order to merit a global audience: optimization.
A Bit on Optimization
Fortnite isn’t necessarily all that better than PUBG (it’s subjective, of course), but it’s a far worse resource hog. As a result (and because it’s built using the widely popular Unity engine), Fortnite can be run on nearly on device out there. This, of course, includes mobile phones. Heck, if you have a good enough device it’ll even run Fortnite at upwards of 90 FPS. Crazy times we live in!
Some titles, of course, need a bit of graphical prowess. This includes Apex Legends, Overwatch, and Call of Duty Warzone. That last one isn’t an esport per se, but it’s one of the most popular free-to-play titles in the world and will undoubtedly become an esport in due time.
Fortunately, as mentioned above, you really don’t need a beefy, obscenely expensive graphics card to run these games at high enough settings. What we’re looking for is a consistent 60 FPS (the bare minimum), maxed out settings, and bit of headroom for the future. Remember, you’re not buying a graphics card for the next six months (at least that’s not the norm). Instead, you’re looking for something that’ll last for the years to come.
Nvidia Graphics Cards
Nvidia has long been the kind of optimization and driver support. Sure, their products are a bit overpriced, but they sure to deliver when it comes to performance. For esports titles in particular, we’re looking at the following cards: GTX 1650, GTX 1650 SUPER, GTX 1660, and the GTX 1660 SUPER. There’s the 1660 Ti as well, but it’s only marginally better than the SUPER variant and is not worth the asking price. Far from it, in fact.
The 1650 is obviously weakest of the bunch but it’s still phenomenal for esports titles. The 1650 SUPER, on the other hand, is noticeably more powerful. You’ll get upwards of 10 FPS when compared to its more affordable variant, and more often than not this increase in performance will veer towards the +15 FPS mark if not even higher, depending on how well the game is optimized. The 1650 is by no means a graphical behemoth, but it’ll run Apex Legends at High settings with well over 60 FPS. The same goes for Call of Duty Warzone, although the FPS can dip to the low 50s depending on what’s happening on-screen. Regardless, this GPU is a great performer if you’re looking to save a bit of money and still game comfortably.
If You Want More Power…
The 1650 SUPER, however, will give you quite a noticeable jump in performance. If you plan on doing a bit of triple A gaming on the side, it’s well worth the asking price. The same goes for the 1660 and 1660 SUPER. They’re much better than the 1650 but they’ll cost more as well. In the end, it all depends on which titles you want to play and what you consider an enjoyable experience. Some gamers don’t want to hear about sub-60 frame rates whereas others don’t mind the occasional dip or are flat-out okay with 30. It’s all individual.
Still, if you’re strictly looking at esports titles, there’s really no reason to get anything better than a GTX1650.
AMD Graphics Cards
The situation with AMD is a bit less convoluted. Unlike Nvidia, “team red” has just a single GPU for sale under the “budget-friendly” category: RX 5500 XT. You can buy it with 4GB of VRAM or 8GB, depending on your needs and budget. The former retails for around $180 although its price, as with any other graphics card, fluctuates fairly frequently. (for better and worse) The 8GB model is around $20 more expensive which may or may not be an acceptable price delta, depending on your gaming needs and preferences.
The difference, as mentioned above, is solely in the amount of VRAM you’re getting. 4GB is generally enough for esports but it’s uncomfortably claustrophobic if you’re into triple A titles or plan on gaming at 1440p. Simply put, today’s games require a ton of VRAM and they’ll only become more demanding as time goes on. High-res textures and visual effects require a ton of room to maneuver, and the more VRAM you have the better. Of course, this is only important if you want to crank up the settings as high as possible.
The RX 5500 XT exchanges blows with the 1650 SUPER which makes it the absolute best graphics card for budget-conscious shoppers looking to build an AMD-centric machine. It’s not worth it if you can snag the 1650 SUPER for the same price (or even cheaper), though, so just have that in mind.
And while older models like the RX 580 can still be found brand new, you really shouldn’t buy them regardless of their price. Sure, they’ll churn out a respectable number of frames, but they’re fabricated using an outdated manufacturing process, they run hot, and are quite old by now.
Buying a newer model should always be at the top of your list of priorities.
If You’re Uncertain…
If, perhaps, you’re still not sure whether you want to prioritize esports titles exclusively or not, you can always go for an APU and then buy an appropriate graphics card further down the line. First of all, you’re probably wondering — what in the world is an APU? An APU is basically a processor and an integrated graphics card combined on one chip. These integrated graphics cards (or iGPUs, for short) aren’t all that powerful, but they can actually get the job done for light esports gaming like LoL, Dota 2, Rocket League, and so on. If you want one, always go with AMD as their integrated Vega graphics run circles around whatever Intel has to offer at the moment.
Finally, have in mind that the holiday season is right around the corner. If you can wait things out a bit there’s a very high likelihood of a great deal popping up! Saving $20 or $30 on a graphics card is nothing to scoff at and you can easily redirect those funds towards a stronger processor, more RAM, a better power supply, or anything else for that matter!