Can a Cheaper GPU Meet Your Needs?

When building your own PC, one of the most potentially complicated parts of the process is considering which components to purchase to best suit your needs. While this is a particularly important step when choosing a CPU, which will serve as the brain of the operation, you’ll also need to spare some serious thought for which GPU you want to buy.

If you don’t put the time into comparing different GPU models, you could end up with one that is superfluous for your setup, and these will likely cost you far more than you actually need to spend. On the other end of the spectrum, you may choose one based on its more budget-friendly price and quickly find that it simply isn’t sufficient for what you need.

The top advice when building a PC will always be to aim for the best components you can get in order to future-proof your setup and ensure it will not fall behind before you can afford to update it with newer parts. Therefore, a top-shelf GPU would always be your best bet to make sure your PC stays up to scratch for years to come. That being said, this is simply not an option for many, but fortunately, even a recent sub $200 GPU will be sure to tide you over for a good period of time.

To establish the best options for your setup, you should first consider what you primarily intend to use your PC for. Whether you’re hoping to play heavy-duty PC games or want to work on high-quality creative projects, or simply need a reliable desktop for working at home, all use cases differ significantly. You’ll want to make sure your GPU is best suited for your level of activity.

If you’re simply looking for an office or internet browsing workhorse, then just about any modern GPU should suit you just fine, and therefore you may as well opt for a budget-friendly option. There are plenty of recent graphics cards available for less than $200, and there’s no point spending much more if you aren’t going to benefit from the extra features of more expensive models. That being said, if you expect to be streaming a lot of high-quality video content, it’s best to avoid any bottom-of-the-barrel models. Anything too old or lacking significantly in any standard specs is going to result in a disappointing and stuttering streaming experience.

When it comes to gaming, the stage opens up quite significantly. There is a huge range of modern gaming GPUs available, so you should first identify the type of gaming you intend to do. Budget gaming GPUs like the AMD Radeon RX 5500 and the GeForce GTX 1650 Super offer decent entry-level performance for those who aren’t expecting much from their setup. These cheaper GPUs are perfectly capable of running most modern titles smoothly at 1080p. But don’t expect much more than that.

If you want to run more demanding games at higher resolutions and with higher graphics settings, then you’ll typically need at least a mid-range GPU such as the GeForce RTX 2060/3060. Naturally, these models also carry with them a higher price tag which is further exacerbated by the present GPU shortages.

For more creative projects or content creation, the lines become a little more blurred. The right GPU for you will depend on the type of work you typically expect to be doing, as photo editing, video editing, and graphic design all require somewhat different things. The benefit here is that you’re unlikely to need to spend a huge amount on a GPU for these kinds of workloads unless you really want the very best you can get. For the most part, the majority of creative apps will rely more heavily on your CPU, but some do still offload some of the work to your GPU. If you aren’t going to need all of the features of top-end GPU models, then you can most likely get away with a low- to mid-tier GPU for your creative endeavors.

All in all, a budget- or mid-range graphics card could be a solid fit for a lot of people. As long as you aren’t looking for top-end graphics in gaming or for Ultra HD support when producing creative content, then a cheaper GPU will often deliver admirable results for most activities. That’s not to say that these are impossible to achieve with a low-price GPU, but you can still expect to pay slightly higher prices for these privileges.