While our guide to the best graphics cards may also help you determine which {hardware} works finest inside your finances, merely figuring out that you just need to purchase, say, a Radeon RX 5700 is simply the beginning of the method. You’ll discover infinite fashions out there for each graphics card, starting from humble “reference” playing cards designed by AMD or Nvidia themselves, to extremely custom-made choices packing bespoke cooling options and additional options by “add-in board” companions like EVGA, Sapphire, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and extra.

So do you have to purchase a reference card or a customized graphics card if you’re on the hunt for a brand new GPU? The brief reply is most—however not all—folks should purchase a custom-made mannequin.

For the longer reply, in addition to a take a look at the area of interest circumstances the place you could be higher suited with a reference video card, right here’s a high-level breakdown of the professionals and cons of every.

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From entrance to rear: A customized Asus ROG Strix graphics card, Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Super Founders Edition, and AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 reference card.

Reference graphics playing cards: Pros and cons

“Reference” graphics playing cards make the most of designs crafted by AMD and Nvidia, the businesses that create and provide the precise graphics processing models (GPUs) on the coronary heart of the {hardware}. They exist to make sure a baseline degree of high quality, and to assist get extra graphics playing cards shortly out the door when new GPUs launch. Customized cooling options take longer to engineer. That brings up the primary consideration: If you need to get a scorching new GPU the second it releases, a reference design could also be your solely choice, as was the case for the first month of the Radeon RX 5700’s current launch.

Traditionally, reference designs deployed single-fan, blower-style coolers that blast the recent air generated by the GPU out of the rear of your PC case, through air flow holes across the bracket’s show connections. AMD’s Radeon reference designs stick with this legacy, although the corporate (largely) lets its companions deal with shopper gross sales. You’ll often purchase Radeon reference playing cards from firms like XFX, Sapphire, or Asus reasonably than AMD itself.

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AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 reference card makes use of a blower-style design.

The self-contained nature of blower-style designs—they expel warmth out of your case, reasonably than dumping it into your case—make them shine in situations the place house or airflow is proscribed. If you’re constructing in a small kind issue case or operating a strong rig with a number of graphics playing cards put in subsequent to one another, blower-style reference playing cards remove potential overheating considerations.

There’s a efficiency trade-off, nevertheless, as blower-style designs typically run a lot hotter and louder than coolers with axial followers that dump the recent air into your case. (Compare the Radeon RX 5700 reference card’s temperatures versus the temperatures of the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700, an reasonably priced customized dual-axial design with a mere $10 premium.) GPUs can hit increased clock speeds at decrease temperatures, so reference designs can depart potential efficiency on the desk.

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Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070 Super Founders Edition.

Nvidia’s present GeForce RTX 20-series graphics playing cards bucked custom by switching to a dual-axial fan design. Nvidia additionally lately started promoting reference designs itself within the type of luxurious, metal-clad GeForce “Founders Edition” graphics playing cards, ending the pattern of permitting AIB companions like EVGA and Asus to promote reference playing cards.

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