Updated on April 22, 2022
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Graphics cards’ supply and price have changed dramatically since the outbreak of the virus, as shown by numerous of the prices quoted above. Buying a card soon? Consult our buying strategy guide for tips on finding a good deal. Check out this guide on how to get the most performance out of your existing GPU.
An enormous full-tower PC is the greatest way to get as many graphics, general improvements and storage terabytes as you can afford. There are now many powerful PCs that can handle everything from editing 4K video to playing the latest AAA games in 4K. As a result, you no longer require a separate VR headset in order to use one of these.
In response to the growing popularity of compact performance systems among PC enthusiasts and boutique-PC builder, numerous case manufacturers have developed chassis that can accept midsize or even full-size graphics cards. The shoebox-shaped SilverStone Sugo 14 has enough for a graphics card nearly a foot long. To accommodate the most powerful graphics cards, such as the Nvidia GeForce GTX 3080, there is a lot of space.
Only a tiny number of equally compact PC chassis have enough place for monster graphics cards. (Be sure to double-check the details.) A MicroATX or Mini-ITX motherboard may be needed to fit in a compact chassis like this rather than a full-size ATX motherboard, which is more common and less expensive. They may be able to handle large video cards, but not large mainboards, due to their odd size.
The Cooler Master Elite 110 case, for example, can be used to make a gaming PC that’s even more compact (which is just 11 by 10 by 11 inches). Among the options are the Zotac GeForce GTX 1650 Ultra Twin Fan or the GeForce GTX 1660 or GTX 1660 Super graphics card. If you’re looking to play some of the most demanding non-VR games on high settings at 1080p (1,920 x 1,080-pixel) resolution, you’ll be OK with these cards. Virtual reality headsets require a variety of different types of memory cards. If you’re looking for the greatest graphics cards, check out our list.
Measure Twice: How to Tell Which Graphics Cards Will Fit Your Case
The amount of card clearance provided by the PC case you now own (or are considering purchasing) is the most important consideration when it comes to graphics cards. Detailed information on the chassis can be obtained on the product page or in an electronic manual. The side panel can also be removed and a tape measure and ruler used to gain a rough notion of the dimensions.
Expansion brackets for Pcie cards are typically found at the case’s rear. These ports are visible thru the back of the chassis when a video card includes video-output ports. Take a measure parallel to the PCI Express slot into which your card will be put at the first impediment you discover. This is the maximum distance you can go with your card without a power source. You’ll need to make adjustments if it happens. Most of the time, the card’s connectors are positioned on its upper edge.
Almost all high-end gaming cards require at least two elastic slots to be mounted, so double-check that’s the case. Some ultra-compact PC cases may not have enough clearance between the PCI Express slot and the adjacent case wall, making it impossible to insert a card. If you’re updating an older computer, it’s a good idea to run a quick eyeball check.
The distance between the bracket region and the nearest object on the other side determines whether or not your system can accept a long graphics card (typically a hard drive bay or the wall of the case itself). At least 10.5 inches of space is required for most high-end graphics cards, including those from Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070 and 3080. Radeon RX 6800 and Radeon RX 6800 XT, both of which measure exactly 10.5 inches in reference configuration, are AMD’s high-end alternatives. You’ll need to verify the length of the third-party version before making a purchase. In terms of GeForce RTX 3070 cards, we’ve seen some under 10 inches and some above 12 inches. Don’t forget to double-check all of the information.
An air-cooled graphics card that’s no more than 8 inches long is required for smaller PC cases that can yet fit a full-height graphics card in. Most of the time, these are extremely space-constrained Mini-ITX mainboard enclosures. As far as gaming-class graphics go, 8 inches isn’t much area for expansion. Even so, there are a few solutions available to you now.
Can Your Power Supply Handle a New Video Card?
Power source (PSU) cable routing is an important consideration when creating a tiny PC. Even while most motherboards have their power-pin connectors positioned in a vertical orientation at the top of the card, a few may choose to place the pin connector on its rear-facing edge.
Anywhere your card connects into the PSU (if it does at all; more on this below) needs to be friendly to all the other components and pieces you’re attempting to pack into a small space if you’re already working with limited space.
It’s worth noting, though, that many small cards don’t even require a dedicated power supply connection at all. The 75-watt Zotac GeForce GTX 1650 OC, for example, doesn’t require an external connection because the PCI Express slot it’s plugged into provides all the power it needs.
Keep in mind that without an external power source, these cards can only sustain a limited level of graphical horsepower and overclocking capacity. To prevent any potential cabling issues, if those aren’t a big concern, it may be best if you go this method.
Low-Profile Graphics Cards: A Low-Clearance Alternative
Not much has been said about card height, as you may have seen from the discussion on card length. Only so-called “low-profile” expansion cards, such as low-profile PCI Express graphics cards, can be used in certain thin PC cases (often flat, broad ones intended for home theatre PC use). It is possible to use a low-profile or “half-height” bracket to mount these cards, which are shorter than standard video cards. In order to attach the shorter bracket, you simply twist a screw or two. This allows the card to be installed on a PCI-slot frame with a reduced vertical dimension.
Only two ports can be accommodated on a half-height bracket, but the half-height bracket can be two slots wide on some cards, allowing for a third port. With the low-profile bracket installed, these cards’ multi-display connectivity is often degraded.
Because low-profile boards are lower in surface (and thus the room for a graphics processor, power circuitry, and cooling gear is decreased), they are budget-minded, basic cards, aimed as a step up form CPU-integrated graphics or to enable support for multiple displays.
So, Which Compact Graphics Card Should I Buy?
Video cards based on a single graphics processor can differ substantially in size and functionality depending on the model and the card manufacturer. Both Nvidia and AMD use their own graphics processors as “reference cards.” As an example, the reference boards used by MSI and Sapphire in the development of their own branded cards may or may not be followed. Even the cooling fans or heat sinks can be configured in a “custom” model, which allows for greater flexibility.
There are various advantages to using custom-built video cards. Make sure you know how much power, space, and cooling the card will need before purchasing it. Finding out that your PC doesn’t have enough voltage (or the right connectors) to run a brand-new graphics card is one of the most frustrating gaming experiences.
If you have room in your PC case, check out our list of the best graphics cards for 4K gaming. Check out our comprehensive look at the best graphics cards, no matter what size they are. Our top picks for M.2 SSDs will complete your unique configuration. These small SSDs are ideal if you’re low on storage space.