Stop – Don’t buy that new graphics card just yet

We recently ran an article detailing the “best graphics cards right now”, showing readers the great GPUs on the market and how much they cost.

Those considering a new graphics card should hold out a bit longer before upgrading, however, thanks to product launches from Nvidia and AMD and CES 2019.

Nvidia unveiled its GeForce RTX 2060 card at the show while AMD revealed the Radeon VII GPU.

The RTX 2060 aims to dominate the mid-range gaming market and features Nvidia’s Turing architecture, ray tracing, GDDR6 memory, and 240 Tensor Cores for deep learning.

Thanks to its launch after the RTX 2070 and RTX 2080, we know that the card is aimed at gamers who want good performance at a relatively affordable price.

The term “relatively affordable” is important here, as the first online listings for the RTX 2060 in South Africa show that the card will range from R7,500 to R10,000.

For the this price, Nvidia promises that users will receive better performance on games compared to using a GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 Ti.

On the other side, AMD’s Radeon VII is the company’s highest-performance gaming graphics card to date – and is the world’s first GPU using a 7nm process.

AMD said the Radeon VII will provide 29% better gaming performance and 36% better content creation performance compared to its previous flagship GPU, the Radeon Vega 64.

Nvidia has dismissed the new AMD card, however, with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang stating that their GeForce GTX 2080 would crush the Radeon VII in benchmarks.

Older cards are the way to go

With these new cards on the way, there is a window to make a potentially money-saving decision: Should I buy an older graphics card?

For Nvidia fans, the RTX 2060 launching means that the price of older cards , such as the GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1070 Ti may come down in price as retailers look to move older stock and as the cards become less attractive to buyers thanks to them being the “old” generation.

The GTX 1070 Ti, for example, has already come down in price substantially since launching in South Africa in October 2017.

The MSI Gaming version of the card sold for R8,999 at launch, and is now available for R6,499. This price makes it a good buy compared to the RTX 2060.

The GTX 1070 Ti features more CUDA cores than the RTX 2060 – 2,432 vs 1,920 – and has more VRAM – 8GB vs 6GB. This RAM is slower, however, GDDR5 vs GDDR6. The memory bandwidth is 256GB/s for the GTX 1070 Ti, and 336GB/s for the RTX 2060.

Other areas where the GTX 1070 Ti wins on paper is memory bus width – 256-bit vs 192-bit – and base clock frequency – 1,607MHz vs 1,365MHz.

Adding to the argument to buy a GTX 1070 Ti over the RTX 2060 is its performance in games.

According to benchmarks by Tom’s Hardware, the 1070 Ti can produce the following results:

  • Battlefield 1: 1440p Ultra – 85FPS
  • Doom: 1440p Ultra – 130FPS
  • The Witcher 3: 1440p Ultra – 84FPS

Where the GTX 1070 Ti falls short, however, is in the “ray tracing” and deep learning segments.

The RTX 2060 has 240 Tensor Cores, which can “deliver 52 teraflops of deep learning horsepower”.

“Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) leverages a deep neural network to extract multidimensional features of the rendered scene and intelligently combine details from multiple frames to construct a high-quality final image. The result is a clear, crisp image with similar quality as traditional rendering, but with higher performance,” said Nvidia.

Battlefield V is set to receive a DLSS support update soon, it added.

In terms of the benefits of ray tracing, Nvidia said it “blurs the distinction between movies and games” thanks to the realistic visuals it provides in titles.

Radeon VII vs Vega

For the AMD camp, a good “old” card which may come down in price when the Radeon VII launches is either the Radeon Vega 56 or Vega 64.

The Vega 56, for example, can be purchased for around R6,000 locally – with high performance models such as the ASUS ROG Strix Vega 56 OC edition available for R6,600.

According to benchmarks by Tom’s Hardware, the Vega 56 can handle 1440p games well – producing the following results:

  • Battlefield 1: 1440p Ultra – 82FPS
  • Hitman: 1440p Ultra – 89FPS
  • The Witcher 3: 1440p Ultra – 77FPS

Unlike the RTX 2060 vs the GTX 1070 Ti, however, the Radon VII comfortably beats the Vega 56.

It has 3,840 stream processors, 16GB of memory with 1TB/s bandwidth, and uses a 7nm process. The Vega 56 packs 3,584 stream processors and 8GB of memory with 410GB/s bandwidth.

The Vega 64 is a more powerful option, with 4,096 stream processors, 8GB of memory with 483GB/s bandwidth, and benchmarks which show it can handle 4K gaming with ease.

It is more expensive, though, with South African pricing for the card starting at around R8,000.

This may drop once AMD launches its Radon VII internationally – and better yet, is a bargain compared to what the new AMD card is expected to sell for.

At $699 in the US, local gamers are expecting starting prices of over R13,000 for the Radeon VII.

So, if you are looking for a new graphics card, it may pay to wait until all the new models are on the market and bargains on powerful older cards come through.

Now read: What to expect from gaming laptops in the coming years – MSI

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Stop – Don’t buy that new graphics card just yet