By far the biggest debates that can be found on gaming forums are the ones that regard graphics cards. Fans are split between brands, manufacturers, models, custom variations and their implementations inside a more cohesive system and this has been the tradition since the birth of computers capable of showing more than green lines on a dark background.
As divisive as they are, graphics card are arguably the most important pieces on a gaming rig and can drastically change the overall outcome with just a small tweak.
Think about GPUs as you would about a heart for a living creature: a fully functioning cardiac muscle will support a human being for many years without signaling any disease. A ruined one instead, while essentially capable of sustaining a whole system, will be way more unreliable and create issues years before the other.
Technically speaking, Graphics Processing Units are “specialized electronic circuits designed to rapidly alternate and manipulate memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer for output”. What this basically means is that graphics card are the organs in charge of creating every visual aspect of your computer, even this text you are reading right now!
Due to the complexity of video games coding, graphics card need a lot of power to calculate and basically render the optical perspectives intended by programmers. That’s why today only dedicated GPUs are used in gaming, while the cheaper but less powerful integrated GPUs are slowly fading even from portable PCs.
Graphics card often have their own memory banks called VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) that range from 1GB to 12GB. A widespread misconception is that the higher the dedicated memory is, the better are the results: that’s partially untrue, since most modern systems that include more than 6GB of VRAM overshoot the need of available software.
Bandwidth, on the other hand, is an extremely important value that relies mostly on the kind of memory utilized: remember then GDDR5 banks provide twice the bandwidth while retaining the same clock rate of DDR3 devices.
Speaking of clock speed, bear in mind that GPUs, as much as any other component, need a solid power source and heat dissipation. Don’t save up on these two aspects or you might have to change the whole system way too soon!