The graphics card is the component most important when playing. Those of you who read to us daily are clear that it is important to ride balanced teams to enjoy an optimal experience, but if we want to shape a gaming PC we must allocate more budget to the graphics card, since this component will determine the resolution at which we can play, the graphic quality we can use, the technologies that we will enjoy and, to a large extent, the overall fluency of the games.
Unbalancing the budget in favor of the graphics card is essential when it comes to gaming equipment, but always within a reasonable limit, since other components such as the processor and RAM also play a very important role, and we should not forget the SSD, which will help reduce loading times and allow us to enjoy greater fluidity in general.
A state-of-the-art, high-end graphics card with a low-end processor will not be able to develop its full potential Because it will act as a brake, and an insufficient amount of RAM can cause jerks in many games, and directly prevent us from starting those that are more demanding. In short, imbalance in favor of the graphics card, but always within reasonable levels.
During the last weeks we have been publishing guides dedicated to the choice of the graphics card based on the resolution used, and we have differentiated between levels: minimum, recommended and optimal. To play in 1080p we saw that the recommended level was at a GTX 1660 Super, and to play in 1440p said level was fixed in the RX 5700 XT for its small price difference with the RX 5700.
Well, today we are going to finish this trilogy of guides with one dedicated to which graphics card to choose to play in 4K, where we will also differentiate those three levels. 4K resolution represents a high level of demand, since we talk about moving 8,294,000 pixels, almost quadruple of the pixels that are handled in 1080p and more than double of those that are used in 1440p.
As we have said on previous occasions, it is important to note that to play all current titles with guarantees, it is necessary to have at least a quad-core and eight-thread CPU, such as the Ryzen 5 1500X or Core i7 4770, and have 8 GB of RAM, although more and more titles consume between 10 GB and 11 GB, so it is recommended to have at least 12 GB.
Raising the resolution of a game does not mean an increase in the consumption of resources at the CPU level, that is, we will not need a more powerful processor, since the load falls on the graphics card, but keep in mind that if we use a processor that is Below the recommended level for a specific game we will find unstable FPS rates and very low minimum peaks, which can create little jerks and stuttering.
We maintain the format of the other two guides, although adapted to the highest demands of 4K, which means that the minimum, recommended, and optimal levels fit the following descriptions:
Minimum: It will allow us to play in 4K with medium-high qualities and a good level of fluency.
Recommended: We can play in 4K and high-very high qualities while maintaining a good level of fluidity.
Optimum: In this case we will be able to play in 4K and very high-maximum qualities while maintaining 60 FPS in most cases.
I remind you that we have made average performance evaluations and that in the end each game is a world. This means that, for example, the graphics card we have chosen at least achieves 60 FPS in some games, even with maximum quality and 4K resolution, but in others it is around 30 FPS.
The criterion that has led us to choose each of these graphics cards has been, as always, their relationship price-performance.
What graphics card do I need to play in 4K? Minimum
If you have a very limited budget and want to play in 4K, you should bear in mind that although you can start from lower models, such as a GTX 1070 or a Radeon RX Vega 56, you will find cases in which you will have to reduce the graphic quality of considerable way or accept FPS rates that they will not always be entirely good.
To comply with the requirement that we have given at the beginning of the article and enjoy a good experience without having to make significant sacrifices neither in graphic quality nor in fluidity, we must choose a Radeon RX 5700 XT, a graphics card that performs a little less than the RTX 2070 Super but has a much more contained price, since we can find it from 379.90 euros, a very good price for what it offers.
It is not capable of achieving good fluidity in all cases with maximum qualities, but it offers a very solid performance and is the best option within its price range (less than 400 euros).
RX 5700 XT Specifications
Vega 10 graphic core.
GPU at 1,605 MHz base frequency, 1,755 MHz game mode and 1,905 MHz in turbo mode.
160 units of texturing.
64 raster units.
8 GB of GDDR6 at 14 GHz.
225 watt TDP. Requires two power connectors, one 6-pin and one 8-pin, and a 600 watt 34A source.
NVIDIA alternative: If you are not willing to buy an AMD graphics card and want an option from NVIDIA the closest value for money is the RTX 2060 Super, although it performs slightly less than the RX 5700 XT. We can find it from 379.94 euros.
What graphics card do I need to play in 4K? Recommended
This level is ideal for those seeking superior performance that allows them to play with a higher level of detail and optimal fluidity, but without having to make a huge expense, that is, without having to break the barrier of 1,000 euros.
The best option at this level is undoubtedly the RTX 2080 Super, a graphics card that offers such good performance that it achieves stable averages of 60 FPS in almost all current games with very high and maximum qualities in some cases. In the end everything depends, as we said, on each specific game.
For example, in demanding and poorly optimized titles like AC: Odyssey in 4K with maximum quality we achieve averages of 38 FPS. If we adjust the quality a little, the thing improves a lot and it is not difficult to reach averages of 50-60 FPS without great sacrifices. However, in games like DOOM Eternal said graphics card allows us to reach 80 FPS 4K media with maximum quality No problem.
The RTX 2080 Super has a starting price of 689.95 euros.
RTX 2080 Super Specifications
TU104 graphic core.
GPU at 1,650 MHz-1,815 MHz.
192 units of texturing.
64 raster units.
48 RT cores.
384 tensor nuclei.
8 GB of GDDR6 at 15.5 GHz effective.
250 watt TDP. We need an 8-pin and a 6-pin connector, and a 600 watt 35A source.
AMD alternative: Unfortunately AMD does not have any real alternative to this graphics card right now, since the Radeon VII was discontinued and, in any case, its performance was lower than that of a standard RTX 2080.
What graphics card do I need to play in 4K? Optimum
We met with the level every enthusiastic user would want to reach, the one that is reserved for those who do not have problems with the budget, and in which we can move almost any current game in maximum qualities with total fluidity (averages of 60 FPS).
Unfortunately even at this level there are exceptions, as the poor optimization of some games it means that not even the most powerful graphics card that exists today is capable of moving them in 4K with maximum qualities and keeping 60 FPS stable.
At this level the winning option is the RTX 2080 Ti, but we must take into account two things: there is no other alternative and its price-performance value is very weak compared to the difference in price compared to the RTX 2080 Super and the increase in cost it represents.
As we have indicated the RTX 2080 Ti is a graphics card to play in 4K with maximum qualities and total fluidity. Under this resolution it renders around 18% -20% more than the RTX 2080 Superbut it has a minimum price of 1,150-1,200 euros, depending on the assembler we choose.
RTX 2080 Ti Specifications
TU102 graphic core.
GPU at 1,350 MHz-1,545 MHz.
272 texturing units.
88 raster units.
68 RT cores.
544 tensor nuclei.
352 bit bus.
11 GB of GDDR6 at 14 GHz effective.
250 watt TDP. We need two 8-pin connectors and a 650 watt 36A source.
AMD alternative: At the moment, there is no alternative. This has enabled NVIDIA to put a very high price on the RTX 2080 Ti, a graphics card that, being unrivaled, can be marketed as a “luxury” product at the price NVIDIA deems appropriate. We expect this situation to change with the launch of AMD’s RNDA 2 graphics cards, scheduled for later this year.
Final notes: you don’t have to go to the most expensive
Playing in 4K requires a large investment, since it forces us to look for a high-end graphics card and to accompany it with components that offer medium-high performance. The monitor is another point to consider, since the models with said resolution still have a high price, unless we move in economic ranges with TN panels and very fair refresh rates.
If we are not very demanding with a Radeon RX 5700 XT we can play very well in 4K. This graphics card offers excellent value and thanks to its 8 GB of graphic memory it should have a considerable useful life. Remember that, until not long ago, NVIDIA sold the RTX 2060, equipped with 6 GB of graphics memory, at a price similar to what this AMD option has today.
The RTX 2080 Super represents a significant leap in terms of price, but in fairness it must be recognized that it makes up for it with a noticeable increase in terms of performance. In Metro Exodus, for example, this graphics card achieves averages close to 60 FPS with “ultra” quality, while the RX 5700 XT ranks in the 35 FPS with said quality adjustment. In Resident Evil 2 Remake the difference is also great, as the RTX 2080 Super achieves 67 FPS and the RX 5700 XT registers 51 FPS.
On a personal note I think the RTX 2080 Ti does not make sense today for its price-performance ratio. I have included it in this guide because it is the most powerful graphics card that exists and deserves to occupy the optimal level for power reasons, but it is very expensive and does not offer a performance improvement consistent with the cost it represents.