Whether you’re a casual gamer or you recently purchased a bargain ‘barebone’ bundle, (with a fantastic CPU, fan and RAM build) only to find you have PCI-E 2.0 instead of the new 3.0 (yes, there are even 8 core compatible motherboards out there, packing PCI-E 2.0 slots) we’re here to help. Although there are constant forum disagreements on PCI-E 2.0 vs PCI-E 3.0 with newer graphics cards, this article will help give you some solid advice if you wish to play it safe and pick up the best PCI-E 2.O gfx card for an absolute bargain!
First, you must learn one crucial rule. Larger DDR3/GDDR3/GDDR5 RAM does not necessarily mean a better performing graphics card! There are 4G DDR3 PCI-E 2.0 graphics cards on the market that are useless because they lack the power to take advantage of it (see Core Clock Speed below).
Here are the top 3 things you should look for when buying the best PCI-E 2.0 graphics card:
Head to AMD or Nvidia for the current GPU’s. Your card has two beating hearts. The GPU and the Core Clock (see below for the latter). At the time of writing this, the GT 630 is Nvidia’s most powerful PCI-E 2.0 graphics card. The HD 6670 and HD 7750 are AMD’s (Radeon’s) best.
Always make sure to check the current GPU’s and hunt for very best on a PCI-E 2.0 card.
D4GTIP: If you’ve found a powerful graphics card that simply says ‘PCI-E x16″ or “PCI-E 2.1” in its specs, this is still a great buy for a PCI-E 2.0 slot.
2) Core Clock Speed
Your PCI-E 2.0 graphics card will be nothing but a pretty slab of solder without a strong core clock. Make sure the core clock is above 800hz. Just like us, your GPU will be more efficient at shifting demanding loads with a strong core.
3) Memory Clock
The memory clock will determine how efficient the card will be at utilising its on-board RAM. We suggest only buying a card with at least 800hz on the memory clock (but try and get as close to 1000hz as you possibly can). If the card has more than 1GB of DDR3/GDDR3/GDDR5 but less than 1000hz on the memory clock, forget it. Don’t waste your money!
There are more details to look for when moving up to PCI-E 3.0 but for now, this is all you really need to worry about in order to find the most powerful PCI-E 2.0 gfx card.
What will these cards get me?
If you stick to our advice (above) you’ll have a silent, reliable card that will run all business and design applications (Office, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Corel etc) and give you smooth DVD and Blu-Ray playback. As long as your other specs are good enough (at least a dual core but we’d always recommend a quad core CPU and 4GB RAM) you’ll be able to enjoy playable frame rates with 1st generation engine PS3 and 360 games, such as Call Of Duty (Modern Warfare and Black Ops), Borderlands, Batman Arkham Asylum, Mirrors Edge, Left 4 Dead 1 & 2, Dragon Age 1 & 2, The Sims 1, 2 & 3, Aliens Colonial Marines, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, most of the Total War Series, Gone Home, Dota 2 and much more!
D4G’s current pick of the best PCI-E graphics cards:
AMD PCI-E 2.0 Graphics Cards:
Gigabyte HD 6670 2GB GDDR3
Nvidia PCI-E 2.0 Graphics Cards:
D4GTIP: If you’re after a PCIE-2.0 gfx card that’s silent, low watt and can easily power video editing, DVD/Blu-Ray playback and business office and design software, then the Nvidia cards offer incredible value. However, if you wish for all of the above PLUS the ability to get stuck-in with a large library of XBOX 360 and PS3 games, then we must recommend the Sapphire HD 7750.