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Guide: "obsolete" graphics cards that still perform well

Technology advances and changes very quickly, but certainly one of the areas that is most affected by this fact is the graphics card, since new releases occur quite frequently and the feeling of being “outdated” is noticeable even if we only have a generation behind.

But do not worry, it is normal since each new generation of cards introduces changes that make people think that their card is useless and needs to be upgraded, but the reality is very different, since the same card will continue to perform as well as it did a few months ago.

And what about those with old graphics cards? That is a good question, and to answer we’ll be making this guide, in which we will talk about the generations of graphics cards that have become “obsolete”, at least in theory, and we will see the ones that are still capable of performing well today.

We hope this helps you understand the current situation of your graphics card a little better, and to clarify if it is really necessary or advisable to update your graphics card.

As always we hope you like it, now let’s get to work.

For starters, what do we mean by “obsolete” graphics card?

We say that a graphics card is “obsolete” when it has been a minimum of four years since its launch, since in that period of time usually at least two new generations have been released after it and we can say it has been “outdated”.

An example of an “obsolete” graphics card would be the GTX 680 and the Radeon HD 7970, two well-known models that were the top of the range in 2012 and now have over three different generations after it in NVIDIA’s case and four in AMD’s counting the R9 300 series.

Now we have the term clear, but what does it mean to have an “outdated” graphics card? We can summarize it in three key points:

Reduced Support, with no performance improvements even if new drivers arrive. This means that our graphics card will be stagnant with no room for improvement via software.

Worse efficiency if we compare the new graphics cards that are coming to the market, due to the greater performance and the reduction of energy consumption thanks to the new architectures and manufacturing processes.

API support limitations, which could mean that we can not run certain games, for example the GTX 295, which despite performing well for its time, is stuck with DirectX 10 and is not viable.

I have an “obsolete” graphics card, do I need to upgrade it?

From the things said above you can know if your graphics card is “obsolete” or not, and if so, you are likely to ask the question that gives the title to this section.

We can not give an universal answer since it depends on the exact model you have, the use you’re going to give it and the resolution and quality level you want to play at. It is, definitely, decision that depends ultimately on you.

However we want to help you make that decision, and for this we are going to leave a summary with those “obsolete” graphics cards that still offer a good performance, and we will give you an explanation of what you can expect from each one so that you evaluate if it is really worthwhile or not to upgrade.

NVIDIA Graphics Cards

GTX 480: despite being 6 years old it is a very powerful graphics card. With it you can play games as demanding as The Witcher 3 in 1080p with total fluidity by limiting the graphic settings, especially the quality of the textures, the density and the distance of vision of the vegetation. Its major shortcoming is that it has only 1.5 GB of VRAM.

GTX 570: It is a slightly improved version of the previous card and offers an almost identical performance, although it only has 1.2 GB of VRAM. If we reduce the graphic quality to medium levels it will perform wonderfully in 1080p with most games.

GTX 580: It is more powerful than the previous and more efficient, but it does not make a huge jump in raw performance. It usually offers slightly higher performance, although if you have the 3GB VRAM version you’re in luck, as it reduces the performance impact of settings that need a lot of graphic memory, like texture quality. It has a good performance even in 1080p, especially the 3GB version.

GTX 650 TI Boost: It offers a very efficient operation and achieves a good performance in 1080p resolution with medium-low qualities, depending as always on the requirements of each particular game.

GTX 660 and GTX 660 TI: These are quite capable and thanks to its 2GB of VRAM perform well even in 1080p resolutions, although in average quality with the most demanding titles, that is if we want maximum fps.

GTX 670: It is a very powerful card and although it has been surpassed by models like the GTX 770 and GTX 970 it is still able to offer a good performance in 1080p resolutions and high qualities, even in demanding games, and maintaining great fps.

GTX 680: it is a very powerful card that can run any current game in 1080p resolution and very high quality without problem. It is almost as good as models like the GTX 770 or the GTX 960.

AMD Graphics Cards

AMD Graphics Cards

Radeon HD 5870: There are two versions, one with 1GB and another with 2GB of GDDR5. Both can deal even with current games in 1080p as long as we adjust the quality settings, but the second performs better thanks to that extra gigabyte.

Radeon HD 6950: this is a case similar to the previous one. They have a very similar performance, and again there are models with 1GB and 2GB. If you have the second, better, but in any case it runs well even in 1080p.

Radeon HD 6970: It is equipped with 2GB of GDDR5 and although it also has six years on it, it offers very good performance. It is able to run anything at 1080p, as long as you reduce graphic quality according to the requirements of the game.

Radeon HD 7850 and 7870: these graphics cards marked a major architectural change thanks to the introduction of asynchronous computing. If you have the 2GB model you can still make much of them, as they can run any current game in 1080p with more than acceptable quality and good fps.

Radeon HD 7950: It has 3GB of graphics memory and it’s still an excellent graphics card to play in 1080p with high qualities and an excellent fps.

Radeon HD 7970: It also has 3GB of graphic memory and offers very good performance in 1080p resolutions. In raw performance it is at a level similar to the R9 280X and the R9 380.

Final notes

Before concluding I want to leave you a series of important clarifications that complete all the information that we have given you previously:

1. If you’re going to play at 900p or less any of the graphics cards above will work great.

2. If your graphics card that is not on the list it does not mean that it can not be used to play, but it simply does not offer a good experience in 1080p resolutions in most cases.

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