How to Determine Graphics Card Compatibility With a Motherboard. What graphics card can my pc handle

If you plan to use your hardware primarily for gaming, then multi-GPU setup is not recommended. Driver and game support for this technology is constantly declining and the possible performance gain is minimal.

How to Determine Graphics Card Compatibility With a Motherboard

Graphics cards help improve graphics-intensive applications.

It only takes a few minutes to add a new graphics card to your office computer. Installing the card is the easy part. Ensuring that the card will work with the current motherboard of a computer often requires a lot of research. Some vendors call them graphics cards, while others call them video cards or even graphics processors, which stands for graphics processing unit. Whether you’re adding a second card to your computer or replacing a current one, you need to know the card is compatible with your computer’s motherboard and case before purchasing.

Checking Basic Graphics Card Compatibility

Motherboards have specific types of sockets for connecting additional components. Almost all modern computers use PCI Express 3.0 slots, which means that the graphics card can be inserted into any open slot. If your computer uses PCI Express 2.0 or a different version of PCI Express, the newer card should be backward compatible. Ancient computers may have AGP slots for graphics cards that are of a different shape and size and will not be compatible with modern cards. Most of the time, you’ll need a PCI-e x16 slot, which should be the longest slot on your motherboard.

In addition to the motherboard slot, most graphics cards require a power connection, which requires a 6-pin or 8-pin connector. Extremely powerful cards require two connectors instead of one. If you are not sure what type of graphics card connectors your computer motherboard uses, check its technical specifications or open the case after disconnecting the computer, remove the current graphics card and count the pin connectors.

Integrated graphics may not have independent RAM, but neither does it generate as much heat or use as much power and battery life as their discrete counterparts. Integrated graphics are generally not preferred for graphics-heavy games, but it’s more affordable. They are also good for more basic visual tasks like streaming movies and TV.

How to Check if a Graphics Card Is Compatible With a Motherboard

Motherboards have slots for adding additional hardware. Nowadays, every modern computer has PCI Express 3.0 slots, and the card can enter any available one. If your computer has PCI Express 2.0 slots or a different version of PCI Express, don’t worry. Newer graphics cards are backwards compatible, which means that the PCI Express 3.0 graphics card works with a PCI Express 2.0 slot. If you are using a computer with AGP slots, you should know that most modern graphics cards will not be compatible.

In most cases, you’ll need a PCI Express x16 slot for your graphics card. Fortunately, almost every modern computer has one. If you plan on plugging in multiple graphics cards, make sure you have two available slots.

To confirm if your graphics card is compatible with your motherboard, check the PCI Express slots.

How to Check if a Graphics Card Is Compatible With a CPU

Typically, any processor is compatible with any graphics card. The question should not be whether it is compatible, but what processor is sufficient for a particular graphics card. If you want to connect a powerful graphics card to an older CPU, the CPU will actually slow down (bottleneck) the card itself.

The same rule applies the other way around. If you have a powerful processor, buy a matching graphics card. Otherwise, you will not use your computer to the fullest power, as your graphics card will limit it.

A useful website to help you with compliance is User Benchmark. Here you can check your specs and see what options are best for your CPU.

Knowing which graphics card you have can be a bit confusing as there are two relevant model numbers: the GPU model (that is, the actual chip that does the job) and the model of the card itself (including other hardware like cooler, voltage regulator etc).

What to look for in a graphics card

When looking for graphics cards, you can choose from two major brands; AMD and NVIDIA. Both manufacturers offer high-quality, high-performance graphics cards.

  • First you need to decide how much memory you want in your graphics card
  • Also consider factors such as computer size (desktop vs laptop),
  • Whether you want a separate graphics processor or a graphics card integrated into the processor
  • Take into account what power connectors your card uses
  • Note the Design Thermal Power (TDP)

All of this will determine whether the graphics card will fit directly into your computer and whether it can receive adequate power and cooling. For an overview of the best budget GPUs, check out our HP Tech Takes article here.

1. Integrated vs discrete graphics

Integrated graphics are more common on smaller systems like laptops, but you’ll also find them in desktops for those who don’t need to use high-powered graphics software.

Integrated graphics may not have independent RAM, but neither does it generate as much heat or use as much power and battery life as their discrete counterparts. Integrated graphics are generally not preferred for graphics-heavy games, but it’s more affordable. They are also good for more basic visual tasks like streaming movies and TV.

If you’re interested in using your computer for graphics-intensive tasks, such as gaming at high settings, video editing, photo editing, and 3D rendering, you’ll need to invest in a separate graphics card.

These cards have their own RAM, unlike their integrated cousins. However, a discrete graphics card requires a good CPU to match as well as a cooling configuration to prevent the PC from overheating. It also uses more power, so you’ll need a larger (and more expensive) power supply in your desktop PC to run both CPUs.

It also means that if you have a separate card in your laptop, you will be dealing with shorter battery life compared to the less powerful options.

2. Desktop vs laptop graphics cards

Graphics cards for both desktops and laptops have separate considerations. Due to the types of devices these graphics cards are made for, there are differences between the aspect ratio, performance, and price of desktop and laptop graphics cards.

  • Form Factor: The ability to fit larger, stronger components is one of the benefits of using a tower computer. The PC tower provides the space and cooling necessary to handle the heat and power consumption of durable GPUs.
  • Performance: You will enjoy higher specs compared to laptop graphics cards. This includes greater memory bandwidth, faster pixel speeds, and greater texture mapping than with laptop graphics cards.
  • Price: Desktop cards are more affordable because the hardware is less compact and therefore less costly to manufacture.
  • Form Factor: Smaller components are necessary as the GPU has to fit into the thin casing of the laptop. As a result, they are optimized for energy consumption and use advanced thermal and electrical technology. They are also designed to run as quietly as possible.
  • Performance: Manufacturers are approaching parity for desktop and laptop GPUs, but as we mentioned earlier, laptop cards tend to underperform in some areas.
  • Price: You’ll pay a premium for laptop graphics cards. This is because the components to create a portable and energy-efficient graphics card are more expensive to manufacture. Larger and more powerful laptop graphics cards are available, but they also add to the overall weight of the device, can heat up the laptop, and make portability difficult.


Choosing a graphics card is one of the hardest parts of buying a new computer, primarily because it’s one of the most important components, so you want to get it right. Plus, if you’re new to GPUs, you’ll need to unpack a lot of terminology.

Overall, you should update your graphics card every 4 to 5 years, although an extremely high-end GPU may last a bit longer. While price is a major factor in your decision making, performance and memory needed should also be considered. And be aware of your computer’s CPU as it may need updating as well. After all, the best GPU is only as efficient as its companion processor.

About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is the co-author of HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author who has written for USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.

The more powerful the GPU (sometimes called graphics card), the more information can be computed and displayed in less time, and therefore the better your overall gaming experience will be.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

PC power supply

This is probably the most important thing to check. The PCIe x16 slot will likely be on your motherboard and even if there isn’t enough space in your case, you can get the upgrade for a reasonable price. The power supply isn’t much more expensive, but it needs enough power and the correct connectors for the GPU you’re going to buy.

Depending on the GPU you want, you need to know if it needs a 6-pin, 8-pin, or no power connector at all. In most cases, the more power the GPU needs, the larger the connector must be.

For example, a powerful model like the RTX 3080 will sometimes require three 8-pin connectors, while a last-gen budget option like the GTX 1050 Ti will require neither.

ASUS ROG Strix RTX 2080 Ti OC Two 8-pin connectors

This means that if you want the latest graphics card, you’ll also need a modern power supply. Many older (pre-2015) power supplies don’t even have one 8-pin connector, let alone three. Power connector adapters can fix this, but they don’t have a good reputation.

As for the required PSU capacity, a good rule of thumb is that the amount of power consumed by the GPU should be at most half of the PSU’s maximum power. Ideally if you want your graphics card to be around 40% of the capacity of your PSU.

This is important as the GPU will draw more power under heavy workloads such as AAA intense title playback or high definition video rendering. As consumption may increase in such situations, it is important to have the necessary amount of additional space for the power supply.

PSA on power supplies: There are manufacturers who advertise their units under crazy numbers like 2,000W, but don’t fall for this marketing trick. This number is often a theoretical outburst. Our advice is to consider options from reputable power supply manufacturers and take into account the power rating.

Don’t Create Bottlenecks

GPU stronger than CPU

If you get a brand new, top-of-the-line graphics card while the rest of your computer’s components are older, there are sure to be some bottlenecks issues. Usually this bottleneck will come from the CPU, but it can also be caused by RAM or your hard drive.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to install the GPU and run the latest games, but you will likely run into some stuttering issues. In most cases, the worst-case scenario is that you won’t be able to hit the potential FPS that your new GPU can produce.

About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is the co-author of HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author who has written for USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.

How to know if a graphics card is compatible: power requirements

Even if you have a PCI Express x16 slot and lots of space, you’ll need extra power for most graphics cards. Your power supply will likely have PCI-E power connectors, but these may be collapsed and tied if you don’t have a graphics card currently installed.

These connectors are usually black, labeled PCI-E, and have six pins in a 3×2 arrangement.

If your power supply does not have them, you can purchase adapters that plug into standard four-pin power or SATA connectors. Be careful with graphics cards that require two PCI Express power connectors, as each should be plugged into a different 12V rail on your power supply. With most power supplies, this means connecting each of the two adapters to a different “chain” of power connectors, not the same string.

How to check if your graphics card is compatible

Lastly, make sure your PSU has enough headroom above what your existing components are drawing to power your new graphics card.

This can be hard to figure out if that’s the case, but a good rule of thumb is that high-end graphics cards will require a power supply of at least 600W, if not more. It is a mistake to assume that a PSU can consistently deliver the maximum power rating, and you will surely run into problems if your components are drawing more than 80 percent of your PSU’s highest rating.

Again, it’s fairly easy to see how much power a graphics card is getting from its specs by searching online.

Are you considering buying? Check out our rundown of the best graphics cards.

To be sure you get the best price, it’s also worth checking out the best graphics card deals.

Note: We can earn a commission when you buy via links on our site at no extra cost to you. This does not affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

While graphics card compatibility is important, it’s equally important to make sure that all extra cables for the GPU and other nearby components have enough space and won’t bend.

Nvidia vs. AMD

Now let’s talk about the two biggest players in the gaming GPU industry (at least for now): Nvidia and AMD.

When you buy a graphics processor, you choose between graphics cards that contain all the components necessary to render an image on screen. These cards include cooling solutions, necessary connections and most importantly the graphics processor itself. This processor is an incredibly complex chip developed over decades of research and experimentation. Since the entry barrier to creating these processors is so high, it is likely that any graphics processor you purchase will be from one of two companies: Nvidia or AMD.

In the past, these two companies have struggled to lead the GPU market, constantly forcing themselves to innovate for the benefit of consumers. Both have strengths and both offer solid options. Whichever you choose, you will be able to find a card geared towards your gaming needs.

When you buy a graphics card, you will most likely choose from models from companies other than Nvidia and AMD, such as ASUS, GIGABYTE, and MSI. These companies take chips designed by AMD or Nvidia and create their own graphics card using this technology.

Think of it like a car; the engine is made by AMD or Nvidia, but the rest of the car, including the body and cooling, are designed by the company that makes the card itself. In other words, if you buy an ASUS GPU, it’s still an Nvidia or AMD chip in an ASUS designed chassis. Each GPU manufacturer brings their own unique design options and technologies to the table, giving you plenty of options to choose from.

The GPU model (such as the Nvidia RTX 3080) refers to the CPU itself, and this is where the GPU falls out in the overall performance spectrum. There are other considerations as well, such as cooling, clock speeds, and aesthetic design that can impact performance, but when you buy an RTX 3080, you know the basic capabilities of the card regardless of the manufacturer.

This is probably the most important factor to consider when making your choice.


The latest series of Nvidia gaming GPUs is based on the Ampere architecture. The most popular and powerful GPUs are those of the 30 series (RTX 3070, 3080 or 3090), and their performance increases with their number. The RTX 20 series is still a very viable option if you don’t need the absolute state-of-the-art as well, and still allows you to take advantage of newer technologies such as ray tracing.

Nvidia offers a wide range of GPUs, ranging from the lowermost to the very high end of the consumer GPU market, not just flagship products.

There are many factors that determine GPU performance, but it’s easy to start with how many processing cores, called “CUDA cores” or “RTX cores,” an Nvidia GPU offers. This is usually a good indicator of its performance capabilities. However, as with most computer hardware, there are many metrics that affect performance, and “better” can mean different things to different people.

Here are some of the most suitable Nvidia GPUs for gaming in late 2020:

GPU CUDA cores RT cores Tensor Cores Base GPU clock (MHz) Increase GPU clock (MHz) RAM type Standard RAM configuration (GB) RAM bandwidth (GB / s) RAM width TDP (watt)
GeForce GTX 1080 2560 Not applicable Not applicable 1607 1733 GDDR5X 8 352 256-bit 180
GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 3584 Not applicable Not applicable 1480 1582 GDDR5X 11 484 352-bit 250
GTX 1660 Ti 1536 Not applicable Not applicable 1500 1770 GDDR6 6 GB 288 192-bit 120
RTX 2060 1920 thirty 240 1365 1680 GDDR6 6 GB 336 192-bit 160
RTX 2060 SUPER 2176 34 272 1470 1650 GDDR6 8 GB 448 256-bit 160
RTX 2070 2304 36 288 1410 1620 GDDR6 8 GB 448 256-bit 175
RTX 2070 SUPER 2560 40 320 1605 1770 GDDR6 8 GB 448 256-bit 215
RTX 2080 2944 46 368 1515 1710 GDDR6 8 GB 448 256-bit 215
RTX 2080 SUPER 3072 48 384 1650 1815 GDDR6 8 GB 495.9 256-bit 215
RTX 2080 Ti 4352 68 544 1350 1545 GDDR6 11 GB 616 352-bit 250
RTX 3070 5888 46 184 1500 1725 GDDR6 8 GB 448 256-bit 220
RTX 3080 8704 68 272 1440 1710 GDDR6X 10 GB 760.3 320-bit 320
RTX 3090 10496 82 328 1395 1695 GDDR6X 24 GB 936.2 384 bit 350

Buy the GPU that’s right for you

asus-1080-ti graphics card

Hope you have a better feel for what to look for in the GPU. Now that you know the basics, it’s a good idea to visit the GPU section in Newegg for even more information. You can use the Newegg Compare Tool to get a side by side list of different graphics card comparisons, which can help you determine the right card for your system.

Another resource to help you choose your GPU and graphics card is the games and applications you want to run. Most of them list the required, recommended, and optimal specifications, which often include the recommended CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage.

Analyze the games and applications that matter most to you and make sure you choose a graphics card that meets at least the recommended specifications.

Games: Customize your best gaming machine with the HP OMEN kit, which includes stunning NVIDIA 20 and 30 series cards. For gamers on a budget, consider an HP Pavilion gaming desktop PC and opt for an AMD or NVIDIA graphics card.

Find Out What GPU You Have in Windows

Open the Start menu on your computer, type “Device Manager” and press Enter. You should see an option at the top of your graphics card. Click the down arrow which should contain the name of your GPU. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see that I have a Radeon RX 580.

If you’re not sure which company designed this chip, you can right-click it and select Properties to view the manufacturer – Advanced Micro Devices or AMD in my case. (Remember that Device Manager uses graphics drivers to determine what GPU you have, so if you suspect you may have installed the wrong drivers you should skip to the next section.)

Once you’ve got the GPU name, you can search Google to find out more about it or compare it to the minimum requirements of the game you want to play. Usually, a higher number means a better card – so a game requiring the RX 580 may not work on the RX 480, which is weaker (though there is a workaround for this at times).

If you’re comparing two cards that use different naming schemes – like the AMD RX 580 and their more powerful RX Vega 56 – you may need to do a bit of research to see which card is more efficient and what the price difference is.

Find the Manufacturer and Model Number

If for some reason you need to know exactly what type of graphics card you have, you will need to do a little more work.

The manufacturer can be easily found thanks to a third-party app called Speccy. Download the free version, run it, and click Graphics in the sidebar. Scroll down and look for a Subvendor entry which should tell you who created the actual card on your PC – in my case Asus made that particular RX 580. (You’ll also be able to see how much video RAM your card has, among other specs.)

Unfortunately, it won’t give you the exact model number you’ll need for, say, warranty claims. (Asus makes several different RX 580 cards, and they will need the exact model number to provide support.) PC up.

In that case, find your graphics card, remove it, and look at the sticker on the side – it should have the model number you need. You may want to write down this information somewhere so you don’t have to open your computer next time – you never know when you might need it!

Rate article