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I've been doing a lot of browsing of different computer parts recently, and I noticed that many different brands make the 'same' graphics card (e.g. radeon 280), and sell them at different prices.

Is there any advantage to buying a more expensive brand of a graphics card, or does it not matter if I get a cheaper one.

If this is true, I noticed also, that some graphics cards, which are supposedly not as powerful e.g. (http://www.novatech.co.uk/products/components/amdradeongraphicscards/amdr9270xseries/11217-04-40g.html - this is a radeon 270x) are more expensive than the cheaper end of more powerful graphics cards e.g. (http://www.novatech.co.uk/products/components/amdradeongraphicscards/amdr9280series/r9-280a-tdbd.html - this is a radeon 280).

In cases like this, is it possible that the 270x will outperform the 280?

Thank you for your answers

closed as primarily opinion-based by Ramhound, Mokubai Aug 12 '14 at 20:39

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • The advantages are listed in the specifications of the device. Define the "out perform" the 290 in what way specifically? – Ramhound Aug 12 '14 at 18:05
  • Outperform, for example, can achieve higher frame rates in games – Jon Aug 12 '14 at 18:33
  • The numbers of frames per second a GPU can handle are based on several different factors including the actual core used, the frequency of the CPU, amount of memory, and the number of shaders it supports. The specifications of each card can tell you a great deal. This question seems extremely broad. – Ramhound Aug 12 '14 at 18:36
  • The cost similarity there is likely due to the fact you're comparing a lower spec card with 4GB of memory to a higher spec with 3GB. You'll need to try and find actual benchmarks to get real world performance numbers. – ernie Aug 12 '14 at 18:38
  • Ahh, thank you, this is quite informative :-) I did not know much on this subject before this question, so thank you for helping :-) – Jon Aug 12 '14 at 18:43
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Over the years the discrete graphics adapter market has adopted a tiered system to sell as many SKUs per GPU as possible.

In general, although some OEMs and processes may differ slightly, here is how the third-party graphics adapter market works.

  1. A GPU designer/manufacturer (AMD/NVIDIA) designs a chip, tests it, and then mass produces it in an external silicon fabrication facility (usually Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC)
  2. The GPU maker will provide a "reference" design to each of its third-party board manufacturing partners such as XFX, Zotac, Diamond, Sapphire, EVGA, etc.
  3. Initially, the first products produced for each generation of GPU will be identical to each other as they are all just the fabricated reference designs provided to each manufacturer, perhaps with some minor component changes.
  4. At the same time, these board manufacturers are also working on their own customized versions that change various things about the boards... like:
    • Chip binning - the process of selecting the chips with the tightest tolerances and a propensity to be able to perform better than reference specifications
    • Passive/active component layout - Components like better voltage regulators, higher quality passives like capacitors, resistors, etc. are changed to either provide 'cleaner' power to the GPU (usually for the purposes of overclocking the part) or so that they can put that they did that on the packaging
    • Custom cooling system - Usually the most obvious change between different SKUs, the reference designs usually only provide for a cooler that can adequately cool a GPU at its default specifications (and then not even sometimes, e.g. R9 290), this can afford the card to be cooled more and lower noise levels, useful for either overclocking or if you just don't want to hear a vacuum.
    • There are a few other things that some board manufacturers do to alter their products, but you get the idea, they customize SKUs to fit different niches...
  5. A few months after the reference cards are launched, the custom SKUs start appearing on the market and based on how they are customized, economies of scale, market research, and hundreds of other boring business related factors, they are priced in tiers.

So to answer your first question, there usually is a benefit to purchasing an SKU that is not the reference design (read: lowest tier, probably lowest cost), as there are design changes applied that may improve the performance observed, longevity, and overall user experience.

To answer your second question, unless there is a massive overclock applied to the higher priced, but lower end part, OR the base performance of the lower end part was already comparable, no, the lower end part will generally not outperform even the lowest priced SKU of the next performance tier, usually due to the insurmountable architectural advantages like having significantly more execution units.

This is in general, there are variations on this structure by various brands, and yes some brands have better reputations than others for quality, but as an informed consumer you should probably read reviews of the products you are looking at done by reputable sources around the Internet. Hope this helped clear some things up.

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The performance difference between card manufacturers will be small, and depends almost entirely on how high they've been clocked (i.e. the listed GPU and memory frequency).

Perhaps the biggest difference between manufacturers is the cooling. The design of the power circuitry, firmware, fans, heatsinks, ducts and shrouds, can make a significant difference in noise, temperature, and efficiency.

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YES.. There can be a HUGE difference in manufacturers. Zotac graphic cards come to mind. They don't update the BIOS and have issues on GTX 570 AMP! for example, they didn't set the voltage right. So sometimes the company matters.

Here's a link to a list of cards ranked by hierarchy.

If you want to get REALLY into things, here's a link to a videocard benchmarks list which lists ALL the cards. Well, almost all. And their performance.

  • 3
    We expect more then a link to an article at a third-party website. – Ramhound Aug 12 '14 at 18:25

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