The Best Graphics Cards for Gaming: Reference vs Custom

Reference vs Custom

Choosing a graphics card for your PC can be difficult. There are two main types of cards: reference vs custom. Which one should you buy?

Reference cards are created by companies who specialize in video card production, such as Nvidia or AMD, and they often come at a lower cost than custom-d GPUs. Custom-designed graphics cards provide more power to your computer system, but they also come with higher price tags.

In this article, we will discuss the difference between these two types of GPU so that you can make an informed decision when purchasing a new graphics card for your gaming PC.

What is Reference Graphic Card?

A reference Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is a GPU that has been specially created solely to be used as part of an add-in board, such as one inserted into a motherboard via PCI Express connector in order to provide additional video output capability beyond what can normally found integrated onto the motherboard chipset itself.

These are also known by another term "reference design," because these GPUs are intended to act as a reference for cheaper, more cost-effective variants of the GPU aimed at system integrators and DIY enthusiasts.

Reference cards are typically used by vendors who specialize in video card production, such as NVIDIA or AMD, which produce high-end graphics processing units that are utilized on customized computer systems designed specifically for gaming needs.

A Reference Graphics Card is also called an "upgrade". It's usually not enough to run games without upgrade or overclock your hardware (or get a new PC).

If you want to play competitively online then it's worth considering upgrading from low-quality options like integrated graphics chipsets or even laptop versions of these graphic cards.

In many cases this can be done simply buy replacing the graphics card that came with the system.

Reference cards can also be helpful for running graphics intensive programs or even rendering video content, depending on how powerful they are and what type of software is being utilized.

If you're looking to make your own custom gaming PC then reference graphic cards are a good starting point when choosing what kind of GPU to use as part of an upgrade kit-typically these kits will include everything necessary to install a new graphics processor in place of the old one so you don't have to buy individual components separately.

The reference design typically includes both the hardware and firmware needed for this installation process which makes it easy to install replacement parts.

A Reference Graphics Card is different from just any other retail option because not only does it come with reference design but also a warranty.

What is Custom Graphics Card?

  • A custom graphics card is a computer chip that has been designed and manufactured to perform graphical rendering.
  • It uses circuitry that's different from the one found in an off-the-shelf chip, resulting in faster performance for anything it does - not just gaming.

Custom Graphics Card Types:

There are many different types of custom graphics cards on the market, making them very versatile between gamers and non-gamers alike. The most popular type of these chips is known as "graphics processing unit" or GPU.

These GPUs have their own memory built into them rather than relying solely on system RAM like standard CPUs do, which means they're much more efficient at handling tasks such as video encoding and decoding while also providing Nvidia and AMD OC each have a range of custom graphics cards on the market, making them very versatile between gamers and non-gamers alike.

What are the benefits of Reference vs Custom graphics cards?

  • Reference graphics cards are less expensive than custom ones
  • In some cases reference graphic cards may be more powerful than the best available custom cards.
  • Custom graphics card manufacturers need to know about your specific needs and create a product for you, but with reference graphics cards it is easier to find something that will work well without having to adapt anything yourself.
  • References Graphic Cards offer a lower cost of ownership, as they are cheaper in comparison with performance options from proprietary brands. They also provide an advantage because they often have better components suited for multiple tasks which can make them faster and stronger when compared to high-end models exclusive to each task such as gaming or photography etc.
  • One of the main benefits is that with reference graphics cards, you can easily upgrade and change them as your needs evolve. This opens up more options in terms of components and price ranges. With custom graphic card manufacturers it's easier to find something which will work well but when upgrading there are limited options available depending on preference or budget.
  • Reference Graphic Cards also usually have a bigger selection to choose from which can be an advantage depending on what you're looking for. Custom graphics cards are usually small in comparison and will leave people with fewer options.
  • In general, reference graphic card manufacturers make their products cheaper with more customization because of the option they provide in upgrading them while custom graphics card providers often offer something expensive but it's difficult or impossible to upgrade as your needs change over time.

Reference Graphic Card Pros

Reference graphics cards are pre-made, meaning that they’re not customizable in any way. Graphics reference cards come with a limited amount of RAM and there is only so much power that can be shoved into these small little chips.

This means you have to pay attention to what it says on the box when purchasing one because some graphic reference card models will require more computing power than others.

In general, most everyday reference cards can handle anything from watching videos at 1080p on YouTube or playing games like Fortnite without too many problems as long as your PC isn't running other heavy programs while doing those things simultaneously.

The reference graphics card is a popular choice for PC gamers because of its generally low price and power. The reference graphic cards are also more durable than other types, meaning that they can take bumps in the road without breaking as easily.

So if you’re someone who likes to move their computer around or just throws it down on any surface every time you use it then this might be your best bet.

Reference graphics cards are available from most major manufacturers like NVIDIA, AMD, Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd., MSI Group (formerly Micro-Star International), ASUS Computer Inc.

Another benefit of reference graphic cards is that there's no need to worry about how much memory or cooling capacity will work with your current build; these pre-made cards are guaranteed to fit.

Lower price - The reference graphics cards will typically cost you less than other types because of their generally low power requirements - especially if your computer doesn't have much space for upgrades or you don’t plan on buying a new one anytime soon.

This means that if you need something cheap but reliable then this would be the way to go; it also helps with saving some money in other areas like cooler units since there's no need to worry about how much memory or cooling capacity works with a pre-made card as long as it has two slots available for installing them .

Reference cards are best for older computers - The reference graphics card is also a good choice if you own an outdated computer that doesn't have room to upgrade the power supply and other components. You'll be able to install it right away without having to worry about how these new changes will affect your current hardware because of its low power requirements.

Low-profile design - Since they're not as big or heavy, reference cards can fit into more compact spaces within your case. This means that even on old cases where space is limited; there's always going to be some way of getting them in somewhere so long as you don't mind ripping out many unused cables from inside the case (or just removing parts altogether).

Reference Graphic Car Cons

We all know that graphics cards are important for gaming, video editing and other heavy-duty tasks. Although there are many products out there, the options can be confusing.

We're here to clear things up by giving you some reference points with pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about what type is best for your needs.

There's no doubt that high-end gamers will appreciate something like NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 which has max clock speeds of 1847 MHz and 1920 CUDA cores in addition to a huge 11GB GDDRX memory buffer size (GDDR).

This card is also not too expensive at around $500+. Considering its price tag, this graphic card might be considered overkill for other tasks.

Too expensive for other uses besides gaming. It might be worth it to invest in a cheaper, more versatile graphics card that can do the job of both work and play like AMD Radeon RX 580 which has max clock speeds of 1366 MHz with 23040 stream processors or NVidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti which has 640 CUDA cores and comes in at around $150+.

Both are also great options if you're looking to make your existing PC run faster as they have low power consumption rates and don't require costly upgrades down the line.

The decision ultimately comes down to what type of use you want from your GPU so take into account how often you will need them before investing in one.

Custom Graphics Card Pros

Custom graphics cards are an attractive option for gamers, but they can be cost-prohibitive. Luckily, there are some pros that make the investment worthwhile.

The first thing to consider is having control over your own hardware. By choosing a custom card over a prebuilt one you know what all of the parts inside it will be as opposed to being stuck with whatever comes out of a box assembled by someone else who may or may not have any idea about PC gaming in general (or even aesthetics).

This also applies when upgrading - just because Nvidia's current flagship is twice as expensive doesn't mean it'll offer double the performance.

So long as you're buying from reputable brands like MSI or EVGA that understand their product lineups and the needs of their customers, it's actually possible to get a better deal by getting parts for an older card.

Secondly, custom graphics cards offer much more variety in design than prebuilt solutions do, you're not limited to things like AMD-only or Nvidia-only designs that are only available from one company.

This can also be cost-prohibitive because most companies charge extra for these options, but if there's something specific you want then investing this time will pay off down the line as your rig is unique and personalized just for you.

Thirdly, performance - yes, we've already talked about how cheaper components may not necessarily mean less performance (especially since motherboard sockets change every couple years), but with a custom graphics card you're pretty much guaranteed to get the best performance possible for your dollar.

You don't have to deal with any of that maybe it's better than this' or it could be worse - at least I'm not paying as much, and can instead just go straight for the most powerful product available at a given price bracket.

This is because when buying components separately, you'll always want to buy parts based on their own merits rather than comparison shopping between brands.

But since manufacturers usually only sell products from themselves (with some exceptions), they can charge more even if their component isn't necessarily superior due to name recognition alone.

With a custom build, however, there are no such restrictions as companies like Sapphire will happily sell their graphics cards to anyone.

  • You can have more customized features such as overclocking, which will give you faster speeds when playing high-performance games.
  • They usually come with warranty protection from manufacturers so in case anything goes wrong they’ll help you out.
  • Custom graphics cards can be made to fit into almost any space and if you want a specific design, you can have it.
  • The cost of the card is also usually less than what manufacturers charge for their own products.

Potential benefits: Higher performance when playing high-end games; Warranty protection from the manufacturer in case anything goes wrong with your product; Cost savings vs buying directly from the company that has higher prices due to name recognition alone.

Potential risks: There are no guarantees on how well these will perform and while many people do not consider this an issue, others may want to ensure they're getting something worth the investment.

Custom Graphics Card Cons

The higher cost of these graphics cards. On average they are going to be about $100 more expensive than the standard priced model, which can make it difficult for some people who want a custom card but don’t have that kind of money.

It is also possible that you will not get as good performance out of your card because there needs to be an additional step in production and assembly before releasing them onto the market.

This means that sometimes even though it might take longer for your graphics card to ship and arrive from its manufacturer, it could actually perform worse once you install it into your device or computer system.

Custom Graphics Cards cons should include how much extra work and materials go along with making such products available on the Market Place today.

Custom Graphics Cards Cons also include how the customization can actually make it harder for customers to know what type of hardware they are purchasing because there is not a standard model.

This means that some people might end up paying more money and getting less performance from their new card.

The last Custom Graphics Cards con is that you will need an additional step in production before anything leaves the factory floor.

This could potentially mean slower shipping times or worse performing graphics cards when compared against other models on the market today.

Differene Between Reference Graphic Card and Custom Graphic Card

  • A reference graphics card is the original graphic processing unit which came with a new computer.
  • Custom Graphics Cards are made by private companies to compete against NVIDIA and AMD, but these cards cannot be installed on computers that were preloaded with reference models.
  • Both options offer high performance, but many people find custom graphics cards more appealing because they can use them for different applications other than gaming or video editing.
  • Reference Graphic Cards are cheaper in price because of no customization done to it while Custom Graphic Card prices vary depending on what features you want added to your product.

What is the lifespan of a custom graphics cards?

How long should I keep my reference card in comparison to my new one so that it doesn't take as much wear and tear from me using it constantly.

A few other considerations when buying a reference card: Memory size, brand name, thermal design power (TDP), fan type and port adapter required.

Reference cards are great because they save you some money but if you're building your own computer or have specific needs then maybe this isn't what for you.

Finally, remember to make sure your motherboard supports whatever kind of graphics card you decide on before purchasing.

For example, Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 would work on any system with an available PCI -Express x16 slot and a 500-watt or greater power supply.

Which one is right for me - reference or custom graphics card?

The reference graphics card is a stock specification from the system manufacturer. They are designed to be energy efficient and have good compatibility with other hardware in your PC, such as storage devices or memory (RAM).

Reference cards may come with overclocked clock speeds which can result in higher performance than similarly priced models of custom-built video cards.

A reference graphics card will usually not require any additional drivers for installation on Windows PCs but some manufacturers do offer their own driver software that optimizes the operation of the video card within their systems.

It provides support for features like dynamic GPU switching between integrated and discrete GPUs when used with an Intel® H81 chipset motherboard based on Intel’s latest platform architecture code name “Broadwell”.

Custom graphics cards offer the best performance for your money, but it is important to keep in mind that these video card upgrades require a more powerful power supply and supporting hardware.

The most popular choice of the custom graphics card on PCPartPicker is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX series which offers high-quality gaming at 1080p resolution with settings maxed out while still providing an excellent image quality.

If you don’t care about overclocking or having extra features like SLI/CrossFire compatibility then buying a reference design will be less expensive than going with something from NVIDIA or AMD.

Should You Buy A Reference Or Custom Graphic Card?

The reference graphics card is the standard of which all other GPU's are based off. The general consensus among gamers and system builders is that if you want a graphics card to last, buy a reference one.

They come in either AMD or NVIDIA models. Reference cards have been used for years, they're tested thoroughly so there's no need to worry about their stability.

But don't expect them to overclock well because they aren't made with OC (overclocking) capabilities in mind; it would void your warranty anyway.

On the upside, though since they usually run cooler than custom GPUs you'll get more frame rates and longer longevity out of the machine without having to spend as much on cooling solutions.

Custom GPUs can offer better overclocks and cooling solutions, and in most cases they are more aesthetically pleasing than reference GPUs.

They're often available as either a factory overclocked card or an air-cooled option which comes with its own cooling solution.

If you plan on doing some serious OCing (overclocking) then custom cards will be the way to go because they have been designed specifically for that purpose; but if all you want is something stable without worrying too much about heat and noise levels, there's no reason not to buy a good quality reference GPU.

Frequently Asked Question

Question: What is the difference between a reference graphics card and custom graphics cards?

Answer: Reference graphic cards are manufactured by NVIDIA or AMD to offer baseline performance for gaming. Custom designs will have different clock speeds, cooling solutions, power requirements, and even additional features like the dual-fan design as well as overclocking capabilities for those who want more out of their system than just the usual fare from the manufacturer's factory settings.

The only way to get one when you purchase your desktop PC is via an aftermarket reseller that provides video card upgrades. Reference models can be found in desktops priced starting at $500 whereas custom models may exceed $1000 depending on what options were chosen at the time of ordering (i.e., parts).

Custom Graphics Cards

Custom designs will have different clock speeds, cooling solutions, power requirements, and even additional features like the dual-fan design as well as overclocking capabilities for those who want more out of their system than just the usual fare from the manufacturer's factory settings.

Question: Which graphic card should I buy?

Answer: You can find reference models in desktops priced starting on $500 whereas custom models may exceed $1000 depending on what options were chosen at time of ordering (i.e., parts). Custom cards are worth the investment for someone who intends to play games more than casually and/or wants better performance from their system.

Question: What is a graphics card's "pixels per second"?

Answer: The higher this number, the smoother gameplay will be. This measurement indicates how many pixels your computer screen displays each second during gameplay--in other words, frames per second or FPS. If you're playing a video or an online game that runs smoothly without any lag, for example, it has 60+ FPS.

Here are some examples of pixel rates:

60 FPS is considered to be a bare minimum for smooth gameplay but may still result in minor slow-downs during demanding scenes, especially if the graphics card cannot keep up with the number of pixels per second being drawn on your screen.

120+ FPS will usually provide you with an ultra-smooth experience that helps reduce eye strain and motion sickness.

Question: Can I use my old motherboard? Do I need a new one?

Answer: Custom cards typically require more power than reference models which means they'll also require better motherboards-ones designed specifically to handle higher wattage loads from the GPU and CPU combined. You can buy these types of motherboards online or from your local electronics store.

If you're considering upgrading to a custom card, be sure that it's compatible with the motherboard you currently have: if not, then consider investing in one of those as well and save yourself future headaches.


The best graphics cards for gaming are custom-built. Reference graphic cards may be cheaper, but they don't offer the same performance as a customized card that can handle your specific needs and demands.

Customizing also saves you money in the long run because it's less expensive than upgrading from one reference graphics card to another as video game developers push out new titles with higher graphical requirements.

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