How we test graphics cards at GamesRadar+

At GamesRadar, we take a vigorous stance when reviewing the latest graphics cards that come into our gaming PCs. These crucial components are often the most expensive, and arguably most important part of any stellar build, meaning you can run the latest games at the highest fidelity possible. 

We have two key ways in which we test graphics cards, either for review or to be considered in our best graphics cards for gaming roundup. This process involves industry-leading benchmark tests as well as how the particular GPU gets on in our suite of graphically intensive titles to ascertain an overall average FPS figure. 

How we test graphics cards – benchmarking programs

Gigabyte Eagle RTX 3050 review

(Image credit: Future)

The popular software 3D Mark makes up a fair amount of our graphics card testing. We tend to use both Time Spy and Fire Strike in their various configurations (and resolutions) to get not only an average FPS figure but also an overall score. The higher the number, the better that particular graphics card will be at handling visually demanding content on the hardware. 

No matter the prowess of a particular graphics card, we will always run all tests in 1080p (Full HD) first and then expand our coverage out to both 1440p (QHD), and 2160p (4K) depending on if the GPU is marketed for it. In the interest of parity, and to eliminate any anomalies, we always run the likes of Time Spy and Fire Strike at least three times in each resolution. This means, that if it’s a cheap graphics card aiming for 1080p60, then it is put through six tests, whereas higher-end GPUs are tested more thoroughly. 

These two pieces of software allow us to get an accurate, and faithful, representation of the graphics card’s native performance without having to factor in the optimization of the latest (or legacy) games. Once we’re happy with the scores we’re getting back then we move on to the game testing. 

Graphics card benchmarking

(Image credit: Square Enix / Future)

How we test graphics cards – Game benchmarking

At GamesRadar, we use several popular titles across Steam, Epic, Ubisoft, and Rockstar Games Launcher to give an encompassing view of what a graphics card can do. Much like with the aforementioned benchmarks, regardless of the power potential, we always test at 1080p. 

The vast majority of the time, in-game benchmarking tools are available from the settings menu, which is run at least three times to discern a consistent score. Should the graphics card be able to do 1440p and 4K well, or claim to, these resolutions are also tested, for a total of nine tests in total in any specific title. Where available, we will use the likes of Nvidia DLSS and AMD FSR in their respective performance modes for the sake of parity and have as high frame rates as possible without sacrificing visual quality. Native performance (no-A.I. upscaling) is also considered for every game that we run through the graphics cards. 

In situations where a dedicated benchmarking tool is unavailable then we will take an average FPS ourselves using specific manual save points made in games to have a fair metric between different GPUs. This is done for consistency. 

RTX 3080 review

(Image credit: Future)

Reviewing graphics cards – deciding our verdict 

These are the three deciding factors that go into our graphics card verdicts: 

  • The overall value for money 
  • The performance of the graphics card 
  • Whether it sets out to do what it claims 
  • How it fares against the competition
  • The broader benefits of the model and brand

We always take value for money with graphics cards into consideration when drawing up our final score. This is because GPUs are an investment, so we are always looking for the best power to performance ratio for your money. If we wouldn’t pay the asking price for a video card ourselves, then we wouldn’t expect our readers to, either. 

Performance is paramount with any graphics card. We use 1080p60 as our basis for budget cards, 1440p at higher frame rates for our mid-tier models, and 4K60 or above for higher-end units. This is in order to have a complete picture of what your gaming experience will look like with this GPU. If a graphics card can do all three well, then it’s likely looking at a good write-up provided that the price is fair. 

Lastly, if a graphics card claims that it can play all the latest games at frame rates well above 60 FPS with ray tracing on then we’ll test those claims. Should it fall short of lofty expectations, we’ll make a note in the write-up. It’s important that a graphics card, regardless of budget, hits the mark in order to be considered for our main buying guide. 

For more insights into our process then check out our Hardware Policy.

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