Which Card? Low Noise & Power Usage. Support 4k Display and Linux.

ZzBloopzZ

[H]ard|Gawd
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Sep 18, 2004
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Hello,

I just impulse bought a BenQ BL3201PH. It is a true 4k screen at 3840 x 2160. In order to use the full 4k resolution I need to upgrade my aging GTX 260 to a video card that supports at least Display Port v1.2.

I DO NOT game at all. I use my computer mainly for learning purposes so basically browsing the web, reading PDF's, MS office, various VM labs etc. I may watch occasional 4k videos but never full movies as that is what my home theater is for.

Requirements:

  • I would like a video card that is passive, or at most a single quiet fan and that is low on electricity/power use since this computer is typically on 24/7 and most likely will be near my bed in my next move.
  • I may end up using Linux (most likely Fedora) as the main OS. Still not sure if I should go with nVidia or AMD. I like that AMD is focusing on open source drivers as I recall sometimes with kernel updates the system gets messed up with nVidia. I guess for now suggest both AMD or nVidia cards just in caes.
  • Budget is under $80 if possible, and I do not mind purchasing used.
Thanks!
 

cybereality

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I think AMD is better (since they have a better open source driver) otherwise with Nvidia it's a bit more complex.

I recently tried to mess with Ubuntu and I couldn't even install it with a GTX 1080 as the screen went black immediately. Turns out the open source Nvidia driver doesn't supported newer cards, so I had to temporarily put in a GTX 750 Ti just to get through the install, update to proprietary Nvidia driver, and then switch back to GTX 1080.

Even though Nvidia has better gaming performance in Linux, if you are not gaming you may not need it. I think a good card for you would be the RX 460, and a quick search seems to indicate it will work in Linux (I haven't tried).

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202269
 
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DooKey

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10,292
Could you kindly go in more detail on why?

Bottom line is NV drivers are much better with Linux than AMD drivers. When all is said and done you'll have a more stable system. I've run both types of cards with Ubuntu and had problems with stability with AMD. None at all with NV. Grab a 1050 as the person above me said and don't look back.
 

RanceJustice

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ZzBloopzZ , I believe both NV and AMD have cards that would suit you. I would advise to buy the newer cards if possible, for a variety of reasons such as latest technologies/features support and coolest/quietest optimizations. Budget wise, the new prices of certain cards may be above $80, so I'd look for used too. On the Nvidia side, the 1050 is your best bet. 1050 Ti would also be suitable but it costs more and you may not need the power unless say... you're doing cryptocurrency mining or whatnot. Several manufacturers make a single-fan "short" versions - EVGA is one of the better OEMs with such a design. From the AMD side you have a couple of of great choices - the RX 560 and RX 550 series. Both of these have latest generation tech (including 4K encoding/decoding and lots of other features) and come with single fan, "compact/ITX" variants. The RX 560 typically is about $110-130 and may be more than you need, but if you're doing any sort of work that uses OpenCL, DirectCompute, cryptocurrency mining, encoding etc... it may be helpful to have a little more power from the RX 560. The RX 550 on the other hand is, even new, pretty much around $80-100 (with the 2GB versions around $80-90 and the 4GB closer to $100, from a cursory check on Amazon). and still has a lot of the same great features. I would suggest buying OEM versions from Asus, Gigabyte, or MSI - but other brands may be suitable as well. Note that you could also go for the slightly older RX 460 (there is no 450 series made available on the open market if I recall) which is in many ways similar to the RX 550.

Personally, for your use cases as described I suggest picking up the AMD cards (RX 560, RX 550, or RX 460 ). If you're not gaming but plan to use Linux, these cards offer the latest tech and will work smoothly in "just works" style with the open source drivers. Note that because they're the RX series cards, they can even make use of the newest Linux open source AMD driver which is a significant leap forward - unlike the 2 disparate "open source" versus "proprietary, Catalyst" packages of the past, the new AMD Linux driver stack is a universal open source base to to speak that gives excellent 2D and modest yet viable (non, or extremely light gaming) 3D performance, but treats the proprietary 3D Catalyst type drivers as sort of a "plug in" that sits on top of the universal open source base! This adds features and compatibility and has a bright future indeed, as both AMD and independent open source contributions are working on the same underlying driver stack. If I recall "RadeonSI" is the full open source base, "AMDGPU-PRO" is a hybrid with the proprietary 3D additions, and there is even "RADV" if you are doing any kind of work that requires Vulkan compliance etc. Overall, you'll probably be fine with RadeonSI and/or AMDGPU-PRO which are both working pretty smoothly from what I can tell - I last tested them on a "mostly supported" older card, my R9 290X , but many of the 200 and 300 series older cards are NOT supported, which is why its a good reason to get one of the new "RX 500" or "RX 400" series.

So if price is your primary factor then the AMD RX 550 is closest to your desired $80 range (assuming new) plus gives you the kind of new tech that older generation passive cards (ie 7000 series or even older R5/R6/R7 series) won't be able to, that could impair your 4K experience and 2D tasks like decoding the latest codecs. I don't know if any of your learning tasks require any OpenCL/DirectCompute/Vulkan or other tasks that make use of a GPU - if they do, then I suggest stepping up to the RX 560 for not a lot more out of pocket. LIkewise, if buying used you have the option of the RX 460 or even 470 that might be in your price range and will be very suitable. Most of these cards come in single-fan designs that are cool and quiet. I grant that the only possible benefit I could think of for Nvidia 1050 series is their slightly better power efficiency if I recall, but I think there are many reasons to pick AMD in your case as described above. Any questions and I'll do my best to help. Enjoy!
 

Krenum

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I agree with previous posters, the GTX 1050 would fit your needs well or a 1060 6GB if you can find a used one for cheap.
 

Sojoe

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I would recommend Nvidia unless you are really particular about everything being open-source. If you are, AMD cards does have decent open-source Linux driver support.

With AMD performance under Linux is quite bad compared to Nvidia (check out Phoronix labs graphics cards testing), but since you will not be gaming you should be ok.

A 1050 is a fine and safe choice with its low price and heat dissipation.
 

ZzBloopzZ

[H]ard|Gawd
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With AMD performance under Linux is quite bad compared to Nvidia (check out Phoronix labs graphics cards testing), but since you will not be gaming you should be ok.

A 1050 is a fine and safe choice with its low price and heat dissipation.

Wow, you are right the Phoronix GPU review definitely favors nVidia by far! Also, looks like nVidia will support 4K Netflix streaming but one would need minimum a GTX 1050 3GB+ RAM. Granted the screen I ordered is not HDCP 2.2 compliant anyways so the later is a moot point for me but may be useful information for others.

I do like that the GT 1030 and GTX 1050 use less power/heat than the RX 550/560 (which are the only cards I would go with if I were to go AMD). Decisions, decisions. I wonder if 2GB is enough for 4k non-gaming use or will there be any stutter/lag with the display? I definently will never game but may watch whatever the 4k version of x264 codec is down the road.

I do see this Asus GTX 1050 Ti for $120 AR.
 
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ZzBloopzZ

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Long Quote

Dear Xaeos,

First of all, thank you for such a long and detailed post. I am very grateful for you taking time to write out all this with incredible information.

I do agree that I would rather go with current generation equipment so either a GT 1030, GTX 1050, RX 550 or RX 560 (Figured RX 550/560 will have better future Linux support and they also mention better 4k support with updated connectors). However, looking at recent Linux benchmarks in my post right above this nVidia seems to be on another level. Also, it looks like the 1030/1050 are superior in terms of power usage and temperatures. I am torn on what to get. There is a memorial day sale for the Asus GTX 1050 Ti 4GB for $120 AR currently which is rather tempting.

Logically, I know I will never play any games as I have not in over 5 years now. I won't even ever watch any Blu-Ray or Netflix on my computer, but may watch occasional x265 encoded 4k videos here and there. Using this I assume either the RX 550 or GT 1030 should suffice realistically for smooth 4k office/productivity use correct? Plus they have lowest power usage profiles. I forgot I do use Plex, I wonder if they support processing using GPU in that case perhaps a 1050 Ti or RX 560 would make more sense? The better driver support of AMD in Linux is very tempting though. Great to have options but I am so indecisive here haha...

I did do some additional research and you are correct that AMD is better in terms of compatibility/headaches when used with Linux.
 
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incredadamible

Weaksauce
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Feb 2, 2016
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117
  • I would like a video card that is passive, or at most a single quiet fan and that is low on electricity/power use since this computer is typically on 24/7 and most likely will be near my bed in my next move.
  • I may end up using Linux (most likely Fedora) as the main OS. Still not sure if I should go with nVidia or AMD. I like that AMD is focusing on open source drivers as I recall sometimes with kernel updates the system gets messed up with nVidia. I guess for now suggest both AMD or nVidia cards just in caes.
  • Budget is under $80 if possible, and I do not mind purchasing used.

I would recommend trying to find a used FirePro or Quattro card...anything with DP 1.2 should work. I got a FirePro V3900 for $30. Low profile, virtually silent, and low power. I do not know about Linux compatabilities, though the card has Linux drivers to download on the AMD website.
 

RanceJustice

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Happy to help!

Indeed your immediate needs would likely be served with most of those cards listed, but its a matter of primarily planning for the future and useful edge-cases versus value. WIth regards to those Linux benchmarks, I wouldn't be too worried at the moment. First of all, that Phoronix comparison compared Nvidia proprietary, binary drivers (ie the ones marked "Nvidia") versus a version of the fully open source AMDGPU that has not yet have the "DC" changed merged in. A better comparison would be either the fully open source NV "Nouveau" drivers (which last I checked were significantly behind in features/performance, even when compared to AMD open source GPUs), or comparing the proprietary Nvidia drivers to the AMDGPU-PRO (ie the "PRO" variant being the non-free "plugged in" content). They even mention this a bit, but it isn't exactly clear if you were just looking over the graphs this doesnt' seem to be an apples to apples comparison. If you want the full feature set and don't mind the non-free element, AMDGPU-PRO is likely to give an experience very close to the proprietary NV drivers they tested there in terms of performance. I've run it on my card for both 2D (video acceleration and encoding etc) and 3D tasks (ie gaming) and while I've not been benchmarking everything, the performance and features seem to be as expected. Oh and its noteworthy that the 4K Netflix element there is exclusively on Windows for the moment - I can only hope Netflix (and all video content providers) become as platform agnostic as possible - its rather frustrating to see what used to be FullHD and now 4K content stuck behind certain proprietary requirements and DRM (ie You must use Chrome, you must use Silverlight, Windows only, DRM this, DRM that etc..).

While the NV cards mention do use a little less power than the AMD ones, I would consider it more or less negligible for your uses, perhaps.. All of these lower-powered cards are not putting out massive amounts of heat either , so unless you have a particular edge case (ie When the 1050 first came out, lots of cryptocurrency miners used it because of Pascal improvements finally made performance somewhat competitive - though AMD is still ahead generally for GPGPU tasks - but they were more efficient at a time when people were comparing their cost per watt, space/power requirements in mining rigs etc) it may not be a major issue. For productivity use both cards should suffice certainly, and for locally watching x265 content they'll likely work the same. However, encoding/transcoding is a different beast and will benefit from the stronger GPUs. If memory serves however, Plex at least at one time decided to NOT support GPU encoding though that may be changing. However, Emby ( open source, much like Plex, that also runs clients and servers on Linux) is supporting HW GPU transcoding so it may be worth looking into that, especially if your Plex box doesn't have a strong CPU and'or you end up transcoding a lot. If you prefer to err on the side of caution and can absorb the cost, the more powerful cards could be more useful if you ever find yourself now or through the card's lifespan that supports HW acceleration through the GPU.

As I said before both AMD and Nvidia cards will likely take care of what you want to do. If you're a fan of Linux and willing to use the proprietary drivers, either card will work, but if you want to support openness, effort, and the way things are being developed, AMD is the clear winner with the new AMDGPU / AMDGPU-PRO driver stack. It all comes down to what you value the most (ie perhaps it will be easier to buy used 1050 Ti used because they've been out longer ) , but it sounds like that with the exception of NV putting out slightly less power and heat, you're leaning toward AMD? If that was your main concern, then I'd stick with AMD as the heat and power is not likely to be a major issue. Hope this helps a bit.
 

ZzBloopzZ

[H]ard|Gawd
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Dear Xaeos,

Thank you again for your extremely informative and simply insightful post. It amazes me the wealth of knowledge that people give out on forums, you are clearly passionate about this stuff.

Thanks to you I am most definitely going to go with AMD. Either the RX 550 or 560. Looking at the benchmarks, the 560 is simply on another level compared to the 550 for just the price of a dinner meal for two. Hopefully in the next few weeks online vendors and MicroCenter will have RX 560's in stock at a decent price and I will jump on that. Do you think 2GB is enough since I will not be gaming at all? Not sure if the extra $10 for 4GB would be any benefit what so ever?

Also, is the SAPPHIRE a good enough brand? The Gigabyte brand that I am seeing has 2 fans, rather go with a single fan design.

Thanks!
 

RanceJustice

Supreme [H]ardness
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Messages
6,179
Dear Xaeos,

Thank you again for your extremely informative and simply insightful post. It amazes me the wealth of knowledge that people give out on forums, you are clearly passionate about this stuff.

Thanks to you I am most definitely going to go with AMD. Either the RX 550 or 560. Looking at the benchmarks, the 560 is simply on another level compared to the 550 for just the price of a dinner meal for two. Hopefully in the next few weeks online vendors and MicroCenter will have RX 560's in stock at a decent price and I will jump on that. Do you think 2GB is enough since I will not be gaming at all? Not sure if the extra $10 for 4GB would be any benefit what so ever?

Also, is the SAPPHIRE a good enough brand? The Gigabyte brand that I am seeing has 2 fans, rather go with a single fan design.

Thanks!

Glad you've found my posts helpful!

The RX 560 is certainly a step up from the 550 for a small fiscal outlay, so it is a good move if you think you'll make use of the power now or in the future, for at least some of your use cases. When it comes to the 2GB vs 4GB , its much the same situation. For your basic desktop work or entertainment like watching movies, 2GB will certainly be sufficient. However, when it comes to video editing/encoding and some other GPGPU accelerated tasks, it is possible that 4GB could be beneficial. Given that the 4GB version of a RX 560 can be within $10-15 or so of the 2GB, I'd say go for the 4GB if you can afford the increase just to be on the safe side. After all, more and more productivity / utilities are starting to support GPGPU use when pertinent, so in the future it may be even more useful to you than it would be currently.

Sapphire is a quality manufacturer of cards based on AMD GPUs with a good reputation, so feel free to add them to the list. I see Newegg actually has both the 2GB and 4GB versions in stock at the moment, at $100 and $115 respectively, both with single fan designs. They also list the MSI RX 560 "AERO ITX" single fan version for $115 as well, but its out of stock. Amazon isn't doing as well, with 3rd parties charging a bit more for 2GB and 4GB alike (around $135 for the 4GB in some cases) of various manufacturers. I'm unsure what MicroCenter will have in your location - online, they don't yet list the RX560 (or 570, 580) in stock it seems but that will likely change soon and local stores may stock things not online and vice versa.
 
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