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Do You Need More Than One Graphics Card for Gaming?

Dual graphics cards installed in a PC with RGB lighting.

You may be able to house two GPUs in your computer, but is it an option worth exploring? Can a single graphics card do enough, or is a dual setup necessary for high-end gaming?

What Are the Requirements for Dual Graphics Cards?

Let’s start with one important note: If you use the latest hardware, you’re unlikely to find support for dual-card technologies. Modern GPUs are capable of delivering high-performance gaming without the need for a multi-GPU setup. And, with support for SLI and CrossFire dwindling, game developers are favoring the use of single graphics card machines.

If you do have older hardware and are considering installing a second GPU, before even considering whether a dual graphics card setup is better than a single setup, it’s necessary to find out how you can install more than one graphics card in your computer.

To run two graphics cards in your PC, your rig needs access to technology provided by NVIDIA or AMD that allows more than one GPU to produce a single visual output. These technologies are referred to as CrossFire for AMD, and SLI for NVIDIA. You can check to see whether your PC is compatible with CrossFire or SLI by seeing if your motherboard and GPU support the technologies.

Identifying your existing GPU is simple. Windows 11 users can press the Windows key, type Task Manager, then select the Performance tab to see the GPU.

how to find out what graphics card you have windows 11

The easiest way to see if your current graphics card supports SLI or CrossFire technology is to visit the manufacturer’s website. For example, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 confirms it is “NVIDIA SLI Ready” and supports the SLI HB Bridge.

nvidia gtx 1070 sli ready specifications

To check whether your motherboard supports SLI or CrossFire, you can either look for the SLI or CrossFire symbols on the motherboard box or check the manufacturer’s website for its specifications.

how to see if your motherboard supports crossfire or sli

Aside from compatible components, it’s also necessary to have a desktop PC case that’s large enough to fit two graphics cards and a power supply unit (PSU) that is able to deliver enough power to both GPUs.

RELATED: How Important Is the Power Supply (PSU) When Building a PC?

Benefits of Having More Than One Graphics Card

There are quite a few benefits to having dual graphics cards. The main advantage is the increased gaming performance; the rendering is split between two cards rather than one, increasing frame rates and achieving higher resolutions. (Of course, you will be better off with a single modern graphics card than two older, slower ones.)

SLI-supported games like GTA V , released in 2015, make the most out of this technology and allow you to enjoy the fast-paced action that this AAA title boasts, with exceptional frame rates and smooth gameplay.

Possibly one of the most practical advantages of dual graphics cards is that your display options open up to a wider market. If you’re running a two-monitor setup and your existing graphics card either only supports one monitor, or supports two but only has one HDMI and one DisplayPort, then you’ll have more choice when you install two graphics cards. However, many modern GPUs have multiple graphics outputs so you can power multiple displays from a single GPU.

Disadvantages of Dual Graphics Cards

The main downfall to a dual graphics card setup is the cost. For example, a graphics card like the ASUS GeForce GTX 1050 Ti will cost you close to $250. However, if you install two comparable graphics cards, you’re looking at over $500 for this kind of setup.

ASUS PH-GTX1050TI-4G GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

ASUS PH-GTX1050TI-4G GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

This GDDR5 graphics card offer DisplayPort, DVI, and HDMI outputs, and boasts clock speeds of up to 7008MHz.

You could, of course, have two lower to mid-range graphics cards, making one really good one that costs slightly less than a higher-end model. But, you’re then doubling up on your power requirements, and frankly, it’s more of a pain to keep up with the GPU market’s technology and upgrade two graphics cards than it is one.

It’s also necessary to consider the potential cost of ensuring your setup can handle two graphics cards. If your PC’s components aren’t suitable for a dual-card environment as explained above, you’ll have to spend more money upgrading your hardware.

Ultimately, since modern graphics cards and games generally do not support dual-card technologies, you’re better off with a single powerful modern card than multiple slower, older cards. If you want to splurge, consider a multi-monitor setup: Graphics cards like Gigabyte’s GeForce GTX 1660 OC support one HDMI and three DisplayPort outputs, meaning a multi-monitor setup is well within reach and costs less than two mid-range cards.

Less Is Often More

While it’s entirely possible to install two graphics cards in a computer, it’s not necessarily the most effective way of improving your PC’s graphical performance. Unless you’re on a stricter budget with a mid-range rig that requires a multi-monitor setup, you’ll likely get better results from upgrading your PC and housing just one high-end graphics card.

With dual graphics card-supporting technology like SLI and CrossFire dying, if you’re considering a dual graphics card setup, it might be worth waiting for the likes of NVIDIA to invest a larger focus on multi-GPUs, or identify what’s dragging your existing computer down and upgrading your components when you can.

RELATED: Should You Use HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB-C for a 4K Monitor?

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