Best Low Profile Graphics Cards Buying Guide 2021

How can you tell if a desktop computer is powerful enough to run a specific task such as gaming, video editing, office work, etc? Do you consider its appearance? The larger the casing, the better? well that’s not really not the case when trying to gauge the performance of a computer, because several years ago small form factor or compact builds was introduced in the market. 

Small form factor builds are literally small computers, almost half the size of the regular desktop system unit down to palm size (nano pc) which is commonly used now by employees in the office, freelancers and gamers.

If you want to build an SFP computer then you definitely want to look for a low profile graphics card that will match your setup.  Despite the size, low-profile GPUs can also be powerful to handle quite handful of tasks that you might want to accomplish, be it on the video production or just simply want to play casual games in 720p or 1080p setup.

What is a Low Profile Graphics Card?

Low profile video cards are designed specifically for limited space computer systems. For example a mini-ITX computer case can only handle mini-ITX size motherboard so to fit it all the core components inside the case, then you want to look for a low profile counterpart of the each i.e., graphics card, psu, motherboard, and cpu cooler.

In addition, there are low-profile GPUs that only comes with passive cooling, usually a huge aluminium heatsink to cool the GPU die while others have single or dual fan setup to cool the component. Most entry level low profile cards will only require a single bracket in the back i/o panel of your case to be installed, while the mid-range LPs would usually take two-brackets.SaveSave

Advantages of Using Low Profile GPUs

Aside from the fact that low profile cards are slimmer than regular-sized cards

  • Affordable – Low profile cards are relatively cheaper compared to the standard size graphics card in the mid-range category. You can get a low profile graphics card under $100 or get a much powerful video card by adding extra $50-$100. 
  • Capable – Again despite the appearance and the form factor of these cards, they are capable to help you do what you need to. Just don’t expect that you can play such hard core games into the highest setting as you can get different frame rates based on several factors such as the size of the display that you are using, game title, etc.
  • Less Power Consumption – LP cards are usually powered by PCI express x16 slot and requires 50w-75w at full load and less when idle. That’s the reason it does not come with a PSU connector on its board which is common on standard size mid range and high-end graphics cards. So even if you have less than 500w of power supply, you will not have any issue running this type of cards.
  • Less Noise/Quiet – Majority of the LP cards have passive cooling, that’s the huge heat sink that you can see on these cards. So basically there are no fans spinning, but there are other manufacturers who opted to have single or dual fans to dissipate heat on the card.
  • Compact Size – These cards are slimmer compared to the regular-sized graphics cards that’s why they are perfect for mini ITX cases that uses mini or micro ITX motherboards, but it doesn’t mean they are not compatible with ATX or E-ATX motherboards. If you are tight on budget and want to have more airflow in your system, then you can also use this type of card.

What To Look For When Buying Low Profile Video Card this 2021?

Before buying a low-profile video card for your future compact build, you might want to check these guidelines to ensure you get the best value for your money and avoid any miscalculations to what you want to achieve on your specific build.

GPU Model

When buying a new GPU, the first thing that we need to check is the GPU model. Take note we are just looking at the low profile graphics card category, so we can disregard the high-end categories such as Nvidia’s Geforce RTX 3060, RTX 3070, RTX 3080 series and AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT, RX 6800 XT line up. 

At this point of writing the best GPU models for the low profile category are the GTX 1650, GT 1050, GT 1030, GT 730, GT 710, RX 560 and RX 570.

It is also worth mentioning that there are some GPUs that are still much powerful compared to the latest GPUs that was released 1 to 2 years prior. 

Bench Marks

Reading and watching graphics card benchmarks is not for all, but if you are the type of person that want to know every bit of detail on the card that you are purchasing then this is can be really helpful. You will know what’s achievable with the GPU that you are going to buy, what expected power consumption, what frame rates you are getting for specific game, and so much more.

VRAM

Depending on your budget and requirements, you can go with 1 to 2GB low profile cards if you just want to use it as a basic display card for multiple monitors, but if you are into gaming or video editing/rendering then you might want to stretch your budget and buy the 4GB low profile graphic card. 

Clock Speeds

This is an important factor to consider if you want to get the best performance as the higher the clock speed, the better. Just be sure when comparing GPUs, you also need to take the size of the framebuffer or VRAM into consideration. Example a 1200MHz with 4GB VRAM will outperform a card with 1200MHz with 2GB of VRAM.

Energy Consumption

Latest video cards are power efficient compared to its predecessors. For low profile gpus, energy consumption ranges from 50w to 75w that’s why it no longer need supplemental power or connection from your power supply. Mid-range to high-end graphics card usually comes with multiple 6 pin and 8 pin connectors.

Best Selling Low-Profile Graphics For Small Form Factor Build

Here are the best-selling LP graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD as of 2021. I’ll be including all the important information that you can use to help you on your buying decision.

ZOTAC GAMING GeForce GTX 1650 LP 4GB GDDR6

The GTX 1650 is the most powerful low-profile graphics card that you can buy in 2021.

This card is based from the new Turing GPU Architecture developed by Nvidia delivering new gaming experience by combining artificial intelligence in graphics, real-time ray tracing giving lifelike details to the game by enhancing the lighting, reflections, shadows and at the same time providing advanced shading technologies. 

This card has twice the performance of the GeForce GTX 950 and up to 70% faster than the GTX 1050 on the latest game titles.

  • Boost Clock: 1590 MHz
  • 4GB 128-bit GDDR6 VRAM
  • PCI Bus Powered (PCI Express 3.0)
  • 4K Ready
  • Cooling: 40mm Twin Fan with wide array aluminum heatsink
  • Display: Supports up to 3 monitors
  • Display Ports: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, Dual Link DVI-D
  • Length: 6.3 inches
  • Comes with 2 brackets: 4.38 inches for standard, 2.76 low profile bracket
  • Firestorm Utility: Tweak and monitor performance using this app
  • OC scanner: Extract more performance with a single click
  • Power Consumption: 75w
  • Recommended PSU: 300w
  • Card Length: 160mm x 111.15mm (70mm LP) x 34mm, 6.30in x 4.38in (2.76in LP) x 1.34in

MSI GeForce GTX 1650 Low Profile Design Graphics Card 4GB GDDR5

The MSI GTX 1650 LP 4GB video card is also one of the best card you can get under the low profile category.

This card has a much faster boost clock of 1665 MHz compared to Zotac GTX 1650 LP and it comes with memory speed of 8 Gbps, Directx 12 API support, Afterburner overclocking utility and so much more.

Although this specific card still uses GDDR5 wherein the Zotac variant uses GDDR6 VRAM.

  • Boost Clock: 1665 MHz
  • 4GB 128-bit GDDR5 VRAM
  • PCI Bus Powered (PCI Express 3.0)
  • 4K Ready
  • Cooling: Dual Fan with wide array aluminum heatsink
  • Display: Supports up to 2 monitors
  • Display Ports: HDMI 2.0b and Dual Link DVI-D
  • Afterburner: Tweak and monitor real-time performance using this tool
  • OC scanner: MSI OC scanner lets you find the highest stable clock for your card
  • MSI App Player: Exclusive partnership with Bluestacks so that you can experience seamless gaming between PC and mobile games.
  • Power Consumption: 75w
  • Recommended PSU: 300w
  • Card Length: 168 x 105 x 37 mm (w/ normal bracket), 168 x 69 x 37 mm (w/ low profile bracket)

Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 Ti OC Low Profile 4GB GDDR5

The GTX 1050 Ti is the second most powerful low profile gpu next to GTX 1650. This GPU is based from the latest Pascal GPU architecture built from five technical breakthroughs and it was released around 2016.

You can read more about the Pascal architecture on this link.

The Gigabyte GTX 1050 Ti OC low profile is equipped with 4GB GDDR5 128-bit memory and can support up to 4 displays. Here are other important details about this card.

  • Boost Clock: 1442 MHz, 1328 MHz in OC Mode, 1303 MHz in Gaming Mode
  • 4GB 128-bit GDDR5 VRAM
  • PCI Bus Powered (PCI Express 3.0)
  • Directx 12
  • 4K Ready
  • Cooling: Single Fan with wide aluminium heatsink
  • Display: Supports up to 4 monitors
  • Display Ports: HDMI 2.0b * 2, Display Port-1.4 * 1 and Dual Link DVI-D * 1
  • Xtreme Engine Utility: Tune the card without overclocking knowledge using an intuitive interface and monitor important details of the card such as clock speed, voltages, fan speed in real-time
  • Power Consumption: 75w
  • Recommended PSU: 300w
  • Card Length: 167 x 68.9 x 37 mm

Dedicated Graphics Card – Is it Necessary?

Graphics card is a computer hardware that is responsible for processing computer graphics. It is important if you’re into video/photo editing and computer gaming. It’s available in different categories such as entry level which are the budget-friendly graphics cards. These cards are a little bit powerful compared to built-in graphics.

Next are the mid-range graphics which are capable to handle video rendering and photo editing tasks without any problem. You can also buy these cards if you want to level up your gaming experience without breaking the bank. Some of the low profile GPUs fall on this level as there are cards despite its size are powerful enough to help you what you have to do.

Last but not the least are the most expensive high-end graphics card such as the RTX 3070, 3080, 3090 from Nvidia and RX 6700 XT and RX 6800 XT from AMD Radeon. These cards are used by hard core gamers and professional video editors.

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