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Most minimal GPU that will support high resolution / high framerate throughput


First time around these parts, so apologies if I’m rehashing. Feel free to just say “nub” and link me to the right place :slight_smile:

I’m starting to build a new system to replace my 3770K + 1060 6GB (but that might end up being my answer to the question). I’m planning to go back to a Linux host and guest my Windows for games and other when needed.

Haven’t decided on what my heavy card (ie, guest pass) will be. I’ll be waiting on Navi reviews to weigh in. But I figure the answer for the host card might be a good place to start.

Is there a low power GPU with the horsepower to drive a 4K freesync monitor with high framerate? By low power I’d love to be able to do it with just PCIE power.

I haven’t bought a non-gaming GPU in over a decade (back around PC vs PCIE1 actually being a decision point … coincidentally also when I stopped working and stopped using Linux as a primary). So maybe I’m hoping for too much and actually need a semi beefy pass through GPU? In which case will a 1060 do for my needs? Or do I need to actually match host and guest? (Puts a fairly big crimp in my budget if so).



That depends, how high do you want the resolution and framerate?



4k 120hz, maybe 144hz. I can’t drive it right now but I’m one of those “every few years” upgraders so I’d rather be safe in my next build.



for non 3d tasks an rx560 (i think they can be had with no additional power?) or rx550 (i have one here) will do it.

but what level of detail do you want and is 3d important?

If you want high res with actual 3d (as opposed to desktop workloads) then no, you won’t get that with PCIe slot power only yet.



Oh, for outputing high resolution and framerate, the RX 460 might be a viable option.



One thing you will want to be mindful of is even if the card can do it the display output of your choice may or may not do it.

So, work out what monitor input you plan to use and then check against the card(s) you are considering to see if the output standard can support it. Pay particular attention to displayport and HDMI versions as version x.y of the standard may not support the same resolution/refresh rate as version a.b.



Welcome !
If you are lucky, you could probably still use your rig, just use the Intel HD4000 for the host and pass the 1060 to the guest, but I will be assuming you really want to upgrade to something like Ryzen / Threadripper (cpu without an iGPU).

It’s not advised to have matching cards. You can do it, but you’ll have a harder time identifying which card is which.

As for the host GPU, your only AMD options are RX 460 / 560 or RX 550. I don’t recommend nVidia at all, neither host nor guest (as host, you will have a bad time with nVidia proprietary Linux drivers, as guest, you will have a bad time with nVidia crippling anti-consumer tactics). But if you want to go that route, GT1030 works ok (I got one), while there are also the options of 1050, 1050Ti and 1650. But again, not advisable.

If you go with blue team, you can just use your iGPU as host GPU and save a few bucks, with most probably crippled upgrade path, but I’m not sure if any Intel iGPU has support for DisplayPort 1.4 or HDMI 2.1 yet.

I’d recommend the best AMD card, which is RX 560. But depending on how intensive your task will be, it might not even hit 60 FPS at 4K. Depends what you are doing with it. If you are playing videos at 4K 120 FPS, it should be just fine.

If you aren’t doing anything intensive and want to save a buck, RX 550 will do the job as host GPU just fine.

Oh and btw, at 4K, you don’t want anything with less than 4GB of vRAM. My GT1030 has its video memory almost full even when running full screen youtube. So look for the 4GB versions of these cards.

Additionally, I suggest you look for a PCI-E passthrough friendly motherboard from the beginning, after you decide your CPU (not really a problem with Ryzen). I got lucky with my MSI B250 Pro-VH (I bought on budget and never intended to virtualize, but ended up doing it after 1 year).

Edit: I’m a dummy (and that’s being generous). You can keep your 1060, I thought you were going to sell it along your old rig or something. I’m not sure what you are saying.

Are you asking for a host GPU or a passthrough GPU? The above cards I mentioned as being host GPUs.

If you want to use your 1060 for your Windows VM, you can, you’d have to fiddle with some settings, sometimes in the future nVidia might bork the workaround again with Windows driver updates, but it will work just fine for the moment.

You can also use the 1060 with Nouveau drivers on your host and buy a better passthrough GPU, like an AMD RX 5700 XT, but I’d recommend you stick with passing the 1060 to your guest and using a 560 as your host GPU.



What it really comes down to is the game you will be running. If you are playing CS-GO GTX 1060 will give you high frame rates at 4k. If you are playing a game like The Witcher 3 you may need at least a GTX 1070. The software you will be running has more to do with the choice of GPU than anything else. If you plan on going over 60Hz at 4K you may need a flagship card for more demanding games.



Thanks for the responses so far, it’s helping.

To clarify:

  • In a few months I won’t have an igpu as I’ll be moving from my 3770k to a Zen 2. I’m trying to piece together my Zen 2 components.

  • Game wise I bounce around. I consistently mess with Star Citizen, some Elite Dangerous, and the rest is things like Borderlands, Astroneer, WoW and random stuff.

  • I do some Blender and HDR photography

  • I’m interested in hobby mining when not active on the PC but it’s not going to be a significant income expectation.

  • For this thread I was meaning to ask for a Host card that can handle providing freesync, 4K and 120hz to the monitor.

Right now I’m deciding to hold off and maybe go a bit bigger on the host card. I can wait until 5700 gets some benchmarks. I’m mildly interested in the input latency reduction (my guess is it will, in a passthrough config, help bring the added latency back down?). I’m pondering the idea of a 5700 as host and 5700 XT as the passed through card.

I had been thinking AMD as host and Nvidia as guest made an interesting combo but if Nv is trying to make that hard I see no value.

I’m never going to be a competitive gamer (old and nerve damage) but actually in some ways I find that drives me more to the lower latency needs as a compensation for my own issues.

My other direction is looking like finding an older host card as mentioned by some replies, like a 480/580 or maybe a used Pro and going for a Radeon VII (not a huge benefit for my specific games but has advantages for my other uses).

What’s the best way for me to be looking at specs to determine that the host card is going to do what is needed for the passthrough? I’m assuming host needs to support freesync directly but I’m not sure how much VRAM is needed for the host to support doing the passthrough. If there’s a good place to look for known good card combos I’m happy to start digging through that.



Ok, I finally got my searching terms nailed down (with help from parading the replies here) and think I have a handle on what I’m looking for. Thanks all.



I don’t know if you’ve already made your purchase, but are you aware of the AMD guest card reset bug? That has made me use Nvidia cards, despite needing a minor adjustment to a configuration file to hide that it’s not a Quadro, as my guest card - AMD card as the host however. The reset bug can make not being able to restart the VM too inconvenient.