How long does a graphics card last?

Knowing how long a graphics card lasts is essential when buying a new one. Simply because it tells us how long we can take advantage of our investment. Many people would spend € 600 on their graphics card if it were to last 3 or 4 years, but if it were only for 1 or 2 they would not spend even half. In this article, we will answer this question.

Index of contents

  • When the graphics card becomes obsolete, is it something caused by the manufacturer?
    • Planned obsolescence, more myth than reality
    • Perceived obsolescence, this does determine how long a graphics card lasts
  • Can a graphics card last less because its internal components break?
  • Conclusions on how long a graphics card lasts

When the graphics card becomes obsolete, is it something caused by the manufacturer?

There are two ways that we “put an end” to our graphics card without really wanting to: either it breaks, or it becomes obsolete. In the article, we’ll determine how long a graphics card lasts with both issues in mind, and we’ll start by focusing on obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence, more myth than reality

The planned obsolescence of graphics cards is more of a myth. You’ve probably heard that AMD or NVIDIA introduce driver updates that intentionally reduce gaming performance on older graphics cards.

Actually, there is little, if any, evidence that this is so. As much as very isolated cases can be demonstrated, there is usually an explanation. There is simply no systematic tendency to intentionally reduce the performance of older GPUs via drivers. No one has proven it.

Also, in the hypothetical case that this is true, you could always download an older version of the drivers. In fact, we highly recommend it if an update reduces or thwarts the performance of a title you play. But we do not say it because of this supposed malignant programmed obsolescence, but because they are things that can happen.

At the end of the day, what for one family of graphics cards may be an optimization, in another it could be the opposite. It is understandable that manufacturers are targeting the latest GPUs for these updates, but it’s certainly not something to worry about.

Perhaps you should worry about how long drivers are provided, to know how long the maximum support of a graphics card lasts. Let’s see which are the oldest GPUs that AMD and NVIDIA, as of September 2021, are supporting:

  • AMD supports all its RX graphics, that is, since approximately 2016. The immediately previous GPUs, R9 300, have “legacy drivers”.
  • In NVIDIA’s case, it all dates back to Maxwell GPUs. These are the GTX 900, launched since 2014, and the GTX 750 or 750 Ti. These last two correspond to an older generation (Kepler) by nomenclature, but they are actually Maxwells.

See how to update your graphics card drivers in Windows 10 or 11.

But beware, the fact that there are no updated drivers does not mean that the GPUs cannot be used. Older drivers are still available. But of course, they could have problems in new games.

The first acceptable “maximum benchmark” for how long a graphics card lasts could be the 6-8 years of support a GPU receives since its launch. But after that they are still totally valid for use.

Perceived obsolescence, this does determine how long a graphics card lasts

We have already seen that it does not make sense to speak of a “planned obsolescence”, since manufacturers give many years of support (up to 6 or more) to their graphics, and do not limit them intentionally.

But what can be taken into account is perceived obsolescence. This refers to the fact that we begin to perceive that our graphics card is not up to our needs. It is something that can happen for several reasons:

  • The output of new video games that the user is interested in, and that is the case that they do not perform enoughwith that graphics card.
  • Let the user switch to a higher screen resolution. This demands more graphics power.
  • There may also be higher demandson performance. That is, it may be that over the years the player wants more FPS (for example, there is a boom in 144 Hz monitors), or greater graphic detail.
  • GPU performance drops over the years. Can this happen? Yes, especially if we do not do maintenance by cleaning the thermal paste from the graphics card and cleaning its heatsink. It will end up having higher temperatures, limiting performance.

Without a doubt, at this point it all comes down to the needs of the user. How long does a graphics card last for someone who always wants to play the latest titles at very high quality? Well, it can be a matter of only 2 or 3 years. And for someone who prefers more modest games, like eSports, or who plays little? Here, we can calmly speak of more than 4 years, perhaps even reaching 7 or 8.

In general, it could be said that the duration of a graphics card until the user feels a certain perceived obsolescence is between 3 and 5 years. Let’s think about it: one GPU that is still heavily used is the GTX 1060, which is over 5 years old at the time of writing.

Or we can talk about others of that same generation such as the 1070, 1080 or 1080 Ti. Sure, they still serve their purpose well, but for many people it will fall short.

Can a graphics card last less because its internal components break?

So far we’ve talked about potential graphics card performance issues . But what if the hardware itself breaks down? How long can its internal components last?

Let’s distinguish some internal parts of the graphics card, to see if there is any possibility that they will fail.

The graphics chip itself can last for many, many years, even more than 10, without any problem. The only exception is excessive overclocking that causes electromigration , in which case its durability would be shortened. But this is not the case on almost any computer.

  • In your voltage regulation module (VRM),the critical component is probably the MOSFETs . The point is that their durability is immense, they can even exceed a million hours at high temperatures. Therefore, it is not another factor of concern unless there is a design problem in that particular GPU.
  • In addition to MOSFETs, we are interested in Any GPU today uses solid capacitors, and in many cases Japanese capacitors that will last for hundreds of thousands of hours of use.
  • Where we can worry is in the If it is not of quality or goes through a “hard years” it can begin to fail even after 3 years. But they can be replaced without too many complications, and when they start to fail they simply make more noise. They can last until completely spoiled.
  • Finally, another point of concern is in certain very small internal components, suchas very small SMD resistors or capacitors. Sometimes they fail, due to continued overheating or poor design, but we do not believe that it is a concern in the first 10 years of use of the graphics.

In short, that by the band of the components everything is a matter of luck with the electronics. But in the overwhelming majority of cases everything depends on the obsolescence perceived by the user.

With that said, let’s recap.

Conclusions on how long a graphics card lasts

In view of our analysis, it seems reasonable to say that a graphics card lasts between 3 and 5 years for an average user. The point is that, almost always, what leads the user to replace it is a perceived obsolescence, rather than an unscheduled one.

So, it could be said that the duration of a graphics card (until it breaks completely) is, almost always, longer than the time the user wants to have it. The only major exceptions are breakages due to a faulty product or simply bad luck with the electronics.

We recommend reading the best graphics cards on the market.

And when do I know when that moment of “perceived obsolescence” arrived? Basically when the performance in the games that interest you the most is no longer up to your expectations. Either because your expectations are higher or because you play more demanding titles. We must even consider the case of a consumerism in which there is not even a perceived obsolescence.

To finish, let’s take as an example two extreme cases and a “medium” case of the duration of a graphics card:

  • User who buys a GPU adapted to his needs, but after a few months he uses much more demanding games, increases the resolution, the refresh rate and the graphic demands. Consequently, the GPU you bought may not last a year because it was too low-end for your new needs.
  • User who buys a graphic at the height of his needs, and manages to “squeeze” its use for up to 5 years,and then change PC or GPU, for example because it begins to lose driver support.
  • As a last example, someone who has an oversized graphic from minute oneand who always plays less demanding titles. You could spend 10 years with the graphics without any problem!

How long do you usually have your GPU? How long do you think a graphics card lasts? The debate is open.

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