SFF (small form factor) and HT (home theater) PCs are becoming more and more popular, and rightfully so. As technological improvements to hardware are constantly scaling down in physical size, one can have a powerful computer at only a fraction of a normal desktop’s size. Either you want it for a work desk with multiple monitors, are constantly moving and want a semi-portable desktop, or just enjoy less clutter, the SFF PCs offer several benefits compared to normal size computers. Low-profile GPUs also have some benefits in comparison to their larger counterparts, as they are less power consuming, far less noisy, and come at a decent price. In this article, we are going to list some of the best low-profile GPUs for 2020 you can get, depending on your budget and your intended use of the PC.
Best Low Profile Graphics Cards – My Recommendations
Best Budget Low-Profile GPU – MSI AMD Radeon R7 240
If you’re looking to make a minimalist build, this is the best card you can find for the price. In comparison to Nvidia’s GT 710 LP – which costs just about the same – the AMD Radeon R7 240 fairs far better in terms of benchmarks. It has up to 67% higher effective speeds, and can even play some competitive online games, like Counter Strike: Global Offensive at the near 60 fps mark at 1080p.
Of course, this GPU is not intended as much for gaming, as it is for low PC-intensive work, web browsing, and video streaming, where it can handle 1080p videos without stuttering or overheating. It has 2GB of GDDR3 V-RAM, a 64-bit memory interface, a 600MHz memory speed, an HDMI, DL-DVI-D, and VGA D-SUB outputs, and only requires a 300W PSU. It’s best feature? The $55 price range that you can currently find this at.
Best Low-Profile GPU for HTPCs – MSI Radeon RX 550 4GT OC
Why the Radeon RX 550 you may ask? Well currently it appears that the Radeon RX 550 and the GeForce 1050 Ti are the perfect GPUs available for HTPCs – considering hardware and price – even in 2020.
Firstly, the V-RAM is just right for 4K video streaming. The 2GB of V-RAM featured in the GT 1030 is not supported by Netflix, as they require a minimum of 3GB of V-RAM on a Pascal-based GPU. Why not go above the RX 550 or 1050ti, for an RX 570 or GeForce 1060 perhaps? Well, the GTX GeForce 1060 does not have VP9 10-bit or 12-bit support, whereas the 1050 Ti and RX 550 do. Now, of course, AMD’s RX 560 LP GPU would also support 4K UHD streaming, but this model is currently unavailable. The reason why the Radeon RX 550 was chosen, instead of the GeForce 1050 Ti, is the price. The RX 550 currently costs approximately $40-$50 dollars cheaper than the cheapest GeForce 1050 Ti or GeForce 1650, yet can easily run UHD streams.
The MSI RX 550 4GB OC has a dual-fan, aluminum core design for lower temperatures and higher stability and efficiency. It can be overclocked for a boost clock of 1203 MHz and it comes with 4GB of GDDR5 V-RAM, a memory bus width of 320 bits, and HDMI 2.0b and DL-DVI-D ports. Considering you can currently find the MSI Radeon RX550 for approximately $111, it is the best price-value choice for a dedicated HTPC.
Related: GTX 1650 vs 1650 Super vs 5500 XT
Best Low-Profile GPU for Gaming – ASUS GTX 1650 Low Profile OC
Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650 is currently the most powerful low-profile graphics card available in the market. The reference GPU for the GTX 1650 has a base clock speed of 1485 MHz, and a boost clock speed of 1665 MHz, whereas this card – the ASUS GTX 1650 Low Profile OC – has a base clock speed of 1515 MHz and a boost clock speed of 1740 MHz, so despite its low-profile size, it is still significantly more powerful than Nvidia’s original reference GTX 1650. Other than that, it has a dedicated hardware encoder, which is optimized for OBS streaming software, so you can stream or record your gaming sessions. It has IP5X dust resistance certification which ensures the cooling power and longevity of its two fans, as well as a protective backplate to prevent flex and maintain structural integrity.
In terms of software, it comes with the GPU Tweak II, which allows you to manipulate parameters such as core GPU core clocks, memory frequency, voltage settings and fan controls. This card can play most online competitive games with a 1080p resolution, and some at over 60 frames per second. For a low-profile GPU, it is quite a feat to be able to play these low-intensive AAA games, therefore justifying ASUS GeForce GTX 1650’s – somewhat higher – price-rate; which currently ranges at around the $205 mark.
Best Overall Low-Profile GPU – MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1650
Taking everything in to consideration: price, the ability to watch and stream 4K resolution videos, the ability to create a workstation that can handle more demanding programs, and also have the chance to game every once in a while, this card has the best overall value. If you’re looking to upgrade your SFF computer’s graphics card, the MSI GTX 1650 Gaming LP is the perfect choice to do so. It has a boost memory speed of 1665 MHz, 4GB of GDDR5 V-RAM, the standard 896 CUDA cores, two 40mm fans, and 8 Gbps memory speeds.
What’s great about MSI’s model of the GTX 1650 is the OC Scanner. This software automatically finds the highest stable overclock settings for your card, so it boosts the speed of the graphics card without you having to worry about overheating, or having to go through the settings to enable, or tweak, the overclock settings. If you do want to manually change the settings, MSI’s afterburner software allows you to monitor and tweak your system’s metrics in real-time. As with the ASUS GeForce GTX 1650, MSI’s model also has Nvidia’s proprietary G-Sync technology, which aims to eliminate screen-tearing and FPS-drops. It does also have built-in video streaming and recording software.
In terms of ports, it comes with 1 HDMI 2.0b and 1 DL-DVI-D output. Buyer beware: it does not come with a display port. For its current $160 price tag, the MSI GeForce GTX 1650 LP is the best low-profile graphics card available in the market.