Minecraft – arguably the most popular sandbox game to date. And when it comes to building your own rig to best fulfill your DIY digital shelter needs, much like the game itself, you need very little to start, and plenty of room for maximum apocalyptic zombie-slaying potential.
To start things off, you might wonder – does a game that looks like it was built in the 1990s need the latest and fastest graphics cards to run smoothly?
Well, for starters, Minecraft was actually released in 2011 by Mojang, and as you may have probably guessed, you don’t really need an RTX 2000 series and above GPU to kick things off.
On the contrary, you can run Minecraft perfectly with an absolute minimalist setup, and by that, we mean a sufficiently powerful CPU with integrated graphics.
GPU (Integrated): Intel HD Graphics 4000 (Ivy Bridge) or AMD Radeon R5 series (Kaveri line) with OpenGL 4.4*
GPU (Discrete): Nvidia GeForce 400 Series or AMD Radeon HD 7000 series with OpenGL 4.4
HDD: At least 1GB for game core, maps and other files
Windows: Windows 7 and up
macOS: Any 64-bit OS X using 10.9 Maverick or newer
Linux: Any modern 64-bit distributions from 2014 onwards
So now we know that a graphics card isn’t an absolute must for Minecraft. But what if we don’t want to settle for ‘just barely enough’?
What if we want to run Minecraft with all the fun mods and shaders?
What if we want to see how the game runs with ray tracing? In order to do that, we’ll be looking at improving our setup with graphics cards.
The Best Minecraft Graphics Card: Demystified
When it comes to graphics cards, most of us wouldn’t know where to begin.
It may be easier for those of us with thicker wallets to just go out and say, ‘Give me the most expensive card you have!’, but for those of us shopping on a tighter budget, some proper research needs to be done.
Here are a few tips you might want to consider if you’re looking to get the best graphics card for Minecraft:
Find The Right Price for the Right Graphics Card, Not the Other Way Around
When it comes to any purchasing decision, how much you’re willing and able to fork over for any piece of equipment will serve as a good guide for what to buy.
Different graphics cards will come at different price brackets, and having a clear spending threshold will help you narrow down those choices.
Try to avoid looking at the highest possible GPU specs from the get-go, because chances are they are going to be way over your budget.
Instead, look around for good models that are available around the amount that you’re willing to spend.
You can then use higher-priced models as a reference for how much value you could be getting out of the graphics card you’re interested in buying, but don’t fall into the trap of convincing yourself you would be better off with a more expensive model because it would serve your needs for longer.
For starting rig builders, choosing to spend that extra $100 on a graphics card could also mean you would be skimping a bit on a good monitor.
Whether that trade-off is worth it is your decision to make.
However, it should be noted that even the most budget-friendly Minecraft GPUs can improve performance by a whole lot more than not having one at all.
Your General PC specifications
If you already own a PC and you’re looking to upgrade your GPU for Minecraft, you will, first and foremost, want to make sure there are no compatibility issues with your existing setup.
This could range from power, sizing, and certain hardware specifications on your current build.
In terms of wattage, a higher-end card will require more juice from your PSU, and if that’s pushing the envelope on your power requirements, you may need to look for alternative solutions such as a bigger PSU or a cheaper graphics card.
The motherboard you’re sporting may also be a deciding factor in choosing which graphics card to buy.
While most modern PCs generally house PCI Express 3.0 slots, if you’re running legacy hardware that uses PCI Express 2.0 or another version of PCI Express altogether, you will need to make sure your new graphics card is backward compatible with your system.
Additionally, you have to take note of the number of pin connectors on your board.
Most graphics cards need to be connected to either a 6-pin or 8-pin connector for power, and the most powerful GPUs may demand two connectors instead of one.
While sizing conflicts between graphics cards and the physical case of PCs are rare, it is also important to know whether the GPU you’re planning to buy is able to physically fit inside your computer chassis.
A video card that comes with its own fans may require more headroom, and if you’re thinking of adding additional components on top of that, such as more RAM, a larger PSU, extra fans, or even liquid cooling solutions, you will need a large enough chassis to fit everything in.
Vanilla vs RTX vs Java Shaders
We’ve already established that you don’t need the highest-tier graphics card in order to run Minecraft smoothly, but if playing at the base settings isn’t your cup of tea, you might want to look at adding some pizzazz to your game.
Fortunately, there are a plethora of choices to do that when it comes to Minecraft. If you’re running the Minecraft: Java Edition, these could come in the form of various shader packs and mods.
And for the Bedrock Edition, the use of ray tracing has recently been released and is available for download.
Do note that for the latter, GPU requirements aside, you will need a 64-bit version of Windows 10 installed in order to play.
Needless to say, having either RTX or shaders installed will require significant upgrades in the GPU department.
Ray Tracing (RTX) on Minecraft – Yay or Nay?
Let’s first have a look at Minecraft with RTX enabled.
Here are the minimum graphics requirements you’ll need in order to run, according to the Minecraft RTX FAQ:
OS (Operation Systems): Windows 10 64-bit
GPU: DirectX hardware ray tracing capable GPU like NVIDIA GeForce® RTX 20 Series and higher, and AMD Radeon™ RX 6000 Series and higher
Hardware: PC; Virtual reality headsets and Mixed Reality (MR) headsets are not supported
CPU: Intel Core i5 or equivalent
RAM: >8 GB of RAM
Version of Minecraft: 1.16.200 or higher
As you may have noticed, on the GPU side of things, Minecraft RTX requires the support of at least an NVIDIA 2060 graphics card.
Why this is so is because these cards have the RT cores built-in which provide the hardware acceleration for those ray-tracing calculations.
This also means that you will have to invest in a relatively more powerful GPU if you’re planning to run Minecraft RTX.
And while we hate to be the bearer of more unpleasant news, the CPU and RAM requirements are nothing to scoff at either.
Also, if you’re just going for the bare minimum, you definitely won’t be able to get that ‘smooth AF’ experience with RTX enabled.
That means lower frame rates and render distances.
In short, getting that crisp, scenic look and at the same time hitting those high FPS numbers will cost you more than just a pretty penny, and you should decide if you’re willing to make such an investment.
Good news is, if you’re not ready to spend $300 on a video card for Minecraft just yet, it technically is possible to still enable ray tracing with an older card.
With NVIDIA’s recent driver update, you can take a crack at some of the company’s RTX features. All you need is an NVIDIA 1060 6GB card or better.
After that, you can just download the latest driver update from the GeForce Experience app.
So if an RTX 2000 series and above video card is over your budget, and you just want to get a feel for the ray tracing features of the game, you can still take your pick from some of the more affordable options in the market.
And this should be self-explanatory by now: you won’t get any decent frame rate running on a non-RTX card.
Playing with Mods & Shader Packs
Next up: Java shaders.
With Java shaders on Minecraft, things aren’t really as cut and dry as having RTX enabled.
For starters, there are plenty of different shader packs available, and each of them comes with their fair share of visual-enhancing effects at the cost of GPU processing power and RAM space.
As a general rule of thumb, in order to run some of the more resource-intensive shaders such as SEUS (Sonic Ether’s Unbelievable Shaders), Continuum shaders, and BSL shaders, a higher-end GPU is almost absolutely necessary.
We’re looking at the very least an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 / RTX 2070 or AMD RX 5700 or better.
As a point of reference, here are the minimum graphics requirements to run Continuum shaders on Minecraft:
CPU: Nearly any Dual Core CPU from Intel/AMD made in the last 5-7 years
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or equivalent / AMD RX 580 or equivalent
OS: Windows 7, 64 bit or later (MacOS not supported at this time)
Naturally, due to the sheer volume of shader packs available, you can make certain compromises in graphics and frame rates with a lower-end GPU.
In fact, there are entire guides written on the best shader packs towards those of us running more economical builds.
But if you want to run Minecraft with the super sexy aesthetics at max settings, you will want to get yourself a relatively strong piece of hardware.
Between playing with RTX and shaders, the choice is largely up to individual preference. Both options require relatively powerful graphics cards in order to run decently.
One key difference that we want to highlight would be that while you can technically still run ray tracing with certain high-end AMD cards, they still lack key upscaling technology such as DLSS that lets you enjoy the game with playable frame rates.
Shaders are more versatile in that sense as they are playable regardless of the GPU manufacturer you pick, and certain mod packs have recorded better performance numbers with some AMD graphics cards over NVIDIA’s.
Minecraft GPU Top Picks
Now that we’ve covered our bases on what to look out for when it comes to buying a graphics card for Minecraft, let’s take a look at the 5 best options we think you should consider:
If you’re out on the market for a GPU with great performance and a relatively affordable price tag, then look no further than the ZOTAC GAMING GeForce GTX 1650 OC.
Playing with max settings at a screen resolution of 1080p will still give you frame rates of over 200 FPS, and you can still expect to see decent performance even if you up the resolution to 1440p.
This budget-friendly card has a boost clock of up to 1695 MHz, 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, and a 128-bit memory interface, allowing it to run rather smoothly with select Java shaders, but performance will be slightly poorer with the bulkier mods.
And on the subject of RTX, while it is technically supported, don’t expect to see anything playable.
If you’re not too interested in trying out the RTX features on Minecraft, then the XFX AMD Radeon™ RX 5700 will be a more affordable option that still offers great performance with Java shaders.
Reap the benefits of an 8GB GDDR6 VRAM, a 256-bit memory bus as well as an internal clock speed that can be boosted up to 1750 MHz, and experience some truly immersive gameplay and stunning visuals without having to burn a hole through your wallet on those premium NVIDIA prices.
Throughout this article, we’ve looked at Minecraft’s graphics card requirements in great detail.
We know that the game, in its base form, demands very little when it comes to GPU processing power.
However, if we want to get more out of the game, we will need a dedicated GPU, and in order to do that, we’ve taken a look at some of the factors that we might want to consider when purchasing a good graphics card.
Finally, we’ve explored some of the best models available on the market and shared our thoughts as to why we believe they could be the right fit for you.
We hope that you will be able to make an informed purchasing decision using some of the points we highlighted and it would be our great pleasure if you would continue to refer to us for all your gaming needs.