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I Bought The Wrong Graphics Card, And I Am Full Of Regret

I did this to myself

An ASUS RTX 4060 graphics card: a white rectangular piece of computer hardware with two large fans

You might remember a while back I had some trouble with my PC, which involved buying a whole new power supply before realizing the problem was a $20 fan. At the time, I told myself this was actually a good thing because it meant I could get a new graphics card. This weekend I bought and installed the new card, and now I want to run away into the woods.

Unlike Chris Person, Aftermath’s resident how-to-build-everything expert, I have no native interest in or aptitude for PC tinkering. I like to joke that I don’t see well enough to care about ray tracing; if I can make an embarrassing admission, I have Googled “difference between 30 and 60 fps” every time the debate comes up and squinted through various comparison videos that honestly look exactly the same to me. I built my PC because my friends got me into it, but Luke regularly touts the benefits of just buying pre-built, and in the last few months I’ve considered it more than once as I peered into the dusty jungle of my tower. But chucking my whole system seems like a wasteful, expensive way to deal with being intimidated by how rapidly all the hardware and performance requirements keep changing.

I’ve been running an Nvidia 1080 since 2017, an excellent card when it came into my possession and which has been an absolute workhorse. I have no complaints about the card besides the fact that it’s starting to be below the minimum requirements for most modern games. This hasn’t been much of a problem for me yet, but it’s definitely kept me from trying out some newer stuff. Since starting Aftermath, I’ve wanted to be able to check out and blog more recent games, and I don’t want to end up in a situation where I actually can’t play something and a new card becomes an urgent need, especially when my financial future is so hard to predict. A new graphics card started to feel like a work expense I should pull the trigger on sooner rather than later.

After a lot of research and a few weeks of hemming and hawing, I bought an RTX 4060. And look, I knew that no one likes this card. According to the reviews and forums I pored over, it’s weaker than some 3000 series cards and is outshined by other 4000 series cards. But none of those cards were in my current budget, and I don’t care very much about playing games in 4K or on ultra-high settings. I figured that even if the 4060 wouldn’t be the mainstay my 1080 has been, it would free me from worrying about minimum specs for a while, which was the problem I wanted to solve. 

The card went in easy besides a brief moment when a wire got in the way of the fans and the card emitted a terrifying grinding noise, which I dealt with by screaming and running across the room before coming back to reseat it. I remembered what a difference my upgrade to the 1080 made, and I eagerly booted up some games to get the full experience of this latest generation of hardware. 

But things… don’t look that different? I’d even say they feel worse in some ineffable way that keeps leading me to Google “is 4060 better than 1080” to be reassured that objectively yes, I have made an upgrade. I think that despite knowing full well that I wasn’t making some grand upgrade, and telling myself that I wasn’t looking for a grand upgrade anyway, I still figured one would just happen because… well, because the number is bigger! The card is newer! But I didn’t make that choice: I studied the pros and cons, decided to value economy over bells and whistles, and knew what I was getting. The card is fine in the exact way the scant logical voices in the PC gaming forums said it would be, which is the exact way I needed it to be fine when I decided to buy it. But then I find myself tinkering with settings and scrolling through the same forum posts all over again, trying to assuage this growing sense of disappointment and unease. 

This is just garden variety buyer’s remorse, but since it’s tied to my job, it feels like a whole big thing. I’ve started to feel like I should actually care about ray tracing, that I shouldn’t still be using my ancient monitor, that I should know more about the latest generation of Nvidia cards or be more willing to branch into AMD ones. My brain starts spinning up questions: What person who plays video games for a living doesn’t care about them looking their absolute best? What professional tech-adjacent journalist doesn’t know about this stuff? Am I bad at my job? Why did I spend my money this way? Am I bad with money? What am I doing with my life?

If there’s one thing starting my own business has taught me, it’s that I simply love to make whole big things out of any choice I make that isn’t clearly and immediately the 100% best one. So I know not to take these feelings too seriously. The card is fine. If I want, I can sell it in a few years and get a better one. I need to close the forums, stop staring obsessively at my FPS counter, and just play some video games. 

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