Reference vs Non-Reference Graphics Cards Difference

Graphics cards do come in many models, sizes and configuration. Choosing the right graphics card is very important because it is not a cheap device and you don’t want go through trouble fitting it inside your PC case. Sometimes you might have come across terms like reference and non-reference graphics cards when looking to buy a new graphics card for your PC. It is very important to know what they really mean as to make a well informed decision when buying a graphics card. So here in this post I am going to tell you about reference and non-reference video cards and how they are different from each other.

Check out: Important Graphics Card Technical Terms

Reference Graphics Cards

Reference Graphics Cards are the ones that are built on the specifications laid out by  GPU manufacturers which are NVIDIA or AMD. These cards have the default clock frequencies for both GPU and Memory as specified by Nvidia / AMD in their specifications. This means these cards are not overclocked and they strictly follow original specs for reference cards. Reference Cards are also known as Standard graphics cards or Stock graphics cards. They also have the same design, size and HSF as the original or reference cards made by GPU manufacturer.

You may overclock these reference graphics cards to increase their performance using good graphics card overclocking softwares. The main advantage of reference cards is that they offers rock solid stability, are solidly built and are compatible with Aftermarket graphics card coolers.

What is Founders Edition Graphics Card from NVIDIA?

Nvidia only makes only a handful of graphics cards for their top end GPUs. These original or reference NVIDIA’s graphics cards are known as Founders Edition. The Founders Edition is a new name for the Nvidia’s reference graphics cards. Other graphics cards manufacturers or NVIDIA partners such as EVGA, ASUS, MSI, ZOTAC etc. also offers Founders Edition of top end GPUs but they are exactly same as original Nvidia’s reference cards or stock design.

gtx-1070-founders-editionThe Founders Edition graphics cards from third party manufacturers have the same design, GPU and memory frequencies, memory size, physical size, stock cooler or HSF (heatsink fan) as the original ones. Currently the top Founders Edition Graphics Cards from Nvidia are:

  • GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition
  • GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition
  • GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
  • GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition

Founders Edition graphics cards are generally expensive than the non-reference graphics cards. They also have less overclocking capability because their heatsink and fan is not designed for that. The main advantage of Founders Edition cooling is that its heasink and fan (blower fan) is designed to push the hot air out from the backside of the card rather than keeping it in the case. This may come handy for some users as it helps in reducing the overall temperature of the computer case. Other advantages includes high stability, robust design and wide compatibility with aftermarket graphics card coolers.

You may also buy the founders edition graphics card from Nvidia’s official website and also from other online websites such as Amazon.com.

So to sum it up Founders Edition = Stock Design + Stock Specifications

Pros

  • Excellent Stability
  • Original design
  • Compatible with Aftermarket Coolers

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Less room for Overclocking

Non-Reference Graphics Cards

Non-Reference Graphics Cards are the ones that are manufactured by GPU’s manufacturer partners such as EVGA, MSI, Sapphire, Asus, Gigabyte etc. These cards may have different size, design and are fitted with their own custom HSF or cooler. Non-reference cards are generally overclocked to some extent to provide better performance in games and graphics intensive applications. You may overclock these cards further and the custom graphics card cooler keeps the temperature well under check even at full load. Some of these non-reference cards also come with water cooling or liquid cooling that reduces the temperature to further 20 ° C and provides more room for overclocking.

msi-gtx-1070-non-reference-card

Non-reference graphics cards are generally cheaper than the Founders Edition cards having the same GPU and provides better performance per dollar. Only the cards that comes with liquid cooling are a bit expensive than the Founders Edition cards.

Pros

  • Better Cooling
  • Better Performance
  • Relatively Cheaper
  • Various choices available
  • Good Overclocking Potential

Cons

  • Some are bigger in size

Reference vs. Non Reference cards – Who is the winner?

The answer to this is question is not straight forward and it comes to the user’s personal preference. Some likes the stability and solidity of the Founders Edition cards and some prefers the extra potential of the non-reference cards at relatively cheaper price. But if you are performance enthusiast who likes overclocking their cards to get maximum performance out of them then it is better to go with non-reference cards with a better custom cooler.

Final Words

Well at the end I would like to say that I have clearly pointed out the differences between reference and non-reference graphics cards along with their advantages and disadvantages. If you have any suggestion or want to ask something then you can reach me by leaving a comment below.

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