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Form factor does play an important role in choosing a graphics card for your PC, because if you select a graphics card with the wrong dimensions then it might not fit in your computer case or can pose clearance issues for other components. Graphics cards come in different sizes having different dimensions that include length, width, and height of a graphics card. The length of a graphics card plays an important role when selecting a graphics card because different computer cases have different clearances for graphics cards to fit in them. A longer graphics card may not be able to fit in mini-tower and some mid-tower computer cases, but a compact graphics card with a shorter length can fit in almost all cases including the small form factor ones.
When we talk about the width then there are generally two types of graphics cards: Low Profile (LP) and Full Profile or Full Slot graphics cards. A low profile graphics card is slimmer with a half-height bracket design i.e. it has a shorter width (69mm or 70mm) and is designed to fit in a low profile or slim PC cases. On the other hand, full-sized cards with full-size brackets and PCB width are used in standard ATX cases with full-size expansion slots. Having said that, a graphics card with a full-sized bracket can be wider than other graphics cards because of the extended heatsink and the shroud design, and may not be able to fit in all ATX cases. It must also be noted that low profile graphics cards can also be used in standard ATX cases using the full-size bracket that comes along with them, but a full-sized graphics card cannot fit in a slim or low-profile case.
Now we come to the height, which is also an important parameter and is also a deciding factor when choosing a graphics card. The height of a graphics card is generally expressed in terms of slot number i.e. single, dual, 2.5, 2.7, triple. This number specifies the number of slots a graphics card will occupy on a motherboard and probably on the computer case expansion slots when installed. If you are wondering what these numbers really mean in practice and what are major slot design types in which present-day graphics cards are available, then here I am going to tell you about them.
Single Slot Graphics Cards
Single-slot graphics cards are the ones that occupy only one slot on the motherboard and the PC case expansion slot. These cards do not cause interference with the expansion slot that is beneath it, which in most modern-day motherboards is the PCIe slot only. A single-slot graphics card is about 18mm in width and comes with a single bracket. Single-slot graphics cards also come in low profile form factor, and such cards are mostly used in low profile slim PC cases or in budget PCs. Graphics cards that come in single slot design are mostly entry-level or budget graphics cards that should not be overclocked because of their limited cooling capability.
These single-slot graphics cards are good for casual gaming, and driving multi-monitor setup and come in very handy for cases and motherboards with limited expansion slots. Some of the fairly powerful single-slot graphics cards are Inno3D GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and GALAX GeForce GTX 1070 KATANA, but they are very hard to find. However, you can easily find powerful single-slot workstation graphics cards and they include Nvidia Quadro P2000, Nvidia Quadro P4000, and Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000. Also, it should be noted that single-slot graphics cards are available with a single fan or with passive cooling (only heatsink).
- Best Single Slot Graphics Cards for Gaming & Work
- Best Single Slot Low Profile Graphics Cards for Work
1.5 Slot Graphics Cards
Some graphics cards with a single bracket may occupy more than one slot on the motherboard because of their bigger heatsink, cooler, or shroud. These graphics cards can be called 1.5 slot graphics cards as they block some part of the second slot on your motherboard, which means you cannot fit an expansion card there. A 1.5 slot graphics card is about 27mm to 30mm in width and has only one bracket at the rear. Most of the budget graphics cards with passive cooling fall in this 1.5 slot category. Below you can see a 1.5 slot graphics card with a bigger shroud that extends beyond the single slot bracket height.
Dual Slot Graphics Cards [2-slot GPUs]
Nowadays, most of the cards available in the market come with a dual-slot design. Also, all these dual-slot cards come with dual brackets at the rear and occupy two slots on the motherboard and the PC case expansion slot. However, some single bracket cards also block the second slot completely on the motherboard and are also said to be dual-slot in design. A perfect dual-slot card with a strict dual-slot design does not interfere with the third PCIe slot below it, which allows you to add an expansion card in that slot. In the current day and age, all the reference model cards from Nvidia and AMD come with a strict dual-slot design. Most of them have a blower fan style cooler while some come with the standard fan on heatsink design. A dual-slot graphics card is around 36mm wide and may come with either a single or dual bracket.
You can find budget graphics cards, mid-range graphics cards, and high-end graphics cards in the dual-slot form factor. Low-profile graphics cards and compact graphics cards (with shorter lengths) also exist in the dual-slot design. Also, some of the budget or mid-range passively cooled graphics cards e.g. Palit GeForce GTX 1050 Ti KalmX come in dual-slot design too. Moreover, most of the water-cooled graphics cards that employ water block cooling or hybrid cooler come in dual-slot design. Dual slot graphics cards can come in single fan, dual fan, or triple fan variants. Some of the powerful mid-range and high-end AIB cards with beefy custom coolers can be found bigger than the dual-slot dimensions, even though they have two brackets at the rear. These cards are called 2.2 or 2.3 slot cards and you can know more about them below.
2.2, 2.3 & 2.5 Slot Graphic Cards
These are the cards that consume up to 2.5 slots on your motherboard. These cards are very common nowadays as most of the custom AIB graphics come with 2.2, 2.3, or 2.5 slot designs. These cards have only dual slot brackets at the rear but their shroud hovers a bit over the third slot on the motherboard, which makes the third PCIe slot pretty much unusable, especially with a 2.5 slot design. These cards may come with a single fan, dual fan, or triple-fan cooler depending on the manufacturer. However, most of these cards have got dual fan or triple-fan cooler over them. In the past, there were few reference cards that come with 2.5 slot designs and one such example that comes to my mind is the Nvidia GeForce Titan Z. Generally, mid-range and high-end graphics cards from AIB partners come with 2.2, 2.3, and 2.5 slot design with custom coolers. 2.2 slot graphics card is around 42mm wide, 2.3 slot graphics card is around 46mm wide and 2.5 slot graphics card has a width of around 50mm to 53mm.
2.7 Slot / 2.75 Slot Graphics Cards
A graphics card with a 2.7 or 2.75 slot design blocks almost three slots on the motherboard and most of the time, even on the computer case. These graphics cards come with either two or three full-sized brackets at the rear. Generally, the high-end graphics cards from AIBs come with a 2.7 or 2.75 slot design but there are some mid-range cards too with a single fan from EVGA that sports a 2.75 slot design. Almost all the 2.7 / 2.75 slot graphics cards come with dual fan or triple fans but some single fan 2.75 cards exist too and one such example is EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti XC BLACK GAMING. A 2.75-slot graphics card is around 55mm to 59mm in width.
These 2.75 slot cards come with a fatter heatsink and are also heavier and longer than other cards. To fit these cards, you need a spacious mid-tower case or a super-tower case and to prevent them from sagging, you can use a GPU Brace support. These cards offer better cooling performance compared to their dual slot variants or reference models.
Note: Low-profile graphics cards do not come with a 2.75 slot design.
Triple Slot Graphics Cards [3-Slot GPUs]
As the name indicates, these cards block three slots on the motherboard and the PC case completely. A proper triple-slot graphics card comes with three full-sized brackets at the rear end where you have video ports. These are massive cards with massive heatsinks and they come with either dual or triple fans on the top of the heatsink. Nowadays, we don’t really see proper triple-slot graphics cards but only 2.75 slot ones for the flagship GPUs. A triple slot graphics card has a width of 60mm to 65mm. Some examples of true triple-slot graphics cards include ASUS GTX 580 DirectCU II, ASUS GTX 570 DirectCU II, PowerColor Radeon RX 590 Red Devil, AORUS NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8GB, PowerColor Devil 13 Dual Core R9 290X 8 GB.
4-Slot Graphics Cards
Well, you don’t really find such cards but one such card is the Colorful iGame GTX 1080 KUDAN which comes with an HSF (heatsink fan) and a water-cooling block that is detachable. You can have a glimpse of this card below.
How to Identify Graphics Card Slot Width?
As I have said earlier too, slot width can play a major role in buying a graphics card as a bigger graphics card may cause clearance issues with the smaller case and nearby components. Some manufacturers don’t list whether the card is single, dual-slot, 2.3 slot, or bigger. However, you can easily identify the card slot design by looking at its image by identifying the brackets present at the rear. However, in some cases, it is not clearly evident whether the card is a proper single slot, dual-slot, or is slightly bigger. In such cases, you can find out the graphics card height by looking at the horizontal side image and rear image of the card. Here you have to carefully observe the shroud and check whether the shroud is extending beyond the brackets or not. For example, if the card has two brackets at the rear but the height of the shroud is slightly bigger than the two brackets combined then you have a 2.2 or 2.3 slot card, but if it is more then you might have a 2.5 slot or 1.75 slot card. It gives a general idea about the height of the card and proves very helpful when you don’t have enough data on the card.
Note: It must be noted that slot design is merely an informal way to identify or specify graphics card height. This is because it is not an industry or official standard as graphics cards with the same slot type may have variations in their actual height. So, to be on the sure side for compatibility purposes, you have to look for the actual height and overall dimensions of the graphics card on its specifications page on the manufacturer’s website.
- Classification of Graphics Cards on Different Parameters
- Different Types of Graphics Card Cooling Solutions
If you have any queries regarding graphics card form factor, size, compatibility, or in general then you can ask them in the comment section below.