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I know. You are aching to plug in and try out the best graphics cards in the world.

But as they say, what is really best is what is best for you. While it can be daunting to judge a card’s metrics–GPU processing speed, RAM, Bandwidth, etc.–not to mention all the bottleneck factors of your own machine, to get the best gaming experience possible requires you to be thorough and realistic about your computer’s capabilities and your own budget.

So before revealing the best of the best, let’s do a quick spot check. If you are still running off an old dual-core processor and looking at an average-sized 1280x1080monitor, a graphics card should not be your first investment as your other components would nullify any benefits. Make sure your components are up-to-date. You should also take note of your power supply and your computer’s general temperature. Overheating can be a problem to efficiency and material longevity, so do not be afraid to install additional cooling apparatuses, especially if you plan on overclocking your card (something I strongly recommend!).

If the rest of your components are top-notch, then I see an awesome graphics card in your future! A helpful place to start comparing cards is the PassMark Video Card benchmark database , which ranks virtually all video cards based on a range of performance criteria. While this list is not perfect, it has proven a huge help for me both in compiling this list and locating good graphics cards. Be warned though: the list prices are lower than retail.

Without further ado, here are our top three picks for 2014 graphics cards.

1. GeForce GTX 970

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I admit it. This card won because of sensibility. Despite some recent controversy of exaggerated specifications, the GTX 970 is still the best bang for your buck. It boasts an impressive 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, 1664 CUDA cores, and can be overclocked to 1500 MHz. Even if that sounds like gibberish to you, it is fast, reliable and can certainly keep up with your frame rates. It’s bigger brother, the GTX 980, is admittedly faster, but the GTX 970 goes toe-to-toe with it in all but the most elaborate gaming set-ups. And at about $370, it’s a bargain. If you are upgrading your system piecemeal, you can double up with another GTX 970 later, and together they can handle your multi-monitor displays and 4K hyper PC machine.

2. GeForce GTX Titan Z

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If you are not afraid of price at all, the GTX Titan Z is perhaps the best card money can buy. It boasts an unheard of 5760 CUDA cores and 12 GB of memory. This dual GPU, as they say, gives you the power to drive the most insane computer set-up imaginable. At $3000, this card is likely overkill for most people, but, wow, it is fast, clean, and almost completely silent.

3. Radeon R9 295X2

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While the R9 295X2 sports a large $1500 price tag (half of the Titan Z), it has been shown to rank among the best graphic cards out there. Like the Titan Z, it has two GPUs running at accelerated rates. This thing draws so much power and gets so hot it required a new revolutionary liquid cooling system. AMD made it to be the best card on earth, and it was…until nVidia released Titan Z.

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