Best GPU for HTPC

Best GPU for HTPC in 2022

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Choosing the best GPU for your HTPC is tough since buying one depends on many factors, such as the type of media you would stream or if you would play on your setup.

There are a lot of graphics card choices in the market today; sometimes, choosing one is confusing.

Do not worry; I am here to guide you in selecting the best graphics card for your HTPC.

Why do you need a graphics card for your HTPC

The primary purpose of having a graphics card on your HTPC is if you want to play games. The integrated graphics card of some processors is not enough if you want to play modern titles.

However, that is not the only reason you should consider getting a GPU for your HTPC.

A graphics card will help you if you want to have high-quality playback for your stream.

For example, 2GB of VRAM or integrated video memory is insufficient if you want to play Netflix videos in 4K. 

Using a graphics card also means that you can handle almost all the encoding formats available out there.

Here’s another example.

The Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti supports VP9 10-bit or 12-bit playback. If you would stay with a regular built-in graphics card, you will have a hard time playing those file formats.

To sum up, a graphics card will allow you to play 4K videos and other file formats on your HTPC. It will also provide a means to play PC games on your setup.

Best GPU for HTPC in 2022

There are many viable choices for your next GPU purchase. You may go for either Nvidia or AMD since there are models from both companies that would work well with your setup.

The question is, which of these models is the best graphics card for your purpose?

Let’s get started.

Best HTPC GPU for Netflix 4K | Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB

Price Range: $
Brand: MSI
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB - GPU for HTPC

The Download

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB is your best option to stream Netflix in 4K. It is already 6 years old, but this card is still capable if you want a video streaming HTPC.

One advantage of the GTX 1050 Ti is it does not need any external power. This means you do not need to upgrade or change your power supply if you are going to upgrade your current system.

Another advantage of this video card is its size. It comes in half-size cards that fit most compact PC setups. Other cards are too large and might interfere with your HTPC case.

Take note though, that there are GTX 1050 Ti units out there with only 2GB of VRAM. Unfortunately, this will not work with Netflix 4K since the recommended VRAM is 3GB.

The best part about using this GPU is its price. Many used options are available in the market since it has been out for quite some time now. Some stores still have brand new ones in stock for less than $150 – a little steep at the moment due to the graphics card shortage.

The Specs

  • CUDA Cores:  768
  • Graphics Clock (MHz):  1290
  • Processor Clock (MHz:  1392
  • Memory Clock:  7 Gbps
  • Memory Interface Width:  128-bit
  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec):  112
  • Maximum GPU Temperature (in C):  97
  • Maximum Graphics Card Power (W):  75
  • Minimum System Power Requirement (W):  300
  • Maximum Graphics Card Power (W):  75
  • Supported Technologies:  CUDA, 3D Vision, PhysX, NVIDIA G-SYNC™, Ansel

What’s in the Box?

  • Graphics card cables and connectors
  • Quick setup guide
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Best HTPC GPU for full HD Streaming | Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 GDDR5

Price Range: $
Brand: Gigabyte
Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 GDDR5

The Download

The Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 is a great alternative to the 1050 Ti if you are going to stream 1080p or 4K HEVC without using Netflix.

It supports 4K YouTube HDR and many other standard codecs without a problem.Like the 1050 Ti, using the GT 1030 is economical since it draws very little power. It does not require an external power connector and will work with most existing systems today.

The card also comes in low-profile options like the one pictured above. You can simply open your compact HTPC, pop it in, and you are good to go.

The GT 1030 is available for less than $100. Going through the used market will save you more money as well.

The Specs

  • Item Dimensions:  0.58 x 2.71 x 5.9 in
  • Graphics Ram Size:  2 GB
  • GPU Clock Speed:  1227 MHz
  • Video Output Interface:  DVI, HDMI
  • Hardware Interface:  PCIE x 4
  • Memory Bus Width:  64 bits
  • Memory Clock Speed:  6008 MHz

What’s in the Box?

  • Graphic Card
  • Manual
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Best HTPC GPU for 4K HDR | AMD Radeon RX550

Price Range: $
Brand: MSI
AMD Radeon RX550

The Download

The AMD Radeon RX 550 is a great alternative if you do not want to go for an Nvidia card. It supports 4K local HDR and can easily handle 1080p streaming without problems.

This card also has low-profile options to prevent interference from small HTPC cases. Like the former cards, it does not require external power.

The RX550 supports most codecs. Unfortunately, it does not support VP9 8b, VP9 10b, and AV1. 

This graphics card is available for less than $100 – a bargain if you want to stream 4K Netflix compared to the 1050 Ti. 

The Specs

  • Graphics Ram Size:  2 GB
  • GPU Clock Speed:  7000 MHz
  • Video Memory:  2GB GDDR5
  • Memory Clock:  7000 MHz
  • Memory Interface:  128-bit
  • Max. Resolution:  Supports 2x Display Monitors

What’s in the Box?

  • Radeon RX550
  • Manual
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Best HTPC GPU for AV1 Decoding | Intel Arc A310

Price Range: $
Brand: Intel
Intel Arc A310

The Download

Intel has recently announced the Intel Arc A310 as one of its newest entries in the graphics card market. It is not a powerhouse by any means but a worthy contender in the HTPC market.

The cards mentioned earlier do not support AV1 decoding. However, the Arc A310 does and if you are on the hunt for a new HTPC graphics card with AV1 decoding, then look no further.

Besides AV1 decoding, the A310 also supports 4K and full HD video streaming. Unfortunately, 4K playback maxes out at 60Hz. It is not a bad thing, though, if you are just focusing on media playback.

Lastly, the A310 is capable of H.264, H.265 hardware encoding and decoding and VP9 bitstream and decoding.

This graphics card is expected to have a low-profile option since it is not power-hungry. Its TBP is only 75W. But, we will have to wait a little longer since the AIBs are not yet available at the time of this writing.

The Specs

  • Memory Size:  4 GB
  • Memory Bus:  64 bit
  • Bandwidth:  124.0 GB/s
  • Memory Clock:  1937 MHz 15.5 Gbps effective
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Best HTPC GPU for 4K 120Hz | AMD Radeon RX 6400

Price Range: $
Brand: Sapphire Technology
AMD Radeon RX6400

The Download

The AMD Radeon RX 6400 is great if you want to stream 4K footage at 120Hz. From a budget standpoint, you may get this card for around $150, and you are set.

The RX 6400 is a bit weaker since it does not support 4K H.264 encoding. It cannot do HEVC encoding and AV1 decoding as well.

However, if you just want to stream 4K content through affordable hardware, low profile, and easy to use, then consider this card.

Remember to take note of the file formats and codecs you use before pulling the trigger on this one. If you want an all-around better option but way more expensive, then look at the option below.

The Specs

  • Graphics Ram Size:  4 GB
  • GPU Clock Speed:  2321 MHz
  • Memory Speed:  16 Gbps
  • Digital Max Resolution:  7680×4320
  • Boost Clock:  Up to 2321 MHz
  • Game Clock:  Up to 2039 MHz
  • Memory Interface:  64-bit DDR6

What’s in the Box?

  • Sapphire 11315-01-20G Pulse AMD Radeon RX 6400
  • Manual
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Alternate: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050

Nvidia RTX 3050

Source: Asus

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 supports more codecs than the RX6400, so why is it just an alternative?

First of all, price. The RTX 3050 retails for $300. That is double the amount that you would pay for an RX 6400.

The second is size. There is no low-profile half-size RTX 3050 available in the market today. There are compact alternatives, but they will still take a full PCIe slot. If you are using an ITX case that supports one, you are in luck.

Back to the specs, the RTX 3050 supports 4K 120Hz playback. It supports VP9 10b,VP9 8b, HDR, 4K Netflix, 4K local playbacks, AV1, HEVC 10b, and HEVC 8b. Basically, all the widely used codecs are supported by this card.

Moreover, there is a reason why AV1 support is important. 

Major companies are using this file format for high-resolution feedback. This includes YouTube. All the big media players are expected to follow suit.

That said, if you have the budget, then the RTX 3050 would be the better choice. If not, then you cannot go wrong with the RX 6400.

Best GPU for High-Quality Gaming | Nvidia RTX 3060

Price Range: $$$
Brand: Palit
Nvidia RTX 3060

The Download

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 is one of the best options for full HD 1080p gaming on your HTPC.

One of the main reasons why is the card size. If you are using a compact ITX case, the RTX 3060 is the highest-end card that is small enough to fit those cases.

For instance, the MSI RTX 3060 Aero ITX only has a single fan – a requirement for compact cases. The only downside is that this specific unit or similar units are hard to find.

When it comes to performance, the RTX 3060 is not a slouch when it comes to 1080p gaming. Some would even consider it an overkill since it can power 1440p monitors as well.

This video card is worth considering if you want to play AAA titles or console ports on your HTPC at 1080p resolution. You may even play at 4K resolution. You just have to adjust the graphics quality to achieve your desired framerate.

Besides the gaming performance, this graphics card supports most of the current codecs, including AV1 decoding, H.264 and H.265 playback.

The Specs

  • Graphics Ram Size:  8 GB
  • GPU Clock Speed:  1410 MHz
  • Video Output Interface:  DisplayPort
  • Max resolution:  7680 x 4320px
  • Boost Clock (GHz):  1.78
  • Memory Size:  12 GB / 8 GB
  • Memory Type:  GDDR6
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Best GPU for Light gaming and  Emulators | AMD Radeon Vega 7/8/11 or Nvidia GT 1030

There are several AMD processors with integrated graphics. These APUs have the “G” suffix, which is easy to spot (5600G, 4600G, 3200G).

The latest model, Ryzen 5 5600G, has the AMD Radeon Vega 11 built-in so that you can game on the go. Using one is more than enough if you want to run emulators at 1080p.

Lower-end models with Vega 7 or Vega 8 will work well too since emulators do not require intense graphics performance.  

Another option, if you do not want to build a Ryzen HTPC, is the Nvidia GT 1030. It was mentioned above as a streaming GPU but had enough firepower to run emulators.

Gaming on your HTPC is not a problem if you use any of the two options above. Just don’t expect AAA-quality graphics. 

Esports titles such as Dota 2 and Valorant will work fine. However, expect that your frame rates will drop whenever skills and abilities are used.

Best GPU for Medium Gaming | AMD Radeon RX 550 or Nvidia GTX 1050

The AMD Radeon RX 550 and the Nvidia GTX 1050 are capable graphics cards when it comes to medium gaming at 1080p. As mentioned earlier, these cards are affordable and will support codecs for media playback smoothly.

Gaming-wise, the GTX 1050 is slightly stronger than the RX 550, so get one if your budget permits. 

The GTX 1050 will comfortably play top-tier titles released in the past five years at 1080p. Some games might not reach 60fps, but it is more than enough for a living room setup.

The Bottomline

Now that you know the best GPU for an HTPC, it is time to hunt for great deals. Some of these cards are older, so hunting for them might take a while. But for their price and performance, they are still worth it.

If you are going for a graphics card that is not in our recommendation, do not forget to research if it will work with the file formats you will use. The last thing we want is for you to waste your money.

Feel free to let us know in the comments section if you have a graphics card in mind. Share your setups with us as well.

Aim is a tech and gaming content writer who loves playing Apex Legends, Valorant, and Dota 2. He also plays casual games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Pokemon titles on his Nintendo Switch too. He also builds gaming computers and does tech troubleshooting on the side.

This post was last updated on 2024-02-23 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.

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2 thoughts on “Best GPU for HTPC”

  1. I wanted to see if you knew where I could find out what audio codecs are supported by different Nvidia graphic cards. I have a Nvidia Geforce GTX 980TI and I was debating using this for my home theater pc (full size pc case) or use a NVidia RTX 3050. This video card will be connected via a HDMI cable to my home theater receiver.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Judy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the audio codecs for both Nvidia cards. However, between the two, I think the RTX 3050 is more ideal due to its HDMI 2.1 support and AV1 Codec support.The AV1 support will lead to a more future-proof unit.

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