Update- April 2015. The replacement for this graphics card, the NVIDIA GTX 960, can be had for a little at $180.00 on Amazon. This updated card performs 20% better than the GTX 760 (6,002) on Passmark Software Benchmarks, and should be the one that you look for if you are upgrading.
Note: My advice below only concerns readers who use a desktop computer as their primary computer for Second Life, and who use Windows. It may be possible to upgrade a laptop's graphic card, but overheating and burn-out are always a problem in tight laptop spaces. I do not have any recent experience with Macs, so I can't provide advice.
Upgrading your graphics card is one of the best things you can do to increase your performance in Second Life. I upgraded my desktop Acer Predator in March 2014 with the graphics card I am recommending, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760, and the results have been spectacular. I never have lag in a typical sim, I move around on ultra high graphic settings without even noticing, and I can take photographs in ultra settings with shadows that are over 500k each in size with stunning resolution, effortlessly. To make a long story short, I do not think I could have it any better.
Note that I do not recommend AMD/ATI graphics card for Second Life. They cause problems since they do not use the appropriate graphics architecture. They may be cheaper, but you will probably pay for any money saved in problems down the line. I had a top of the line ATI card that caused Windlight water to render incorrectly (a solid shade of white with no transparency, and had to downgrade my graphics card driver to an older version to stop this.
The NVIDIA GTX 760 rates over at Passmark benchmarks a very high 4973. It is not the very best graphics card around -- the somewhat larger NVIDIA GTX 980, which rates at 9727 is the best performing card benchmarked by user. However, for value of performance over price, the GTX 760 is the best. You can check your own graphics (video) card and cpu unit here:
|GTX 760 #1 in videocard (graphics card) value|
When I purchased my GTX 760 card in March 2014, I paid about $275 for a high end model with maximum cooling through large fans. You can purchase a wide range of cards with the NVIDIA graphics chip set in them at a wide range of prices at a place like New Egg or Tiger Direct, two large retailers that I like in the U.S.A.-- the main thing is to read the customer review per each make, and make sure the size of the card will fit inside your computer -- spaces can be tight inside. I had my local computer repair shop do the refitting for me for $50.00, since I wanted the inside of my computer cleaned, and am highly allergic to house dust -- I did not feel like coughing and scratching myself for an entire day.
I just checked New Egg and quality models of the GTX 760 have fallen to as low as $169.00 after rebates. At this price, this card is a no-brainer for anyone who uses a desktop computer that can accommodate it.
|Drop in price of GTX 760 since release in July 2013|
Important - System Requirements
Your desktop must have enough of a quality power supply (500 Watts) and a CPU powerful enough to take advantage of it.My CPU is an older second generation Intel I-7, other Intel and AMD units will work.
In addition, you must have enough cooling power (fans and liquid cooling devices if you want to get fancy), and room to allow your graphics card to run cool. Nothing will degrade system performance, or potentially burn your motherboard out, then overheating.
You can find the system requirements for the GTX 760 here on the NVIDIA installation manual on page 2 here:
Warning -If you have never done any work inside your desktop, or are unsure that the GTX 760 will work in your system, use a professional or go to your local repair store. I blew up my older desktop by not doing the installation correctly. Lucky for me, Square Trade warranty covered the cost of a new computer. Expect the Peter Principle to happen -- what can go wrong will go wrong, and it is worth the small amount of money to get a professional involved.