Low Profile Graphics Cards Explained - Low Profile Vs Full Height

You may have heard of low profile graphics cards. In essence they are graphics cards with half height brackets. This means that they can fit into almost all PC cases. This includes but is not limited to office PC cases and HTPC cases. The majority of low profile graphics cards can be moves from single slot to double slot, half height. This is achieved with a low profile bracket.

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Positives and Negatives of Low Profile Graphics Cards

Positives Negatives
Fits smaller PC cases Usually Less powerful
Low power Doesn't fit normal cases unless you have an adaptor
Low heat Low Profile bracket not always included
Can be very quiet or even silent Can be more expensive as you're paying for having a smaller card
No power connector required usually

Quick View Low Profile Graphics Cards

Item Low Profile Full Height
Size 2.536 inches height. 4.200 inches height.
Power Low power as it's not clocked as high and come in lower end mid range cards. Consume more power - usually overclocked and can come in high end cards.
Performance Can have good performance but is usually not clocked as fast. Best performance card in low profile is only GTX 1650. A lot better performance from being overclocked and can come in powerful cards such as the RTX 2080 Ti.
Cooling Smaller Fan and generates more heat as smaller. But it is not clocked as fast so this reduces some of the heat. Larger fans and heatsinks. Optimal Cooling but usually overclocked so generates more heat.
Compatibility Works with most pc cases as long as you have the correct bracket. Some only fit low profile PC cases. Fits only full sized expansion slots.
Ports Sometimes ports are sacrificed. Doesn't have USB-C. Lots of ports and choice including USB-C on higher end cards.
Cost More expensive but can be found for around the same price as full height. Similar price, sometimes a bit cheaper than the same low profile card.

Size Of Low Profile Graphics Cards

Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 Ti OC Low Profile 4GB GDDR5 Low Profile Graphics Cards Explained - Low Profile Vs Full Width
Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 Ti OC Low Profile 4GB GDDR5

The size of low profile graphics cards can vary but in general MD1 low profile graphics cards have a maximum height of 64.41 mm or 2.536 inches. MD1 low profile graphics cards can also be up to a length of 119.91 mm or 4.721 inches. MD2 allow for slightly bigger low profile graphics cards with a length of up to 167.64 mm or 6.600 inches and the exact same height of 64.41 mm or 2.536 inches.

The brackets have a reduced size of 79.2 mm or 3.118 inches and for this reason they only fit in low profile PC cases, HTPC cases and SFF cases unless a different bracket can be exchanged on the graphics card. Furthermore, the screw mounts have been moved 1.35 mm closer to the bracket in order to ensure that the graphics card is secured tightly within the PCI-E slot.

Comparing this to full height graphics cards, full height cards feature 120 mm or 4.70 inches in their bracket and they have a graphics card height of 107 mm or 4.200 inches.

Power Consumption

6pin connector graphics card power connectors

Low profile graphics cards tend to consume a lot less power than other graphics cards. This isn’t really due to the fact that they are low profile but more to do with that low profile graphics cards tend to come in lower end graphics cards. They are usually not stock overclocked and thus are slightly more energy efficient.

Having said this they still consume a low amount of power and usually don’t require any external PCI-E connectors. Because of this, the majority consume less than 75W of power as this is all the PCI-E slot is capable of providing. The PCI-E slot power comes from the motherboard 24 pin connector.

Other full height graphics cards can consume a variety of powers. It all depends on how powerful they are and if they get more power from the PCI-E 6 or 8 pin plugs from the PSU.

Performance

Low profile graphics cards usually have worse performance than their full height counterparts. This is due to the fact that they are usually not clocked as high and have not as good cooling.

Since they do not have as good cooling, clocks speeds are lower and thermal throttling can occur. This all affects the performance of the low profile graphics card.

Most high end graphics cards don’t come in a low profile form. The most powerful low profile graphics card you can get currently is a GTX 1650. This is no where near as powerful as a RTX 2080 for example.

Cooling and Heat

Gigabyte GT 1030 Silent Low Profile 2G
Silent Graphics card low profile design

Low profile graphics cards are smaller and so produce more heat but this is counteracted by the lower clock speeds and adequate cooling. Some low profile graphics cards are silent and feature massive heat sinks. This is great for noise but although the temps aren’t bad, they aren’t the best either.

Low profile graphics cards usually have smaller fans due to their size. This means the cooling isn’t as good but as there is less heat from the lower clock speeds, the heat isn’t usually an issue.

Compatibility

PCcase

Low profile graphics cards with the low profile bracket on will only fit in cases that support low profile graphics cards.

Most low profile graphics cards actually let you change the bracket so you can fit your low profile graphics card into any normal PC case.

They use the exact same PCI-E slots and require no power so inserting a low profile graphics card is a very easy job and compatible with most cases as long as you have the correct bracket. Remember that not all low profile graphics cards actually include a low profile bracket so you may need to purchase one yourself.

Ports

low Profile ports

When it comes to ports and I/O on low profile graphics cards, there usually is a compromise. Some manufacturers remove a lot of ports and their may only be two or even one port on the graphics card.

Most manufacturers do realise that people need the ports and give a good amount like the GTX 1650 above. They usually have all the ports you need such as, Display Port, HDMI and DVI but be sure to check. Legacy ports like DVI and VGA are still sometimes included on low profile graphics cards even though other full height ones have had them removed.

USB-C VirtualLink is currently not included on low profile graphics cards. This port is mainly on the higher end RTX models and so is not currently available on a low profile card.

Cost

The cost of low profile graphics cards is actually more than that of the full height cards. Special designs and components had to be used to get these graphics cards to a smaller size.

Usually you can find a low profile graphics card of the same series for a similar price though.

Conclusion

Overall low profile graphics cards can definitely be worth getting if you plan on using a PC case that supports them.

Their lower speed, and slightly more expensive price is made up from the convenience you get from using them. They fit into virtually all PC cases with the right bracket and some of them have very good performance.