GPU backplates may not help much with performance but they can make a huge impact on the appearance of your build. PC builders often overlook the large flat area on top of their GPUs, potential prime real estate for eye-catching designs and additional lighting. The right GPU backplate can be the focal point of your rig and tie your whole theme together. In this article, we’ll explain how GPU backplates work, how to install them, and where to buy them.
What a Backplate Does for a GPU
GPU backplates mainly exist to hide a graphics card’s unattractive PCB backside, but they also serve a few functional purposes. The first practical benefit is protection. If you’re unlucky, electrostatic discharge during the building process or a failing AIO liquid cooler could do a number on your GPU. Having a backplate as a physical barrier could prevent potential costly damages.
GPU backplates can also help with GPU sag, the slight bending of a video card that can occur over time with heavier models. Screw-attached metal backplates provide extra rigidity to the PCB to combat this aesthetic concern. However, most custom GPU backplates are just acrylic sheets that rest on top of the graphics card, which wouldn’t help with sag at all.
Finally, there’s an argument to be made that backplates can help cool your GPU. Certain GPU models even have backplates with heatsinks that should theoretically help dissipate heat, but often end up don’t. Most stress tests comparing GPU performance with and without backplates have proven they have little effect on temps.
Disappointments aside, let’s not forget its most important benefit and the main premise of this article: a custom GPU backplate gives you a large surface area to personalize and illuminate your PC build — which can lead to surprisingly satisfying aesthetic results. And best of all, they’re incredibly easy to add to your build.
Installing a GPU Backplate
Depending on the type of GPU backplate you purchase, installing one is simply a matter of tightening a few screws or using double-sided tape to seat the custom piece right on top of your graphics card. You may also remove your GPU’s existing backplate if you’d like. The mounting methods provided with custom backplates are non-conductive and won’t void your warranty.
If you purchase an RGB GPU backplate, you’ll also have to attach a few connectors to your motherboard, PSU, and a hub for lighting control if necessary. GPU backplate vendors will include all the necessary hardware and instructions to get your lights hooked up.
All in all, installing a custom backplate for your GPU shouldn’t take more than about ten minutes to physically install, and perhaps some additional time to figure out your lighting settings. If you are able to build your own gaming PC, you’ll have no problem adding a custom GPU backplate.
Where to Buy Custom GPU Backplates
If you’re confident enough in your arts and crafts skills, you can make your own GPU backplate with just a 2mm sheet of acrylic, sandpaper, and double-sided tape. Many of the PC modders we’ve featured crafted their own simple designs to match the rest of their builds.
But purchasing from a professional GPU backplate vendor has its perks. They’ll be able to cut your backplate more intricately, print high-resolution designs, and add addressable RGB lighting. If you don’t mind shelling out cash for the extra frills, the following vendors will take good care of you.
Note: All of the manufacturers below are well-reviewed and provide a similar product: a custom-cut piece of acrylic with any design you’d like printed on it. They mostly differ when it comes to available designs, prices, and online shopping experience.
V1 Tech manufactures and ships every order from their warehouse in Dallas, Texas. They partner with independent artists to provide a bright catalog of designs to choose from, including illustrations of comics, games, sci-fi films, and other nerd culture icons.
Their online shopping experience is perhaps the best of the vendors we recommend. Once you’ve found a GPU backplate design you’re happy with, all you have to do is pick your GPU from a dropdown list to make sure it’ll fit perfectly on your graphics card. The other vendors on our list might require you to send in measurements yourself.
V1 Tech also makes it easy to order a completely custom design. Their online interface allows you to design something from scratch or upload a high-resolution image of your choice and position it over their backplate mockup. Their designer interface is not advanced by any means, but it cuts down on the back-and-forth time usually required to commission a custom piece.
Overall, we’d recommend V1 Tech for their easy online purchasing experience and breadth of artistic designs that they’re continually updating. Many of their designs also come with matching GPU support brackets.
Chris Morell of Chris Designs believes that if you’re going to spend hard-earned cash on a PC build, it should be something you’re proud of. His product line of RGB GPU backplates, GPU support brackets, and SSD covers gives PC enthusiasts affordable options for personalizing their builds.
Chris sells solely on Etsy and unlike the other two vendors on our list, does not provide pre-designed options to choose from. He prefers to only create custom pieces catered to each of his customers’ builds.
If you plan to go fully custom with your GPU backplate design and would value some back-and-forth with a designer, Chris Designs is a solid, affordable choice. You’ll need to provide a high-resolution image, detailed instructions, and possibly measurements for your graphics card.
ColdZero is a custom PC parts maker based in Portugal that has served enthusiasts since 2005. Don’t worry US readers, they ship affordably worldwide on top of their already low prices.
While their pre-designed GPU backplate options also feature colorful artwork like V1 Tech’s, most of them are minimal logos and patterned cutouts that look like they came straight from the card manufacturer. ColdZero’s GPU backplate designs are perfect for hiding your GPU PCB without drawing too much attention.
With ColdZero, you are also given the choice between screws and magnets for mounting. Screws allow for more secure fastening and a slimmer GPU profile, while magnets let you switch out your backplate more easily if necessary. We appreciate the options.
Keep Going, You’re Almost There
If you’ve made it this far, it’s safe to assume you care about how your PC looks. There are so many ways you can take your gaming setup to the next level, so don’t stop here! Check out our gallery and RGB lighting guide for plenty more flashy ideas.