Personal computer is an important part of our life. We use it for work, communication and entertainment. One of the main components of the computer is a video (graphic) card. Graphic card is a device that converts digital information into graphical images to display them on a computer monitor or on other devices. I can say that everything that I see on my monitor is the result of work of my computer video card.
What is the best video card? How to choose the right video card? What are the main options of graphic cards?
Answers to these questions are in this article.
For office applications features of video does not play a very significant role, but for games, for graphics and for high-quality video their role is crucial.
It should be noted that there are two types of cards: integrated (built-in) and discrete (external).
Integrated video card (internal graphic card) – is a card, which is built into the computer motherboard. Such cards have low productivity and are used primarily for office PCs.
Discrete video card (external graphic card) is a special external device in the form of fees, which is installed on the motherboard in addition. If you want to use your PC for gaming and multimedia purposes you necessarily need external graphic card.
Let’s look at the main parameters of graphic cards.
The main characteristics of video cards are the follow:
1. Specifications of GPU (graphic processor unit).
GPU – is the core of the video card, it performs all necessary calculations.
The main parameter of any graphics processor is it clock speed, which is measured in Mega or Gigahertz. Processors with higher clock speed have higher performance.
The average clock speed of graphics processors in the aisles varies from 550 to 850 MHz. New models of cards have GPU clock 1-1.5 GHz or more. Cards with GPU clock speed about 780 MHz can be recommended for the average usage.
2. The type and amount of memory.
Memory is a place where card store the necessary data for the construction of the images, as well as ready images for output.
Memory type GDDR3 and GDDR5 mainly used in modern graphics cards. Other types of memory are being used less and less. GDDR3 and GDDR5 memory has different memory clock speeds and some other characteristics. GDDR5 is better and this memory is considered the most powerful now. If you don’t want to play the latest games at the highest settings you can choose GDDR3 memory, otherwise GDDR5 memory is your choice.
Amount of video memory – is the capacity of the memory of the card, it measured in megabytes. Graphic card with more memory is better, but the amount of memory is not always critical to performance.
The memory can range from 256 MB to 2 GB or more. For office applications is enough 256 MB of memory, whereas the minimum amount for games can be considered as 512 MB or 768 MB.
3. Bus width.
Graphic card bus is a device that connects GPU to memory. The main characteristic of the bus is its width, which indicates how much information the bus can transfer per clock cycle. Graphic card bus width is measured in bits. Modern graphics cards are mainly used buses with capacity from 128 to 512 bits. The larger bus width is the performance of the video card. For office usage I can recommend a video card with 128-bit bus, for games and multimedia buses with 128 bits are also used, but for these purposes it is better to choose a card with the bus width 192 or 256 bits.
4. Connection type.
Please pay your attention at this point if you want to upgrade new video card to old motherboard. There are two main types of video cards connections to the motherboard – AGP and PCI Express. If your motherboard supports the connection type AGP you can not connect graphic card with PCI and vice versa.
Most of modern cards are connected via PCI Express of different versions.
5. Types of cooling.
When the video card works it allocates considerable amount of heat, in this connection there is a great need for a cooling system. Cooling systems can be passive and active.
Passive cooling systems perform cooling through a special radiator – which dissipates heat to the air. Passive systems are used on thin cards, for more powerful cards active cooling systems are required
Active systems perform cooling with special ventilator. They are noisier, but they are also more effective.
Most modern graphics cards are equipped with active cooling systems.
6. The presence of connectors (ports) for connecting devices.
Monitor and other devices are connected to the ports of the card in most cases. So the ability of connection of certain device depends on the availability of certain ports. Of course you can use special adapters, but it is recommended to connect directly.
Video cards equipped with such ports:
– D-Sub (VGA) – port of graphics card, which is used to transmit an analogue signal to monitor. This type of ports was dominant previously, but now it is used mainly in the low-budget models.
VGA port connection
– DVI – is used to transmit the digital signal to monitor. It is the most common type of connectors for video cards at the moment.
DVI port connection
– HDMI – a relatively new type of ports. It was designed to standardize connection of various digital devices through a single port type.
HDMI port connection
Before choosing a video card determine what devices you will connect to it (usually the monitor), see what ports that devices are equipped and after that see are there these ports on the video card.
Familiarized with the basic characteristics of video cards, you can choose good graphics card. If you need an office computer – you should not pay more for an expensive graphics card, but if you like comfortable playing of new games – you will need a more expensive “games video card” model.