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Understanding Graphic Cards

Dedicated graphics cards, which we will be discussing in this guide, are needed if you want to do 3D gaming or watch high definition movies (even though it may sometimes suffice with a powerful CPU and lot's of internal RAM)

Important Specifications to Consider When Choosing a Graphics Card


GPU stands for "Graphic Processing Unit" and is the main controlling circuit on every graphics card. The GPU is the most determinant feature of every graphics card when it comes to the overall performance and speed. The two biggest manufacturers of GPUs are NVIDIA and ATI (which is owned by CPU manufacturer AMD). They do the reference designs for each new generation of graphics card. But most graphics cards are sold by other manufacturers who produce their own flavour of the reference cards from NVIDIA and ATI. Examples of those manufacturers are MSI, Asus, ECS Elitegroup, XFX and more.

Examples of recent generations of graphic GPUs from NVIDIA are; GeForce 8500 / 8600/ 8800 / 9800 GT / GTX / GX2 and GTX 260 / 280. ATIs latest generations of graphics cards are: RADEON HD 3850/4850/4870 in different versions.


It is also important to consider the amount and type of the onboard RAM of the graphics card, which is a different thing than the RAM of your computer. The RAM is important for a number of technical reasons we will not go into further here. But in short you should go for a graphics card with at least 256MB of RAM. The type of RAM is less important, but we recommend that you buy a graphics card with the second or later generation of GDDR (GDDR2 or later).

Different Slot Types

There are three different slots available on the PC market. The "slot" is where you connect the graphics card on the mainboard of your computer. You must verify which type of slot your mainboard has before purchasing a graphic card, or you may waste money on something you cannot use. The available slots are PCI (very old), AGP (old) or PCI express (today's standard). All fairly recent bought computers are outfitted with a PCI Express slot, but be sure to check it. PCI express is the newest technology and allows the largest bandwidth which means better performance for you.

External Connectors

The connecters on the graphics cards are also important. Standard analog VGA connectors have been replaced by DVI (digital) connectors. The DVI connector is a must, some cards even come with two DVI connectors which will allow you to connect an extra display. Additional external connectors to look for are:

HDMI, which will enable you to connect your computer to a plasma or LCD-TV. (This can also be done through a DVI connector with a DVI/HDMI converter)

S-Video outputs are used to connect the PC to an older style VCR or TV and allow outputting the same display as present on your screen.

DB-15/VGS/SVGA connectors are basically utilized for a standard output to an analog monitor. Good if you have an old monitor.

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