WHAT IS A GRAPHICS CARD?
The Graphics Card in a computer is used for rendering images from the computer to output onto a monitor. This is done by converting the data that the computer processes to a digital or analogue signal which can be displayed on the monitor. All computers will come with a graphics card, but not all will be suitable for more demanding tasks such as playing games, or video rendering.
TYPES OF GRAPHICS CARDS
Integrated graphics is a GPU that is built into either the motherboard but which is the cost now built onto the CPU this means no add-in card is used. These are most common in laptops and computers as they are basically free with the Processor but cannot be upgraded unless you swap the processor for a higher version. Most refurbished desktop PCs and laptops come with these graphics cards. You can add a ‘Discrete’ card if you want to gain extra power which we explain more about below.
This is an add-in card that is installed into an Expansion slot on the motherboard. These are great for upgrade-ability in the future as you just need to swap this part for a more recent one to help keep your computer up to date.
Discrete Graphics cards are usually only for people that want to game, edit video or who do CAD design as they are a lot more powerful than an integrated solution which is more suited towards browsing the web and Office work.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GRAPHICS CARD AND A GPU?
The GPU is a part of the graphics card which stands for GRAPHICS PROCESSING UNIT, a lot of people mistake the GPU for the actual card itself. This is the brains of the card which does all the visual processing
AMD CPU Integrated Graphics cards can crossfire or work in tandem with a dedicated graphics card of the same design to increase performance.
Nvidia is a top producer of graphics cards that make cheap budget graphics cards all the way up to high-performance gaming graphics costing upwards of £700 they only make dedicated graphics cards as they are not a CPU vendor.
RAM or Random Access Memory is much the same on a graphics card as it is on a motherboard it is a dedicated graphics memory, so it is separate and not used by any other part of your PC.
Most Modern Graphics card’s memory can range from 512MB all the way up to 11GB with the most popular types of memory being DDR3 or GDDR5
Memory is quite important if you are wanting to play games or render videos at higher resolutions or higher quality textures as this stores all the graphical information that needs to be displayed on the screen
The higher the resolution of the monitor, the sharper the image looks, which is great for games and video editing but also office work where you can fit more documents on the screen at a given time. The only issue is the higher the resolution, the more taxing it is on the graphics card.
For example a graphics card that is running a video or a game at 1080p has to render 2,073,600 Pixels per frame and this is quite doable for most modern graphics card now as this has been a standard for a long time, but if you were to run the same game at 4k resolution it would need to render 8,294,400 Pixels per frame which is four times as much as 1080p and will tax the graphics card a lot more causing you to have slow video playback or sluggish games.
This is why newer graphics cards have a lot more onboard RAM to support these resolutions as the more memory a graphics card has the more information it can store on the card for higher resolutions.
VGA (Video Graphics Array) 15pin analogue Connection which is also known as D-sub this is a very old video connection and is mostly found on business desktops.
DVI (Digital Visual Interface) DVI-I Carries Analogue and digital Signal) & DVI-D (Carries Digital Signals Only) DVI is one of the most common monitor connections which is found on flat panel monitors.
Display Port is starting to become a much more standard connection and it can support the highest resolutions and frame rates and also supports specific technologies developed by Nvidia and AMD which are found in monitors called which are either FreeSync (from AMD) or GSync (from Nvidia) compatible.
HDMI is probably the most common connector on the list as it is usually on most TV’s monitors and video devices and also can carry sound.
A single slot graphics card which is usually low powered due to not needing a cooler.
A dual slot graphics card are usually more geared towards gaming and CAD design as they can have a much bigger cooler on to dissipate the heat created by the card.
A Triple slot card is primarily for gaming these are graphics cards that run very hot and have a beefy cooling solution to allow extra overclocking for enthusiasts
Low profile cards are usually cards that are made to replace integrated graphics cards they can usually support more monitors than the standard IGPU but can only play very basic games such as Minecraft etc.