Last Updated: September 7, 2020
Integrated into the central unit as the main part of the computer, the graphics card is an essential part of a computer. It is integrated externally into the motherboard and internally into the processor. What are its characteristics and functions? What should you know to compare and choose a graphics card for your PC?
The graphics card has several names:
- Graphics Card
- Graphics Adapter
- Video Card
- Graphics Accelerator
- GPU card (Graphics Processing Unit)
The graphics card is inseparable from the display of a screen. The latter is directly connected to it. It also makes sure to lighten the load on the processor. It allows you to enhance the functionality of its operating system, perform video editing and 3D modeling or even take charge of the graphics of a video game. For it to work in good conditions, updating the graphics card is essential. It avoids flickering problems, frozen images or, more commonly, black screens.
It is one of the essential components of a gaming and regular computer. It is an electronic card on which several components are fixed. Its role is to transform digital data into visual data on the screen in the form of pixels.
Without a video card, there would be no screen image. The accelerator card relieves the processor of calculations related to graphics in the following phases:
- Simple graphical element calculations
- The creation of simple objects
- Cutting into a two-dimensional triangle (2D)
- Texture mapping: rendering
WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF THE GRAPHICS CARD?
The primary function of the graphics card remains simple. It allows the display of 2D or 3D graphics on the screen of a PC. The production and the quality of the image depend on its memory, its frequency, the connections and the characteristics of the screen, in particular HD, Full HD or 4K resolution. Note that some recent models also perform the functions of a sound card. In order to benefit from optimal performance, it is therefore essential to know your graphics card, as well as its technical characteristics.
INTERNAL OR SHARED GRAPHICS CARD
By default, computers and smartphones modern all have a module GPU (Graphics Processing Unit, or CPU graph) integrated into their CPU. To quote the best known, we find Intel HD Graphics, AMD Radeon and Radeon Vega, or on Adreno mobiles which equips Qualcomm processors. These graphics processors can display 4K multimedia content in real time, and simulate the rendering of basic video games. This type of integrated GPU uses the RAM of the device to perform graphics processing.
EXTERNAL GRAPHICS CARD
For users wishing to perform more advanced graphics operations such as video processing and 3D CAD, or enjoy the most recent video games in optimal quality, the integrated GPU is not enough. It is then necessary to equip the computer with a dedicated graphics card, which incorporates a powerful GPU and provides its own RAM for graphics processing.
The two leading companies in the GPU market are Nvidia and AMD. They are responsible for supplying their processors to assemblers like Asus or MSI who build the graphics cards.
Why Are Graphics Card Useful?
A graphics card is a component of the hardware configuration of a computer providing the enhancement in display functions. It offers increased computing power for rendering video games and software 3D design.
Operating System on Screen Display
The primary purpose of a graphics card is to convert digital information from the computer into a human-understandable display: buttons, icons, windows, in short everything OS shows us. It is for this reason that in most cases, a small graphics card is more than enough for most of us.
Some computers do not have a graphics card, but have a “chipset”, a not very powerful chip which will manage the display. Often, this is more than enough for normal use.
The graphics card can be very useful when you’re editing video. Editing a video is a demanding activity in terms of computer resources and the graphics card can help in this task. Once the editing is finished, the video must be “encoded”, that is to say that the computer will generate the film file thus edited. It is a very bulky operation which requires a fairly powerful processor and a good graphics card. Check Out, Best Graphics Card for Gaming and Video Editing
On Windows, you can find Windows Movie Maker for free. In easy to use software there are Adobe Premiere elements. Among the professional software we find Adobe Premiere, After Effect…
The interest of graphics cards takes its magnitude if you want to play video games on your computer: being more and more vast and more and more realistic, the games are very greedy in power.
Unlike a console: Xbox, PlayStation which have a fixed hardware configuration until the next generation, computer game publishers are not limited so each new game will require more power than the previous one, hence the fact that you can end up in less than a year with an outdated hardware configuration.
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3D Creation and Architecture
In the professional field, graphics cards are very important: architects, engineers creating mechanical parts, car creators, creators of animated films (like Disney and Pixar films), video games… all need cards. powerful in order to create ever more detailed and complex things.
COMPONENTS IN A GRAPHICS CARD
The main component of the graphics card is its processor the GPU. Its power is a function of its operating frequency expressed in megahertz Mhz. The higher this frequency, the higher it’s capacity to process image instructions, in particular for 3D images and video games.
It eases the image processing by ensuring all the complex calculations related to high definition images, moving images or 3D images. The fluidity and quality of the images in your video game will be largely determined by its computing power. Thus, the resolution of a high-performance graphics card can amount to 5120 x 2880 pixels at 60 Hz.
The graphics card also has its RAM which is called VRAM (Video Random Access Memory). The function of this video memory is to store the images processed by the graphics processor before they are displayed. Its storage capacity is expressed in bytes.
The first generation cards only had a few megabytes (MB) of storage capacity. These video cards are no longer efficient enough to be able to play smoothly on modern simulation games on PC or to do video or photo editing, work or play with 3D images. The latest generation cards have several GB (Giga bytes) of storage capacity: up to 16 GB of memory. The graphics card entry features 1 GB. However, if you want a high-performance graphics card prefer cards with at least 4GB of memory because the price is minimal for a level of performance and rendering.
With a graphics card with at least 4 GB of storage capacity, your 2D and 3D simulation games will be fluid and pleasant to play. You can also opt for a high-end video card with 16 gigabytes of memory if you are very demanding in terms of performance and if your budget allows. These ultra-perforating graphics cards indeed exceed several thousand dollars.
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Every graphics card has its own bios which allows you to configure its settings according to the level of image rendering desired, the type of image to be displayed [two dimensions (2D) or three dimensions (3D)], the desired fluidity that we measure through the frame rate. The higher this frame rate, the smoother your image will be and the higher the rendering of video games.
The speed and rhythm at which your video games are displayed determines the quality of a computer intended for gaming. The graphics card is also equipped with connectors to allow its connection to the screen. The first generation cards were only equipped with VGA or S-VGA type connectors (which disappear) while the last generation cards are equipped with HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort connectors not to be confused with the Lightning port.
These connectors allow the transfer of very high definition digital images. The HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port brings together video and audio signals on the same connector. Audio and Video signals are transmitted digitally and there is no loss of quality either. You will recognize it by its rectangular shape with one side shorter than the other. Your video adapter is connected to the motherboard of the computer by a PCI port which allows a high level of data transfer.
The power supply for this video card is provided by a direct connection to the power supply of your computer. High performance graphics cards consume a lot of electricity (up to 250 watts). So be careful about the power expressed in watts of the power supply of your gaming PC. The power supply power must be greater than 700 watts.
Due to the power consumption of a graphics card, the processor tends to heat up. They are thus equipped with fans (one to two depending on the model) or even a liquid-cooled system if you are targeting a very high level of performance and you appreciate the silence.
Read Related: How Much Ram to Choose for Your Computer?
Best Graphics Card Brands
There are two major manufacturers of graphics cards, which compete in the market. On the one hand, NVidia with its flagship product, GeForce, and ATI, with its Radeon card.
NVidia is one of the world’s largest suppliers of graphics cards for PCs, from “chipset” cards to graphics cards for ” gamers” (regular video game players).
The company was founded in 1993 in Santa Clara and today hundreds of millions of graphics cards have been sold worldwide, for PCs and consoles. The cards are getting so powerful that they are real little computers on their own.
ATI, now AMD, is NVidia’s main competitor. Founded in 1985 in Canada, ATI was bought by the giant AMD in 2006, manufacturer of computer hardware and in particular of processors.
It is the eternal war between AMD and NVidia, which each year release new technologies and ever more powerful graphics cards, pushing further realism. Note that the design of graphics cards is very worked (despite the fact that they are in a central unit, so we generally do not see them).
Performance Criteria of a Graphics Card
For a computer dedicated to gaming, choosing the right video adapter is essential.
The essential performance criteria are:
- The operating frequency of its processor which is expressed in megahertz (MHz). The higher this frequency, the faster the complex calculations.
- Latest Technology. Recent cards are equipped with GDDR5 memory and their capacity is expressed in GB. The higher this capacity, the better the video performance. Opt at least for a card with 4 GB of memory capacity.
Good ventilation of the processor: the GPU is a processor that heats up enormously. The higher its temperature, the lower its performance for image rendering. It is therefore necessary to provide a housing which is spacious and in which you can add additional fans, thus ensuring good air circulation to evacuate the hot air produced by the processor and maintain its computing and processing power.
The graphics card of a computer intended for the game, for video editing, photo, 3D images is a very important component. Its frequency of calculation, its memory capacity will be the criteria which will assure you an unequaled comfort of game, will allow you to ensure simulations of complex games and to take full advantage of the benefits of virtual reality on computer.
You must use a graphics card of adequate power with the processor in order to obtain good results. Choosing the right graphics card or switching cards is not necessarily easy. Currently, NVidia cards are the most efficient for a gaming PC.