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Choosing a Graphics Card
Graphics cards have come a long way in recent years. There are basically two types of graphics card or video hardware. These are the 'on board' video card and the 'add in' video card.
With the relentless push to provide ever more functionality at an ever cheaper price, manufacturers decided to incorporate a video card on the motherboard itself, although the long term reliability of these has been somewhat questionable on the cheaper motherboards in recent years.
For the average user who may just be surfing the Internet or doing a bit of Word Processing, a built in video card will suffice. Motherboards of this design use some of the main system memory as graphics memory.
The advantage of this design is that no extra memory chips are required on the motherboard thereby reducing the cost of manufacture.
The disadvantage of this design is that normal memory runs more slowly than dedicated greaphics memory, so don't expect blistering graphics performance from an onboard video card.
Generally speaking onboard video memory is usually user selectable via a jumper or BIOS setting in the range of 64Mb - 256Mb.
Power computer users, designers and hardened gaming addicts will almost always opt for one or more add on video cards and there really are a multitude to choose from. A graphics card can range from a few tens to several hundreds of pounds, depending on use
These days all video cards utilise the PCI Express bus connector, present on all modern motherboards. Motherboards now no longer have ISA, AGP or PCI sockets at all. The 'PCIe' video bus is the current de-facto standard for the connection of graphics cards and several motherbaords have two such sockets which can be used together with two graphics cards if desired.
Graphics processors and graphics memory has evolved at a much faster rate than normal memory. Each new generation of graphics memory doubles the data rate of the previous one. Currently we are on DDR5 for graphics memory speed, while normal system memory is at DDR3. The more graphics memory available to a system and the faster the graphics processor, the better results it will produce. This takes advantage of the growth in the gaming market and the ever increasing complexity in gaming software.
Nearly all add in video cards will feature a DVI socket and/or a VGA socket and/or an adapter for backward compatibility. Some of the higher end cards will also include High Definition HDMI sockets too.