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. There are the ‘on board’ video cards, built into the motherboard and often used as a selling point for the motherboard itself. then there is the ‘add in’ video card, which will occupy one or more PCie sockets on the motherboard. Many motherboards support the option to install two or more graphics cards, which are designed to work in tandem with each other.

Depending on whether you choose AMD graphics cards or NVidia graphics cards will determine whether they are connected using SLi (Scalable Link interface – nVidia) or Crossfire, the not too dissimilar AMD platform. Essentially they both achieve the same thing, in different ways.

On-board video cards are generally for everyday use, Web Surfing, You Tube and the like. Generally they may have up to about 1Gb of video memory, which may or may not be shared with the system memory.

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 sometimes but not always 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 you might not be able to use all of the memory that is available. Generally normal memory runs more slowly than dedicated graphics memory, so don’t expect blistering, gaming performance graphics performance from an on-board video card.

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.

For example the one built into our demonstration machine here in the shop was in the region of £680.00 plus an additional £150 for the liquid cooling system. That’s a total of £830 just for the graphics system alone.

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 GDDR5 for graphics memory speed, while normal system memory is at DDR4. 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 an HDMI, DVI 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.